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CATL Teaching Guides

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Welcome to the Teaching Guides websites prepared by the staff at the Center for Advancing Teaching & Learning at UW - La Crosse. The teaching guides are intended to help instructors prepare for courses and improve their teaching and student learning.

The Syllabus Guide

provides instructors with information about the goals and purposes of the syllabus, along with downloadable templates for UWL that include recommended statements, components, and policies.

The Teaching Improvement Guide

is intended to help college teachers identify, explore, and plan ways to improve their teaching and student learning.  Each section includes strategies and tips for improving teaching.

The menu under How can I improve . . . corresponds to several important areas of teaching: 

  1. teaching methods, such as lecture, class discussion, and various forms of group learning.  Students learn in one of two ways:  on their own (engaging with the instructor, most often through lecture, or with course materials, most often as assigned reading) or with others (most often through small-group activities or through class discussion).  This section examines strategies to improve these common teaching methods. 
  2. course structure  Structuring a course means designing the learning process.  This section provides ideas for thinking about learning outcomes and how to get students to success.
  3. the learning environment including the instructional setting, ways to connect with students, and strategies to remove barriers to student success. Here you will find ideas for improving the learning envrionment, working with historically marginalized student populations, building rapport with students, and help for teaching online.
  4. student engagement and motivation Motivation is the process by which goal-directed activity is instigated and sustained (Pintrich & Schunk, 2002). Educators often struggle with student motivation problems that range from disinterest and apathy to overanxious students driven to get good grades. This section of the guide focuses on strategies to support students’ motivation—their effort and persistence in learning. At any one time a student can be motivated by a number of factors. These include students’ achievement goals, the type of value they place on learning, their expectancy for success or failure, how they interpret their successes and failures, the degree of choice they have over their own learning, and more.
  5. student learning 

    This section focuses on strategies teachers can use to influence how students learn. Some are basic learning strategies that can help students acquire and remember new material. Others help students engage in more complex thinking and transfer of learning. Consider two examples.

    • Practice Testing is a strategy in which students study and then try to recall what they have learned. It is a simple yet very potent learning strategy (Karpicke & Blunt, 2011). To take advantage of the practice testing effect, teachers could use regular, low stakes practice quizzes in classes to improve student learning.
    • Metacognition is awareness of and ability to regulate one’s own learning and thinking. Metacognitive skill is what makes students more strategic and better able to plan, monitor, assess and improve their own learning. It is not a single strategy per se, but a collection of strategies and skills (Hacker, Dunlosky, & Graesser, 2009). For instance, comprehension monitoring, is a crucial metacognitive skill. Students who monitor their comprehension recognize when they don’t understand something and then can do something about it, such as ask a question, stop and work through the comprehension problem, or decide it doesn’t matter and move on (Baker, 1989).
    The strategies in this section have good research reputations, and have been shown to enhance student learning in multiple contexts. However, when applying any of these in a class for the first time, you may need to experiment, monitor and revise the procedures to make them work best with your students. If you have any questions or want additional information please contact Bill Cerbin, Director of the UWL Center for Advancing Teaching & Learning.
  6. assessment of learning  All forms of teaching improvement require assessment to monitor and maximize the impact of instructional activities on student learning and achievement. After providing background on rubrics, this section includes strategies related to particular kinds of assignments--namely, objective tests, writing assignments, presentations, andportfolios. Students may be directly involved in monitoring their own and others' learning through self-assessment and peer evaluation. Teachers may also wish to design surveys and polls as a means of gathering information about students' progress toward course goals.

These resources will help you plan, implement, monitor, assess, and document your teaching improvement work. Your improvement efforts can be used to create teaching portfolio entries and set the stage for a future teaching grant or scholarship of teaching and learning project

This guide has been created and published by The Center for Advancing Teaching & Learning (CATL) at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

Please direct feedback and suggestions to Bill Cerbin, Director of CATL.