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Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education

Chickering + Gamson

In their seminal writing, Arthur W. Chickering and Zelda F. Gamson identified seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education based on decades of research.

  1. Encourage contact between students and faculty
  2. Develop reciprocity and cooperation among students
  3. Encourage active learning
  4. Give prompt feedback
  5. Emphasize time on task
  6. Communicate high expectations
  7. Respect diverse talents and ways of learning.

This page provides resources for faculty to apply these seven principles in all courses regardless of modality. Hopefully, these efforts will increase student motivation/engagement/learning.


Mid-Semester Feedback

  • a great way to get a sense of how things are going.
  • provides an opportunity to involve students more in the course, which increases intrinsic motivation.

Example Questions To Ask

  • Ask questions that will help you get a read on how things are going and what, if any, changes need to take place:
  • What is working well so far in this class?
  • What can be improved in this class
  • Ask students about their effort and learning in this class. This reminds them of their accountability and that learning is connected to effort. 
  • How would you describe your effort so far in this course?
  • Are you pleased with your performance so far in this class? Why or why not?
  • What can you do to improve your learning in this course?
  • How can I, as your instructor, support you?


The Classroom Community Agreement

What: Community agreements are created as a way to establish a mutual understanding or make a set of expectations for all members of a community to abide by. They can be based on many things, such as how to support each community member and how to make everyone feel included.

Why: A community agreement is a useful teaching tool because it helps create a learning environment where all students feel they belong and are encouraged to participate in ways that support their individual and collective success

Resource: National Equity Project "Developing Community Agreements"


Activate the First 5 Minutes Of Class

- from "Small Changes in Teaching" by James M. Lang (January 11,2016), The Chronicle of Higher Education.

According to Lang, "The opening five minutes offer us a rich opportunity to capture the attention of students and prepare them for learning." Rather than focusing on administrative tasks such as taking attendance and/or reviewing homework, try the following:

  • Open with a question or two 
  • What did we learn last time? 
  • Ask students to remind you of the key points from the last class
  • Ask students to tell you what they already know (or think they know).
  • Write it down. 

Classroom Discussions

Discussions are a great way to engage students and encourage a shared understanding of course content. 

Top tips when facilitating discussions:

  • remind students this is a safe environment; though we don't always have to agree, it is important we respect each other's options and avoid language that is accusatory or overtly negative
  • decide how the discussion fits into the overall course, connects to your learning goals
  • explicitly described and well-structured questions support the students to interact and construct higher-order knowledge; for instance, topics may involve or invoke personal experience, hypothetical scenarios, opinions (with substantiation), student-created work, video clips, etc. 
  • make sure discussion topics are open-ended enough for students to each have a unique response, drawing on their prior knowledge and reflection
  • try to avoid the rigid answer and reply in favor of discussions that foster debate, reflection like what they know now and what they will learn, application by explaining or defending strategies for completing a project, or discuss the decisions they made and why to complete a task

Resources on facilitating complex discussions

Reflection Activities

We had the experience but missed the meaning.”
- T.S Eliot Four Quartets (1943)

"We do not learn from experience . . . we learn from reflecting on experience.”
- John Dewey


  • Students face a world that is increasingly complex, bombarded with information and rapid change. Student success in this environment requires applying new knowledge to problem-solve, adapt, and grow. Reflective thinking develops those higher‐order thinking skills, helping students frame their education and thinking in a strategic way.
  • Structured reflection is a deliberate and guided effort to step back from our educational experience and question, analyze, synthesize, infer, and draw conclusions. When purposefully done, the artifact (evidence, work, project, assignment) and the examined course are better understood, and insights are more likely to be remembered, resulting in deep learning. 
  • Good reflection also helps us understand how we learn to become more intentional and directed learners/educators, aware of which strategies work best for us (and those that do not) and our students.

What reflection Is:

  • It is challenging critical thinking.
  • It is purposeful and guided.
  • It makes connections between the course and past courses, experiences and/or personal goals…
  • It is relevant and meaningful to both you and the course learning goals.
  • It demonstrates the ability to question your own biases, assumptions, and preconceptions and define new modes of thinking and making.

Ask questions like:

You can ask students to write or discuss in class.

  • What have you learned from this activity?
  • How will this activity help you in the future?
  • What else would you like to learn or know about this topic?

The Flipped Classroom

"The flipped classroom is a pedagogical model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed. The notion of a flipped classroom draws on such concepts as active learning, student engagement, hybrid course design, and course podcasting. The value of a flipped class is in the repurposing of class time into a workshop where students can inquire about lecture content, test their skills in applying knowledge, and interact with one another in hands-on activities" (Educause).

  1. The Flipped Classroom (Educause)
  2. Infographic: How to Flip A Classroom (Panopto)

Project Based Learning

View on Youtube


An important element of student-centered, more engaged, learning is collaboration. When students interact and work with each other, they take a more active role in the classroom, which increases the potential to deepen and strengthen learning.


The New Power of Collaboration (TED Talk)


Timely Feedback

When student feedback is given immediately after showing proof of learning, the student responds and remembers the experience of what is being learned more positively. If we wait too long to give feedback, the student might not connect the feedback with the learning moment.

Provide Feedback That Supports Resilience (Persistence)

If we focus our feedback around student effort, we can encourage students to keep working, highlighting they are improving in class and can improve (a growth mindset), which leads to better student outcomes.

  1. Good job! You must have tried hard.
  2. I'm really impressed with your persistence and hard work on that project/paper/activity.
  3. It looks like trying a new strategy really paid off.
  4. When you think harder, it makes you smarter!
  5. Mistakes help you learn. Think hard to learn from them.
  6. Nobody starts out an expert. You become an expert by learning from your mistakes and practicing. Tell yourself "I'm not good at this Yet"
  7. Otis has very high expectations, and I know that you can reach them.
  8. This is an area where you can build a new skill.
  9. You can always come see me if you have questions or need help.

Clarity of Grading

It is important to define to students how their grade will be earned. A grade breakdown explains the % value for every category of an assignment. It is also helpful to include a grade scale in your syllabus.

Using the Nest grade book allows students to track their progress and provides grading transparency.

Example of grade breakdown:

  • Weekly Drawing Assignment = 25%
  • Mid-Term Project = 25%
  • Final Project = 25%
  • Participation = 5%
  • Reflection on Projects = 10%
  • Research on Porjects = 10%

Your grade breakdown should = 100%

Alternative Grading Strategies

  • Specification Grading
  • Contract Grading
  • Pass/Fail
  • Low Stakes - Effort Based Grading


What is Time-on-task mean?

  • can be defined as the time students spend actively involved in the learning process, acquiring new skills, knowledge, values, and attitudes.
  • represents the amount of time students are actively engaged with the material and should focus on cognitive engagement with the material rather than on simply completing the task

Provide opportunities in class for students to engage with their coursework when possible.

Exploring Time Management

It can be worthwhile to engage students on topics around project/time management so they can better manage their workload.

  1. 6 Reasons People Procrastinate (Oregon State University--Academic Success Center)
  2. Toolkit: Time Management Tools (
  3. Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator (0:14:03)


The Syllabus

Syllabi are posted in the Nest a week before classes begin. This allows students to get a sense of your class before Day One. 

Don't miss this opportunity to use the syllabus as a way to communicate who you are as faculty with tone and style, but also convey what this course is about, including your expectations of learners and pathways to be successful.

  • College-Wide Policies and Information (include link to this website in your syllabus)
    • Linking ensures always sharing updated information
    • Frees up space to better customize syllabus to introduce your class to students effectively


  • Use your syllabus to send the right message. It makes a big first impression. Ask yourself: What am I saying to my students?
  • Connect it to your course goals (Learning Objectives). Explain what purpose your course serves and what students will learn by taking it.
  • Make sure it actually explains how to be successful. Lay out a roadmap to the promised land.
  • Think about what you might want to change. Recycling material from old syllabi is fine. But the one you’re using might need a fresh coat of paint.


  • Scold. And definitely DON’T USE ALL CAPS. On the internet, that’s yelling, remember?
  • Forget the importance of proofreading. Sloppy editing sends a bad message: Do as I say, not as I do.
  • Read the syllabus out loud on the first day. Zzzzzzzz. Sorry, what were you saying?
  • Stop referencing it after the first week. Keep it relevant by connecting the assignments listed on the syllabus to the course goals.

Exercise: Write down one line that explains what your syllabus is for. Then ask yourself: Is the purpose of my syllabus aligned with my course goals?

Writing Learning Objectives

Step 1: Pick your type of knowledge

Types of knowledge are categorized on the knowledge dimension from concrete to abstract.  The major categories are factual, conceptual, procedural and metacognitive.  

Step 2: Pick your verb

Verbs correspond with different levels of cognitive processing and are categorized from lower order thinking skills to higher order thinking skills.  The major categories are to remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create.

Step 3: Use the chart to track learning objectives

No more than four learning objectives should be used at a time.  Objectives should include both lower level and higher level cognitive processing as well as concrete and abstract knowledge types.  


Moving Away From Bloom's Taxonomy

There is an opportunity to move away from a system based on Bloom's Taxonomy and rethink learning objectives from a multicultural lens. A great example is the medicine wheel, which uses a four-domain framework.

four domains of the medicine wheel

According to LaFever (2016) The role of the instructor and that of the learner are inextricably tied to achieving the desired outcomes. Both the instructor and the learner should see their roles and responsibilities in the learning environment reflected in the following conceptualizations of the outcome progression.

  • Honoring: conscious or aware of learning that is not based in material or physical things, and transcends narrow self-interest;
  • Value/d: building relationships that honor the importance, worth, or usefulness of qualities that are related to the welfare of the human spirit;
  • Connect/ed: build/develop a sense of belonging (group identity/cohesion) in the classroom, community, culture, etc.;
  • Empower/ed: provide support and feel supported by an environment that encourages strength and confidence, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights;
  • Self-Actualise/d: ability as a unique entity in the group to become what one is meant to be.


Resources To Explore

More resources are available in our Libguide under: 

1. Graphic Design

American Institute of Graphic Arts - Diversity Equity and Inclusion Resources

2. Multi-Disciplinary Resources

De-centering Whiteness in Design History - Links to many books, podcasts, readings, etc.

3. PocketGuides Critical Multiculturalism Series


What motivates us?

DRIVE: The surprising truth about what motivates us (0:10:47)

Motivation in the Classroom

There are two types of motivation:

Intrinsic* - internal factors that motivate like a student's curiosity
Extrinsic** - external factors that motivate like receiving grades

Success = Intrinsic Motivation + Extrinsic Motivation


Top Tips for Creating Intrinsic Motivation

  • Give assignments real-world applicability; if students can see the value of a task beyond the classroom, it can help to increase intrinsic motivation
  • Provide opportunities for students to collaborate with each other (peer-to-peer interaction); this can be in the form of group work, peer critiques/feedback, or presentations
  • Allow students to select learning content; have them find examples or research that can be shared with the rest of the class; consider letting students writing some of their own assignments 


Two Theories For Motivating Students

Malone (1981)

  • CHALLENGE - create coursework with levels of completion individualized and adjustable to different students (example as an assignment with two options to complete, a baseline option and more challenging option)
  • CURIOSITY - encourage the learner to seek out new information to resolve problems
  • CONTROL - construct tasks that require student input, offers a choice for completion and gives students the power over how it will look at the end
  • FANTASY - task requires the student to envision a situation where they can use this knowledge outside of class (real-world applicability)

Keller (1988)

  • ATTENTION - capture a students interest in course content by presenting materials that is new, exciting, different, or contradictory 
  • RELEVANCE - present content and tasks that highlight the usefulness of the information
  • CONFIDENCE - each task should have clear expectations and offer students reasonable opportunities for success (in other words, don't make the task too hard that no one can really do it well)
  • SATISFACTION - tasks encourage students to apply knowledge in real and useful ways (real-world applicability)

Remember: A task in your class may fit into some of the criteria above, however, it may not be obvious to your students. It never hurts to take a moment and explain "why" you are asking students to do something. 

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