Teaching College

Welcome to the former website for the Virginia Community College System's Regional Centers for Teaching Excellence.  This collection of ideas on college teaching has been repurposed to preserve good ideas for college educators.

To search this site for ideas on college teaching, use <Ctrl> + <f> (the "Find" command), or scroll the contents at left.

Contents of This Website

Teaching for Retention  Ideas from VCCS Midcentral Regional Center for Teaching Excellence

bulletacademic support centers
bulletacademic advising
bulletactive learning
bulletcase studies and problem-based learning 
bulletProblem-based learning
bulletInternal and External Criticism
bullet critical thinking
bulletgroup/pair/collaborative learning
bulletemail uses
bulletFirst Step in a Writing Task
bulletName Cards -- Learning Names  
bulletStudent Poll
bulletGreat Expectations
bulletScavenger Hunts 
bulletTime Management
bulletscoring lectures
bulletIs Your Lecture Interesting?
bullethome vs. college
bullethomework on the web
bulletstudy grid with grid as a Word document
bullet10 Traditionally Black Colleges (TBCUs)
bullet1998 Hesburghs
bulletlearning week
bulletthe first six weeks in retention
bulletone-to-one sessions with students
bulletStudent Success (Karen Erickson)
bulletUsing the Syllabus as a Retention Tool
bulletspicing up a syllabus
bulletsyllabus parts that matter most (a study)
bullet sample ENG 112 syllabus spiced
bulletImproving Tests
bulleta "think-aloud protocol"
bulleta publisher-provided test bank
bulleta form for getting instructional feedback about an exam from a peer and from students
bulletsome observed ways that students think as they process test questions
bulletactive learning
bulletsustaining interest
bulletonline discussion
bulletteaching sequence
bulletsharing classrooms
bulletservice learning
bulletan article on service learning approaches in different disciplines
bulletVA COOL Symposium at JMU
bulletDr. Robert Franco on service learning
bulletteacher research 
bulletwebsite uses and computers

Ideas and Results from


Chancellor's Commonwealth Professorship
2010-2012: Bridging from Reading to Content Courses


JSRCC's Critical Reading and Study Skills Seminars--CRSS, Spring 2013 & Spring, 2014

bullet Reynolds Reflectors, 2015

In 2010, the Virginia Community College System awarded me (Prof. Eric Hibbison, webmaster for this site), a two-year research grant.  Part of the focus for this grant was to research the interplay among reading college textbooks, making class notes, and long-term studying for tests.  Answers should pay off in our reading and study skills course, as well as in content area courses, especially high-risk science and social science classes.  Following up, my college, J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond, Virginia, offered seminars to pair content faculty with resource faculty in the Spring Semesters of 2013 and 2014, under the auspices of Prof. Judy Richardson, retired content area prof from Virginia Commonwealth University.  She is developing a graduate course for Reynolds faculty for Spring 2015.


We wanted to illustrate the following--

  1. What do successful students do to process  textbooks?
  2. What do successful students do to process the content of each class?
  3. What long-term strategies do successful students use to prepare for large-scale tests?


The students I encountered in my ENG 107, Critical Reading, course showed the following short-sighted behaviors.  (They did some good work, too, but these patterns concerned me, since about half were also enrolled in science or social science courses.)

  1. No annotations.  They didn't write in their books.
  2. Missing organization.  When asked to take notes on a clearly organized and previewed video, nearly all of my students failed to use the headings previewed in the video as a way to organize their notes.  As a result, every idea was listed at the left margin with no indenting.  Subsequently, using a new set of videos, students captured ONLY the headings posted on screen and generally ignored or captured only a few of the spoken details, examples, and reasons for the heading.
  3. Foolish flash cards.  Their default study strategy was flash cards, which caused them to see every course as merely a vocabulary course and, worse, to separate words gathered together into disparate and unconnected piles of "known" and "unknown," as well as to record too little information about each term, usually only the term and a synonym or copied definition, probably without quotation marks, and not the page of origin, not a sample usage or two, no drawing of a structure or process, and surely no notes on how the term should be used, neither proper context nor proper usage.
  4. Word-matching. Students often used the simplest "word-match" strategy.  If I paraphrased or characterized the nature of a Blackboard resource, students would report not being able to find it in our "Course Documents" scroll unless I supplied the exact title and the exact location (5th on the list, for instance). 
  5. Word-matching on tests.  In its worst form, the word-match strategy emerged on tests so that once in a while a student in my ENG 107 class would report that she (perhaps joined by large numbers of classmates in the content area course) had begged the professor to use the exact wording from the book in question stems and target answers because paraphrasing caused students to miss many questions.


Recommended YouTube videos from Dr. Stephen Chew regarding study skills:  (NOTE: I use these in my classes for note-taking training because they are relatively easy to outline and because the most important content is spoken, having only headings displayed on screen, so students can learn to capture details--and listen when the prof talks.)

  1. Beliefs That Make You Stupid
  2. What Students Should Know About How People Learn
  3. Cognitive Principles for Optimizing Learning
  4. Putting the Principles for Optimizing Learning into Practice
  5. I Blew the Exam; Now What?

Other Lessons and Questions

  1. What if the book doesn't help the students to study very much?
  2. What do students do to study effectively?
    1. Here is a planning grid  (Adobe .pdf) that asks what students do before, during, and after reading a textbook chapter, taking class notes, and taking a test.  Included with the one-page grid is a student sample that addresses each cell in the grid, including her class notes and sample flash cards. [Copyrighted textbook materials have been removed from this student's displays of examples, however.]

Recommendations and Demonstrations

  1. Can you represent to students the level of good work for the course (and maybe contrast it with work that is not so good)?
    1. Good Discussion Board Answers: Here are two attempts by me to explain to my ENG 112 students how substantial their answers should be at one of our discussion boards in order to receive full credit.  The site also includes several research essays for the major assignment of the semester; a few of these contain my commentary or study questions for in-class use.
    2. Effective Exam Essays: Here is a list of traits (.doc) of effective exam essays that I developed with my ENG 107 students to analyze contrasting pairs of sample exam essays--and one set of contrasting exam answers from my own final exam in ENG 107 (not history students).  Feel free to add ideas of your own, especially specific to your teaching field or to modify these criteria as needed.
    3. Study Strategies: Here is a list of study strategies advocated by the ENG 107 textbook, College Success Strategies, with notes on how to apply each strategy to two different high-risk courses.  Notice that the strategies are separated into exposure-level and review practices in the top half of the chart vs. longer-term practice (or rehearsal) strategies in the bottom portion of the chart for coordinating large amounts of information for exams.
    4. Study Strategies by Subject: Here is a consideration of study skills and demands by subject.  Research-based examples of the variant demands of history, chemistry, and other subjects lead to study strategies by subject.
    5. Tool Kits: Here are the professor and student tool kits from the Critical Reading and Study Skills Strategic Initiative of Spring, 2013, which paired 6 resource (reading) faculty with 6 content-area faculty from across the college.


  1. On May 7, 2014, participants in the Spring 2014 Critical Reading and Study Skills (CRSS) seminar offered their results to approximately 50 full-time faculty from J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College at its professional development day.  Presenters showed various forms of "anticipation" guides, or warm-ups designed to get students to increase their concentration and to have a purpose for reading textbook segments and journal articles.  In addition, suggestions on a "Background Knowledge Probe" are included for deepening students' methods of processing terminology for a course.
    1. Dr. Judy Richardson offers her introduction for the presentation
    2. Prof. Stephen Sowulewski describes his adaptation of an "anticipation guide" to enhance students learning in a nutrition course.
    3. Prof. Robin Shepherd presents one case from anticipation guide through pop quiz.
    4. Prof. Shepherd also described her use of a "background knowledge probe" and in-depth study of vocabulary to illuminate terms for a passage from the course textbook.
  2. On April 24, 2015, I (Prof. Eric Hibbison) made an interim report (no audio) at the J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College 9th Annual Faculty Symposium regarding some activities of the Center for Teaching Engagement discussion group called Reynolds Reflectors, who met monthly during 2015 (excluding summer) on reflective teaching.
Major Presentations of VCCS Regional Centers for Teaching Excellence
bulletStephen Brookfield at Northern Virginia
bulletBrookfield at NVCC 2
bulletBrookfield at NVCC 3
bulletBrookfield at NVCC 4
bulletBrookfield at NVCC 5
bulletStephen Brookfield in Richmond
bulletReview of Brookfield's Critically Reflective Teaching
bulletLaura Powell (DCC) on Brookfield
bulletJames Eison
bulletDeep Learning
bulletGiving Feedback
bulletRoger Mackey
bulletDeb Ulmer
bulletHoward Gardner at Northern Virginia
bulletJames Anderson on Retention
bulletKaren Erickson for Student Success
bulletChancellor Glenn DuBois on the Hidden Qualities of Great Teachers at Tidewater Community College
Teaching Resources
bulletresults of a poll of JSRCC adjunct
bulletbest teaching moments
bulletcomposite results on teaching excellence
bullet reading
bullet subscription ideas
bullet Readings on Constructivism: (Colorado University website)
bulletsamples from the ASHE-ERIC series
bullet Redesigning Higher Education:Producing Dramatic Gains in Student Learning
bullet Active Learning: Creating Excitement in the Classroom
bullet Other books about college teaching
bullet Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher by Stephen D. Brookfield (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass)
bulletConcepts and Choices for Teaching: Meeting the Challenges in Higher Education by William M. Timpson and Paul Bendel-Simso (Madison, WI: Atwood-Magna)
bulletDistance Learners in Higher Education: Institutional Responses for Quality Outcomes. Edited by Chere Campbell Gibson. (Madison, WI: Atwood Publishing Diversity Series, 1998.) 
bulletFirst Steps to Excellence in College Teaching (Madison, WI: Atwood-Magna)
bullet inquiry learning and inquiry training video
bullet critical thinking
bullet multiple intelligences webliography
bullet service learning
bulleta service learning project at Harcum College
bullet Where's the Learning in Service Learning?
bulletcollaborative/cooperative learning webliography
bulleta learning paradigm
bulletHibbison's hints on teaching online
bulletA Webliography on Selected Teaching Issues
bulletEssential Reading for College Faculty Developers
bulletBooks for College Teaching webliography
bulletTeaching Vignettes
bulletA Series of Instructional Design Decisions
bulletGender Equity

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 This page last updated September 7, 2015.

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