Monthly Archives: December 2014

Implicit Prejudicial Biases in Student Learning: The Effects of Sexual Orientation

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Submitted by Leia Harper

Article Reference

Oberle, C., Nagurney, A., & Lee, C. (2011). Implicit Prejudicial Biases in Student Learning: The Effects of Sexual Orientation. Journal of Homosexuality, 58(4), 447-461.

Article DOI


Summary of Article

In an investigation of students’ potential biases toward gay and lesbian instructors, 93 female and 59 male undergraduates viewed a lecture, rated the instructor and perceived learning, and completed a lecture-retention test. Lectures were given by a man or woman, identified as straight or gay or lesbian. Sexual orientation did not affect the instructor evaluation or perceived learning ratings for any of the groups. Although sexual orientation did not affect the lecture-retention scores for the female students, learning by the male students was significantly lower with the gay male instructor than with the straight male instructor (p = .03), suggesting an implicit bias.

Discussion Questions

  1. The potential for student biases exist across many demographic realms (race, gender, religion, language/dialect, region of origin, etc.). With this in mind, what is the responsibility of the professor to ensure that students are receptive?
  2. This article addresses biases based on sexual orientation, what are examples of other biases that teachers could encounter? What are ways that these biases could be addressed? Should they be addressed?
  3. Also, this article discusses student bias, what about teacher bias? How do we work to become more aware of our own biases?

Diigo (and Diigo outliners) for course preparation

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Submitted by Melissa Dvorsky

For my technology assignment, I explored the potential of using the “Diigo” site/app for organizing materials for a course. I found it quite helpful actually for organizing resources for all aspects of my professional life including organization of course materials (e.g., example syllabi, ideas for assignments, slides, handouts, videos), but also for clinical practice (e.g., measures, handouts for patients, training videos) and research (e.g., bookmarking articles, screenshots of particular tables etc). Overall, Diigo is a website that allows you to annotate, bookmark, and comment/tag various webpages and links you find online. I used the few version of Diigo just to begin my exploration, and it’s my understanding that the purchased version includes even more helpful features. I used what I believe is a newer/recent feature of Diigo, which was the “outliner” feature. The “outliner” tool can be used with the downloaded Diigo extension or “diigolet” to essentially add your links and organize your annotated articles/pages/videos etc. in an outline format. I appreciated this feature and in my outliner, I organized upcoming course material under various headings including assignment ideas, example syllabi, video links, slides, and course webpage ideas. You can drag and drop bullet points and use a search tool to locate them. Another aspect of the outliner I really liked was that if your bookmarks contain annotation, you could easily convert annotations to new bullet points. I practiced annotating within the page itself and also adding annotations to my outliner to remind myself what my various references were for.

Another interesting perk about Diigo is you can follow other people and build groups or friend lists that allow you to find webpages from people that you know, or those with similar interests that you want to share your links or resources with. I found a group for Teaching of Psychology and some great other higher education groups. I was hoping I would find some Diigo sites of fellow graduate students or faculty who had taught similar courses from which I could review their Diigo pages, but I had a hard time searching for those. I think if you’re just starting out with teaching and looking for resources generally, then professors personal webpages or course webpages are more resourceful for looking up various “key readings”, video links, slides, syllabi, etc. Diigo wasn’t specifically helpful for that, but rather was helpful for organizing and annotating other webpages I did find.

I primarily used Diigo thus far on my laptop and desktop computer devices, (downloaded as an app to the google chrome search browser), but I could also see it’s utility as an app on my ipad. I can foresee using Diigo to annotate empirical articles and archive them for writing projects. You can highlight or add in comments (I tried to use both), although the comments were less useful for me. Instead, I found that annotating my ideas and links in the “outliner” (e.g., adding sub-bullets about what a link may be useful for) was more helpful in this vein.

The biggest negative that I came across using Diigo was that it did not allow me to save OR edit/annotate any pdfs. So any pdf manuscripts/articles or pdf syllabus could not be annotated or saved into my outliner or my Diigo page. In order to have this feature, you have to pay the monthly fee for the standard or premium service and then it’s my understanding that you should be able to annotate pdf’s seamlessly as well. Even saving links to pdf’s was difficult (at least from my macbook, using google chrome browser), and it was irregular about links it would let me copy/paste into my outliner or save. Instead, I found it easier to save the pdf’s of these materials (e.g., slides, syllabi, handouts) to folders on my desktop for future use. I wish however these materials could all be located in one concise location tied to the outliner, so the cost may be worth it for that aspect.

Here is the link to my outliner page:

Here is the link to my Diigo library:

Turning Technology Clicker

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Submitted by Melanie Paige Moore

Turning Technology Clicker Overview: The Psychology 101 class that I’m a Teaching Assistant for has been using clickers since the beginning of the year. There are three main features you can use with the turning technologies clickers: PowerPoint polling, anywhere polling, and self-paced polling. With the PowerPoint polling feature you can set up your presentation so that the polling software opens up automatically when you advance the PowerPoint presentation to a slide that has questions on it. With self-paced polling you can create actual paper tests in which students use their clickers to give answers.

Anywhere Polling Feature: This is the feature I’ve found most useful. Anywhere polling allows you to ask questions at any time during class. It does not require that you have a PowerPoint application open or that you have questions pre-embedded within the PowerPoint slides, as the PowerPoint polling feature requires. For example, if you have 10 questions within your PowerPoint presentation you want to ask but decide mid-way through the presentation you want to add a question not previously included, anywhere polling will allow you to do so immediately. PowerPoint polling or self-paced polling will not.

Other Cool Features and Things to Know: There is a timer that appears with each question you ask so that students know how long they have to answer a question. Once all responses are collected at the end of the lecture, you can easily assign the number of participation points you want each question to be worth. It takes less than 1 minute to transfer all participation points earned in class to Blackboard. There is also a results manager feature that gives you stats on how well the class did in answering the clicker questions. The software is easy to learn and available for free along with a step by step guide at the Technologies Services center in the library if you are a Teaching Assistant. At the Center for Teaching Excellence there is a contact person you can use as a resource should you have any questions about the software (listed below). Student Feedback: Students have expressed that the enjoy using the clickers. They especially enjoy the opinion questions because they get to share their thoughts while simultaneously seeing how their opinions relate to the class as a whole.

For Clicker Help at VCU contact: Stan Anamuah-Mensah, Instructional Technologist


Turning Technologies website:

Interdisciplinary Connections and Academic Performance in Psychology-English Learning Communities

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Submitted by Melissa Dvorsky

Article Reference

Grose-Fifer, J., Helmer, K. A., Zottoli, T. M. (2014). Interdisciplinary Connections and Academic Performance in Psychology-English Learning Communities. Teaching of Psychology, 41(1), 57-62.

Article DOI

Summary of Article

Present Study: The authors examined learning communities (LCs) defined as “two adjacent class periods with the same group of peers”…thus, a “community of learners” compared to standard classrooms.

Connected LC Unconnected LC Standard
Classroom environment same two classes held in adjacent periods, but in different classrooms
Professor collaboration “active faculty collaboration and curricular coordination” Limited collaboration None
English-Psychology Integration Podcast assignment: English readings relating to topics in psychology unit None None


Learning Objectives of Connected LC/Podcast Assignment:

  • To facilitate student interaction and promote an active learning environment
  • To increase student motivation for acquiring content knowledge in both course
  • To link English and psychology classes in a cogent way
  • To provide scaffolding for an English research paper on same podcast topic



  • Students in connected LC had significantly higher psychology test scores than both those in the unconnected LC and those in standard classes. Psychology test scores of the unconnected LC and standard class groups were not significantly different.

    • However, English grades across the groups did not differ significantly.

  • The majority of students in both LC methods rated that they “made friendships in the LC that would persist beyond their first semester” and “peer collaboration created a positive learning environment in their LC”.
  • Anecdotally: LC discussions were livelier and deeper than standard classes; LCs facilitated peer relationships and peer collaboration


Discussion Questions

  1. What are your experiences with learning communities or interdisciplinary classroom learning methods as presented in this article? If you have limited experience with learning communities/ interdisciplinary courses, then how do you think these methods could potentially be useful?

    This study examined learning communities among Intro Psychology and English Composition courses. What other classes should we consider forming interdisciplinary collaborative learning connections? Further, what types of university settings, classes, or curriculum do you think collaborative learning environments or interdisciplinary connections would be most conducive?

  2. The authors examined the effectiveness of “connected LCs” which mostly entailed the professors of the two courses met briefly between classes and emailed regarding student progress throughout the semester. What other methods could you use to facilitate collaborative learning across classes? How should we continue to study or practice this in the future?

    The authors conclude that their results suggest “future connected LCs might be even more effective if we are able to create interdisciplinary links for a greater proportion of the psychology course content”. How might this been done? What ideas do you have for other interdisciplinary collaborations in psychology?

  3. The authors assumed peer relationships in the LCs likely facilitated learning and anecdotally reported that LC discussions were “livelier and went deeper than standard classes”. How do you think professors or LCs could enhance these peer relationships and peer-led learning?

    What other factors do you believe might contribute to the effectiveness of students’ performance in collaborative learning communities/interdisciplinary learning methods? How could we measure these anecdotal experiences that likely mediated the effectiveness of LCs?