Assumption’s faculty are helping to shape the field of teaching and learning in higher education.  Check back frequently for new scholarship from our distinguished faculty. 


Xerxes’ Deliberate Expeditions

Barry Knowlton (History)

Image result for barry knowltonProf. Barry Knowlton, who also teaches courses in English and Latin, explains that courses in Western or World History are likely to come upon the Persian Wars, and recent popular movies might serve as an accessible and engaging introduction to these historical events and developments. But according to Prof. Knowlton, Herodotus’ account of how Xerxes came to his decision to invade Greece, with its consideration of politics, rhetoric, and religion, is, if not as thrilling, at least as telling as these filmed version of the events.

More from Barry Knowlton

The Surprising Reaction I Got When I Assigned Barbara Tuchman’s Popular History of World War 1 to College Students

A Review of Rome: An Urban History from Antiquity to the Present (pp. 48-49)

Locate the Lesion:  A project-based learning case that stimulates comprehension and application of neuroanatomy

Michele L. Lemons (Natural Sciences)

From the Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education, this article by Prof. Lemons presents a case study in which a patient has been admitted to an emergency room with symptoms that could indicate damage to the central nervous system, and students have to use their knowledge from an undergraduate neuroscience course to determine the site of a lesion that would explain his symptoms. (2017)

More from Michele L. Lemons

An Inquiry-Based Approach to Study the Synapse:  Student-Driven Experiments Using C. elegans

Characterizing Mystery Cell Lines: Student-driven Research Projects in an Undergraduate Neuroscience Laboratory Course

Look Before You Leap: Reconsidering Contemplative Pedagogy

Kathleen Fisher (Theology) 

From the January 2017 issue of the journal Teaching Theology and Religion, this essay offers a four-part critique of the contemplative pedagogy movement in higher education.  The issue of the journal in which this article appears also includes two responses to Prof. Fisher’s challenge to this teaching model. (2017)

The Classroom as Retreat Space

Esteban Loustaunau (Modern and Classical Languages and Cultures) 

From, this essay describes how faculty can improve discussion and communication in the classroom by occasionally putting the “lesson plan on pause” and opening up space for conversations about the learning process itself. The essay stemmed from a Food for Thought event that Prof. Loustaunau hosted for the Center for Teaching Excellence in September 2016. (2016)

Early American Newspapers and the Adverts 250 Project: Integrating Primary Sources into the Undergraduate History Classroom

Carl Robert Keyes (History) 

This essay provides an overview of the Adverts 250 project that Prof. Keyes has been creating with the help of his students.  A veteran of the CTE Course Innovation Academy, Prof. Keyes has been working to develop assessments that encourage his students to write beyond the “audience of one”–the professor.  “As they researched, wrote, and revised content for public consumption,” he explains, “students felt that they had greater stakes in the project than in more traditional essay assignments.  This work seemed more authentic and students readily identified the purpose of the tasks that were involved, as opposed to research papers that students often see as jumping through a series of hoops for the sake of completing a class.” (2016)

More From Carl Robert Keyes:

Combining History, Graphic Art, and Modern America in the Classroom

Transcribing the War of 1812: AAS Collections in the Classroom

The Spark of Learning: Energizing the College Classroom with the Science of Emotion41ym17jR9oL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_

Sarah Rose Cavanagh (Psychology, CTE)

Historically we have constructed our classrooms with the assumption that learning is a dry, staid affair best conducted in quiet tones and ruled by an unemotional consideration of the facts. The
field of education, however, is beginning to awaken to the potential power of emotions to fuel learning, informed by contributions from psychology and neuroscience. In friendly, readable prose, Sarah Rose Cavanagh argues that if you as an educator want to capture your students’ attention, harness their working memory, bolster their long-term retention, and enhance their motivation, you should consider the emotional impact of your teaching style and course design. To make this argument, she brings to bear a wide range of evidence from the study of education, psychology, and neuroscience, and she provides practical examples of successful classroom activities from a variety of disciplines in secondary and higher education. (2016)

More from Sarah Rose Cavanagh

Our associate director contributes regularly to the Chronicle of Higher Education on emotions and their role in higher education teaching and learning.  See her two most recent essays below.

All the Classroom’s a Stage

Caring Isn’t Coddling

Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning

41CDozX5+7L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_James M. Lang (English, CTE)

Employ cognitive theory in the classroom every day

Research into how we learn has opened the door for utilizing cognitive theory to facilitate better student learning. But that’s easier said than done. Many books about cognitive theory introduce radical but impractical theories, failing to make the connection to the classroom. In “Small Teaching, ” James Lang presents a strategy for improving student learning with a series of modest but powerful changes that make a big difference–many of which can be put into practice in a single class period. These strategies are designed to bridge the chasm between primary research and the classroom environment in a way that can be implemented by any faculty in any discipline, and even integrated into pre-existing teaching techniques. Learn, for example: How does one become good at retrieving knowledge from memory? How does making predictions now help us learn in the future? How do instructors instill fixed or growth mindsets in their students?

Each chapter introduces a basic concept in cognitive theory, explains when and how it should be employed, and provides firm examples of how the intervention has been or could be used in a variety of disciplines. Small teaching techniques include brief classroom or online learning activities, one-time interventions, and small modifications in course design or communication with students. (2016)

More from James M. Lang:

Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty (Harvard UP, 2013)

On Course: A Week-by-Week Guide to Your First Semester of College Teaching (Harvard UP, 2008)


The Teaching Professor

In-class activities can be a great way to foster student engagement in the classroom. Depending on the activity, the results can vary greatly. Sometimes they can fall flat, but every so often an activity manages to hold the students’ undivided attention. (2016)


Laboratory Experiment: Multistep Synthesis of a Terphenyl Derivative Showcasing the Diels−Alder Reaction

Elizabeth A. Colby Davie (Natural Sciences)Abstract Image

From the Journal of Chemical Education, a description of a multi-week lab experiment for organic chemistry courses, inspired by Prof. Colby Davie’s research and interest in guided inquiry experiments in natural science courses. (2015)


Teaching About Victimization in an Online Environment: Translating in Person Empathy and Support to The Internet

Alison C. Cares (Sociology), David Hirschel, and Linda M. Williams 

Assumption Prof. Alison Cares has done extensive work on helping educate faculty about how to teach subjects which might elicit strong student emotions, such as victimology. This article focuses on helping faculty navigate this challenge in online environments. (2014)


More from Alison C. Cares:

Teaching About Criminal Victimization: Guidelines for Faculty (2013)

Integrating Crime Victims’ Issues into College and University Curricula (2013)


Town and Gown: What Great Cities Can Teach Higher Education

Geoffrey Vaughan (Political Science) 

According to Prof. Vaughan, if colleges are going to survive the 21st century, they must not make the mistakes that cities made in the 20th. (2014)

Laboratory Experiment: Determination of Mercury in Fish: A Low-Cost Implementation of Cold-Vapor Atomic Absorbance for the Undergraduate Environmental Chemistry Laboratory

Brian K. Niece and James F. Hauri (Natural Sciences)Abstract Image

From the Journal of Chemical Educationa laboratory experiment that “gives students an opportunity to measure mercury concentrations in store-bought seafood and compare the results to suggested exposure limits.” (2013)


More from Brian K. Niece:

Technology Report: “A Spreadsheet To Facilitate Group Theory Calculations and Display of Character Tables” (2012)

 “Animating Graphical Data during Lecture To Simulate Real-Time Data Collection” (2008)


Lessons in Transcending Geography

Mike Land (English)

A reflective essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education by journalism professor Mike Land on leading a student service trip to his hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (2012)


“At Risk Means A Minority Kid”: Deconstructing Deficit Discourses in the Study of Risk in Education and Human Services

Cinzia Pica-Smith (HSRS) and Carmen Veloria 

According to Profs. Pica-Smith and Veloria, when students hear young people described as “at risk,” they make automatic assumptions about class, race, and gender.  This article from the journal Pedagogy and the Human Sciences traces the roots of those harmful assumptions and describes how the authors tried to address them in their courses. (2012)


More from Cinzia Pica-Smith:

Aggressive and Tender Navigations: Teacher Educators Confront Whiteness in Their Practice (2010)


The Hermeneutics of Student Evaluations

Christopher T. Beyers (English) The Hermeneutics of Student Evaluations

From the journal College Teaching, this provocative article provides an overview and analysis of the challenges of interpreting student evaluations of college teaching, concluding with some cautions for administrators who use such evaluations in administrative decisions. (2010)


An Introduction to Teaching Mathematics at the College Level

Suzanne Kelton (Mathematics) 

In this white paper from the Career Information web pages of the American Mathematical Society, Prof. Kelton offers guidance to graduate students and new faculty on becoming effective teachers of mathematics at the college level. (2010)