Monthly Archives: February 2013

Huffington Post article: “Getting Preschool Right”

Check out Dr. Laurel Bongiorno’s latest article. Laurel is Program Director of the M.Ed degree in Early Childhood Education.


CIPs Teaching Tips – Spring 2013 #8 “A simple architectural design for a good class”

What makes a successful course or class session of a particular course? Here is one simple design to consider…

The FOUNDATION pillar – this pillar represents the foundational knowledge or skills upon which the course is based.

This knowledge or skill is cogent, widely recognized, accepted, juried, or reviewed.

The FOCUS pillar – this pillar represents the focus of exploration.

This focus provides an engaging and intelligent lens for exploring identified concepts or skills within the foundation pillar.

The METHODS arch – this arch creates a “way into” the focus concepts.

These methods provide experiences and explorations which help students to connect focus concepts to foundational knowledge in interesting, meaningful, available, useful, and lasting ways in terms of their future career, habits of mind, daily life, and perhaps their global citizenship.

So what?

Sounds like one feasible and possibly useful way to structure a course or class session, but what does it have to do with teaching and with course design?

Class Session

When you create a learning activity or lesson for a particular class session, remember the foundational information your lesson is based upon, but do not merely convey that particular foundational information. Instead, identify your “engaging and intelligent” focus – what are the specific concepts or skills you want students to connect back to the course’s foundational knowledge? The focus should be something which excites you and hopefully your students as well. Then, design a class activity or experience which enables students to use your chosen focus to explore your course’s foundational knowledge. Keep in mind that students often need to first “see” concepts in an arena that is well-known to them, and quite possibly outside of a specific discipline, before they can fully comprehend it within a given disciplinary setting. The methods you use to create this student learning experience should make the relevance of what they are learning impossible to miss. Design learning that helps students to discover and understand the connections between: what they are doing in class and the focus of your course; between the focus of your course and the foundational knowledge; and between all of these things and their careers and lives.


A good course design identifies and addresses the two pillars and the arch mentioned above. Problems arise when any one component outweighs the others. A great foundation with no focus; fruitful methods with no substance; or an exciting focus which is not well-rooted in a strong foundation are all recipes for disaster. Arguments over course design often arise when individuals are concerned that one of the pillars is missing. This concern is often valid; however, the answer is not to focus on the foundation at the expense of the other components. And, while good methods make a course come together and help deliver learning to the students, methods alone are never enough. Different instructors excel at designing different components. Designing a good and effective course requires a mix of minds that represent skills in creating each of the components. The final skills needed are the ability to see the usefulness of what other colleagues have to offer and the willingness to collaborate to erect a strong course out of all the components needed.

Here’s to strong pillars and graceful arches,


CIP, Center for Instructional Practice

Resources and support for every cycle of teaching…

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 #7 “Hey Teacher Dude, are you in?”

Teaching is an art and a skill. For those of us who love teaching, it is also something we continue to learn more about almost every day, sometimes in the most unexpected places. *The Dude and the Zen Master, a recently published book written by Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman is one such place. Consider these two quotations and the impact they might have on your teaching practice:

Say I identify too much with the teacher part of me. If someone asks me for help, I may give her a lecture about Zen when what she really needs is some listening, money, or just a big hug. My conditioning to teach will limit my flexibility and responsiveness. (p. 92)

Many teachers have an extremely well-defined, personal connotation of what it means to be an instructor, teacher, or professor. It is good to be clear. It can also be extremely advantageous to be cognizant of who you are and who you want to be in the classroom. However, if you stick so strongly to your view, you might close yourself off from other possibilities. You might fail to see a teachable moment. You might hesitate to try something new that would work well for your students AND for you. You might let your connotation become antiquated in terms of who your students are and who you have become or are becoming. We should all hold fast to the tried and true aspects of our view of what a teacher is, but we should all also hold fast to the commitment to continue to try them to determine which ones still are true.

We freeze up because we expect a certain result or because we want things to be perfect. We can get so fixated that we can’t do anything. Goals are fine; what I don’t like is getting caught up in expectations or attachments to a final outcome. (p.16)

We hear quite a bit about outcomes in Education. Backwards design, a very useful and successful practice, suggests we first identify what we want our students to learn and then design learning experiences to help them get there. This has to be done, of course, with careful consideration of methods, transitions, synergy, and systems. Regardless, the goal is to start with (from) the outcomes, not to just end up there. But what if we get so focused on a particular version of those outcomes that we are unable to see that students have satisfied the intent of those outcomes in a different way? It the outcome itself becomes the ultimate goal we might end up with good results that we are simply unable, or perhaps unwilling, to recognize.

So what is the lesson here?

When it comes to teaching, make sure you are teaching in the moment. We ask our students to be open to changing their thinking and opinions when they encounter new information and experiences. We need to be willing to do the same.

Yours in teaching,


*Bridges, Jeff and Bernie Glassman. The Dude and the Zen Master. New York: Blue Rider Press, 2012.

On Amazon:

NY Times review:

CIP, Center for Instructional Practice

Resources and support for every cycle of teaching…

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

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

Faculty Professional Development Opportunity – Service Learning

Interested in incorporating or strengthening a service learning component in one of your classes? Champlain has the opportunity to apply for a $5000 grant through Vermont Campus Compact to bring a minimum of 4 faculty members together who will include a service learning project related to any aspect of climate change or water quality in a course in the 2013-2014 year. This grant is meant to help bring a group of faculty from across the disciplines together and provide them training, resources, and support to make these courses happen. Service learning projects (of any scale) can take place with a community or campus partner, and in any location (global is ok!)  Faculty will be required to attend a two-day training on June 10-11th in Portland, Maine (lodging and food is included).

The application process is not very demanding, as most of the course planning will occur during the June training.   I am willing to act as the campus project manager, and my time can count as the cost-share component of the grant. We just need gauge interest and see if there are at least four faculty who would be interested in this opportunity by March 1st when letters of intent are due.
Interested? Let me know.

Christina Erickson


CIPs Teaching Tips – Spring 2013 #6 “Is it Wednesday yet?

We’re almost to the Wednesday of the semester; in other words, it’s almost mid-semester. (We all know how fast the semester will zoom to the end once we hit midterms.) It’s a great time to review and reset or adjust back toward your semester goals. Here are a few suggestions for doing just that:

Reset the classroom climate… Checked-out Students (eye-rollers and other negative vibe distributing souls): Revisit with the class what a “conducive to learning” atmosphere looks like in the classroom. Re-identify behaviors that support actual knowledge and concept learning but also discuss those behaviors that make it easier or more difficult to pay attention and feel safe AND engaged. Explore instructor and student behaviors. Guide your students to bring up “attitude” based behaviors and their impact. Then remind your students that their participation grades are affected by these disruptive or non-helpful actions AND by those that help create an engaged respectful climate in the classroom.  If after all this there are still some misbehavers, talk to the class first and let them know that you’ve noticed some of the negative behaviors in class that they identified as undesirable. Remind them that it’s their choice to be in class but that if they choose to be there in body, they shouldn’t do it in a way that lessens the experience for others. Tell them that you want them to stay and engage in class, at best and to stay and do no harm, at least.

Structure learning… Difficult Students (those who want to “take over” and classes that are bifurcated with those who are and are not as cognitively advanced): Chunk out your class time so that students have very specific activities in which to engage. Be specific about both the process to be used and the outcome to be achieved. An example of using this method in a communications class would be:

Before showing a short video scene, ask students to watch and note down (individually) any uncomfortable/undesirable/unexpected (whatever word works for the lesson) interactions they observe. When they are done ask students to share – write the responses (simply stated) on the board. Ask how many chose each one. Pick the top 2 or 3 or the ones that get the greatest reaction from the class. Organize groups to discuss each one (– two groups for each occurrence or one group for each depending on whether you want comparison or not). Give very specific instructions to the group as well – ask each person to write a list of what they think might have contributed to the negative interaction they are considering. They should label the contributions they list as “observations” and “implications” – what they actually “saw” or “heard” and what they are inferring from these. Tell them when all group members have finished their listed, they should each share what them with the group. The group should then form a combined list to hand in at the end of the exercise. A note taker should volunteer/be appointed to compile the list of these recommendations. Remind them to label contributions listed as “observations” or “implications.”

Finally, tell them to have a discussion where each person suggests one change that could be made to improve the interaction. A note taker compiles a list of these recommendations. Two speakers are chosen – one to share the first list and one to share the second.

Using this heavily scripted procedure and product to be delivered is one way to make sure that someone doesn’t take over completely because everyone has a role. It also requires students that wouldn’t usually choose to participate to do so in a safe manner. It ALSO provides the brighter students with some real substance to get into – the discussion at the end of the group work in which they create suggestions for behavior modifications. This could be any higher order thinking type of discussion in any course. Students simply need to be asked to analyze what they’ve discovered and then analyze it in such a way as to create a response or solution.

Here’s another method to use in these same situations… Disassociation with a Side of Freedom & Participation: This method involves students presenting what other students have contributed. For example, in the example above, students would be asked the same question but then write a response on a notecard. Notecards would be drawn and read by students who did not write them. As above, the ideas would be put on the board or on large poster sheets if there isn’t a lot of white board space in the room. Then students would be asked to go to at least two stations and write something they felt contributed to the outcome. They can also check (put a tick mark by) anything listed they agree with, in addition to what they write themselves. You would facilitate making sure all stations receive comments. Then as a class, review and discuss what is written at three or four of the stations and ask students to divide into groups based on those stations. Each person in the group is asked to come up with on suggestion for a change that could be made to improve the interaction. Each person is responsible for reporting out someone else’s suggestion to show that they all understand each other’s. They plan who will be responsible for each suggestion.

Finally, it’s review time in many courses whether there is a midterm exam or project. Regardless, here are a few things to remember to stress at midterm:

How what they’ve learned:

  • advances their understanding and mastery of the overall purpose of the course
  • prepares them for the next phase of their learning (after midterm)
  • is important in a particular career, discipline, or habit of mind
  • is important in the way our current globally focused world functions

And finally, thanks to Cindy Hill for this link to a helpful site for those who want to make review sessions fun:

Here’s to the second half of the semester being even better than the first,


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

“Northern Landscapes”: Jill Madden


February 1-April 27, 2013
Opening Reception: Friday, February 1, 6-8PM

“Northern Landscapes”: Jill Madden

Vermont artist Jill Madden’s “Northern Landscapes” provokes the realm of imagination–built from the combination of sketches, memory, printmaking and drawing.  Inspired by the local woods, water, snow, and mountains, her canvases examine moments of solitude in our surrounding environment.


Rebecca Schwarz and the High Trash exhibit at The Fleming Museum

Rebecca has some work in the Fleming Museum’s exhibition. She teaches our Public Art, Private Practices class and our Intro to Sculpture class.

High Trash


Join us for the Fleming Museum of Art’s Winter 2013 Opening Reception, featuring our newest art exhibition, High Trash, that includes the work of 18 contemporary artists who use discarded and recycled materials to create compelling works that address complex themes such as waste, the environment, and consumerism.

The evening event on Tuesday, February 12, from 5:30 to 7:00 pm is hosted by University of Vermont President Tom Sullivan and Museum Director Janie Cohen, and features music, complimentary hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar.