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​​​​​For the 2016-2017 year, eleven Teaching Circles were funded. 

Assessing Community Engagement Beyond Social Services Disciplines
Circle Contact:​ Reynaldo Romero (Assistant Professor, Arts & Humanities) 
Circle Contact Info:, 713-226-5549
Additional Members: Olin Bjork, Creshema Murray

Circle Description: The teaching circle central problem was how to assess service learning and community engagement (SLCE) projects in disciplines not typically associated with social services (Spanish, Communications, English). We met to discuss readings on the topics of assessment for SLCE projects. We also attended the International Association for Research on Service Learning and Community Engagement in New Orleans, LA. Based on all these data, we developed a grid to assess our SLCE projects, which is included in the PowerPoint presentation herein attached. The timing was not right to apply it to two of the courses, however we managed to apply the grid in setting up a post-service learning project assessment activity, and we modified projects to be used in future courses.

Circle Artifact(s):

Creating Oral Assignments in Beginning Spanish Online Classes through
Circle Contact:​ Raquel Chiquillo (Associate Professor, Arts & Humanities) 
Circle Contact Info:, 713-221-2743
Additional Members: Paul Mandell, William Nowak

Circle Description: Our Teaching Circle focused on creating oral video assignments for the fully online Beginning Spanish classes (SPAN 1401 and SPAN 1402) using Before this project, the fully online Beginning Spanish classes only had oral comprehension assignments and we felt that assignments where students are required to respond by speaking needed to be added do that all four areas of foreign language instruction were covered: reading, writing, oral comprehension and speaking. While Beginning Spanish students are not expected to produce complicated oral output, they are capable of expressing basic factual information (My name is..., I am from...,My birthday is on...etc.), expressing likes and dislikes, as well as creating and answering basic questions (What is your name?) Where are you from? What is your favorite class? etc.). For this reason, these assignments will allow students to practice speaking. In addition, we believe that these video assignments will allow students to feel more connected to the class and to their instructors, therefore fostering better student engagement in the class and a more personalized feel to the class. We hope this will help with student retention and learning, as students realize that they can speak Spanish even in a Beginning Spanish class, and that they understand the questions or statements that are being posed to them in the videos. A total of 12 videos were created using Voicethread, 6 for SPAN 1401 and 6 for SPAN 1402. The videos for SPAN 1401 have been incorporated into the online sections of 1401 since Spring 2017. Student response on the whole has been positive, but we would like to see a higher rate of participation from students. Using Voicethread does mean that students must have a webcam to record their answers and post them as part of the video thread. We also decided that the videos would become part of the TAREA sections, and would be graded in the following manner: 1 point for students stating their name, 1 point for answering the question posed, and 1 point for posting their own question or statement. So each video is worth 3 points. The videos for SPAN 1402 are ready and will be incorporated into the online sections of 1402 starting Fall 2017. We do not have data yet to be able to report whether students feel more connected to each other and to the instructor, or whether they are more engaged, though making a video answer and posting it does imply a higher level of engagement than just turning in written work online. We believe the videos enrich the online sections of 1401 and 1402, help to fulfill the requirement of speaking in a foreign language class and are fun for the students!

Circle Artifact(s)   

Critical Thinking and Writing in Natural Sciences Freshman Seminar Courses
Circle Contact:​ Meghan Minard (Lecturer, Natural Sciences) 
Circle Contact Info:, 713-221-8015
Additional Members: Gabriela Bowden, Lisa Morano, Sanghamitra Saha

Circle Description: The teaching circle was composed of four Natural Sciences faculty members who taught Freshman Seminars during the Fall 2016. The courses were: ‘The Microbiome: Strangers Amongst Us (Bowden),’ ‘Biology of Food (Minard and Morano),’ and ‘The Biology of Women (Saha).’ Our teaching circle goals were to design an effective A+CE critical thinking assignment, implement the assignment, and then design an effective rubric for grading the A+CE critical thinking assignments. The A+CE critical thinking Signature Assignments were designed in Summer 2016 and implemented in Fall 2016 in our respective courses. These assignments and A+CE courses were to be evaluated using the AACU Value Rubrics, therefore, thee rubrics guided the assignment design. However, the AACU Value rubrics include skill levels for freshman through seniors and may not be appropriate for scoring freshman assignments and therefore there was a need for a rubric for grading the A+CE assignments. We designed simplified, assignment-specific rubrics to use to grade the assignments at a freshman level. These rubrics were modified from the AACU rubrics that were utilized to evaluate the A+CE courses. Our expectations for the teaching circle were that students would have increased critical thinking and writing skills at the conclusion of the Fall 2016 semester, and that the A+CE critical thinking assignment would improve overall student success in the indicated course, which hopefully will extend to other courses.

Circle Artifact(s): 

Fostering Engagement through Democratic Dialogue
Circle Contact:​ Windy Lawrence (Associate Professor, Arts & Humanities) 
Circle Contact Info:, 713-221-8472
Additional Members: Susan Beane, Aleha Cantu, Jonathan Chism, Beth Secor

Circle Description: 
For the 2016 – 2017 year, UHD CPD created a circle of new faculty across the curriculums to support their development of deliberative engagement interventions in their courses. Each faculty member went through a hybrid deliberation certification course where they participated in weekly online discussions and watch lectures about deliberation and pedagogy. Then each member of the circle team met with Windy Lawrence to co-create an intervention for their course. Each faculty member agreed that the intervention would take up one class period in two of their courses or two class days in one of their courses. Each faculty member tailored the deliberation intervention to the subject matter of the course. The purpose of the initiative, in partnership with CTLE, is to bring more purposeful and institutionalized democratic engagement skills, theory and thinking to UHD. The Democracy Imperative defines “democratic learning/education” to “describe experiences that teach the knowledge, principles, and practices valuable to a democracy as both a form of government and a culture.” They differentiate “civic learning” from “democratic learning” by noting that civic learning, “while extremely valuable, are often apolitical or separate from learning for and about democratic governance and culture (e.g., volunteerism, service learning).” Our goals for this initiative includes:

•Providing an example to other professors as to how they can incorporate deliberative dialogue into their courses.
•Providing students with an in class activity that refines their communication skills (written, oral, and intergroup and intercultural)
•Giving more students an opportunity to improve their collaborative decision making and public reasoning skills (critical thinking and reflection, conflict management, team work, active listening).
•Developing democratic spaces to practice critical analysis of knowledge and information (research skills, evaluating the quality of arguments)
•Exposing students to the need for personal integrity and a sense of public purpose 
All of our goals for DDD intersect with the 21st century skills students need to hone such as collaboration, problem solving, the ability to work in teams, and communication. DDDs have been shown to improve student retention and engagement for many reasons, including that they move the professor from being a “sage on the stage” to a “guide on the side.”

Circle Artifact(s) 

Fostering Engagement through Issue Framing in the Classroom
Circle Contact:​ Ashley Archiopoli (Assistant Professor, Arts & Humanities) 
Circle Contact Info:, 713-221-5092
Additional Members: Pam Auburn, Sarah Ceballos, Sujata Krishna, Jerome Socolof

Circle Description: This teaching circle focused on the need across the curriculum to support innovative pedagogy. The issue guides present by the NIF are limiting in the sense that they address only a handful of topics and don’t often align with course needs. Then, the purpose of this teaching circle was to develop deliberative practice materials tailored to courses taught at UHD. These materials address a series of topics that confront “wicked problems” that we encounter in our daily lives. For example, in one project students were presented with a surplus budget and a series of options for how to spend the budget. Such exercises give students practice with needed 21st century skills like problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration and team work.

Circle Artifact(s) 

Fostering Evolutionary Thinking with Active Learning Exercises on Evolutionary Trees
Circle Contact:​ Mike Tobin (Assistant Professor, Natural Sciences) 
Circle Contact Info:, 713-221-8426
Additional Members: Amy Baird, Jeff Martz

Circle Description: Evolution is a central, organizing theme in courses taught by members of our teaching circle. We each repeatedly use evolutionary trees – diagrams that represent the evolutionary relationships among groups of organisms – while discussing evolutionary concepts in our courses. Because evolutionary trees play a central role in our courses, we collaboratively developed a set of three active learning exercises that engage students in the interpretation and construction of evolutionary trees. We developed the exercises to be increasingly more challenging and the conceptual emphasis of each exercise to be sufficiently unique that all three could be used sequentially in a course. As appropriate, the final exercises we developed include class handouts, exercise props (Tinkertoy sets), instructor notes, and introductory presentation slides. Each of the exercises was implemented in one or more of our courses and further refined based on these in-class experiences. Developing these exercises as a team enabled us to produce three well documented and thoroughly vetted active learning exercises. Formal membership in a Teaching Circle provided a forum for collaboration and promoted extensive constructive feedback among group members. Teaching Circle funds allowed the purchase of vital resources, including Tinkertoy sets used in one of the exercises.

Circle Artifact(s)

Fostering Student Engagement in the Classroom through the Use of ePortfolios
Circle Contact:​ Connie Kang (Assistant Professor, Natural Sciences) 
Circle Contact Info:, 713-222-5378
Additional Members: Jon Aoki, Jeff Flosi, Robin Jose, Eszter Trufan

Circle Description: The members of this teaching circle are faculty from the department of natural sciences and are interested in the pedagogy of using ePortfolio to engage students in classrooms. Portfolio has been used by many institutions across the country, including some departments at University of Houston-Downtown. However, it has not been done with STEM disciplines. The application of ePortfolio also varies greatly in platform, requirement and instruction, depending on discipline, type and purpose of the ePortfolio. In the Fall and Spring, each member incorporated at least one element of the ePortfolio in their respective classes. Furthermore, we conducted a survey on both the faculty and students regarding their experiences. To illustrate the advantages of ePortfolio, we thereby present our project with artifacts and lessons learned in the ePortfolio format. 

Circle Artifact(s):

General Chemistry II Laboratory (CHEM 1108) Redesign
Circle Contact:​ Franklin Beckles (Lecturer, Natural Sciences) 
Circle Contact Info:, 713-222-5250
Additional Members: Maria Benavides, Elene Bouhoutsos-Brown, Houston Brown, Yubo Fan, Nicolle Patterson

Circle Description: 
The teaching circle was proposed in order to establish integrative learning across sequenced courses, CHEM 1107 was redesigned the previous year, and how to adapt the General Chemistry II lab (CHEM 1108) to the new UH-D’s core requirements, objectives and standards. During the 2016-2017 school year a new signature assignment for quantitative literacy (QL) was implemented and this teaching circle served as a tool to share experiences and ideas on the effectiveness of the prompts designed for the course. Establishing a circle for this class was consider to be essential based on the experiences share from the faculty who did teach the course and participate in the circle. The discussion boards in which instructors shared their experiences and gave feedback about the new curriculum as the experiments were performed demonstrate high participation and engagement. Having a space and time where instructors teaching the lecture and lab could interact and discuss common topics and how to reinforce in the lab the concepts explained in class appeared to be a best practice to share with the UHD community. One of the goals of this Teaching Circle was to establish a BBL portal/community in which all the new material, assignments, as well as a discussion board where the instructors could share their experiences and make suggestions for the future. This course shell/template was created on BBL-2 as “TC CHEM 1108/1308 Teaching Circle” and all faculty who taught the course was able to access it. This portal could serve as a course template for any faculty or adjunct teaching this course in the future. To gain access to the course shell please contact: Franklin R Beckles.

Circle Artifact(s) 

MATH 1310 Innovative Course Improvement Teaching Circle
Circle Contact:​ Susan Beane (Lecturer, Mathematics & Statistics)
Circle Contact Info:, 713-223-7938
Additional Members: Bonnie Blumberg, Benny John, Vien Nguyen, Timothy Redl, Frankie Solomon

Circle Description: This mathematics teaching circle was formed with the purpose of refining the course to improve student engagement, motivation, critical thinking, and success. As part of the refinement, the course objectives were revised to parallel those of the Dana Center Math 1332 Contemporary Mathematics or Quantitative Reasoning course to guarantee transferability across Texas institutions of higher education. The Freshman Math committee approved the circle’s request to change the course name to Contemporary Mathematics, effective Fall 2017, to be more consistent with TX Academic Course Guide Manual (ACGM). Our circle team created a new MyMathLab (MML) coordinator course platform which provides capabilities to improve student’s critical thinking and improve success rate in the course. The MML platform now includes a complete set of in-class exercises that parallel and support three types of online student assignments: (1) vocabulary and media-based questions to encourage the use and understanding of mathematical terminology and provide video-guided example exercises, (2) objective-based conceptual homework exercises to reinforce mastery of concepts and encourage critical thinking, and (3) sectional quizzes to test mastery of the course objectives. Additionally, the platform is programmed to allow students to produce an integrated personal study plan, as well as providing instructor support documents and an option to present objective-based instant response questions utilizing an instant response clicker or cell phone response system. As part of the overall course revision, the team produced documents to parallel other freshman-level departmentalized mathematics courses: (1) departmental student syllabus, (2) departmental instructor syllabus, (3) suggested textbook homework assignment sheet, (4) final exam review sheet, and (5) MATH1310 FINAL EXAM Formula Sheet, and to improve student engagement, the team created several objective-based activities to be employed with the purchased classroom sets of manipulatives for instructor’s use in the classroom: (1) Estimation Token Activity Sheets, (2) Multi-Sided Dice Set Theory Activity, (3) Deck of Cards Combinations and Probabilities, (4) Spinners and Probability Activity, and (5) Colored Disks Probability and Statistics Activity, as well as multiple documents to support active learning in the classroom and two suggested examples of the required course project. The departmental QEP website was re-designed to include access to student related support documents, and the course picture was changed to the picture of the new UHD custom Pearson textbook created by the team, which significantly reduced the student’s cost of course materials.

Circle Artifact(s)

Multimedia Artifacts as Learning Tools in Both Traditional and Online Communication Courses
Circle Contact:​ Elizabeth Hatfield (Associate Professor, Arts & Humanities) 
Circle Contact Info:, 713-221-5515
Additional Members: Ashley Archiopoli, Felicia Harris, Lucas Logan, Creshema Murray

Circle Description: This teaching circle sought to meet the goal of Fostering Engagement in the Classroom by connecting current students with innovative teaching methods that seek to improve retention, learning, and in-class motivation. The abundance of new media options in today's environment offers a rich resource for educators seeking "real-life" examples for discussion and analysis. As instructors, this circle allowed us to try new media tools or refine existing assignments to meet the needs of our students. I believe the outcomes described in the attached document show that these methods were successful in creating learning that will be retained beyond the classroom. Additionally, it allowed several of us to present this work at conferences with our peers. These conferences offer the opportunity for professional development and the sharing of academic ideas.

Circle Artifact(s): 

Synergy by Design for Co-Requisite Courses
Circle Contact:​ Eszter Trufan (Assistant Professor, Natural Sciences) 
Circle Contact Info:, 713-222-5306
Additional Members: Franklin Beckles, Yubo Fan, Nicolle Patterson, Vishakha Shembekar, Tracey Simmons-Willis

Circle Description: 
Co-requisite laboratory courses are often neglected sidekicks to many barrier science courses. This Teaching Circle worked on redesigning, implementing and assessing the effectiveness of the CHEM 1107 course. The proposed tasks were:

1) Generate new assignment prompts that are aligned with the AAC&U rubrics addressing all areas that the course is responsible for. This task was accomplished in the Fall 2016 semester and the dimensions were mapped across the semester.
2) Provide professional development opportunities to full and part-time faculty teaching this course. A session was organized to analyze the relevant AAC&U rubrics and apply them to the course content. Following this, every other week 2 faculty took on the task of re-working 2 prompts which were discussed and approved by all members before they were assigned to the students.
3) A flexible, yet standard format was developed for the experiments.
4) This redesign was meant to inspire similar projects. New experiments and re-worked assignments were generated in a similar format in CHEM 1108.
5) The results of this Teaching Circle were meant to serve as proof of concept that such synergistic design is possible. Our course map and new assignments created a stronger link between lecture and laboratory skills and our students appreciate the combination of abstract and hands-on experience of the content.

Circle Artifact(s)

Last updated 3/19/2019 9:37 AM