To Do Next Year: Build a Teaching Community

Stephanie Fiore

When I speak with faculty about the importance of creating community around teaching, I often reference a wonderful essay by Lee Shulman, professor emeritus at Stanford University and past president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. In the essay, Shulman talks about his belief as a junior faculty member that he would conduct research in solitude, but enjoy a vibrant community in his teaching life. He quickly realized his mistake: “What I didn’t understand as a new Phd was that I had it backwards! We experience isolation not in the stacks but in the classroom. We close the classroom door and experience pedagogical solitude, whereas in our life as scholars, we are members of active communities: communities of conversation, communities of evaluation, communities in which we gather with others in our invisible colleges to exchange our findings, our methods, and our excuses.” In fact, we often teach our classes without any collegial input, feedback, or intervention. When a class doesn’t go well, we may complain about it to a trusted colleague at the proverbial water cooler, but we don’t evaluate our beliefs about teaching or the teaching methods we use in any real way. Even peer review of teaching is often a checkbox exercise devoid of meaningful feedback or plans for improvement, especially when done as a required element of promotion or contract renewal.

Perhaps we like it this way. It’s uncomfortable to receive feedback that might require us to consider alternative ways of teaching, or realize that what we have been doing for years needs to be refreshed. And, by the way, it’s not super comfortable to give feedback to colleagues either. The upshot is that we may struggle alone with lessons or whole semesters that don’t go as planned, with students that we are having trouble inspiring, or with SFFs that are less than stellar. It can be a lonely place.

One of the most positive developments that came out of the pandemic was a renewed surge of professional development in which faculty were able to examine their own practices and, together with colleagues, imagine new strategies for teaching. Faculty in our workshops engaged with each other, hungry to get information and learn new methods for reaching their students in this new, unfamiliar online world. While discussing any number of teaching questions in breakout room activities, faculty got involved in such deep conversations and engaged in such generative support of each other that they didn’t want to come back when we closed the breakout rooms. We joked that Zoom should create a “reject” button so faculty could refuse to return if they didn’t want to leave those rich conversations behind. For some faculty, this was the first time they had had an opportunity to really think about their teaching with colleagues, other professionals who also wanted to discuss teaching. As one participant wrote in our post-workshop survey, it “blew my mind.” In fact, we often hear that participants found some of the most meaningful aspects of our workshops to be hearing from other faculty about their own experiences, and discussing specific examples related to the teaching question at hand.

As we’ve begun slowly to return to in-person teaching and a more normalized routine, it is so easy to fall back again into pre-pandemic isolation. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Just as Lee Shulman calls us to make teaching “community property,” I urge you to put on your fall to-do list the establishment of intentional ways to continue to connect with colleagues in order to discuss teaching, unravel sticky problems, and celebrate the triumphs along the way. That might mean setting aside a “talking about teaching” hour every month over coffee with a trusted colleague, carving out a piece of your departmental meetings to share interesting teaching ideas or to ask for feedback on an innovation you are planning to implement. It can also mean creating a constellation of like-minded colleagues that can act as a cohort of support for each other or organizing a structured peer review of teaching protocol to ensure you get periodic feedback on direct observation of your teaching. It can also mean attending CAT workshops and events where you’ll have the opportunity to engage with an interdisciplinary group of faculty to delve into pedagogical explorations that will enrich your teaching.

Community is way better than isolation. So put on your to-do list for fall that you will take a first step towards finding a community of teachers committed to teaching excellence. And remember, as always, that the CAT is part of that community.

Stephanie Fiore is Assistant Vice Provost at Temple’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching.

Feedback that Nourishes Mind and Heart

Cliff Rouder

I’ll never forget the feedback I received from two professors when I was an undergraduate (and here, I’m quoting them): “You missed the point of this question–badly!” and “Pretty good about what Sewall thought; totally baffling about why.” The first gem was on a practice question to help me prepare for the big essay exam. We call this formative feedback, where there’s an opportunity to put into practice the feedback we’re given. The second gem was feedback on a big essay; we call this summative feedback coming at the end of a unit or instruction. It’s designed to be evaluative and typically counts for a significant portion of the course grade. 

Did either of these gems accomplish anything except deflate my motivation? The answer is a resounding NO for those of you playing at home. Now fast forward a couple of decades. As a conscientious instructor early on in my career, I’ll never forget returning students’ papers on which I must have spent 50 hours providing massive amounts of feedback, only to watch a few students crumple up their papers right in front of me and shoot a 3-pointer into the trash can. Woah!

The feedback we give to students–what it focuses on, how it’s expressed, how much we give, and how frequently we give it–can have a positive (or in my case above, negative) impact on motivation, and thus, on learning. Do I remember getting feedback that was motivating? Absolutely. Try this one on for size and take a moment to reflect on how it differs from the less than helpful feedback above:

“I like where you’re going in this paragraph because you’re leading me to your main argument. What I’d like you to think about is how to better connect it to the prior paragraph.

Okay, now here’s something I can work with. I was on track with the second paragraph but needed to make a better connection between the first and second paragraph. I could do that.

L. Dee Fink, a noted teaching and faculty development consultant, uses the acronym FIDeLity to describe characteristics of useful feedback





The last two are not self-evident, so let me explain what he means by “discriminating” and “loving.” “Discriminating” feedback targets the most important areas for improvement. By “loving,” Fink refers to the spirit in which the feedback is expressed, i.e., wanting your students to improve rather than wanting to demoralize or discourage (see again the two pieces of feedback above). While the feedback I gave in my early teaching career was meant to be loving, the sea of red ink calling out every little thing I found positive and negative was hardly that–nor was it discriminating. Lesson learned.

At this point you may be thinking, “Yeah, yeah, this all sounds good, but in the real world, I teach large lectures and don’t have endless hours to give FIDeLity feedback. Besides, students don’t seem to use my feedback anyway, so nice try.” Both are legitimate concerns, so let’s look at strategies for giving FIDeLity feedback in the real world

  • Rubrics to the rescue! Providing students with a grading rubric along with the assignment gives them a roadmap for success. It also saves you time on the back end by streamlining the grading process and minimizing the crafting of individualized feedback. There are different types of rubrics you can create, and you can even create and use them directly in Canvas. And to kick it up a notch, consider providing examples of a strong and weak assignment along with the grading rubric, and let THEM practice grading
  • Peer review! You don’t always have to be the one giving feedback. Incorporate opportunities in class and outside of class for peer review. By assessing others’ work, students improve their ability to diagnose issues in their own work. However, keep in mind that you will need to provide guidance for students on how to understand your rubric’s criteria and give constructive and “loving” feedback. 
  • Tech can help! Providing audio or audiovisual feedback in Canvas Speedgrader is quick, more personalized, and helps students zero in on the two or three most important areas to work on. Creating polling questions in Canvas and Poll Everywhere can help students self-assess, and enable you to identify gaps in knowledge and give global feedback to the whole class.
  • Look for patterns! There are usually themes among the errors students make and in what they did well on a particular assessment. Share those with the class rather than commenting on them to each student individually.
  • Ask for accountability! Have students demonstrate they’ve used the feedback you do provide. Have them include in a brief statement how they incorporated your feedback the next time a draft or similar assignment is due

Okay, your turn! Let’s keep this conversation going by posting to our new Faculty Teaching Commons. Go to TUportal, click on your Faculty Tools tab, then click on the Faculty Teaching Commons link. How “FIDeLity” is your feedback? What are the feedback techniques you’ve found effective? Inquiring minds want to know!

As always, if you’d like assistance with giving feedback to your students, one of our faculty developers or educational technology specialists are ready to help. Make an appointment here or email a CAT staff member directly. 

Faculty Teaching Commons: A Place for ‘Teacher-Talk’

H. Naomie Nyanungo

Last week a colleague shared that students in their class wanted to engage in discussions on the Ukraine situation. Did you observe the same in your classes and what, if any, adjustments did you make to allow for this conversation in your classes? Are you interested in talking with other instructors about what they are seeing in their classes and the strategies they are using to support and engage with students. We now have a university-wide forum, the Faculty Teaching Commons, where faculty can connect with other faculty to share experiences and exchange ideas and resources for enhancing teaching practice. The CAT launched the Faculty Teaching Commons (the Commons) earlier this year as a space for faculty to engage in discussions on topics on all things related to teaching.

You probably already have spaces where you talk to peers about teaching. For example, conversations with colleagues in your department or program or participation in discipline-specific online communities or listservs. The Commons offers an opportunity to engage with instructors from all disciplines, campuses, rank and tenure across Temple University. As a large institution, the nature of the issues and topics that arise in our classes will vary widely. The cross-disciplinary nature of the Commons will undoubtedly lead to a rich exchange of ideas and resources because something that may apply in one discipline or setting may not apply to others.

Topics or questions discussed on the Commons can be general teaching issues/strategies, or specific to certain teaching contexts. For example, a recent post asks this question: What is the ‘rule’ or practice around sharing poll results or jamboards (like a screen shot) after students have completed them? I am certain that this is something that some of us do but have not really thought about it. (By the way, there is an answer to this question shared on the Commons.) In addition to asking questions and sharing ideas, faculty can also recommend articles and other resources related to teaching.

To access the Commons discussion forum, log into TU Portal, click on the ‘Faculty Tools’ tab and then click on ‘Faculty Teaching Commons’ as shown in the screenshot below.

In addition to the online Faculty Teaching Commons, the CAT invites you to attend  the next Faculty Teaching Commons Live session: Wednesday, March 16 | 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM, Hosted in Person in TECH 109 (Details Here)

Please join us at the Commons Live for discussion and fellowship with your Temple colleagues. We’re the host, but the agenda for the discussion is set by you, the faculty!

We look forward to seeing you in the Faculty Teaching Commons!

H. Naomie Nyanungo is Director of Educational Technology at Temple’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching.

Resetting Learning for Spring 2022

Stephanie Fiore

During the Fall semester, instructors reported high levels of disengagement and that students struggled with meeting course expectations both online and in-person. This is not entirely surprising since the effects of the pandemic are still with us. Students may be struggling to manage schedules that include online, hybrid and in-person classes. They may have spent the senior year of high school or the first year of university – formative times for our students – in online spaces. They may be feeling disconnected from the university, from classmates or from faculty or they may be dealing for the first time with the social and emotional aspects of engaging with the university community. They may also still be experiencing the fallout from illness, death, financial constraints, and food insecurity.

The good news is that we can proactively approach the spring 2022 semester in ways that support student success in our courses. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Clearly outline expectations for meeting learning goals to your students. This means making sure the goals for your course and each of your class sessions are clearly articulated in ways that students can understand and that speak to the types of skills or knowledge they will need to acquire. But it also means providing guidance on how to succeed in the class and frequent opportunities for practice and feedback that allow students to track progress and remediate areas of concern.
  • Reduce stress on the already heavy cognitive load students are experiencing by being as transparent as possible whenever possible. Make sure the instructions on assignments are crystal clear. Include a class schedule on your syllabus and update it when changes are made. Use rubrics for evaluation of work and hand them out ahead of time with the assignment. Trim reading assignments to only the essentials, and make sure your Canvas course is easily navigable. For Zoom-based classes, you may also want to rethink your camera policy.
  • Invite students to privately share any factors that may affect their ability to perform well in the class. A quick survey at the beginning of the semester can gather this information easily. Then reach out to students who have particular concerns in order to provide guidance that will support their learning and success and inform them of university resources. Provide students with information about university resources on your syllabus, on Canvas, and individually as needed. For more information on mental health resources, check out this previous EDvice Exchange post.
  • Make clear how to contact you if students need to discuss a course-related issue. Consider making yourself available for office hours in person and virtually. Remember to frequently invite students to come to your office hours. Better yet, set up time slots in the first two weeks of the semester and have students sign up to meet with you in pairs or in groups.
  • Check on student engagement in your class. If you see that a student is not coming to class, logging onto Canvas, or keeping up with assignments, reach out to check on them and offer support. Then contact the CARE Team if you are concerned about their well-being. The Student Safety Nest is a useful guide for faculty on supporting student well-being. 
  • Support students in building community. Provide opportunities for students to get to know each other in class. Incorporate collaborative learning activities that encourage deeper learning but also allow students to connect with others. Consider personally inviting students to co-curricular events where they can engage with your discipline and with each other, or make a plan to create these events to provide a sense of community around your discipline, major, or department.
  • Set up opportunities for students to reflect on their learning and make a plan for improvement. Brief exercises that have them identify key points in a class or a reading, what they know and what they are still confused about, and whether their study techniques worked for your assessments take very little time and help students tremendously to succeed. 
  • Take the temperature of the room. Check in periodically on how students are feeling and let them know how you are doing as well. Norming the fact that we all may be feeling tired, anxious, or overwhelmed helps students (and us) to cope. 
  • Reconsider how you think about rigor. Rigor is often confused with rigidity, but true rigor means setting up learning opportunities that lead students to reach the learning goals in your class. Unless rigidity is absolutely necessary for a specific aspect of your discipline, consider building in some flexibility to allow for breathing room when students may need it. For instance, allow two free passes that give students an extra week to complete two assignments of their choosing during the semester, no questions asked and no points deducted.
  • Don’t make assumptions about behavior you are seeing in your students. A student who is disengaged may not be disinterested in what you are teaching. They may instead be dealing with issues that are distracting or upsetting. A student who misses classes may not be a slacker or a poor student, but may instead be dealing with financial or health issues that impact their ability to get to class.
  • Remember that tone and attitude matter in interacting with students. Your encouragement and partnership in their learning makes a difference!

Finally, reach out to the CAT. We’re here to discuss teaching with you when you need us. You can make an appointment at

Stephanie Fiore, Ph.D., is Assistant Vice Provost at Temple’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching.

Supporting Your Students’ Mental Health and Wellness

Linda Hasunuma & Cliff Rouder

This month the CAT partnered with the Dean of Students Office, Wellness Resource Center, and the CARE Team to provide a workshop for faculty to learn how they can support student mental health and wellness. Rachael Stark, Senior Associate Dean of Students; Megan McCloskey, Associate Director, CARE Team; Alison McKee, Director, Wellness Resource Center; and Janie Egan, Mental Well-Being Program Coordinator, Wellness Resource Center shared strategies and resources to help faculty be proactive in identifying students who may be struggling–ensuring they get the support they need during this challenging time.

This was an especially valuable workshop as we are still facing the uncertainty and challenges of an ongoing pandemic on top of the many other stressors of the past year and a half. We share the highlights of the workshop in a question and answer format.

How can you support your students’ mental health and wellness in class?

  • Include a mental health syllabus statement. A sample is available in the Student Safety Nest Guide. (You’ll see the link to this resource at the end of the blog.)
  • Include periodic reminders about resources beyond the first week of class.
  • Talk openly about well-being and self-care (and the connection to academic performance). This can help normalize help-seeking.

What are possible signs of students’ mental distress?

Students may still hesitate to reach out for support, so in addition to the suggestions above, another thing you can do is to be aware of possible signs of mental distress, including

  • Physical signs: Significant changes in energy, worrisome changes in hygiene, regularly sleeping in class
  • Emotional signs: Emotional outbursts, written/verbal expressions of hopelessness, exaggerated personality traits
  • Behavioral signs: Verbally aggressive, verbal/written threats, demanding a lot of time
  • Academic signs: Repeated absences, seeking of special provisions, ranting emails

If you do see these signs, reach out to your students and invite them to come talk to you.

What if a student does come to talk to me?

One helpful approach for providing informal, yet skillful support, is to use the Validate, Appreciate, Refer (VAR) model, developed by Active Minds. Here are examples of what you can say using the VAR model:


Example response: “I’m sorry to hear that you’re struggling. You have a lot going on.”

APPRECIATE Vulnerability

Example response: “I know it isn’t easy to talk about this with an instructor. I really appreciate that you shared this with me.”

REFER to Services

Example response: “How familiar are you with campus resources? Is it okay if I share some info that might be relevant?” It’s helpful to share several resources and let the student decide based on their comfort level.

What campus resources can I suggest?

Crisis, Assessment, Response, Education (CARE) Team

If you have a concern about a student based on something they may have said or done, or if they’re not showing up and have not communicated with you after reaching out, we recommend you contact the CARE Team. If you are not sure the concern merits a CARE Team referral, they would still like you to reach out to them, and they will advise you. The CARE Team is composed of a diverse group of representatives from key student support offices across the University, e.g.,Tuttleman Counseling Services, Disability Resources and Services, and the TUPD, who evaluate the referral and determine the next course of action.

Tuttleman Counseling Services

If a student is in need of counseling, Tuttleman provides valuable resources for mental health support. Students need to register for services by filling out a form on their website M-F 10 am – 1:30 pm. A counselor will reach out within 24 hours. Please visit their website for more information about these and other services:

Disabilities Resource Services (DRS)

It’s important to remember that some students may have invisible disabilities (mental health) or have short term/temporary disabilities or injuries as well. If you have concerns and questions related to how you can best support a student who needs accommodations, please reach out to DRS For your convenience, you can make an appointment for an individual consult with the Director of DRS, Andrea Vassar, through the Center for the Advancement of Teaching at

Wellness Resource Center (WRC)

The WRC offers intentional learning opportunities to promote student well-being and cultivate community. As Temple’s health promotion office, it provides services for students, such as the HEART Peer Education Program, free safer sex supplies, trainings, campus-wide events, and wellness consultations.

What resources are appropriate in an emergency situation?

Call Temple Police immediately at: 215-204-1234 (1-1234) if you are worried about your student’s safety or if they have already been harmed or need medical attention. Officers are trained in Mental Health First Aid and also use a referral call line to determine the best course of action for mental health emergencies. If the emergency is related to sexual assault, harassment, stalking, and dating or domestic violence, these must also be reported to the Title IX Office, which serves as an ally against discrimination, harassment and assault on the basis of sex, gender identity or gender expression.

What if I’m not sure whether it’s an emergency or not?

Refer to the guidance contained in the Faculty and Staff Referral Guide for information about what constitutes an emergency.

*           *           *

We are very grateful to the facilitators of this workshop. If you have further questions or concerns, we encourage you to reach out to them directly: 

Rachael Stark, Senior Associate Dean of Students (

Megan McCloskey, Associate Director, CARE Team (

Alison McKee, Director, WRC (

Janie Egan, Mental Well-Being Program Coordinator, WRC (

These additional online resources can also be bookmarked for your reference.

As always, if you want to learn more about how to support student mental health and wellness in your classroom, please make an appointment for an individual consultation with a faculty developer at

Linda Hasunuma, Ph.D. and Cliff Rouder, Ed.D. both work at Temple University’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching.

Beware the Curse of Knowledge

Micheal Wiederman, Ph.D.

How can knowledge be a curse? The term is used by psychologists to refer to the human condition wherein once we know something, or how to do something, it is impossible to re-experience what it was like to be ignorant of it.  The result is that we tend to overestimate how common the knowledge is that we now possess, or how easy it is to be able to perform the activity we now know how to do. This curse of knowledge tends to leave us assuming learners know particular things that we now consider basic yet the learners have yet to grasp.  Learner may be confused by our instruction, which leaves out important information assumed to be “common knowledge,” and we may be frustrated by the learner’s apparent inability to perform at a level we assume to be appropriate.

To circumvent the curse of knowledge you could develop the habit of asking learners what they know about the topic or ability at hand, before providing instruction or guidance that is based on the response.  Be sure to ask the question openly:  “Describe for me what you know about X,” rather than, “Do you know about X?”  The latter is likely to elicit a “yes” response, either out of a sense of performance pressure or because the learner does not recognize what they don’t know about X.

Another approach to address the curse of knowledge is to consistently start your teaching or demonstrating at a bit lower level than you naturally would.  If it seems to you that your starting point is a bit too basic, you likely are starting at an appropriate place.  If it turns out to be a bit below the actual knowledge or ability of the learner, the worst case may be simply that the learner feels somewhat reassured in their recognition of a baseline level of competence.  What might you do a little differently now that you’re aware of the curse of knowledge?

Michael Wiederman is a professor and the Director of Leadership and Professional Development and the Co-Director of Family Medicine Faculty Development Fellowship in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

This article is released under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).

Positive Projects: Cultivating Positive Emotions for Enhanced Learning & Professional Growth

Heather R. Porter, PhD, CTRS, FDRT

Positive emotions, such as joy, happiness, and serenity, are more than ‘feel good’ moments. They can be a pedagogical tool to propel students’ learning and flourishing!

The Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions developed by Barbara Fredrickson (2001) explains that when students experience positive emotions, they are more willing to think in new ways and try new things, which builds resources (e.g., knowledge, friendships, self-awareness), leading to upward spirals in their lives. She explains that positive emotions function as an internal sign to approach or continue, thus prompting individuals to engage with their environments and partake in activities. Positive emotions widen the array of thoughts and actions that come to mind; lead to flexible, creative, integrative, and efficient thought patterns; and increase brain dopamine levels that improve focus, attention, goal setting, pleasure, and satisfaction. Positive emotion additionally increases the likelihood of finding positive meaning in ordinary events, improves coping and resiliency over time, and accumulates and compounds, predicting future experiences of positive emotions.

A field of study called psychoneuroimmunology also supports the value of positive emotion, finding that positive emotion correlates with increased antibodies and improved healing; whereas negative emotion correlates with disease, mortality, and decreased healing (Tausk et al., 2008; Yan, 2016).

Consequently, facilitating the experience of positive emotions inside and outside of the classroom can enhance our students’ learning and subsequent professional growth and health!

How can instructors cultivate positive emotions?

In my experience as an instructor at Temple for 20+ years, the secret sauce is the PERMA Theory of Well-Being developed by Martin Seligman (University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center, 2021). The PERMA theory consists of five building blocks that enable flourishing – Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment. Although each building block is a separate and distinct component in the theory, I have found benefit in their integration. Specifically, I’ve found that facilitating student projects outside of the classroom that provide Meaningful Engagement that highlights and strengthens Accomplishments and Relationships revs up Positive Emotion . I’ve coined the term ‘Positive Projects’ to reflect this type of project.

How can instructors develop a Positive Project?


Start by identifying a gap or need within your profession and subsequently create a meaningful out-of-classroom project that addresses this gap or need. It should be something that you are passionate about and matters to you. When a project is meaningful, it not only excites and motivates you to move the project forward, but your excitement reflects to the students, which sparks and maintains their interest, attention, and motivation for the project.

Students who are new to the profession might not fully understand the meaningfulness of the project. Consequently, include an educational piece where you share the purpose of the project, the benefits that students can experience from participating in the project, and the impact it can have on the greater good (e.g., profession, community). When this information is shared enthusiastically with students, their excitement to participate in the project rises.


The project should immerse students further into the profession than what is typical in academia and allow them to ‘give’ something (e.g., to another student, to the profession, to the community). Engagement at this level can help students find meaning and purpose in their career path and promote altruism, driving personal and professional growth. For example, a Positive Project might involve finding and synthesizing the most up-to-date research on a particular topic for students to present at a local conference, assisting in the development of legislative advocacy materials and educating others about how the legislation impacts the profession, writing a systematic review that will be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, assessing the needs of a community and subsequently implementing a much-needed service, etc.

It is also imperative that the project builds upon something in which the students already possess a foundation to promote the experience of flow. This is when the challenge of the task is slightly above the students’ ability (Nakamura & Csikszentmihalyi, 2009). This creates an optimal state of intrinsic motivation. On the other hand, if the challenge of the task is significantly above the students’ abilities, it creates anxiety and worry — and — if the challenge of the task is significantly below the students’ abilities, it creates apathy and boredom. Consequently, carefully consider the students who you accept into the project.


Using Goal-Setting Theory, each project has clear goals broken down into discrete steps with clear and feasible timelines. This is shared with the students before they commit to the project, so they know the expectations and can determine if it is practical for them to participate. Typically, Positive Projects take one to two semesters to complete to allow sufficient time for student growth and accomplishment.

A level of autonomy is built into the project (e.g., choices), and regular feedback is provided (e.g., weekly). The instructor actively guides, supports, and communicates movements towards success to the project team and recognizes and applauds progress. A sense of accomplishment is also fostered by integrating opportunities for recognition by others and encouraging self-reflection on the personal and professional benefits achieved through project participation. The integration of autonomy and success are two components of the Self-Determination Theory (SDT). The third component of SDT is relatedness, or sense of belonging, which falls into the “Relationships” element below.


Throughout the project, students work together, and the instructor provides purposeful and frequent guidance and support to build relationships and social capital. This might include group project meetings, intentionally designed opportunities for students to support each other and provide feedback, and collaboration with others outside of the team, such as community members and professionals in the field. Thus, a sense of relatedness and belonging among all project members are constantly promoted throughout the project (we are a team!).

To promote positivity when communicating with the project team, use Active Constructive Responding. Additionally, be aware of the messages you are sending when interacting with the project team and how these messages could potentially influence students’ beliefs about themselves and their subsequent performance (Pygmalion Effect). Consequently, be consciously aware of your communication to motivate and encourage positive growth rather than stunt it.

Positive Emotion

When I structure projects in the above manner, I have found that positive emotions flourish in students (e.g., joy, excitement, pride, sense of belonging). The projects build their self-confidence, enhance awareness of their strengths, and heighten motivation to be a change agent within the profession. The relationships they build with me, their team, other professionals, and the community open new doors to them and inspire those who observe their success, particularly other students, to become involved. Mentoring the students also brings a wealth of positive emotions to my own life. It has enriched my sense of meaning in being able to pay it forward and help propel the next generation of my profession.

Are you looking for more information?

If you are interested in creating a Positive Project, consider using the Positive Guidelines & Worksheet. If you would like additional guidance in creating a Positive Project, feel free to reach out to me ( Lastly, if you are interested in learning more about how positive emotions impact learning, take a look at Emotions, Learning, and the Brain: Exploring the Educational Implications of Affective Neuroscience and Engage The Brain: How to Design for Learning that Taps Into the Power of Emotions.


  • Fredrickson, B. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56(3), 218-226.
  • Nakamura, J. & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2009). Flow theory and research. In S. J. Lopez & C. R. Snyder (Eds.), Oxford handbook of positive psychology, 2nd edition (pp. 195-206). Oxford University Press.
  • Tausk, F., Elenkov, I., & Moynihan, J. (2008). Psychoneuroimmunology. Dermatologic Therapy, 21, 22-31.
  • University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center (2021). PERMA Theory of Well-Being and PERMA workshops. Retrieved from
  • Yan, Q. (2016). Psychoneuroimmunology: Systems biology approaches to mind-body medicine. Springer International

Heather R. Porter is a Professor at Temple University’s College of Public Health. 

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Use the Pronouns Right For Thee!

Cliff Rouder, Ed.D.

A nod to the late, great Aretha Franklin for inspiring the subject line of this post. Notice I used the pronoun “she” to refer to Aretha. Without giving it much thought, we typically refer to people by the pronouns we think match their appearance. Historically, these chosen pronouns have been the singular “she/her/hers” for women and “he/him/his” for men, and the plural “they/them/theirs” for more than one. Tidy and grammatically correct, the singular pronouns have created what’s referred to as the “gender binary.” The problem is, one’s sex assigned at birth may not reflect one’s internal sense of self, better known as gender identity, and that misgenders those whose gender identity is outside of that binary or is fluid.

In its commitment to providing a welcoming, inclusive environment for all students, faculty and staff, Temple is introducing two new initiatives to allow our community to indicate their pronouns and gender identity.

Our Two Newest Inclusion Initiatives

Faculty, students, and staff now have the option to indicate pronouns that reflect their gender identity, and choose from expanded categories to indicate one’s gender. Instructions for indicating your pronouns and gender identity are available on theTU Portal by clicking on Manage My Account and then Update your Pronoun/Gender. For pronouns, we’re now able to choose from He/Him/His; She/Her/Hers; They/Them/Theirs; Ze/Zir/Zirs; or Refer to me by my name only. For gender identity, in addition to indicating male/female, we’re now able to choose from Nonbinary and Does Not Apply to Me or Prefer Not to Share.

If you add your pronouns, they will now be visible to everyone in these university systems:

  • Cherry and White Directory
  • My Courses application in TUportal
  • Canvas learning management software
  • Residence hall resident lists

If you add your gender identity, it will only be visible to you as well as certain administrators in Self-Service Banner. It will not be visible in the Cherry and White Directory, My Courses, or in Canvas.

Getting the hang of it. If you’re a grammar stickler like me, using the plural pronouns “they/them/theirs,” if someone identifies that way, takes some getting used to. The practice has actually become common enough to warrant Merriam-Webster’s dictionary to give a thumbs up to its use in referring to the singular. That’s the wonderful (albeit challenging-to-keep-up-with) thing about language: it’s ever-evolving.

You can do this! It just takes a little mindfulness and practice. Here are some ways you can use and reinforce the practice in your teaching:

  • Add your pronouns to your email signature. You can also link your pronouns to a resource that explains why pronouns are important. Adding your pronouns may help others feel more comfortable in sharing theirs.
  • Refer to your students by the pronouns you have for them in Canvas. If you misgender someone by using the wrong pronouns, don’t fret. Apologize, let them know you care and are trying, and move on. You can also invite students to rename themselves with their pronouns in Zoom.
  • Remember that you can always call students by name. Giving students table tents on which to write their name and if they choose, their pronouns–especially in large classes–is a great way to get to know and demonstrate respect for your students.

For more information about the what and why of pronoun use, check out this resource and youtube video. If you’d like to learn more about LGBTQIA+ inclusion in the classroom, check out this Guide to LGBTQIA+ Terminology and this video on the CAT website, and watch for our upcoming fall workshop offering: Inclusion in the Classroom: Supporting our LGBTQIA+ students. Don’t forget our Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, Advocacy, and Leadership (IDEAL) offers a fantastic two-part workshop and certificate called the Safe Zone Certification. After completing the workshops, you are considered an Advocate which indicates acceptance of LGBTQIA+ identities and a commitment to working against discrimination directed towards the community. 

As always, feel free to make an appointment for a 1-1 consultation with one of our faculty developers at the CAT for further assistance.

Cliff Rouder is Pedagogy & Design Specialist at Temple University’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching.

What Our Students Are Saying

During recent semesters many attending college have used social media to share their thoughts on pursuing an education during a pandemic. We went to Reddit, where Temple students were already sharing their stories, and asked for anonymous quotes that we might pass on to you. In this EDvice Exchange entry we’ll be sharing a selection of these posts, to highlight the lengths to which some of our wonderful Temple instructors went as well as how those efforts impacted their students. We extend our heartfelt thanks to these faculty members and the others like them who worked so hard over the last year.

“Dr. Talissa Ford was super understanding about some of us not wanting to be on camera or not being able complete work because of personal reasons.”

“Israel Vasquez is another great professor. Take literally any of his classes and you won’t regret it. He modified his Scene Analysis class in respect to social distancing and the isolation that we were living in. Even when personal issues came up he always made time for us.”

“Professor Michael Klein. I took his honors Soundtrack of the Apocalypse Class and he was super flexible. He didn’t want the class to stress anyone out at all, so he gave out extensions and limited reading assignments in favor of doing more scene analysis in class so that the homework was never oppressive. Even on the final paper he sent us a canvas message the day it was due (after the two day extension he gave us) saying not to stress anyone out but the final paper is due today, so if you have it ready by five that would be great. Felt very little pressure in his class. If you have the opportunity to take a class with him, especially in the foreseeable future, do it. Super chill and super flexible.”

“Professor Roth in psychology. She would take time every class to ask how we are doing and would remind us every class to make time for self care. I loved how on the last day she said ‘I don’t like saying ‘goodbye’ because it sounds so formal, so see you all later.’”

“The man, the myth, the legendary Prof. Mike Hughes. Incredible morale booster and source of motivation. Ended every class with ‘Your friends care about yous, your family cares about yous, and I care about yous.’Genuine gem.”

The theme we pick out from these and many of the other quotes we’ll be sharing is simple: good education begins by acknowledging that students aren’t simply learning machines, but rather our fellow human beings. When we cultivate an ethic of care where we treat them with kindness and respect, great things can happen in the classroom.

One last thing: See a colleague mentioned above? Consider sending them a quick note of thanks for going the extra mile. Instructors need words of kindness and encouragement, too!

On the Importance of Breathing and Reflection

Stephanie Fiore

We are almost at the end of an incredibly unusual year, one that caused no small amount of  stress, exhaustion, and sense of loss, but which we hope also engendered creativity, agility, and a heightened sense of empathy. All of these by-products of the sudden and persistent changes we have experienced over the past year—whether negative or positive ones—can lead to burnout. It takes an incredible amount of effort to push through exhaustion and loss; it also takes an incredible amount of effort to be continually creative and empathetic with others.

In her Temple Talks video, Self-Compassion (It Feels Weird, Right?)Dr. Annette Willgens from the College of Public Health reminds us of the importance of practicing self-compassion, especially in times like these. Professor Willgens points out that it takes practice – and stillness – to become aware of our own self-criticisms and then to become more compassionate with ourselves. I like especially how she emphasizes that, while we may continue to strive for  excellence, perfection is not attainable, and exhorts us to “make the ordinary the new extraordinary.”

This past year, we’ve understood even more clearly how imperfect teaching can be, perhaps even should be. When done well, responsive teaching requires that we constantly assess how our students are learning, make adjustments and then tweak our approaches yet again. I often tell faculty that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution for teaching,  because the situational factors of each class—things like class size, time of day, modality (online, hybrid, in person), type of course (required, intro or capstone, honors), chemistry of the students in the class, whether there is a pandemic going on—affect us and our students, sometimes changing the dynamics of a class in profound ways. This is why the course you have taught successfully a number of times can suddenly feel harder than it ever has, even in “normal” times. Add to that the unexpected switch to online learning this past year. You were learning how to teach online, continually trying new things, refining ideas that almost worked, and seeking solutions for failed experiments, all while ramping up support for students grappling with their own uncertainty and inexperience in the online space.

So give yourselves a pass if you’re exhausted and you can’t wait for the last day of the semester to come. My greatest wish for you, my dear colleagues, is that you are able to find some time to practice self-compassion, breathe, and regain the energy we all need to move forward.

After you have regained some of that energy, an important next step is to take time to reflect on the past year’s teaching experiences with a critical eye and then to ask yourself: “Where do I go from here?” Resist the urge to fall back onto old ways of doing things in your classrooms and letting everything you have learned fall by the proverbial wayside, even if you are going back to in-person teaching. These reflective questions will assist you in discovering how to forge a new way forward that leverages the best of old and new experiences. If you are teaching this summer and feel that you have no time to carve out time for this exercise, consider that even a few minutes to reflect in this way before planning your fall semester can make a difference in decisions you’ll make about your course.

  • What are some realizations you came to about your identity as an instructor and about your students? Are those realizations still pertinent as you move forward? If so, how will they affect your actions?
  • Did you make changes to your teaching methods or teaching tools in order to teach online? What did you discover in making these changes? Are there elements of those changes that you would like to retain moving forward? How will you operationalize them in a new teaching environment?
  • What did you learn about community and connection during this year, both with students and with colleagues? How might you want to bring what you’ve learned to bear on your learning environments moving forward?
  • What changes did you make to your class policies? Might you want to retain some of those changed policies moving forward if you found they served student needs better? How can you balance supporting student needs with managing your own professional and personal needs?
  • Did you make changes to your curriculum or to your classroom practices in an effort to create a more equitable, inclusive, and just space for learning? Which of these changes made a real difference for your students? Is there more work to be done in this respect?
  • What did you learn about how events happening outside the classroom influence what happens in the classroom? How did these events present opportunities and/or challenges in teaching? How will you interact (or not) with current events in future classes?

And remember that we are here all summer to talk through your ideas with you in one-on-one consultations. You can also get timely help with educational technology questions at the Virtual Drop-In Ed Tech Lab.

A final word from all of the CAT staff to you. We admire the work and thoughtfulness you put into teaching this year, and the care for your students that we observed time and time again. We also appreciate the collegiality you have shown to us this year as we worked with you to navigate uncertainty and constantly changing needs. This connection with faculty is the foundation of the CAT’s mission, and helped us to keep going in sometimes overwhelming times. Here’s hoping for some moments of rest, reflection, and connection this summer for all of us.

Stephanie Fiore is Assistant Vice Provost of Temple’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching