2022 Rutgers Active Learning Symposium


Event Location

RALS logo

The Rutgers Active Learning Symposium (RALS) was a day of presentations, workshops, panels, and more, all relating to various topics in active learning. RALS is the Active Learning Community's once-a-year opportunity to come together with one another and guests to share teaching principles and practices in this exciting area.  This year's RALS was held entirely online via Zoom. 

stephen-chew.jpgThis year we were very pleased to welcome Dr. Stephen L. Chew as our keynote guest. Dr. Chew has been a professor of psychology at Samford University since 1993. Trained as a cognitive psychologist, one of his primary research areas is the cognitive basis of effective teaching and learning. His research interests include the use of examples in teaching, the impact of cognitive load on learning, addressing tenacious student misconceptions, and the importance of student trust in the teacher. He is the creator of a groundbreaking series of YouTube videos for students on how to study effectively in college which have been viewed three million times and are in wide use from high schools to professional schools. Chew has received multiple national awards for his teaching and research, including being named the 2011 Outstanding Master’s Universities and Colleges U.S. Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. He is an APA Fellow and a Distinguished Member of Psi Chi.

In addition to a keynote presentation and workshop from Dr. Chew, RALS featured a variety of sessions touching on different aspects of active learning. Click through the session list below to learn more about each session and our presenters. You can also access videos and resources from each session on the Active Learning Community Canvas page. Register to gain access if you are not already a member. 


To learn more about the day's session, click on a topic below.

Keynote Presentation - How Not to Fool Ourselves: Infusing Cognitive Science into Teaching and Learning

Stephen L. Chew

Dr. Chew's presentation examined common misconceptions among both students and teachers that fool students into thinking they have learned when they have not, and fool teachers into thinking they have taught effectively when they have not. For example, students often overestimate their level of understanding, mistakenly believe they can multi-task effectively, and select poor learning strategies. Teachers often believe that student engagement, “active” learning, and struggle are critical to teaching effectiveness when these concepts have serious limitations. Dr. Chew discussed and demonstrated some key cognitive principles that must be addressed for any pedagogy to be effective.

Stephen L. Chew has been a professor of psychology at Samford University since 1993. Trained as a cognitive psychologist, one of his primary research areas is the cognitive basis of effective teaching and learning. His research interests include the use of examples in teaching, the impact of cognitive load on learning, addressing tenacious student misconception, and the importance of student trust in the teacher. He is the creator of a groundbreaking series of YouTube videos for students on how to study effectively in college which have been viewed three million times and are in wide use from high schools to professional schools. Dr. Chew has received multiple national awards for his teaching and research, including being named the 2011 Outstanding Master’s Universities and Colleges U.S. Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. He is an APA Fellow and a Distinguished Member of Psi Chi.

Keynote Workshop - Cognitive Tools for Teaching

Stephen L. Chew

For productive student learning, teachers must successfully address nine cognitive challenges (Chew & Cerbin, 2020). Whatever pedagogical approach teachers choose, they must design it to target particular challenges and adapt it for their students. In this workshop, Dr. Chew described pedagogical tools for targeting different challenges that teachers can use regardless of their pedagogical approach. The principles can be applied in any field. This was a hands-on workshop with participants working on activities they can use in their classes. 

Stephen L. Chew has been a professor of psychology at Samford University since 1993. Trained as a cognitive psychologist, one of his primary research areas is the cognitive basis of effective teaching and learning. His research interests include the use of examples in teaching, the impact of cognitive load on learning, addressing tenacious student misconception, and the importance of student trust in the teacher. He is the creator of a groundbreaking series of YouTube videos for students on how to study effectively in college which have been viewed three million times and are in wide use from high schools to professional schools. Chew has received multiple national awards for his teaching and research, including being named the 2011 Outstanding Master’s Universities and Colleges U.S. Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. He is an APA Fellow and a Distinguished Member of Psi Chi.

Accessibility Considerations in a Flipped Classroom Setup

Jason Khurdan

During this presentation, Jason walked through a common flipped classroom approach of: creating content for students to view asynchronously; assigning group work for students to do outside of class; and reconvening synchronously in-person to conduct a lesson around the before mentioned activity. In this scenario he walked through the accessibility considerations at each step including:

  • how to create/select accessible content for students to view (i.e videos, documents, readings, timed items, restricted view items, etc),
  • how to know if you are using accessible tools (i.e tools to survey students like polling, and tools students may need to use to create content),
  • how to ensure group work and student created content is done accessibily (i.e written, spoken, recorded, or via third party solutions),
  • how to ensure students are able to interact (amongst and between groups) accessibly (i.e discussion posts, etc), and
  • considerations for returning to in-person (i.e items to consider while interacting inside a physical space).

Jason Khurdan's background is in business, technology, and accessibility. He has worked in accessibility for ten years and currently serves as the Manager of Central Services for the Office of Disability Services at Rutgers. He and his team assess student needs and help to provide appropriate technology. In his role he has provided augmented communication devices for individuals who have trouble speaking, digital FM systems for individuals who are hard of hearing, and new ways for individuals who are blind to access information. He believes that people help people, not programs or technology.

Active Learning Exams

Justin Kalef

There are many active learning techniques that involve students working together to learn material. In this session, Justin focused on experiments he has done in the development of collaborative exams. He discussed how collaborative exams can provide plausible security against academic dishonesty, while ensuring that all students are held responsible for their learning and performance.

Justin Kalef is Director of Teaching Innovation in the Rutgers Department of Philosophy. He is a long-standing member of the Rutgers Active Learning community, and is known for his experimental teaching methods.

Active Learning in Large Classes

Heather Pierce

This panel discussed strategies for introducing active learning and increasing student engagement in large lecture classes. Large enrollments present unique challenges for the implementation of active learning techniques in the classroom. Panelists from across a range of disciplines came together to share their experiences and insights on how to overcome these challenges to create a more engaged learning environment for student success.

Advancing Equity, Access, and Inclusion via Active Learning: A Translational Model In Gateway Chemistry Courses

Christine Altinis-Kiraz, Marc N. Muñiz, & Mary Emenike

Gateway STEM courses serve as prerequisites and corequisites for other courses within or outside of their discipline. Content in chemistry gateway courses - general chemistry and organic chemistry - is notoriously challenging for students to master and equity gaps that exist in STEM gateway courses in other disciplines also persist in these courses. In this presentation, Christine, Marc, and Mary described an evidence-based, active learning-oriented approach to teaching and learning in gateway chemistry courses aimed at improving student outcomes and increasing equity by narrowing performance gaps. Specific components of their work include, but are not limited to: the use of Explicit Direct Instruction (I Do - We Do - You Do model) as a means of scaffolding classroom activities; implementing mindset and values-affirmation activities to combat fixed-mindset and stereotype threat, respectively; implementing exam wrappers to engage students in targeted reflection on summative assessment results; incorporating effective and equitable approaches to writing multiple-choice and open-ended assessment items; drawing upon the well-established cognitive science principles of interleaving and retrieval practice to help students build robust mastery of course content; and administering informal surveys for student feedback throughout the semester. While they discussed these activities within the contexts of their gateway chemistry courses, all of these activities are adaptable to other disciplines and course contexts.

Christine Altıniş-Kiraz is an Associate Teaching Professor in the department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Rutgers-New Brunswick. She worked in drug discovery at Allergan Pharmaceuticals prior to pursuing her graduate studies at UCLA (MS) and then at Rutgers University New Brunswick (PhD). In 2019, she earned her credential in “Effective Teaching Practices” from the American College of University Educators. She has successfully implemented various tools she learned and has advocated for the utility of such tools in the broader general chemistry classroom space through her collaborations with various instructors. Her most recent efforts have focused on equity driven transformations in Extended General Chemistry I and II. She continually looks for innovative ways of incorporating active learning techniques in her lectures and recitations, no matter the class size (20-300+), and strives to improve her students’ attitudes towards learning chemistry.

Marc N. Muñiz is an Assistant Professor of Professional Practice in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Rutgers. He is also part of the Office of STEM Education-TRIAD coalition. Marc earned his PhD in Chemistry from North Carolina State University (Raleigh, NC). Marc is working on the development, assessment, and refinement of teaching and learning content for chemistry in active learning and online assessment contexts alike. He provides research and professional development support, including the analysis of student learning outcomes in general chemistry and workshops to transform teaching and learning by implementing student-centered, equity-oriented, and research-driven practices. Marc also conducts research focused on students’ scientific modeling practices and learning outcomes in the physical chemistry classroom and laboratory environments. Marc currently lectures Honors General Chemistry 1 at Rutgers and facilitates active learning environments in Honors General Chemistry 2 and Extended General Chemistry 2.

Mary Emenike is an Assistant Professor of Professional Practice in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Rutgers-New Brunswick. She is a chemistry education researcher who directs the TRIAD Coalition in SAS's Office of STEM Education. She supports faculty in their course transformation efforts and collaborates on various discipline-based and STEM education research projects. She teaches an Introduction to Chemistry Education course to chemistry teaching interns pursuing a Certificate in Chemistry Education or a chemistry education minor. Mary is a founding member of Rutgers Active Learning Community. Through the Learning Assistant Alliance (LAA), where she currently serves on the LAA Leadership Council, she supports faculty development and adoption of the LA model nationally. Mary earned her BS in Chemistry from Nazareth College and her PhD in Chemistry Education Research from Miami University.

Alternative Assessments in a Large Lecture Course - ePortfolios

Ines Rauchenbach

One of Ines’s main goals for her students is to apply topics and concepts related to microbiology to daily life. Over the past five years, her Introduction to Microbiology course has been offered in a traditional format, two eighty-minute lectures per week with exams as assessment. In the spring 2022 semester, Ines transformed the course to a hybrid format. Class met once a week for a mini lecture and active learning activities while students also work on online activities. Instead of exams, students submitted e-Portfolios as assessment of learning. In this presentation, Ines highlighted the process of transforming a course from a traditional lecture based course to a hybrid course and introduce the concept of e-portfolios as assessment tools.

Ines Rauschenbach earned her PhD in microbiology from Rutgers in 2011 and joined the Department of Microbiology and Biochemistry as faculty in 2012. She has taught a variety of courses over the years, including large lecture courses and introductory and advanced microbiology laboratory lab sections. Her goal for her students is not to only learn about everything microbiology, she also wants students to apply their knowledge and appreciate how deep this science is infused in everyone’s life.

Asynchronous Active Learning Strategies: Building Connection Across Modalities

Eliza Blau & Pauline Carpenter

Over the previous two years we lived and learned in online and blended environments, many of us for the first time. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted normal patterns in higher education and allowed us - or forced us - to think about teaching and learning from different perspectives. For example, trauma-informed teaching, inclusive teaching, and equity minded teaching are becoming more commonplace. We acknowledge that our students are living diverse and complex lives outside of the classroom, made more complicated by the ongoing pandemic. Recognizing these realities, we can move forward with strategies to enhance community building, engagement, and assessment. Building deliberate and sustainable connections in our classes prepare our learners so they are able to authentically and actively engage. This session reviewed asynchronous activities that can be used to enhance connection in any course modality and ensure courses are flexible and sustainable for the realities we live in today and tomorrow. Participants were invited to share their own strategies, allowing everyone to learn from the community of practitioners attending this session.

Eliza Blau collaborates with SAS instructors on all of their teaching and technology needs. She combines her learner-centered teaching experience and technology expertise to use best practices to help instructors meet their goals and address teaching challenges they face. Eliza holds an MA from Teachers College at Columbia University. She has taught middle school and high school social studies, and Basic Composition and Expository Writing in the Rutgers Writing Program.

Pauline Carpenter partners with SAS instructors and colleagues to promote inclusive, equitable, and evidence-based learning across course modalities. She holds an MA in Education from McGill and a graduate certificate in Learning Design and Technology from Harvard Extension. Previously, Pauline worked to advance college teaching in various roles at Montclair State’s Instructional Technology & Design Services, Harvard’s Derek Bok Center for Teaching & Learning, and Cornell’s Center for Teaching Innovation.

Characterizing Social Behavior Patterns in Teaching Assistant Interactions with Students

Charles Ruggieri

Theory on teacher-student relationship development in higher education is scarce despite the empirical work linking positive relationships to important student outcomes. To advance research in this area, this session explored using Epistemic Network Analysis, a technique that characterizes patterns in data by visualizing them as connected graphs, to characterize patterns in social behaviors exhibited by Teaching Assistants in a large-enrollment algebra-based physics course for non-majors. Chaz and his co-authors recorded classroom interactions between Teaching Assistants and students in synchronous remote active learning problem-solving sessions and coded the interactions for the types of social behaviors exhibited by the Teaching Assistants (e.g., addressing students by name or empathizing with student difficulties) as they engage groups of two to three students in breakout rooms. Using a validated survey measuring a construct related to teacher-student relationship quality, they identified the two instructors with the highest-rated and lowest-rated scores and compared the connected graphs describing the patterns in their social practices. Chaz presented the graphs and generated hypotheses about which social behaviors may contribute most to building or damaging relationships between Teaching Assistants and students. The results can guide future research in Teaching Assistant-student relationships in physics classrooms and have implications for training Teaching Assistants to build rapport with students.

Charles (Chaz) Ruggieri is an Assistant Professor of Professional Practice in the Office of STEM Education and the Department of Physics and Astronomy. He is a physics education researcher focused on improving student learning experiences in large-enrollment introductory physics courses through evidence-based instruction practices as well as pedagogical training in physics for graduate Teaching Assistants and undergraduate Learning Assistants. He conducted postdoctoral research in physics education research at Rutgers, earned his PhD in experimental surface and interface physics from Rutgers, and earned his BS degree in physics from The College of New Jersey in Ewing, NJ.

Engaging Asynchronous Learners: Lessons Learned from 2020-2022

John Kerrigan

In this session, John discussed some takeaways from engaging students in asynchronous classes. He focused on specific active learning tools he used that you can incorporate immediately into your class, including: Perusall, Playposit, Mind Maps, VoiceThread, Discussion Boards, and more.

John Kerrigan holds an EdD in the Design of Learning Environments from the Rutgers Graduate School of Education. John has taught undergraduate mathematics courses, undergraduate educational psychology courses, graduate courses in educational statistics and measurement, and more recently courses in the Graduate School of Education's EdD program. As a member of the Math Department's P2C2 committee, his research and work are focused on online and hybrid learning in gateway STEM courses.

Incorporating CFUs (Check For Understanding) to Improve Metacognitive Skills and Active Learning

Sheila Tabanli

As educators, we believe that for learners to internalize the taught material they need to actively engage with the content, instructor, and their peers. There is a large body of research on how to improve learners’ commitment to their own active learning. The presenter’s proposed solution to this problem is to design assessments that are specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and time-bound (SMART). These assignments are introduced to the learners as CFU (Check For Understanding) that need to be completed during synchronous class time in a novel course, Methods for Mathematical Problem Solving (M2PS). The CFU assessments facilitate learning in the form of muddy points, KWL chart, case studies, surveys, and reflections on real-life stories. The assessments that promote metacognitive skills and active learning also include journaling, reflective essays, and writing summative essays on research articles about student learning. The purpose of creating these assessments is to improve students’ own learning outcomes by instilling a growth mindset and self-regulating learning while turning on the “active learning” mode.

Sheila Tabanli earned her PhD in Computer Science at Missouri University of Science & Technology. She is currently an Assistant Teaching Professor of Mathematics at Rutgers where her focus is on teaching and developing instructional strategies to improve student engagement and learning outcomes. Dr. Tabanli has extensive experience designing and incorporating alternative assessments to offer inclusive learning practices. She recently developed a novel course and teaches study strategies stemmed from cognitive psychology to address the Math achievement gap. She is a fellow of Rutgers OASIS Leadership & Professional Development program, MAA NJ-NExT, and 2022-2023 Rutgers-New Brunswick Provost Teaching Fellowship.

Personalizing Learning to Improve Outcomes

Christina Bifulco

The constructivist approach to pedagogy affirms that learning is an individualistic practice, and that new knowledge is always built on an individual’s prior understanding and experience. Personalized learning is an educational approach where instruction and assessments are aligned with individual students to address their diverse cultural backgrounds, interests, strengths, and learning needs. While it can be challenging to tailor activities for each individual in a course, students learn more when instructors create personalized learning environments. This session provided suggestions to move in this direction ranging from quick and simple strategies to more time-intensive approaches. 

Christina Bifulco, EdD is the Associate Director for Teaching & Learning Analytics at the Center for Teaching Evaluation & Assessment Research (CTAAR) at Rutgers. Her primary responsibility is supporting instructors, schools, and departments in the development and analysis of meaningful measures that provide actionable data to understand and improve instruction at the university. Christina is passionate about assisting instructors in utilizing research-driven methods to advance their teaching and learning. She has twelve years of teaching experience in K-12 and higher education. Christina received her BS in Civil Engineering from Rutgers University and her EdD from Johns Hopkins.

System Thinking Application in the Classroom: Assessing Systems Thinking Skills through the Mental Modeler Software Tool

Monica Torres & Carrie Ferraro

System thinking is not only integral to understanding the relationship among concepts and processes, but also is crucial for informed decision-making. System maps, such as concept maps, causal loop diagrams and stock-and-flow diagrams, are powerful tools for representing and learning about the behavior of complex systems. These system models provide opportunities for learners to actively work with concepts and discover how concepts interact or influence each other in a way that makes it easier to understand by making ideas visible and open for discussion, negotiation, revision and extension. They also assist in the organization of thoughts and support constructive discourse, which is associated with positive learning outcomes. Additionally, student-generated system models are a powerful tool for both formative and summative assessment of student learning. However, most of the online tools are designed for modeling and representation so assessment with system maps relies on instructor evaluation. This level of feedback does not scale well to larger courses nor does it provide rapid feedback. In this interactive session, the presenters introduced low-barrier system mapping activities that are useful for assessing systems thinking skills through the Mental Modeler software tool using examples in ecosystem and climate change studies. They discussed how it can be used to assess system models and how it can be utilized for teaching and assessing student work. They demonstrated a newly developed feature of the software tool that provides instructors with summative learning data and can be used to provide students when used to provide formative, real-time feedback.

Monica Torres received a PhD in Plant Biology from Rutgers University. She has been part of the General Biology program since 2011. She redesigned and implemented the active learning general biology curriculum in the Biological Research Laboratory (117) course.

Carrie Ferraro received a PhD in Oceanography from Rutgers University. She recently joined the Math and Science Learning Center (MSCL), where she works with graduate fellows to engage middle school students in hands-on science activities. Prior to working with the MSCL, she taught a course to graduate students from across Rutgers that helped increase their systems thinking skills.

Theory-Based Active Learning, Simulation-Based Education, and Mentoring

Dione Sandiford & Monina Franco-Tantuico

The demands for innovative teaching-learning strategies in higher education has increased in the past decade to foster higher level of thinking. The educator, who is proficient or even an expert in active learning, must prepare students entering the professional workforce using different active learning strategies such as simulation-based education. The presenters discussed how a sound pedagogical approach such as a theory-based active learning (i.e., Vygotsky’s ZPD theory), simulation-based education (i.e., NLN Jeffries Simulation Theory), and mentorship model (i.e., Global Mentoring Process Model) can be implemented in the classroom and clinical environment to increase learner’s professionalism, critical thinking, lifelong learning, academic performance, and trusting relationships; and to enhance the educator’s confidence, efficiency, and trustworthiness in simulation education implementation.

Dione Sandiford is faculty member and Clinical Learning Facilitator in the Center for Clinical Learning (CCL) at Rutgers School of Nursing. Using evidence-based simulation practices, Ms. Sandiford works collaboratively with faculty to develop, evaluate, and facilitate simulation-based learning for clinical skill development for undergraduate nursing students and interprofessional education events. In addition, Ms. Sandiford facilitates in the graduate program with the Objective Structured Clinical Examination learning experiences. Ms. Sandiford is a dynamic educator who believes in the value of mentoring nursing faculty to promote active learning and create a student-centered learning environment that enhance students’ growth and development.

Monina Franco-Tantuico MSN, BSMT, RN, CNE, CCRN-a is a PhD nursing science student and the Center for Clinical Learning Coordinator for the Human Simulation Program at Rutgers School of Nursing. She is an experienced simulation-based educator in the undergraduate and graduate nursing programs using human simulators and standardized patients for formative and summative competency evaluations. She is committed to student-centered learning and the standardization of human simulation experiences using simulation standards, such as the Association of Standardized Patient Educators Standards of Best Practice, National League for Nursing Jeffries Theory, and the International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning Standards.

Three Years into the ISLE-based Reform of Our Intro Physics Courses: Story, Structure, Curriculum, and Impact

Diane Jammula, Joshua Rutberg, Sheehan Ahmed, & Patrick Makowski

The presenters reformed all of the introductory physics courses at Rutgers-Newark with the constructivist philosophy Investigative Science Learning Environment (ISLE). In this approach, students build knowledge by doing science. In addition to learning physics content, their goal is for students to learn to think like scientists. They first began laying the groundwork for this reform in Fall 2015 and in Fall 2019 all courses were “ISLE-ized,” with around 450 students enrolled each semester. The “Instructional Team” comprises 10 instructors (full time faculty, part time lecturers, and graduate TAs) with 10 undergraduate Learning Assistants, led by three teaching faculty. They presented their story and the structure, curriculum, and impact -including success and areas of improvement - of this reform.

Diane Jammula is an Associate Teaching Professor of Physics at Rutgers-Newark. She is the Undergraduate Program Coordinator and leads the introductory physics teaching team. She earned her PhD in Science Education from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Joshua Rutberg was a New York City high school physics teacher before receiving their PhD in Physics Education at Rutgers University. Their focus is on ISLE-based curriculum development and lab reform, as well as teacher training.

Sheehan Ahmed is an Assistant Teaching Professor of Physics at Rutgers-Newark. He received his PhD in Astrophysics at Rutgers University and is one of the lead instructors for the introductory physics course reform using ISLE.

Patrick Makowski is a Part Time Lecturer in Physics at Rutgers-Newark. He is an instructor in the reformed ISLE physics courses and he helped craft the PTL position into a professional development opportunity in ISLE.

Unpacking Hybrid Learning as Active, Accessible, & Inclusive

Elif Sendur & Jennie Snow

Participants in this workshop were introduced to key principles of hybrid design that create active, collaborative, accessible, and inclusive classrooms. Given that all educators had to adapt their pedagogies and practices to online and hybrid modalities during the pandemic, Elif and Jennie saw this as a period of innovation that can carry our teaching forward even as we contemplate the “return” to pre-pandemic modalities. Rather than abandon the tools, ideas, technologies and frameworks we have developed during this time, they proposed to “unpack” these experiences for valuable lessons about how to maximize student engagement.

Elif Sendur is a film and comparative literature scholar. She received her PhD in comparative literature concentrating on post-1968 French film criticism and is currently teaching in the Rutgers-New Brunswick English Department Writing Program. She enjoys teaching in multiple modalities especially in those forms that enable more accessibility to her students.

Jennie Snow currently teaches literature and writing at Rutgers and at the Petey Greene Program for incarcerated students in New Jersey. With a background in adult education, she has cultivated a responsive, inclusive, and anticolonial pedagogy that prioritizes collaboration in the classroom. In 2021, she earned a PhD in English Literature from Brown University, and she will be joining Fitchburg State University as an Assistant Professor this fall.