My teaching practices largely depend on a course’s logistics (i.e., class size, class length and delivery method), but still remain rather constant across courses and consistent with main research findings in pedagogy. My methods are largely influenced by four key publications: Active Learning Strategies in Face-to-Face Courses (Millis, 2012); Conditions Under Which Assessment Supports Students’ Learning (Gibbs & Simpson, 2005); Understanding by Design (Wiggins & McTighe, 2011) and Experiential Learning: Experience as the source of learning and development (Kolb, 1984).

Initially, I thought it was necessary to include large percentage exams and exclude active learning strategies in order to maximize students’ learning and increase the amount of time spent delivering content knowledge. These perceived necessities were all I ever knew in my own undergraduate career. Moreover, during my (very practical) master’s program I encountered a lightbulb moment when I was able to connect the content knowledge gained in a second-year undergraduate statistics course with applied knowledge using a statistical software in my masters of Cognitive Neuroscience. It was only while actively using my knowledge in an applied manner—many years after—that I was able to solidify my learning of statistics. Thus, as I began fulfilling teaching assistantships, designing courses, assessments and studying pedagogical literature, I understood that designing a course ‘backwards’ while keeping in mind what I wanted my students to leave with, would become an integral part of my teaching practice, alongside implementing forms of active learning strategies in the classroom. Some active learning strategies include, visual organization assignments (creating mind maps– click here to view lesson) and I have designed guided discussion questions for the placement courses I assist in (click here to view some examples)

Before designing a course syllabus, guest lecture, or assignment, I will consider one to six intended learning outcomes (ILOs), depending on the type of component. For instance, one assignment may only require me to consider one ILO within its broader context—its syllabus. Or, creating an entire syllabus may require me to consider six ILOs. These learning outcomes identify desired results and answer questions such as: What should students know, understand and be able to do? What content is worthy of understanding? Why should they know and understand the content? Only then will I determine appropriate assessments that will aid in the accomplishment of ILOs. Finally, I would plan experiential learning activities such as outreach initiatives to supplement the achievements of ILOs. 

In my past teaching assistantships, Dr. Sunita Nadella and I would obtain verbal feedback from the class mid-way through the semester to determine where our students’ level of understanding was. This also posed as an excellent opportunity for us to adjust our teaching style or even remaining course assessments and activities. And since end-of-semester course evaluations may not always be the greatest indicator of overall teaching effectiveness (Boring, Ottoboni, & Stark, 2016), we always include written reflections at the end of a course and at the start, to measure our overall teaching effectiveness and so that our students are able to monitor their own learning development. 


Boring, A., Ottoboni, K., & Stark, P. B. (2016). Student evaluations of teaching (mostly) do not measure teaching effectiveness. ScienceOpen, 1–11.  

Gibbs, G. & Simpson, C. (2005). Conditions Under Which Assessment Supports Students’ Learning. Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (1), 3–31.  

Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development (Vol. 1). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Millis, B. J. (2012). Active Learning Strategies in Face-to-Face Courses. IDEA Paper #53.


Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2011). The Understanding by Design guide to creating high-quality units. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.   


©2021 Bre-Anna Owusu