Monthly Archives: January 2013

Hal Mayforth Art Exhibit: Rescheduled opening February 15th, 5:30 to 8 pm


Check out Hal Mayforth’s upcoming show at the Tarrant Gallery at the Flynn. Excellent for discussing the “why” behind and the impact of Art. Also great for drawing and illustration classes. Hal teaches Art History at Champlain College.


CIPs Teaching Tips – Spring 2013 #4 “All by yourself…alone”

CIPs Teaching Tips – Spring 2013 #4

“All by yourself…alone ”

Now that many of us have received the results of student evaluations from last semester, it is a good time to talk about how students perceive us in the classroom. One of the factors that greatly affects this perception is teacher immediacy. Teacher immediacy is a term used to describe communication behaviors that reduce the perceived distance between teacher and students.  By definition, immediacy behaviors convey teacher warmth, communicate positive relational affect, signal approach and availability for communication, and create increased receptivity in receivers. Students’ perceptions arise from an overall impression of the degree of immediacy behaviors rather than from single cues.  The research consistently shows that immediacy has a positive effect on teacher and course perception. These of course then can have a positive effect on student motivation and performance.

First described by Meharabian (1969) as behaviors that enhance closeness and nonverbal interaction with another, the definition was extended by Gorham (1988) to include verbal interaction that increased psychological closeness between teachers and students. Verbal immediacy includes the use of humor, frequent use of student name, encouragement of discussion and following up on student-initiated comments, encouraging future contact with students, and sharing of personal examples; nonverbal immediacy includes smiling, eye contact, vocal expressiveness, open gestures and body movement behaviors by the instructor. Immediate teachers often encourage students to appreciate or value the learning task, which in turn, has been found to enhance cognitive learning (Rodriquez, Plax & Kearney 1996)

Some behaviors that can increase teacher immediacy: reducing the actual physical distance between you and your students: smiling – simple, but very effective (You’d be surprised how often instructors don’t smile.), making appropriately friendly eye contact, and being vocally expressive.

Some behaviors that can decrease teacher immediacy: standing or sitting with “closed” body positions, moving away from your students – your whole body or just your upper body, avoiding eye contact, and negative tones and language.

While behaviors on the “can increase” list help us to be perceived as more accessible to students (hopefully demonstrating actual accessibility) many of us do not do them when we become uncomfortable or insecure in the classroom. In fact, most of us start exhibiting behaviors from the “can decrease” list. We might pull back physically when we feel that we’ve lost our students or feel that they are judging us in some way. Or, we might become overly critical, negative, or domineering. All of these things increase the distance between a teacher and his or her students and erode trust and respect.

Students get worried when they suddenly feel a distance open up between the teacher and the class. They will most always assume that it’s the teacher’s fault. They will often assume the teacher: doesn’t care about them, is judging them as unfit or unworthy, or doesn’t know what they’re doing.

Be prepared before you find yourself in this situation. First, figure out something you do easily and well that increases teacher immediacy – something that always works for you, something that is your strength. Then have a plan; be ready to pull out your “method” to regain your own focus and reconnect with your students whenever things get dicey in your classroom. For one instructor this might mean telling a story; for another, it could be taking a poll or asking students to give examples from their own lives. It doesn’t matter as long as it works for you and your students. Take back your class. Don’t let your perception of their judgments of you cause you to distance yourself from them. Even if they caused the rift, it’s your job to close it.

A short selection of resources:

Allen, Jerry L., et al. “Students’ Predispositions and Orientations toward Communication and Perceptions of Instructor Reciprocity and Learning.” Communication Education 57.1 (2008): 20-40. Academic Search Complete.

Andersen, Janis and Peter Anderson. “Teacher Immediacy.” Blackwell Reference Online.

Goodboy, Alan K., and Scott A. Myers “The Relationship Between Perceived Instructor Immediacy and Student Challenge Behavior.” Journal of Instructional Psychology 36.2 (2009): 108-112. Academic Search Complete.

Hutchins, Holly M. “Instructional Immediacy and the Seven Principles: Strategies for Faciliating Online Courses.” Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, Volume VI, Number 111 (2003).

*Put these letters in front for off-campus access:

CIP, Center for Instructional Practice

Contact Director Cinse Bonino for a one-on-one CIP instructional design session:

Email: or Phone: 802 651 5965 Skype: cinse.cip


CIPs Teaching Tips – Spring 2013 #3 “Understanding the multiplicities of duality”

CIPs Teaching Tips – Spring 2013 #3

“Understanding the multiplicities of duality”

The University of California Berkeley Teaching Guide for Graduate Student Instructors has a great write-up about Perry’s nine positions of development. Many educators have heard of the major three – duality, multiplicity, and commitment. The site explains each of the nine levels students develop through along this spectrum. The site is a great refresher course about these levels; however, what is just as, if not more important for us to remember as we try to “reach” our students in the classroom are these two important facts:

  1. Most of our students, no matter where they are along this developmental spectrum are rarely at the same point in all types of thinking. In other words, one student may be at one point relative to logical thought or general knowledge and at a very different place in terms of their ethical or moral reasoning. Perry said, “… each person may occupy several positions simultaneously with respect to different subjects and experiences. The developmental process is a constantly changing series of transitions between various positions.”
  2. First year students (or sophomores, juniors or seniors) are not all at the same position on the spectrum. While intelligence and cognitive development affect how students proceed along this spectrum, their experiences, including cultural and socioeconomic, also affect their movement.

Add to these factors, that our students are mostly in the process of transitioning from one position to another. This means how they responded yesterday might not be an indication of how they’ll respond next week. They are continuously growing and changing, adapting to new positions and falling backwards as they move forward.

What’s the lesson here? Teaching is about noticing student responses and perceptions and making instructional practice choices that help students to grasp the discoveries we offer them in our classrooms. If they are not recognizing or taking in what we offer to them, sometimes it’s because they don’t care; sometimes it’s because they’re lazy; and sometimes it’s because we are not taking into account where they are developmentally and how this affects their view.

Bottom line – don’t expect your students to think in as developed a fashion as you do, or even as graduate students do. Thank your lucky stars for those students at the far end of the spectrum who do “get” everything you offer immediately, but don’t assume all their peers are at the same level.

Here’s to making the lights go on in their eyes, Cinse

*Perry, W.G. (1999). Forms of Ethical and Intellectual Development in the College Years. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

CIP, Center for Instructional Practice Located on the second floor of the Miller Information Commons (the library) across from the printer – MIC 205

Contact Director Cinse Bonino for a one-on-one CIP instructional design session: Email: or Phone: 802 651 5965 Skype: cinse.cip

CIPs Teaching Tips – Spring 2013 #2 Making our students rock solid AND ready to roll

CIPs Teaching Tips – Spring 2013 #2

“Making our students rock solid AND ready to roll”

Two interesting terms were mentioned in an article in the November issue of the Sunday New York Times insert, “Education Life” – crystallized intelligence and fluid intelligence.

The article defines crystallized intelligence as “the mental storehouse of knowledge and procedures” and fluid intelligence as “the ability to solve novel problems, to see patterns and understand complex relationships – to find order in the chaos.

The article itself is about brain trainers such as the company LearningRx and the online site Lumosity.  Experts argue about whether this type of training results in greater fluid intelligence or a greater ability to take tests. What experts agree upon is that both types of intelligence exist. So which one is more important for our students to have when they finish their undergraduate education?

The Academy has traditionally focused on crystalized intelligence; however, in order to have fluid intelligence, in order to see patterns and make sense out of chaos, one must be able to recognize what it is that they are seeing. Our students do need a foundation of knowledge and the understanding of where and how to obtain further knowledge. But this foundation is not enough. This foundation doesn’t make them able to think in the integrated ways they will be required to in their future career positions nor will it be enough to help them navigate the tricky paths of global politics, human rights, and economics.

We do our students a disservice if we send them out into the world unable to integrate their prior knowledge and experiences with the new concepts and unexpected results they encounter. We do them an even greater disservice if we teach them that being educated simply means having crystallized intelligence.

So this semester, remember it’s all about rock and roll. Offer your students the opportunity to build a solid foundation of knowledge AND guide them to think fluidly by designing learning activities and assignments that demonstrate and require them to think in complex ways. I for one think the world will be in better hands in the future if you do.

CIP, Center for Instructional Practice

Located on the second floor of the Miller Information Commons (the library) across from the printer – MIC 205

Contact Director Cinse Bonino for a one-on-one CIP instructional design session:

Email: or Phone: 802 651 5965 Skype: cinse.cip