Teaching Assistant Orientation Materials Available Online

posted in: Newsletter | 0

The Fall 2010 Teaching Assistant Orientation (TAO) was a big success, and the largest yet. On August 17, 217 graduate assistants filled the Regency Room. Twelve NIU faculty and staff presented on a variety of topics, including Teaching and Teaching-Related Responsibilities, Managing Your Classroom Effectively, and Assisting Students with Emotional or Behavioral Concerns, to name a few.

Teaching Assistants

All of the TAO materials are now available online. While the materials are designed for graduate assistants, faculty may find the information valuable, as well. Also, if you work with a graduate assistant who was not able to attend TAO, feel free to point out the materials for him/her to review. You can view the handouts and presentations here.  Several of the sessions even have video tutorials that cover much of the information that was presented at TAO, for a more engaging way to review the content.

Self and Peer Assessment

Sometimes, students need more than just their professors’ feedback. Students benefit from learning to assess their own work and from evaluating the work of their peers.

There are many benefits to self and peer assessment. The most obvious benefit to self assessment is that it encourages autonomy and independence in students (Boud, 1995). It forces students to think critically about their work rather than relying upon external feedback, which builds the students’ skills in self-monitoring and self-correction (Exemplars, 2004). Both of these are essential skills to have in the workplace (Boud, 1995).

Peer assessment allows students to receive feedback from their peers. However, the greatest benefit comes from the process of assessing their peers. In many cases, students would never see any work but their own. Evaluating others’ work allows students to compare their own work to the work of their peers. The assessment process also requires students to analyze the criteria for excellence more closely, which may also cause them to internalize the criteria (Exemplars, 2004).

There are some challenges to using Self and Peer Assessment in the classroom. Perhaps most importantly, students’ self-assessment skills may not be developed prior to arriving at the university (Boud, 1995). Students may need to be taught the skills necessary for effective critical reflection before requiring them to self-assess. Since self-assessment skills may be subject-specific, it may not be possible to assume that skills taught in other courses are applicable to the current course.

Peer assessment is often viewed as punitive rather than constructive (Boud, 1995). Students may even fear receiving low scores from their peers. Similarly, peer assessment may focus on scores rather than providing constructive feedback. Faculty should take care to design peer assessments to encourage or require feedback and explanations as opposed to only numerical scores.

It can also be challenging to implement self and peer assessment. If the subject of the assessed work is a paper or other written work, it often becomes the faculty member’s responsibility to coordinate the collection of the assignment and the distribution for peer review. The faculty member must determine and track which assesses each assignment and ensure that the evaluations are collected. The Self and Peer Assessment Tool, one of the newest features in the Blackboard Course Management System, may make this process simpler.

The Self and Peer Assessment Tool allows faculty to establish criteria for assessing the assignments and allows faculty to provide examples of model work. While creating the self and peer assessment, faculty can determine submission and evaluation periods, which Blackboard strictly enforces. Faculty can also determine how many peer assessments each student must complete, as well as whether or not a self assessment is required. Students submit their assignments using the tool, and then Blackboard randomly assigns assessment pairs and distributes the files. The faculty member may decide to make the pairs known or anonymous. Once the evaluations are complete, the faculty member may view or download the results, and can send the results to the Grade Center.  To learn more about the Self and Peer Assessment Tool, go to http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/assessments/spa

In short, both self and peer assessment are valuable tools that can increase learning by requiring students to critically evaluate their work and the work of their peers. The Blackboard Self and Peer Assessment Tool can simplify the process.


Boud, D. (1995). Enhancing learning through self assessment. New York, NY: RoutledgeFalmer.

Exemplars. (2004). The benefits of peer- and self-assessment. Retrieved from http://www.exemplars.com/resources/formative/assessment.html.

New Program Calendar

posted in: workshops | 4

You can now view upcoming programs from the NIU Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center in a calendar view at http://www.facdev.niu.edu/facdev/programs/calendar.shtml. The schedule for this summer is already available.

You can also add the calendar to your Google calendar or iCal. You can even subscribe to updates by clicking on the XML button.

We hope to see you at one of our upcoming workshops!

Greener Teaching Techniques

Happy Earth Day!

Greener living has increasingly become a central issue in American life. In our personal lives, we recycle, use reusable bags at the grocery store, and light our homes with CFL bulbs. However, what can we do to make our teaching practices environmentally friendly? There are many simple changes faculty and instructors can make to decrease the impact their classroom has on the environment.

For example, use less paper by posting class documents online (in Blackboard, for those at NIU). Accept assignment submissions electronically rather than  on paper, and return grades and feedback the same way. Even something as simple as turning off classroom lights can save electricity and help make teaching more environmentally friendly.

For even more techniques, go to the new Greener Teaching Techniques resource page compiled by the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center:  http://www.facdev.niu.edu/facdev/resources/greenerteaching/index.shtml.

If you have any additional suggestions, post them in the comments or send them to facdev@niu.edu!

1 5 6 7 8 9