29th Annual Fall Conference on Teaching and Learning (2023)

Wednesday, August 23, 2023
8:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.
L.V. Eberhard Center, Robert C. Pew Grand Rapids Campus

Teaching Distracted Minds: Old Challenges, New Contexts

Keynote presentation:  James M. Lang

Faculty frequently express concerns about the distractions and distractibility of our students, but our real focus should be on how we help students achieve attention. These sessions draw upon scholarship from history, neuroscience, and education in order to argue that distractions are endemic to the human condition and can’t be walled out of the physical classroom or online course. Instead, we should focus on creating educational experiences that cultivate and sustain attention. Participants will learn about a variety of potential pathways to developing such experiences for their students.

James M. Lang, Ph.D. is the author of six books, the most recent of which are Distracted: Why Students Can’t Focus and What You Can Do About ItSmall Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning, and Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty (Harvard University Press, 2013), and On Course: A Week-by-Week Guide to Your First Semester of College Teaching. A former Professor of English and Director of the D’Amour Center for Teaching Excellence at Assumption University, he stepped down from full-time academic work in 2021 to concentrate more fully on his writing and teaching. Jim writes a monthly column on teaching and learning for The Chronicle of Higher Education; his work has been appearing in the Chronicle since 1999.  He founded and co-edits a book series on teaching and learning in higher education for West Virginia University Press. 


View the RECORDING of Dr. Lang's Keynote Address

Dr. James M. Lang

Dr. James M. Lang


Fall Conference Schedule (Wednesday, August 23, 2023)



8 a.m.


8:30–9 a.m.

Welcome Remarks

9–10:45 a.m.

Keynote Presentation by Dr. James M. Lang

11 a.m.–12 p.m.

Faculty-led Concurrent Session #1

12–12:45 p.m.


1–2 p.m.

Faculty-led Concurrent Session #2

Fall Conference Pre-Conference Virtual Workshop

Jess Mitchell

Jess Mitchell


Are we sure we're doing this pedagogy thing right?

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Facilitation: Jess Mitchell

Are we sure we’re doing this pedagogy thing right?

Rigor, truth, theory and practice, inclusion, politics, ethics, trauma...We use the words, but how do we manifest equity and inclusion in our classrooms? Does anyone know how to do this? Is anyone talking about it? Let’s start that conversation together at this event. Join Jess Mitchell and colleagues for a presentation and discussion about what equitable pedagogy and open pedagogies might be. Bring your critiques, questions, and concerns. 

Creating the brave space we hope to nurture in our teaching

The 3-hour workshop will begin with a level-setting presentation about some of the tricky edges we deal with in teaching and learning. Then we’ll spend time working through problems together--building a community of practice with each other, applying an inclusive and equitable lens to each decision we make.

The only prerequisite to this work is openness and curiosity. Please come with a question, problem, curiosity…Bring your syllabus, an existing assignment, or anything else that you would like to think through.

Facilitator Bio

With a background in Ethics, Jess delivers a unique perspective on messy and complex contexts that helps organizations and individuals navigate a productive way forward. Jess is a self-described misfit, values a critical perspective, appreciates the messy parts of human interactions and has a fondness for things in 3s. She lives in Toronto with her wife, son and an unreasonable number of pets. https://jesshmitchell.com/


Adult learners bring their life with them when they return to school.  When “life happens” and interferes with submitting assignments, how can faculty allow students to communicate the need for extra time in a confidential manner yet still help students learn time management skills?  Implementation of an EX pass (extension pass) this fall semester for adult learners will be discussed, including brainstorming on guidelines, best use, and how to support students learn time management skills. 

Facilitated by: Susan Strouse, Nursing, Learning Community participant and facilitator

Explore how online collaboration tools can be used both to increase student engagement and to make readings more accessible. The session includes both practical advice for making use of one such tool, Perusall, as well as broader exploration of ways in which online readings might make course materials more responsive to a wide range of student needs.


Facilitated by: Jeremy Robinson, Modern Languages and Literatures

Most incoming students report their motivation to attend college is to prepare for a better future or to find a career. However, upon graduation, these same people report feeling unprepared to apply for a postbaccalaureate program, or to enter directly into the workforce. Why is that? Who is responsible for changing these outcomes? What’s a university to do? How can faculty support students’ career readiness?

Facilitated by: Troy Farley, GVSU Career Center and Lisa KnappGVSU Career Center

This session will first review the purpose of the CLAS Voyage, a liberal arts and sciences curricular arc that emphasizes the integration of High-Impact Practices (HIPs). The work of the CLAS Center for Experiential Learning is to create frameworks and systems to support the Voyage will then be explained. Finally, space to discuss and gain feedback from the GVSU community, including for faculty from other colleges to consider how they integrate and can strengthen HIPs in their programs, will be provided.


Facilitated by: David Zwart, History; E. Guin Thompson, Visual and Media Arts; Meghan Riley, Center for Experiential Learning; Kris Pachla, Center for Experiential Learning; Dawn Hart, Cell and Molecular Biology; Bradford Dykes, Statistics & Rachel Campbell, Sociology


This presentation aims to introduce faculty members to the exciting world of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) and inspire them to explore its application in classrooms and organizations. Through engaging discussions and demonstrations, participants will gain a deep understanding of the benefits, challenges, and practical implementation strategies for AR/VR. Together, we will embark on a forward-thinking journey to unlock the untapped possibilities of AR/VR for enhanced learning experiences and business innovation.


Facilitated by: Kevin Barrons, Management and Paul Hillman, Management, Sandbox Learning Innovation Grant recipient

Mindfulness has been well-documented to improve focus and concentration, as well as to ameliorate stress which can deleteriously impact attention. This experiential session will present selected trauma-sensitive mindfulness practices that support present-moment awareness, consequently enhancing students’ ability  to stay engaged in a variety of classroom settings. The same skills can be utilized by faculty to approach  classroom challenges with greater clarity and compassion.    

Facilitated by: Karen Gipson, Physics and Interdisciplinary Studies, Teaching Innovation Grant Recipient & Martina Reinhold, Physician Assistant Studies, Learning Community participant and facilitator



You might have heard of "ungrading" or "standards-based grading" or "specifications grading". How do you decide which one is right for you? What if you don't want to blow up your entire grading system in one go? We will describe four key ideas that underlie successful, learning-focused grading systems, describe how to put them to use - in whole or in part - in any class setting, and answer lots of questions.


Facilitated by: David Clark, Mathematics and Robert Talbert, Mathematics, Learning Community participant and facilitator

In the global battle for truth, disinformation is one of the greatest threats to democracy. Drawing on social media’s international reach, challengers to truth are engaging in a systematic assault on reality itself--actions that have serious, even fatal, consequences. The Global Civil Discourse Map seeks to counter disinformation and encourage civil discourse by creating an interactive world map populated by the observations and personal accounts of international journalists. Bringing together faculty from Civil Discourse, Multimedia Journalism, Modern Languages & Literatures, and Computer Science, the session will explore the project's origin and the key role that FTLC support played in its collaborative approach.  


Facilitated by: Janel Pettes Guikema, Modern Languages and Literatures, Teaching Innovation Grant recipient & Jeff Kelly Lowenstein, Communications, Teaching Innovation Grant recipient


This summer we conducted a program for students K-4 at the GVSU Holland Campus called Maker--Nature Summer Enrichment Program. Middle and high school students could apply to be Jr. Artist in Residence, and two GVSU students were Artist in Residence (one was taking it for a summer independent study, and the other was working on a summer research project). The program is inspired by the use of SCRUM in the classroom, Reggio Emilia pedagogy (specifically the idea of provocations), and Student Learning Communities from the High-Impact Practices (HIPs) initiative. It was a field study into multi-generational learner-directed environments. The aim was to generate innovation and creativity by creating a multi-generational learning community.


Facilitated by: Sara Alsum-Wassenaar, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences & Kasey Kanka, student


Mainstream narratives about Native Americans are often false, incomplete, and outdated. GVSU’s Native American students are impacted by historical trauma and contemporary educational disparities. Faculty can address these issues through responsible inclusion of indigenous knowledge, voices, and perspectives in their courses. This interactive workshop will provide a variety of strategies and resources for engagement with Native American people, histories, cultures, and contemporary contexts. Topics include the sovereign status of indigenous people, issues facing Native students, and combating misconceptions.

This session is being organized by the GVSU Native American Advisory Committee (NAAC), which includes members of several tribal nations. This Fall GVSU is hosting several Native American speakers including Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer author of Braiding Sweetgrass, and Angeline Boulley author of Firekeeper’s Daughter. This interactive workshop is designed to support faculty in adding, adapting, or modifying their courses to include indigenous knowledge, readings, and content both in preparation for and in response to these visits as well as connecting to contemporary Native American issues.

Facilitated by: Belinda Bardwell, Office of Multicultural Affairs; Julia Mason, Interdisciplinary Studies & Colleagues 

Maybe more than ever, faculty members play a key role in student well-being and belonging.  If done effectively, faculty can support students’ mental health and social connectedness and enhance their motivation and achievement.  In this session, participants will learn about the university’s commitment to becoming a Health Promoting University (HPU), discuss ways that faculty can nurture students’ sense of belonging and well-being, and how faculty can be prepared to recognize, respond, and refer students in distress.


Facilitated by: Kate Harmon, Student Affairs; Edward Jones II, Health Center; Katie Perschbacher, Dean of Students Office; Jaedah Pickens, University Counseling Center

Participants in this interactive session will learn about the uses of International Virtual Exchange (IVE), an instructional approach in which students engage in online cooperative learning with peers from international universities. Following a brief introduction to IVE, facilitators will describe a new GVSU initiative supporting the use of virtual exchange and provide examples of innovative projects developed by GVSU faculty. In the second half of the session, participants will work together, generating and sharing ideas for using IVE in their courses.


Facilitated by: Zsuzsanna Palmer, Writing & Ellen Shupe, Psychology and Pew FTLC Faculty Fellow Learning Community participant and facilitator

Undergraduate research (UR) has many benefits for students, including improving retention, graduation rates, GPA, engagement, and self-efficacy. However, traditional mentor-mentee models are not scalable to all students. Another model that allows many students to experience the benefits of UR is course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs), where small research experiences are embedded in the course. In this session, participants will learn about three different models of CUREs in a variety of disciplines in a round-robin style presentation.


Facilitated by: Feryal Alayont, Mathematics and Sandbox Grant recipient; Nicholas Lerma, Movement Science; Michael Scantlebury, Community Leadership and Development & Anthony Spencer, Communications

This session will discuss two Pew FTLC faculty learning communities (FLCs) focused on creating a culture where students feel a sense of belonging and comfort being themselves in communities valued by GVSU. The Real World of College FLC (Fall 2022) examined The Real World of College: What Higher Education Is and What It Can Be by Wendy Fischman & Howard Gardner and a follow-up FLC, Building A Sense of Community For All (Winter 2023), which reviewed and analyzed Relationship-Rich Education: How Human Connections Drive Success in College by Peter Felten & Leo M. Lambert. The FLCs challenged participants to develop human connections through relationship-rich education that aligns with students’ goals, belonging, future careers, and mental health to promote student success. Participants attending this session will be asked to ponder how GVSU can maximize opportunities for students to experience meaningful relationships with faculty, staff, and influential peers.


Facilitated by: Mattie Brechbiel, Medical Laboratory Science; Monica Harris, Teaching and Learning; Rori Meyer, Writing; Dauvan Mulally, Writing; Alexis Oosting, Teaching and Learning & Darien Ripple, Interdisciplinary Studies

Learning Community participant and facilitator

In response to a historical moment marked by climate breakdown and extreme inequality, this session builds on work recently conducted in a Faculty Learning Community on Critical University Studies and the student debt crisis, as well as a group podcast project on environmental problem-solving, supported by a Sandbox Grant, that began with a virtual dialogue between students and John Biewen, host of the two-time Peabody Award-nominated podcast series, Scene on Radio, to foster a conversation on the social value of podcast pedagogies.


Facilitated by: Brian Deyo, English, Sandbox Grant recipient



The following books are not only wonderful resources, but will also be raffled off during the 2023 Fall Conference on Teaching and Learning and added to the Pew FTLC Library (068 JHZ). To the extent possible, these books will also be made available in eBook form through University Libraries.

Book Title


GVSU Library Link

Co-Creating Equitable Teaching and Learning: Structuring Student Voice into Higher Education (2022)

Alison Cook-Sather

Access the Cook-Sather ebook via the GVSU Library

Critical Teaching Behaviors: Defining, Documenting, and Discussing Good Teaching (2023)

Lauren Barbeau & Claudia Cornejo Happel

Access the Barbeau and Cronejo Happel ebook via the GVSU Library

Delivering on the Promise of High-Impact Practices: Research and Models for Achieving Equity, Fidelity, Impact, and Scale(2022)

John Zilvinskis and colleagues, Eds

Access the Zilvinskis ebook via the GVSU Library

Distracted: Why Students Can’t Focus and What You Can Do About It (2020)

James Lang

Access the Lang ebook via the GVSU Library

Grading for Growth: A Guide to Alternative Grading Practices that Promote Authentic Learning and Student Engagement in Higher Education (2023)

David Clark and Robert Talbert

Access the Clark and Talbert ebook via the GVSU Library

How Learning Works: Eight Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching, 2nd Ed (2023)

Marsha Lovett, Michael Bridges, Michele DiPietro, Susan Ambrose, and Marie Norman

Access the Lovett, Bridges, DiPeitro, Ambrose, and Norman ebook via the GVSU Library

Improving Learning and Mental Health in the College Classroom (2023)

Robert Eaton, Steven Hunsaker, and Bonnie Moon

Access the Eaton, Hunsaker, and Moon ebook via the GVSU Library

Inclusive Teaching: Strategies for Promoting Equity in the College Classroom (2022)

Kelly Hogan and Viji Sathy

Access the Hogan and Sathy ebook via the GVSU Library

Maybe Teaching is a Bad Idea: Why Faculty Should Focus on Learning (2022)

Larry Spence

Access the Spence ebook via the GVSU Library

Remembering and Forgetting in the Age of Technology: Teaching, Learning, and the Science of Memory in a Wired World (2022)

Michelle Miller

Access the Miller ebook via the GVSU Library

Reigniting Curiosity and Inquiry in Higher Education: A Realist’s Guide to Getting Started With Inquiry-Based Learning (2022)

Stacey MacKinnon and Beth Archer-Kuhn


Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning, 2nd Ed (2021)

James Lang

Access the Lang ebook via the GVSU Library

Small Teaching Online: Applying Learning Science in Online Classes (2019)

Flower Darby and James Lang

Access the Darby and Lang ebook via the GVSU Library

The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World in Flux, Updated Edition (2022)

Cathy Davidson

Access the Davidson book via the FTLC Library

Universities on Fire: Higher Education in the Climate Crisis (2023)

Bryan Alexander

Access the Alexander book via the FTLCLibrary

Past Conferences on Teaching & Learning

Page last modified September 1, 2023