Teaching & Learning Terminology

Active Learning: Active learning is an umbrella term for any instructional method that encourages student engagement in the learning process, typically via thinking, discussing, investigating, creating and through other methods and activities. The approach suggests that students actively engage in the meaning-making process rather than passively taking in information.

Asynchronous Instruction: In online settings, asynchronous instruction allows students to engage with course content and assignments on their own schedule from week to week, unlike the synchronous mode, in which students and instructors meet on a set schedule. In asynchronous classes, students may access class materials during different hours and from different locations rather than in one fixed setting such as a weekly meeting via Blackboard Collaborate or in a face-to-face classroom meeting.

Authentic assessment: This mode of assessment employs creative learning experiences to test students’ skills and knowledge in realistic situations; instructors may gauge students’ knowledge in real-life (professional) and hands-on scenarios (rather than through a written examination).

Backwards Design: This process allows instructors to reverse engineer assignments/course curriculum by considering the learning outcomes for an assignment (or course) first and then planning accordingly around those objectives. In short, one builds a course by focusing on the skills and outcomes students will learn first and then creating formative assessments and assignments that will help student meet those objectives.

Bloom’s Taxonomy: A classification system used to distinguish different levels of learning. These domains include: Remembering, Understanding, Applying, Analyzing, Evaluating, and Creating. Understanding how students process and internalize knowledge and concepts can allow for more efficient course design.


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Diagnostic Assessment: Diagnostic assessments are typically low (or no) stakes assignments that grant an instructor an opportunity to gauge students’ current levels of knowledge about subject matter in a course. Such assessments might include pre-tests, short essays, quizzes, journal entries, and more.

Fixed Mindset: A term first coined by psychologist Carol Dweck, someone with a “fixed mindset” believes that their intelligence and abilities are fixed and cannot change (i.e. “I’m just bad at math. I’ll never get any better at it.”) Students with a fixed mindset may believe that talent alone creates success — without effort. A fixed mindset can impede a student’s success in a course or in higher education in general.

Flipped Classroom: In a “flipped” classroom, students complete lower level of cognitive work before class, so that when they come to class they can engage in higher cognitive levels of learning with peers and the teacher present. An instructor can have students engage with materials and content prior to class (such as by listening to a pre-recorded lecture or reading through instructions and other preparatory materials) so that course time can be dedicated to accomplishing a collaborative activity or other assignment.

Formative Assessment: Formative assessments are typically low stakes assignments that grant instructors opportunities to gauge students’ knowledge about a topic while they are still in the process of learning about it and/or mastering key concepts. These assessments may include polls, entrance and exit tickets, rough drafts, self-assessments and more.

Gamification: Gamification is when game mechanics are added into non-gaming environments (such as in an L.M.S. or an academic conference hub) to increase user participation. The use of games in the classroom may incentivize students to learn on their own and with more efficiency.

HyFlex: The defining characteristic of “flexible hybrid” courses (often shortened to “HyFlex”) is that these courses include a face-to-face component but physical attendance is not required. Students enrolled in HyFlex courses have the option to attend face-to-face sessions, or they can choose to participate in instructional activities online. A HyFlex course may take many forms; below are the most common.

  • Parallel Sessions: Students are given the option to attend face-to-face sessions or complete a set of online activities that parallel the face-to-face activities. Typically, the parallel online activities can be completed at any time over the course of a given week, although instructors can set those parameters. Students who plan to participate 100% online must register for the online section. Students who register for the face-to-face section and decide to participate entirely online instead should contact their instructor asap.
  • Combined Sessions (Live-casting): The instructor delivers live class sessions. Some students attend face-to-face, others are “streamed-in” via a tool like Blackboard Collaborate. Students who plan to participate 100% online must register for the online section. Note: Live casting or simulcasting face-to-face sessions is not an option for fall 2020 due to limited technological resources.
  • Alternate Sessions (Split Attendance Model): Students are split into three groups: One group participates 100% online; these students must register for the online section. The remaining groups are assigned to alternate days of face-to-face instruction and that instruction repeats. For example, students attend on Mondays or Wednesdays; the instructional content of those class sessions is the same. The remaining instruction takes place online (watching lectures, participating in discussion, etc.).
  • Modifications/Combinations: Faculty can combine or adapt the HyFlex models for their course outcomes and teaching style. For example, a course could offer a weekly face-to-face check-in that is replicated (parallel session) or streamed (combined session) online and offer the remainder of instruction online for all students. Or a class could be largely online, with a few in-person sessions (that are streamed or have parallel activities) at key points in the term to help keep students on track or further clarify key points.

Inclusive Teaching: Inclusive teaching strategies refer to pedagogical practices that address the needs of all students from all backgrounds (including those who are differently abled), across all learning modalities, so that all students have equal opportunities to experience a successful learning. These strategies contribute to an overall inclusive learning environment in which students feel equally valued. Inclusive strategies are employed when designing course content, during assessment, and in a number of other pedagogical practices.

Inquiry-Based Learning: This teaching philosophy helps students develop their critical thinking skills by leveraging their curiosity and employing the scientific method. Rather than instructing students about exactly how to approach a task or problem, students are empowered to explore concepts through generating and asking their own questions leading to creating their own solutions. It is an approach to learning that encourages students to engage in problem-solving and experiential learning. Thus, inquiry-based learning allows students to develop deeper critical thinking skills and promotes student engagement, curiosity, and experimentation via a learner-centered framework.

L.M.S. (Learning Management System): A software application or web-based technology used to plan, implement and assess a specific learning process providing instructors with a means to create, organize, and deliver content and assessments. Blackboard is the L.M.S. that is used at the University of Detroit Mercy.

Metacognition: Meta-cognition is a reflective process which allows students and instructors a means to build an awareness of one’s thought processes. Meta-cognition can help students create an effective plan to begin and complete learning tasks as well as how to solve problems and assess the effectiveness of their current strategies for learning studying.

Project-Based Learning: Project-based learning allows students to actively engage in real-world projects. Such an approach allows students to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging, and complex problem or challenges with sustained attention. This is a learner-centered approach which fosters critical thinking skills.

Scaffolding: This refers to assignments and learning units within a course are structured to build upon each other, leading to student comprehension and in learning outcomes and objectives. A complex assignment may be broken up into smaller tasks that serve as opportunities for formative assessment.

Summative Assessment: This type of assessment is used to measure students’ knowledge after a subject has been taught. Summative assessments are often examinations, final projects, final essays and other high stakes projects to show how well students have mastered key learning outcomes and objectives.

Student Engagement: A broad term that suggests students’ interest, curiosity, and passion for the activities for a course. Engagement positive feelings about a course that help students remain active bot

Transfer: When used within the pedagogical discussions, the term transfer refers to students’ ability to take skills, knowledge, and content from one educational context (such as within a course or assignment) and apply those skills to a different setting, i.e., in another course or in a professional setting.

Universal Design of Instruction: Universal Design of Instruction is a framework focused on making learning available to all students regardless of needs or learning differences. Categories that need to be addressed within the framework included the visual design of the course, the use of media and media files within the course, the inclusion of accessible information about student support services, and the use of clear language about assignments, grading policies, etc. Specific recommendations about universal design are listed below:

Visual Design
  • Course navigation makes it easy for students to find what they need.
  • There is a consistent visual theme. (e.g. color scheme, page layouts)
  • Units have a consistent layout week after week so that students don’t have to re-learn to navigate the course each week.
  • The course has descriptive headings and links. (e.g. using “Week 3 Assignment Submission Link” instead of “Assignment Submission”)
  • Fonts are uniform and sized appropriately. (12 pts or larger for content, 16 pts or larger for headings)
  • Color usage is accessible. (i.e., color alone is not used to convey information, there is enough contrast, colors are not too similar)
Video and Audio
  • All video and audio content must be close captioned (CC) or transcribed.
  • Instructors should ensure the accuracy of captioning / transcription when feasible.
  • We recommend using Microsoft Stream, which will generate captioning automatically. You’ll find instructions for using Stream here.
Images and Text
  • Alt text (a word or phrase that tells viewers the nature or contents of an image) is provided for all digital images.
  • Course documents are in accessible formats. (HTML or Word files, PDFs that can accessed via “Read Out Loud” function)
  • Do not underline text (aside from active links).
  • Phrases associated with links, like “click here”, are not used in general text.
  • Labels (.pdf, .docx, .xls) are included in the names of the links to documents.
Information and Student Support
  • All syllabi must follow the standards and requirements provided by individual campus including links to student support services and other important policy information. .