The Idea of the University Reading List

The Idea of the University is a Faculty Learning Community taking place in the Adams Center over the course of the Fall 2015 semester. Purposeful teaching and research at ACU is dependent upon sustained and serious reflection upon the idea of the Christian University within our context. Along these lines, the group will explore the theological and philosophical rationale for the idea of ACU. The four sessions will be open to all faculty and administrators. The readings will be a springboard for discussion and will include theological and philosophical accounts of the idea of a university and of the relevant conceptual issues (e.g., the aims of education).

Please refer to the following for the assigned readings for each session:

Session 1: September 24

  • R.S. Peters, Education as Initiation (London: The University of London Institute of Education, 1964), pp. 7-48.
  • Basil Mitchell, “Religious Education,” in Faith and Criticism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), 131-150.

Session 2: October 19

Session 3: October 26

Session 4: November 9

  • Nicholas Wolterstorff, Educating for Shalom: Essays on Higher Christian Education (Eerdmans, 2004), pp. 155-171

The Impact of Mobile Technology on Student Attitudes, Engagement, and Learning

In this presentation, Houston Heflin shares the results of a study examining student engagement and higher order thinking skills in a cooperative learning environment both with and without mobile devices. The study was conducted with 170 university students in three different randomly assigned learning groups. Results compare the groups in four areas of attitudes, performance, perceptions, and engagement.

Lockdown Browser – Pilot

If you have opened your Canvas since 3:00 p.m. on September 3, you likely noticed the new link “Lockdown Browser.” Educational Technology and the Adams Center are conducting a pilot of Lockdown Browser as a secure testing environment. By opening the integration between Lockdown Browser’s LTI and Canvas, the link was automatically populated to all existing courses. The link appears in all courses, but is only operable for pilot professors.

The link does not appear to students. If you would like to hide it from your view as well you can follow these instructions.

Things to consider before an online test

Having online quizzes saves you time from manually grading your quizzes. It gives you flexibility in moderating the quiz. However, as with other tools, it will take some time for you and your students to get used to it.  Here are a few suggestions I would give for you to ensure a smooth testing experience:

  1. Before you develop your quiz, I strongly recommend that you read this article: What options are available for Quizzes? 
  2. Remember that you do NOT have to use every option in Quiz settings.  Some are optional.  Be especially careful with the timing of your quizzes.  Read this article for some basic understanding of how due dates and availability work: What is the difference between assignment due dates and availability dates?  (This applies to quizzes too.)  Check with us if you are not sure.
  3. Start your semester by having fewer restrictions instead of using all of your restrictive parameters concurrently (limited time, due dates, available dates, access code…).  Add restrictions as you and your students become familiar with the testing environment.
  4.   Have an ungraded, one-question “test quiz” in your course with no time limit and unlimited attempts that students can always take before a real quiz to make sure everything works for their device.
  5. Make it part of students’ responsibility to get ready for the tests.  For instance, they should close all non-related windows or apps on their computers or devices.  Ideally they should restart their computer before a test.  They may also need to check their Internet connection, battery power, and automatic updates that could interrupt testing. Advise students to obtain help before class if they have found problems.  Do not use too much class time for troubleshooting.
  6. Go to student view (settings –> student view) to see and take the quiz from a student perspective to make sure everything works.  If you find problems with your questions or answers, make changes before everyone else takes it.
  7. Have a few hard copies of your tests ready, just in case.

Contact an instructional designer for help if needed as you get ready to release your quiz or exams online.

Check this page for additional Canvas resources.

“It’s all in the syllabus”, but why aren’t they paying attention?


College syllabi are often perceived as legal documents, with fine prints increasingly verbose, as the teaching profession itself gets complex, through integration of technology, innovations in teaching practices and the need to comply with various laws and regulations that have to be enforced on campuses.

For the protection of professors and students, it is still necessary to include “fine print” legalese in your instructional policies, which reside naturally in a syllabus container, unless better methods are invented and successfully promoted to replace the tradition. It is also necessary to have such detailed syllabi for course reviewers (university councils for instance) to have a consistent set of standards and formats to go by in evaluating new courses. Potential students may also appreciate consistent formats from an institution to be able to compare apples to apples when selecting courses.

However, “It’s all in the syllabus” is no guarantee for communication. While syllabi serve as legal documents, they should also have a communicative function. Here are a few suggestions to improve their potentials to communicate:

  1. Test students over syllabus content. To ensure students read your syllabus, create a short quiz. It does not have to be difficult. Design something “trivial” even! That should balance the seriousness of the tone in the syllabus. For instance, test them over your office location. You could also use such a quiz to familiarize students with the quizzing function of your learning management system. There is the stone to kill two birds! Alternatively, use games in class to test mastery of content in your syllabus. Ask students to conduct a scavenger hunt, or, as Dr. Jennifer Shewmaker did with a  “syllabus jigsaw puzzle” game, have groups focus on different parts of the syllabus, and present on each of them in class, so that, through sharing, students get a fuller picture of what you are expecting through the syllabus. However, be careful that not everything has to be internalized. Some requirements and policies should stay in the head, while others can live “in the world” (Norman, 1988), available to students when the need arrives. This will distribute their cognitive load for better learning.
  1. Apply sound design principles. To be fair, it is challenging enough at the beginning of the semester (the “drinking from the firehose” period) to read multiple pages of syllabi from different classes. Student will be all the more miserable if you are not considerate with the design of your message. In order to show students that certain messages are more important than others in your syllabus, sometimes I see professors seem to have put all fonts and colors together and throw a grenade into it to create quite a mess with all caps, italics, bold, colors, or all of the above, to call attention to important details, when the application of good design principles would create more engaging flow for reading and make emphasized content stand out in a natural way. Consider applying the PRAC principles(Proximity, Repetition, Alignment, Contract) described in Robin Williams’s The Non-Designer’s Design Book.   Move similar content, such as university policies together (proximity), repeat your pattern (such as use only bold for emphasis throughout the document), use consistent alignment scheme, and show contrast between subheadings and regular text.
  1. Put your syllabus on a diet. Instead of cramming everything into a gigantic syllabus, create an orientation module or page in your course. Put your printable syllabus on a diet by offloading to this orientation area such content as the schedule of activities, assignment requirements, and grading rubrics.  Canvas has “syllabus” tools that can automatically generate calendar items based on your due dates, and allow you to create links to pages which may be chunks of content from your syllabus. If students do not read a 5-page syllabus, they may click on a link to a page for grading policies only.
  1. Create alternative syllabus representations. While you may want to keep your “fine print”, “legal contract” version of the syllabus, create alternative representations of your syllabus to better communicate your expectations. For instance, use infographic, audio or video to represent information you would like to emphasize.   Adobe Slate is a fairly easy tool to use to create a flow of content with graphic. There are also various mindmapping tools for you to create advanced organizers or visual representations of your requirements. If you want to be even more creative, how about making a short movie about your course requirements?
  1. Translate action verbs into actionable items. Usually you describe in a syllabus what you would like students to do, and expect them to understand and act upon these descriptions.   I would suggest that you do not stop with action verbs. Use action items. For instance, instead of including a long rubric in your syllabus showing how you will grade a paper, create an assignment tool in your learning management system and associate it with a rubric. Directly use a rubric to grade their work. This will remove inconsistency between your assessment plan and actual actions. Another example: instead of making human decisions whether to accept a late assignment, use an assignment tool in Canvas to mark assignments as late, or prevent further submissions after the due dates. Instead of just posting an academic honesty policy, use originality checking tool (such as Turnitin) in your assignment collection process. In other words, your requirements will not just be “all in the syllabus”, but “all in the course”, spread out and close by when students work on tasks or when you grade them.

All of the suggestions above are based on the understanding that you will set requirements. You can also incorporate student insights and backgrounds by involving them in the development of your syllabus. When their input is incorporated, a syllabus is no longer the “law” a professor imposes, but a living contract for both parties to honor.


  1. Norman, D. A. (2002). The Design of Everyday Things (1st ed.). New York: Basic Books.
  2. Williams, R. (2004). The Non-Designer’s Design Book (2nd ed.). Berkeley, CA: Peachpit Press.

Using EBSCO Curriculum Builder (New Features Now Available!)

Guest post by Mark McCallon

The ACU Library’s Curriculum Builder LMS Plugin enables you to search for EBSCOHOST articles, e-books, and other digital sources directly from the Canvas system and provide access to your students.  Here is how it works:  You can search our ACU OneSearch directly from the Canvas LMS.  Simply click the button “Add to Reading List” and your selections are saved for your students to view.  Curriculum Builder allows you to annotate the reading list items so that you can provide additional information to your students. You can also share and copy other reading lists that have been created by faculty.

New features have been added that now allow you to collect the names of students as they access the readings.  You can now see who has done the readings and who hasn’t.  A drag-and-drop sorting order is now available in the reading lists, along with views of book jacket cover art and resource icons.  The full metadata of the article (author, title, publication, and date) will now display for your students.  You can also provide instructions for the reading lists that you create.  See this video for instructions on using Curriculum Builder and the new features.
Please contact Mark McCallon in the Library for questions, comments or suggestions.

Sam Stewart and the Mastery Approach to Teaching

The Adams Center would like to recognize faculty who have exhibited extraordinary teaching, scholarship and service. We want to congratulate faculty members for their hard work, achievements and advancements in their field. This month we are spotlighting Sam Stewart who was nominated by his department chair for his excellent example in project-based approaches, facilitating effective peer feedback, and mastery approaches to assessment.

Stewart_Sam108x153What are you doing?

In order to assure student competence as a potential teacher educator, I am requiring mastery on all assignments in my classes. Simply stated, if a student fails to score at or above a 74% level on the assignment, the student must redo the assignment to a level that is at a minimum score of 74%. In addition, not turning in an assignment is not an option if the student wants to satisfactorily complete the course.

Why are you doing it?

My first reason for requiring mastery is that I want to model for my students, who are aspiring teachers, that good teaching is not about students obtaining good grades but is about what students learn. I make it a point to not assign what might be thought of as busy work and make sure that my students know why the assignment is of value. If the assignment is not important enough to be required to be done correctly, then it is not an assignment worth doing.

My second reason for requiring mastery is that I teach in a professional licensure program. Just as I would not want a physician or attorney who are not competent treating or representing me, I do not want to license teachers who have not demonstrated competence in skills and knowledge necessary to be a successful teacher.

Why do you think it is important to incorporate this practice into the classroom?

For too long it has been possible for students to play the grade game and not learn the content and skills being taught. This has been true at the K-12 level and at the college level. For example, a high school student might go to class every day, be on time, do all the homework, and receive a good grade even though the student failed to master or even comprehend some of the concepts being taught. Another example is that a really good student with many good grades might just opt to not do an assignment because as they calculate their grade they find they can take a zero and still maintain a grade that is acceptable to them.

Who is being impacted the most?

Ironically, the students in my classes are being impacted most as their grades are improved by the fact they are held to a mastery standard. It is really difficult to fail a class where you have completed all work competently. It also removes a significant amount of stress from the classroom as the students and I are all focused on the learning and not on the grade.

A second group that I hope are impacted greatly are the future students of my teacher education students. When my students become teachers, I am hopeful they will change the classroom culture to focus on learning and not on grades. This allows the classroom to be a place where everyone has hope; a place where teaching and learning are not punitive in nature.

What hopes do you have for the future when this work is done? 

When my students become teachers I am hopeful they will change their classroom culture and hopefully that of the schools where they work to focus on learning and not on grades. This allows the classroom to be a place where everyone has hope and teaching and learning are not punitive in nature. It is time that K-12 education becomes a places where it is the student and the teacher against the material, and students are evaluated by demonstrating competence on standards.

Using Canvas Commons for Shared Resources

Canvas Commons is an area where ACU faculty and staff share resources for easier transfer between courses.  For instance, video tutorials to help students become familiar with Canvas, or resources a lead instructor intends to share with other instructors.  You could import these resources to your course by following these instructions:

1) Log in to Canvas (;

2) Go to your course in Canvas;

3) Click on “Import from Commons” on the course home page (towards the right);

Import from commons button
4) Search for “Abilene Christian University” in the search area;
Search box
5) Find the content you need (such as “Quick Start Videos for Canvas”);
6) Click on “Import into Course”;
  import button
7) Click on the course from the list and import will take place.  Import from commons
You will receive a notice on the screen saying that the content has been
8. Now, go back to your course, find the module and customize it based on your needs.  If there are a few things you would not use, you can remove them, or you can add additional content that has not been included in the Commons resource you just imported.

How to cross-list courses in Canvas?

If you teach multiple sections identical in content, you may consider cross-listing them for easier course administration.  With a cross-listed course, you can release your assignments or quizzes to different sections at different times, or look at student grades in the grade book section by section, while uploading/updating your content only once.

If you need to cross-list courses, you might want to do this early in the semester.  It is generally not a good idea to keep two courses running and crosslist them mid-semester as crosslisting will get rid of the work in the course that is being crosslisted.

Please also note that there is going to be some “lag” time between your action in MyACU and results in Canvas.  Your requests may not have results until a 2-4 hours later. Here is how to cross-list your courses:

1. Go to MyACU;

2. Find the course you intend to use as the target course; (Note: A target or parent course is one that you would like to cross-list other courses into. )

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3. Click on the course tool shaped like a wrench;

4. Click on the “cross-list” tab;

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5. Find the “child” course you would like to cross-list into the target course, and click on “add”.  If you do not see the “add” tab, you may have created a Canvas course and/or some other tools (such as calendar and blog) for the course.  All of these tools have to be deleted before it is possible to cross-list the course into another one. If you are not sure, make a copy of what you did just in case.

6. Request a Canvas course for the main section.

7. After a Canvas course is created, you might want to go to the the course settings and change the name to reflect that it is a cross-listed course, for instance, by changing “01” to “01 & 02”.

If you found that you cross-listed the wrong courses, go back to step 4, find the “parent” course, remove the “child” course. After that is completed, cross-list the right course into it.

Check here for more information related to the use of Canvas for your courses.   Contact an instructional designer at the Adams Center if you want to learn how to manage a cross-listed course, or if you are not sure of the cross-listing process.

Check this page for additional Canvas resources.

First Day of Class: A Once-a-Semester Opportunity


College students gathered in a tiered lecture hall.












The first day of class, known by some as syllabus day, is a tremendous opportunity for faculty and students to connect, for students to be inspired, and for a solid foundation to be set. Read this encouraging article from Faculty Focus and think about how you will start this semester!

Faculty Fusion 2015 — EXPLORE

Let’s explore new ideas at Faculty Fusion, August 18, 2015. Save the date and register for activities here, by emailing or by calling the Adams Center at 325-674-2455. Registering saves your spot in each session and allows us to know how many to expect. We look forward to seeing you!Fusion invite8:30-9:00 Continental Breakfast: Adams Center

9:00-9:50 Session 1

Courage to Teach — Stephanie Hamm

Parker Palmer reminds us that “Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.” This interactive session will explore ways of creating community in the classroom.

Canvas Intro — Berlin Fang and David Christianson

Ready to get started with the Canvas LMS? In this session, we will cover creating a Canvas course, sharing your content, collecting assignments, managing grades and creating quizzes.

How Learning Works — John Erhke, Sarah Lee and Rachel Slaymaker

How do students learn? What gets in their way? How can faculty set up our classes in ways that lead to optimal learning? This is what the faculty who piloted the new Master Teacher Program last year sought to understand. Join them as they talk about what they learned over the year-long program and share practical tips for helping students engage prior learning, organize knowledge to build mastery, and become self-directed learners.

How to Make it Stick in the First Week of Class — Trey Shirley, Phyllis Bolin, Karen Cukrowski, Steve Hare

Interested in learning about ways to help your students remember material? Participants in last year’s Make it Stick reading group share some helpful suggestions you can use in the first few classes of the semester.

10:00-10:50 Session 2

Courage to Teach — Stephanie Hamm

Parker Palmer reminds us that “Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.” This interactive session will explore ways of creating community in the classroom.

Canvas Intermediate — Berlin Fang and David Christianson

Familiar with Canvas, but ready to learn more? This session will cover: promoting student interaction in Canvas, grading with rubrics, checking assignment originality with Canvas, harvesting data to improve learning, moderating quizzes, and using Canvas mobile apps.

Adobe Creative Cloud and — Kyle Dickson and Mike Wiggins

This fall all ACU students will again have access to Adobe Creative Cloud and Adobe CC provides professional media and design tools like Photoshop, Illustrator, and Premiere Pro (among others). offers over 100,000 video tutorials for teaching most any software title as well as professional skills like interviewing and public speaking. Join us for a quick overview of Adobe’s Creative Cloud and and ways they support a range of classes on campus.

IDEA — Marisa Beard

According to Dr. Rhodes, “IDEA-CL provides an extensive database of ideas for improving teaching that faculty can apply based on the robust student feedback the instrument gathers.” Join this session to learn about your role in the new student feedback form process and how it can positively impact you.

How to Make it Stick in the First Week of Class — Trey Shirley, Phyllis Bolin, Karen Cukrowski, Steve Hare

Interested in learning about ways to help your students remember material? Participants in last year’s Make it Stick reading group share some helpful suggestions you can use in the first few classes of the semester.

11:00-11:50 Session 3 

IDEA — Marisa Beard

According to Dr. Rhodes, “IDEA-CL provides an extensive database of ideas for improving teaching that faculty can apply based on the robust student feedback the instrument gathers.” Join this session to learn about your role in the new student feedback form process and how it can positively impact you.

How Learning Works — John Erhke, Sarah Lee and Rachel Slaymaker

How do students learn? What gets in their way? How can faculty set up our classes in ways that lead to optimal learning? This is what the faculty who piloted the new Master Teacher Program last year sought to understand. Join them as they talk about what they learned over the year-long program and share practical tips for helping students engage prior learning, organize knowledge to build mastery, and become self-directed learners.

Practical Ways to Use Social Media in the Classroom — Stephen Baldridge

How do you engage students more effectively in class? Is it possible to teach a class without being face-to-face (or without them being stuck behind a computer monitor)? How can you create learning communities within your classes where students generate content long after your course is over? This session will rely on recent research to discuss best practices in pairing mobile learning strategies with frequent use of social media. Real course examples as well as syllabus wording and policies will be given.

Storytelling Through Digital Media — Kyle Dickson

Faculty at ACU have been teaching with digital storytelling since 2011 and the projects and approaches continue to mature. Come hear how digital media projects have been used to support teaching, scholarship, and tenure and promotion and how you can get involved in the next year.

Backwards Course Design — David Christianson

The usual questions one begins a course design with are, “What content do I need to cover?” and “What textbook will I use?” Later, attention is given to how the content will be covered, and how to assess the students’ knowledge. In their now classic “Understanding by Design,” Williams & McTighe encourage us to approach course design “backwards.” Come find out how to approach your course design (and redesign) using Backwards Design, to the benefit of your students’ learning.

12:00-1:00 Lunch: Hunter Welcome Center

1:15-3:00 Session 4

Maker Lab Demonstration — Nil Santana

This demonstration will be on laser cutting. A maximum of 15 people can attend, so RSVP soon if you want to reserve a spot!

Master Teacher Session One — Karen Maxwell and Lloyd Goldsmith

This session is for anyone planning on participating in the 2015-2016 Master Teacher Program.

Welcome to the Learning Studio Tour — Kyle Dickson

Canvas for Cornerstone — Cliff Barbarick 

How to Give A Student Extra Time or Attempt for Quizzes

If you have a student who has a documented disability, you may be requested to give him or her extra time or attempt in a quiz.  This can be done fairly easily in Canvas.

1. Go to the module where you put your quiz, click on the quiz.

Quiz in module

2.Click on “Edit”.

Edit button

3. Now you should be able to see the  “settings”.  Check to make sure you have configured the settings (e.g., the time, attempt and the available time) in ways you have wanted.  If you make any change, click on “save” towards the end to update.

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4. Scroll back to the top, and click on “Moderate This Quiz” on the right.

Moderate quiz

5. You will now see a list of students, their attempts available, time they have to complete the quiz, etc.  To change a particular student’s setting, click on the pencil tool towards the right.

Edit attempts

6. Add attempt or time for the student you selected.add attempts or time

7. Click on “save” to complete it.

Check this page for additional Canvas resources.


Changing Start and End Dates for a Canvas Course

Each Canvas course is created with the default beginning and end date for a semester. Sometimes, however, faculty will want to allow students to access and interact in the course before or after the official start and end times of the semester. In order to do this, an instructor should enter the course, then select Settings in Course Navigation.

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Under the Course Details tab, you can change the Start and End Dates by using the calendar tools. Be sure that “Users can only participate in the course between these dates” is checked.

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Once you have set the dates the way you want them, click on “Update Course Details” at the bottom of the page.

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Jill Scott partners with Reagan Elementary to train teacher candidates

The Adams Center would like to recognize faculty who have exhibited extraordinary teaching, scholarship and service. We want to congratulate faculty members for their hard work, achievements and advancements in their field. This month we are spotlighting Jill Scott, who was nominated by her department chair for her work with Reagan Elementary to provide hands-on training for teacher candidates and academic support for Reagan’s teachers and students.

What are you doing?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have created a unique learning experience for ACU teacher candidates called Reading Rangers, an after-school tutoring program at Reagan Elementary. I started this program as part of the course READ 480 Problems in Reading. This senior level field-based course serves as the culminating literacy course for elementary teacher candidates. Developed in the style of project-based learning, students in this course are challenged to combine theory, best practices, knowledge of assessment and interpersonal skills to create a learning environment and instructional sessions for a first or second grade struggling reader.

After several weeks of front loading information, the teacher candidates work in groups to take an empty room at Reagan Elementary and create their own model classroom. Simulating their first year of teaching, candidates use the furniture and materials on hand to create the learning environments. They design the floor plan, create literacy stations and develop materials. Each teacher candidate is then assigned a struggling reader. The teacher candidate will assess the student, develop an instructional plan and deliver at least 12 lessons, while continually monitoring student progress.

Interaction with parents and other school personnel is a unique feature of this program. Parents are invited to an open house before tutoring starts and a Readers’ Theater presentation is at the end. At the end of each session, the teacher candidates have an additional opportunity to interact with the students’ families. They hold a conference with their student’s teacher to share their student’s work and make suggestions for further learning. Often times, in this authentic setting, the teacher candidates have additional opportunities to work with principals, nurses and custodians to resolve problems or create learning opportunities. These types of opportunities are unique to the setting.

Why are you doing it?

New teachers have many challenges their first few years of teaching. I feel strongly that it is my responsibility to prepare our teacher candidates to meet these challenges. The best way I have found to do that is to provide real life situations where I am in the situation with them, providing modeling and support but not all the answers. I tell my students that they will not like me very much at the beginning of this project, because I will not give them the answers. In a very Socratic teaching manner, I ask more questions than I give answers. When they ask me how they should set up the classroom, or where they can get materials, or what they need to do next, I respond with “What do you think?” Allowing them to synthesize all their knowledge and tools to create their own answers not only forces them to work at a higher level, it creates confidence and experiences for them to fall back on. I do promise them that I will not let them fail.

My work at Reagan Elementary began as a response to a request from the Abilene Independent School District’s administration. This was a great opportunity to develop a professional partnership that extended beyond Reading Rangers. Reagan Elementary has a high at-risk population, much like the schools where I spent my 36 years of teaching. Providing extra support for the students and teachers through the tutoring sessions is one way to help. Over the four years that I have been working with Reagan, their students’ achievement have risen in all academic areas. In addition to Reading Rangers, I mentor teachers and administrators, volunteer in classrooms and provide in-service training. I serve on several of their campus committees. Other courses and professors have worked at Reagan providing similar activities. Many of their teachers serve as cooperating teachers for our teacher candidates. This partnership continues to grow with their involvement with our Master’s in Teaching and Learning.

Why do you think it is important to incorporate this practice into the classroom?

Giving the students opportunities to use their knowledge and skills in real IMG_1502life settings is what learning to be a teacher is all about. I can talk about the importance of classroom environment and explain theory, but when a teacher candidate finds herself facing a blackboard with the students behind her and not knowing what is going on, it becomes a reality. When a teacher candidate asks her student why he is taking home canned food in a backpack and learns that the child is homeless and the school is helping to feed the family, the reality of teaching is evident. Modeling respectful interactions with parents cannot be done in the typical university classroom. Teaching problem solving and on the spot decision making cannot be replicated in a traditional classroom. This lab setting provides those types of opportunities. ACU graduates return after their first year or two of teaching and point to specific situations that occurred in Reading Rangers that helped them deal with situations in their teaching.

Who is being impacted the most?

Although all stakeholders (me, ACU students, AISD teachers, AISD students) are being impacted, I believe it is the ACU teacher candidates that are most impacted. These new teachers then go forward and impact their students. One of my former students shared with another professor that every time she faces a difficult parent “she sees and hears Dr. Scott and the way she treated parents.” I cannot create these experiences; they just happen during Reading Rangers. Our graduates are becoming the teacher leaders on their campuses because in part from some of the experiences they have in Reading Rangers. As AISD has moved to using the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark testing which we teach in READ 480, our students have become the experts even as student teachers.

What hopes do you have for the future when this work is done?

headerI hope to continue working in situations that provide real life opportunities for teacher candidates to work with students where more knowledgeable others, including myself, can serve as models. I would love to work more in partner schools or develop a lab school where all our teaching is done in a cooperative manner. Following Vygotsky’s apprenticeship model in a lab school will always be my dream.

Requesting Canvas courses for a new semester

Before the start of a semester, you need to request live sections in Canvas from MyACU.   These live sections will include instructors and enrolled students. Once requested, your course shell should be ready in 2-4 hours.

To request live shells, follow these steps

  1. Go to your MyACU ( page;
  2. Select the semester, which will show your courses for the semester.  (If you do not see the semester or your course showing up, it probably means you are not listed in a particular course as an instructor for the semester.  You will need to consult the registrar’s office to verify the record.)
  3. Click on “Tools” tab as shown below;

Course tools

4. If you want to create a new blank shell, click on “+” to request a new shell.  If you want to copy a course that you have previously taught, click on the copy icon, and select the shell to copy from.  Please note that the copying option only creates a clone copy, including the dates.  If you want to remove or adjust the dates, you might want to create a blank new shell and copy the content later on as shown in this tutorial.

Request courses5. Click on “yes” if you are asked to confirm.  If you do not see a course to copy from, select “create” instead to create a blank shell.  You can import content from another course within Canvas.

6.  Once you send the request to create or copy, the task will be added to the list for creation.  In between 2 and 4 hours, your course will be created.

7. Once a course is created in Canvas, you will see a Canvas icon in MyACU for the corresponding course.

Check this page for additional Canvas resources.

Lynette Austin designs Language Assessment Tool with Pearson Education, Inc.

What are you doing?

I am working with Pearson Education, Inc. to design a special language assessment tool to be utilized with children who are English language learners (ELLS) and who are suspected of having a language/learning disability. The type of assessment is called a “dynamic assessment”; it is intended to measure a child’s capacity to learn a new language-based skill during a brief, interactive (dynamic) teaching session.

Whereas a traditional language test checks what a child knows and does not know in different language areas, and then computes a score, this type of assessment tool will look at a quality called “modifiability,” (how easily can the child change and learn). It will also measure the amount of effort and time it takes to teach the skill to a particular child. Once completed, the measure should be able to compare the data collected on a specific client to a database of results from children who are typical English language learners. Current literature indicates that this type of measure can help identify those who are struggling with learning the new language due to a disability rather than a language difference stemming from having a diverse language background.

Dynamic assessment research teamMy graduate student researchers and I have developed two of the three projected tasks for the assessment, and designed an assessment protocol and procedural guide. We also have created a “mock-up” of the interactive teaching activities to be used (all the materials will eventually be available on a digital platform; likely a web-based application). We have collected research data on whether or not the dynamic assessment tool is effective at facilitating and measuring change in some English skills for these children–and the data so far indicates that it is! The tasks are now being sent out to speech-language pathologists in the field for their feedback.


Why are you doing it?

One of my primary teaching and research interests, and an area in which I continue to practice as a speech-language pathology consultant, is in the area of service delivery to individuals who have diverse cultural and language backgrounds (CLD). We have a history in Texas and in the US of over-identifying language disabilities in the CLD population, and that is a discriminatory practice (although accidental!).

It is very difficult for speech and language pathologists to test children in this country who are learning to speak English, and do so in a way that is language–and culture–fair. Obviously, English language learners do not yet speak English fluently, so our typical speech and language tests don’t work for them. Furthermore, it is often impossible to find assessment tool in these children’s home languages (L1). For this reason, we need reasonable ways to look at what they are able to do with the English they have learned, and decide if they are showing adequate language-learing skills.

English language learners are often referred by physicians, teachers and others for speech and language assessment; we must have assessment strategies that are supported by research to effectively assess speakers with limited English skills. I’m excited about developing an assessment tool that can hopefully be used with speakers from a variety of language backgrounds to provide more accurate speech and language diagnoses for them!


Why do you think its important to incorporate this practice into the classroom? 

Undergraduate and graduate students who are studying speech and language pathology need to understand the scope of this problem–that of over-identifying English language learners as having language disabilities when actually they don’t. Our population in Texas and in the US is growing ever more diverse, and all speech-language pathologists in the future will need to know how to appropriately work with these populations. I think that participating in this research has helped my graduate students be much more thoughtful in how they approach language assessment–I know that those on my team are very well equipped to assess ELLS!

In the undergraduate classroom, I introduce students to the topic of dynamic assessment for ELLS as an example of an appropriate alternative assessment strategy, so that as they move through the rest of their professional preparation they are alerted to and aware of the idea of culture-fair assessment (which is an area that is not away thoroughly addressed in graduate speech pathology programs).


Who is being impacted the most?

Right now I believe that graduate students in our program are those who are most impacted, as they learn how to design and conduct alternative assessments for ELLS. However, I think ultimately the children for whom this measure is designed will be the most impacted, as this should increase diagnosis accuracy for young ELLS begin tested for language disabilities.


What hopes do you have for the future when this work is done?

Our hope is that this assessment tool will be made available to SLPS throughout the country as a web-based application. The current project addresses ELLS who are between 6-8 years of age; we are in the process of considering dynamic assessment tasks for older children as well.