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Spotlight on Teaching and Learning: Strategies for Reflective Teaching

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

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In perusing the responses (to our Strategies for Reflective Teaching) we identified three themes that surfaced across multiple reflections. For each theme, listed below, we compiled a couple of representative quotes and some resources for further exploration.


 The posting below looks at responses from the UC Berkeley faculty on three themes related to related to reflective teaching.  It posted on February 12, 2021 on the Berkeley Center for Teaching & Learning. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License 2013 (may be reproduced with credit for non-commercial purposes.
See also Michael O'Hare's blog:




Rick Reis



Tomorrow’s Teaching and Learning


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Spotlight on Teaching and Learning: Fall 2020 Reflections from UC Berkeley Educators 

At the end of the Fall (2020) semester, we shared a “Spotlight on Teaching and Learning” featuring strategies for reflective teaching. In this post, we also solicited reflections and insights from our UC Berkeley teaching community. Many wonderful ideas and considerations were submitted. In perusing the responses, we identified three themes that surfaced across multiple reflections. For each theme, listed below, we compiled a couple of representative quotes and some resources for further exploration.

Theme 1: Fostering Student Engagement 

Student engagement in remote classes has been a recurring topic of discussion in academic communities and the Fall 2020 reflections were no exception. How do we incorporate opportunities to support students as active participants in their learning, leverage peer interaction, and promote reflection? 

“What worked well: Breakout rooms! Having Zoom sort them randomly into discussion groups of 4 or 5 students (5 minutes discussion; 5 minutes report back to the whole class) until they all got to know each other.”

“Ask more questions during lectures! I always think I could do more of this with clickers in class, and tried to do it with Zoom and pre-recorded videos. But MORE! Ending videos with "cliff hangers" about questions helps students think about the content more. Asking more questions than you think you need while over Zoom is really helpful just to break things up more than normal.”

“Think well in advance about different techniques -- and fallback techniques -- for keeping students engaged, keeping them doing the reading. They will drift away unless their engagement is constantly reinforced.”


·       Consider learning as a process and some foundational principles (especially related to attention!). 

·       A few strategies for incorporating active learning and engagement strategies in live Zoom classes(link is external) and a cheat sheet(link is external) for getting started.

·       Barkley, Elizabeth F., K. Patricia Cross, and Claire H. Major. Collaborative learning techniques: A handbook for college faculty(link is external). John Wiley & Sons, 2014. (second edition; available online and downloadable through the UC Berkeley Library; includes adaptations for online instruction.)

·       Flaherty, Colleen. “The Power of Peer Interaction(link is external),” Inside Higher Ed, 2020

·       McMurtie, Beth. “Teaching: How to make breakout rooms work better.(link is external)” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 2020. (available online through UC Berkeley Library)(link is external)

·       Tanner, Kimberly D. "Structure matters: twenty-one teaching strategies to promote student engagement and cultivate classroom equity(link is external)." CBE—LSE 12.3 (2013): 322-331.

Theme 2: Communication and Connection 

In the absence of the same in-person class interactions, some colleagues highlighted the ways in which they aimed to connect with students. This included mechanisms for explicit communication about course logistics and materials, as well as opportunities to acknowledge student struggles and their experience as learners outside of the classroom.

“A colleague had suggested a weekly announcement, providing (in one spot) links to lectures, discussion sections, readings for the week, assignments for the week, additional items of interest (e.g., internship opportunities), etc. This was a fabulous idea. Students loved having everything in one weekly synopsis, and it reduced students' administrative email queries.”

“Get all the help you can learning various platforms to connect students, and challenge isolation. Acknowledge students' feelings and real crisis. Provide links and phone numbers to counseling/support services. Encourage students to raise their personal concerns, whether about academics or personal life circumstances.”


·       Access a repository (link is external) of recorded videos demonstrating a variety of community building activities in the remote context.

·       See this resource on humanizing online courses(link is external) (infographic(link is external) and recent article(link is external))

·       Teaching in Troubled Times: Inviting Students to Bring Themselves to Class: Connecting Learning and Lived Experiences(link is external)

·       Howard, Jay. “How to hold a better class discussion.(link is external)” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 2019. (available online through UC Berkeley Library)

Theme 3: Technology Considerations 

Multiple colleagues referenced how they approached the use of technology in their remote instruction practices. Reflections highlight the benefits of incorporating brief, segmented videos to sustain student engagement and leveraging a “keep it simple” approach to technology.

“Prepping to make videos is challenging, but breaking components down in smaller chunks is helpful! It makes it easier to "recover" if you mess up a recording or need to reschedule, and smaller videos can be more easily reused. But also, hold live class! For the students that want to be there live, they really seem to benefit.”

“Simplify the technology. There is the temptation to introduce many applications and choices into the course to turn the whole ordeal into a media lab. I advise against this, because while it is tempting to excite them with possibilities, it distracts students from focusing on orthodox research skills that actually do not change very much pre or mid or post-pandemic. When you find some media that work, stay with it and refine it to make it better, and develop a routine so that students do not get confused with having to adjust to new platforms every week. The students believe in their own learning and in the success of the course. If you are unsure about something, just keep moving forward and focus less on technical details and more on their learning, but make sure that the technical issues are in place for all the major assignments. In my teaching philosophy, I believe that most of the assignments should be about a specific learning objective; thinking about this aspect and using any of the media tools at your disposal to get there will lead to a successful outcome that will be evidenced in their papers/assignments.”

“I use power-point presentations for each class. I also showed video clips of films or documentaries at the beginning of each class that supplemented what the power-point would discuss.[in one session] provided visual content along with commentary and gave students the opportunity to respond to questions I posed, and posted their responses in the power-point. It resulted in active participation, and almost 100% attendance at every class session.”


·       DIY Media (link is external), Digital Learning Services.

·       Self-enroll for the Remote Instruction Guide(link is external) and review the materials in Module 2: Create Asynchronous Instructional Materials(link is external).

·       Connect with colleagues in Digital Learning Services (DLS)(link is external) to learn about a variety of tools and best practices for implementation, including bCourses, Kaltura, and Zoom.

·       “Creating effective educational videos(link is external).” The Center for Teaching and Learning, Columbia University.

·       Fiock, Holly and Heather Garcia. “How to give your students better feedback with technology(link is external).” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 2019. (available online through UC Berkeley Library)

·       Garner, Joanna, and Michael Alley. "How the design of presentation slides affects audience comprehension: A case for the assertion-evidence approach."(link is external)[EH1] International Journal of Engineering Education 29.6 (2013): 1564-1579. (available online through UC Berkeley Library)

·       Mayer, Richard E. "Applying the science of learning: Evidence-based principles for the design of multimedia instruction(link is external)." American Psychologist 63.8 (2008): 760. (available online through UC Berkeley Library)

·       Mayer, Richard E., and Roxana Moreno. "Nine ways to reduce cognitive load in multimedia learning."(link is external) Educational Psychologist 38.1 (2003): 43-52. (available online through UC Berkeley Library)