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Faculty Hub for Teaching and Learning Across Multiple Modalities: Language of Teaching

This guide is designed to assist MDC faculty with their teaching methodology and pedagogy across multiple modalities


Use these practice-focused resources, techniques and examples to inform your teaching in the on-ground and online classroom. Our team is happy to meet with you to plan how to incorporate a new approach into your existing course, develop a new course, migrate an existing course online, and much more.

Active Learning

What is active learning?

Active learning is “instructional activities involving students in doing things and thinking about what they are doing” (Bonwell and Eison,1991),  For example, watching a video is the "doing things." Thinking about the meaning and application of the video and sharing through journals, blogs, papers, multimedia, or presentations is the demonstration of "thinking about what they are doing."


What does it mean for my teaching?

Active learning is a strategy that supports learner-centered teaching. Through reflection and action, students take control of their learning. They engage with the instructional content rather than passively reading, listening, and watching. Active learning adds a richness and depth to the learning experience that helps students make connections across the subject matter. It might involve a variety of levels of Bloom's taxonomy including: problem-solving, case studies, hands-on projects, evaluation, synthesis and comparison.


Bonwell, C. C., & Eison, J. A. (1991). Active Learning: Creating Excitement in the Classroom. 1991 ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Reports. ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education, The George Washington University, One Dupont Circle, Suite 630, Washington, DC 20036-1183.
Felder, R. M., & Brent, R. (2009). Active learning: An introduction. ASQ Higher Education Brief, 2(4), 1-5.
Moore, E. (2013, May 20). From passive viewing to active learning: simple techniques for applying active learning strategies to online course videos. Faculty Focus.
Ruhl, K. L., Hughes, C. A., & Schloss, P. J. (1987). Using the pause procedure to enhance lecture recall. Teacher Education and Special Education: The Journal of the Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children, 10(1), 14-18.
The journal: Active Learning in Higher Education is available through the MCPHS Library.

Critical Thinking

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is a process best described in terms of what a person does. Critical thinking is a collection of mental activities that include the ability to intuit, clarify, reflect, connect, infer, and judge. It brings these activities together and enables the student to question what knowledge exists. Stephen Brookfield explains that someone who thinks critically can...

  1. Identify assumptions behind thinking and actions
  2. Check assumptions for accuracy and validity
  3. View ideas and actions from multiple perspectives
  4. Take informed action


What does it mean for my teaching?

In Noam Chomsky's interview, The Purpose of Education, he states that "an essential part of this kind of education is fostering the impulse to challenge authority, think critically, and create alternatives to well-worn models".

Ask questions! And more importantly, teach your students to ask - to question their texts, the lectures, the news, their professors...the world around them. But asking is just the start. You will need to guide them in their investigations and model the thought processes that helps them arrive at a decision.

Ask questions for clarification, and questions that probe:

  • Purpose
  • Information
  • Reasons
  • Evidence
  • Causes
  • Implications & Consequences
  • Concepts
  • Inferences & Interpretations

Active Learning supports critical thinking questions. Take a look at the many teaching strategies.

Socratic Method (pdf) uses questions to examine students' values, principles, and beliefs. Read Questions for a Socratic Dialogue (pdf) from R.W. Paul and Linda Elder's The Thinker’s Guide to the Art of Socratic Questioning. They've expanded the types of questions from six to nine. Use Bloom's Taxonomy as a source for question stem verbs.

(view infographic)


Bloom's Taxonomy is the starting point to identify different levels of the cognitive domain. Then use a Bloom's verb list (pdf) to identify question starters at the higher levels of cognition, such as analyze, evaluate, and create. Try this Bloom's Taxonomy verb list (pdf) with question stem examples too.

Online debates can spark lively exploration of course topics.

K-W-L Charts help students organize information as they apply critical thinking skills. This can be done in a group after a discussion or individually. Online students might submit individual journal entries each week or participate in a small group discussion for example. The question format is:

  • What do you Know about this topic?
  • What do you Want to know about this topic?
  • What did you Learn about this topic?


Brookfield, S. D. (2011). Teaching for critical thinking: Tools and techniques to help students question their assumptions. John Wiley & Sons.

Gokhale, A.A., (1995). Collaborative learning enhances critical thinking. Journal of Technology Education, 7(1).

MacKnight, C.B. (2000). Teaching critical thinking through online discussions. Educause Quarterly, 4, 38-41. Retrieved from

Paul, R. & Elder, L. (2006). The thinker's guide to the art of socratic questioning. Dillon Beach, CA: Foundation for Critical Thinking.

Scott, S. (2008). Perceptions of students' learning critical thinking through debate ina technology classroom: A case study. The Journal of Technology Studies. 34(1).

Critical thinking articles from Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching newsletter, Teaching Forum Vol 2:1 Fall 1999

Questions for a Socratic dialogue (pdf) from Richard Paul and Linda Elder's work. This expands their original set of questions from six to nine.


Learned-Centered Teaching

What is learner-centered teaching?

Learner-centered teaching is an MCPHS core value: “Learner-centered teaching and student engagement that fosters intellectual vitality, critical thinking, and lifelong responsibility for learning and continuing professional development.”

Instead of the instructor being a Sage on the Stage, they are a Guide on the Side. Students take more responsibility for their learning, and instructors facilitate that learning. This shift empowers students, while the instructor develops and guides the learning outcomes. According to Bain, faculty ”don’t teach a class. They teach a student.” (Bain, Ken. What the Best College Teachers Do (Harvard University Press, 2004).


What does it mean for my teaching?

Learner-centered teaching:

  1. Engages students in the hard, messy work of learning.
  2. Includes explicit skill instruction,
  3. Encourages students to reflect on how and what they're learning,
  4. Motivates students by giving them some control over their learning process
  5. Encourages collaboration.

(Five Characteristics of Learner-Centered Teaching

Help your students learn how they learn and what they can do to take charge of their own learning. Empower them to learn. Many active learning strategies are learner-centered.



MERLOT: Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching. Resources lists five resources to further explore this teaching strategy. 

Weimer, M., (2012, August 8). Five characteristics of learner-centered teaching. Faculty Focus. Retrieved from

Weimer, M. (2002). Learner-centered teaching: Five key changes to practice. John Wiley & Sons.

Learner-centered Teaching and Education at USC: A Resource for Faculty 



What is a rubric?

According to Stevens and Walvoord (2013), a rubric is a scoring tools that lays out the specific expectations for an assignment. Rubrics divide an assignment into it component parts and provide a detailed description of what constitutes acceptable or unacceptable levels of performance for each of those parts” (p. 3). There are several types of rubrics. The two most common types of rubrics are analytic, which is used to evaluate each criterion, and holistic, which is used to evaluate from an overall perspective.

What does it mean for my teaching?

  • Saves time grading - the general comments are built-in to the rubric, you just check them off and total the points (you can always add specific notes too).

  • Answers the common, and often repeated, questions students have when assigned work.

  • Ensures consistency when grading an assignment start to finish across your students.

  • Clarifies your expectations so students don't feel surprised or treated unfairly.

Often assignments are described in narrative form and may have expectations that are assumed. The rubric is more specific. Be sure to review some examples before trying your own so that you can understand the range of detail you may want to consider.

There are several types of rubrics used in education, and the two most commonly used are the analytic and the holistic. View a comparison of the two.

Analytic rubric

Separates the various criteria for the assignment by category. The quality of the student work is described for each level of attainment.

Holistic rubric

Groups all of the expectations for an exemplary assignment, an “A” paper in a list. The next list is for the “B” paper and so on. Stevens and Walvoord (2013) suggest using this if you approach if you make your “judgements on the work as a whole” (p.89).

Learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Techniques to Try:

  • Consider your grading style and select a rubric style to match.

  • List the criteria for the assignment – link it back to the objectives to be sure you are assessing those.

  • Find a scale or level of performance that fits the assignment. Think about how a student will respond to the terms.

  • Determine the score for each criterion.

  • Think through and write the descriptors. Remember, you will be reading for these – be sure you aren’t so narrow that is hard to meet the standard or hard to evaluate.

Image Source


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Online rubric templates by topic or build your own template from Rubistar. (Use the dropdown menus to select your categories and the criteria will populate the rubric form.)

Build your own rubric using iRubric. (A free resource.)

Sample Rubrics Packet from Stevens, D. D., Levi, A. J., & Walvoord, B. E. (2013).

How to Create and Use Rubrics for Formative Assessment and Grading by Susan M. Brookhart   Chapter 1. What Are Rubrics and Why Are They Important 

Common Rubric Mistakes to Watch For (and how to correct them).

The following list of resources comes from Brown University's Sheridan Center for Teaching & Learning:

Establishing grading criteria

Creating grading rubrics

Rubric collections



Stevens, D. D., Levi, A. J., & Walvoord, B. E. (2013). Introduction to Rubrics: An Assessment Tool to Save Grading Time, Convey Effective Feedback, and Promote Student Learning. Herndon: Stylus Publishing.

Rubrics for Assessment Northern Illinois University, Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center

Rubrics: useful assessment tools. Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo.

Online and Hybrid/Blended

What are Face-to-Face, Online and Hybrid* courses?

These terms are used to define where the student and teacher are located. This applies to the design of the course. A face-to-face course may also be referred to as a classroom, traditional, or on-ground course.  A face-to-face course is designed for scheduled class meetings in the classroom on campus. An online course takes place wherever the student may be, and doesn’t require on-campus class meetings. A hybrid course is a "blend" of the face-to-face and online. The course has some scheduled class meetings in the classroom on campus and some online facilitated instruction. The chart below illustrates various options.
*Hybrid and Blended are used interchangeably.


What does it mean for my teaching?

In an online course, all of the interaction, web-conferences, course content, student work, and communications take place within the context of a web-based environment. Learning management systems such as Blackboard or D2L are often used to support online only courses.

For on-ground, or traditional, courses, students and instructors meet on-campus for lectures, videos, group-work, labs, or discussions for example. They may also use Blackboard to manage paper submissions and communication.The chart below offers some guidance to help you understand the variations. At MCPHS the standard course designations are face-to-face or online.

Babson Report, p 7

Replace lectures with recorded video presentations. You want to engage your students – make this interesting.

  • Divide your lecture in logical sections with no more than 15-20 slides per recording.
  • Add relevant graphics.
  • Limit the amount of text on the slides.
  • Highlight the important learning points, and avoid using the presentation as notes.
  • Use annotation tools to mark-up diagrams as your record.
  • Take advantage of the desktop recording options to “tour” other resources online and share with your students.


Add more information to your standard syllabus. You and your students will find a syllabus that includes the following may decrease student anxiety, minimize extra emails, and offer course details when they aren't online.

  • Welcome message
  • Objectives
  • Assignments
  • Course schedule week-by-week with topics, homework, and due dates
  • Class norms
  • Communication methods
  • Technical requirements
  • Skills needed to take the course
  • Course structure
  • Log in information
  • Technical support

Limit the amount of technology you include in your new course. It can be overwhelming when first developing an online or hybrid course to learn so many new tools.

Remember that technology is a tool and you should pick the options (e.g., discussions, blogs, journals, recordings, etc.) that best fit the learning outcomes and experience. (Whiteboards and overheads were new technology once upon a time.)

For hybrid courses, start with recorded lectures posted online and devote classroom time to Q & A and student discussion groups (flipped classroom).

For hybrid courses, consider carefully which learning activities are suited to individual work versus collaborative work.

Additional Resources

Allen, I.E.. & Seaman, J. (2013, January). Changing course: ten years of tracking online education in the United States. Retrieved from

Platt, A., Raile, A.N.W., & Yu, N. (2014). Virtually the same?: student perceptions of the equivalence of online classes to face-to-face classes. Merlot Journal of online learning and teaching, 10(3). Retrieved from

Sener, J. (2015, July 7). Updated e-learning definitions. Retrieved from

Formative & Summative Assessments

What are formative and summative assessments?

The key to understanding formative and summative assessments is in their names. 

Formative, as in the phrase "formative years" or as in the verb to form. It is assessment for learning. 

Summative, as in a summary or summation. It is assessment of learning.

Two heads in profile. Left side shows gears inside and is labeled "process focused". Right side shows lightbulb inside head. It is labeled "result focused".

Formative Assessment 

Formative assessments are a very important learning tool. This type of assessment is part of the learning process. It is usually low-stakes (low or no points) and presented throughout the course.  They serve both students and faculty and can help:

  • Students, who actively seek to learn from their work, identify strengths and weaknesses and plan for improvement.
  • Faculty identify those areas where students have difficulty, remediate the problems, and make adjustments to their future courses.
Summative Assessment

Summative assessments evaluate student learning, or attainment of learning goals, over time. The assessment is a concluding evaluation to a unit, course, or program. 


What does it mean for my teaching?

Courses should include both formative and summative assessments. The assessments must build on the student learning and align with the learning objectives. This requires careful planning of your course and consideration of the purpose for each assessment as well as the relationship between the intended learning and the form of the assessment. The table below addresses common misconceptions about formative assessment.

Formative assessment IS
Formative assessment IS NOT
Using evidence to adjust teaching and learning. A specific test, event, nor a bank of test items given at the end of learning to measure overall progress or to evaluate educational programs.
Ongoing process that faculty and students engage in DURING instruction. After the next unit begins.
Either ungraded or the point value is low for each item. Scored solely for accountability.
Seeing each student as unique in their progress. Viewing all students as needing to be in the same place in their learning.
Encouraging students to assume greater responsibility for monitoring and supporting their own learning. Excluding students from the assessment process (teacher directed).
Considering multiple kinds of evidence, based on a variety of tools or strategies. Focused on a single piece of information.
A planned and intentional part of the learning goals in a classroom while closely monitoring individual student progress or growth toward those goals. Always occurring at the same time and same way for each student; focus solely on a number, score, or level
The communication of clear specific learning goals. Mini-versions of pre-determined summative assessments.

Table adapted from

Summative assessments are framed by the following characteristics:
  • Document student progress.
  • Are well defined with clear criteria that defines good performance.
  • Have a high point value (i.e., they are high-stakes).
  • Are low-frequency.

Note: An additional form of assessment is the diagnostic assessment. This may be appropriate in some settings.

Techniques to Try

Types of Formative Assessment
  • Observations during in-class activities; of students non-verbal feedback during lecture
  • Homework exercises as review for exams and class discussions
  • Reflections journals that are reviewed periodically during the semester
  • Question and answer sessions, both formal—planned and informal—spontaneous
  • Conferences between the instructor and student at various points in the semester
  • In-class activities where students informally present their results
  • Student feedback collected by periodically answering specific question about the instruction and their self-evaluation of performance and progress 
Types of Summative Assessment
  • Demonstration of learning - a product of some type (e.g., reports, projects, presentations, video, experiments, studies, articles, posters, website, blog, or podcast)
  • Capstone courses
  • End-of-unit exam
  • End-of-term exam
  • Standardized tests
  • e-Portfolios


  • Provide models/exemplars where appropriate.
  • Provide clear learning goals and assignment details.
  • Ensure that the assessment is clearly measurable.
  • Ensure that the assessment is linked to objectives.

Chart lists example assessments with their related tasks and the benefits to the students. It is divided by formative and summative.The Mix and Match Your Assessment Techniques

This infographic illustrates a different approach to selecting formative and summative assessments. It clarifies the benefits of various assessment categories, which adds flexibility to your assessment decisions. View Mix and Match Your Assessment Techniques infographic full size. Accessible version available in next section.


Assessment: Measuring Student Learning MCPHS Center for Teaching and Learning Course Design, Development, and Assessment

Forms of Assessment - Assignments MCPHS Instructor Pre-Training resource

Types of Assessments: A Head-to-Head Comparison

Formative and Summative Assessments from Yale University's Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning

Understanding Formative Assessment Insights from Learning Theory and Measurement Theory Trumbull, E. & Lash, A. (2013, April).

Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) Indiana University Bloomington Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning

Assessment from edutopia, George Lucas Educational Foundation (this site leans towards elementary - high school, but is very relevant to higher education as well)

Wiggins, G. (1998). Educative Assessment: Designing Assessments to Inform and Improve Student Practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Angelo, T.A. and Cross, K.P. (1993) Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.



Synchronous & Asynchronous Learning

What are synchronous and asynchronous learning?

Synchronous and asynchronous learning relate to the timing of the learning activities and not the location (online vs. face-to-face). Synchronous learning is immediate – it takes place in “real-time”. They must meet (online or face-to-face) at a particular time. Asynchronous learning is delayed – there is a lag between the communication and activities. The teaching and learning falls into a time range, not a specific time.


What do they mean for my teaching?

Image Source

Asynchronous Tools Synchronous Tools
Email Text-based chat
Discussion/message boards Voice-based chat, to include phone
Blogs Audio and/or video conferencing
Social media sites

Web conferencing

Listservs Virtual worlds
Streaming audio or video Whiteboards
Wikis Real-time document sharing (eg Google Docs)
Non-real-time document sharing (eg Google Docs)

       Chart Source


Young, T. P., Bailey, C. J., Guptill, M., Thorp, A. W., & Thomas, T. L. (2014). The flipped classroom: a modality for mixed asynchronous and synchronous learning in a residency program. Western Journal of Emergency Medicine, 15(7) from



Hrastinski, S. (2008). Asynchronous and synchronous e-learning. Educause quarterly, 31(4), 51-55. from

Mick, C. S., & Middlebrook, G. (2015). Asynchronous and synchronous modalities. PERSPECTIVES ON WRITING, 129.  (p. 129-130) from