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The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) (United States Public Law 101-336, 104 Stat. 327), enacted on (July 26, 1990), is a wide-ranging civil rights law that provides protection from discrimination for individuals on the basis of disability. The ADA extends civil rights protections for people with disabilities to employment in the public and private sectors, transportation, public accommodations, services provided by state and local government, and telecommunication relay services. A disability is defined as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity." An accommodation can be defined as any change or adaptation that enables an individual with a disability to have equal opportunities. Accommodations in education may include: note-taking assistance, alternative testing, taped lectures, extended deadlines, etc. Institutions of higher education are among the organizations that must abide by the ADA. Colleges and universities receiving federal financial assistance must not discriminate in the recruitment, admission, or treatment of students. Students with disabilities may request accommodations that will enable them to participate in educational programs and activities. Faculty and staff may need to provide a variety of accommodations to students with special needs, to ensure that students have equal access to the academic environment.

Related Resources

ADA & 504: The Law (PowerPoint)
Given by Karen Yerby, NCCCS Associate Director of Student Development Services, at the 2006 System Conference, this presentation covers the basic requirements and implications of the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (1973), and NC Senate Bill 866.

Faculty Resources for Supporting Students with Disabilities
Estrella Mountain Community College, Maricopa Community College District

The Faculty Room
University of Washington
A website for postsecondary educators who want to learn how to create classroom environments and activities that maximize the learning of all students, including those with disabilities.

Disability Services
Student Services Division, Volunteer State Community College, Gallatin, TN

Adult Learning Theory

Andragogy is the study of how adults learn. The field of adult learning was pioneered by Malcolm Knowles. Knowles identified the following characteristics of adult learners:

  • Adults are autonomous and self-directed. Their self concept moves from being a dependent personality toward one of being a self-directing human being.
  • Adults have accumulated a foundation of life experiences and knowledge. that becomes an increasing resource for learning.
  • Adults are goal-oriented. Their readiness to learn becomes oriented increasingly to the developmental tasks of their social roles.
  • Adults are relevancy-oriented. Their time perspective changes from one of postponed application of knowledge to immediacy of application.

Faculty and staff working with adult learners should be familiar with Adult Learning Theory and adult teaching methods to be effective instructors. Postsecondary instructors should understand that learning, retention and motivation are different in adults from what they were in adolescents and children. Adult Learning Theory advocates a learner-centered model of teaching, rather than a teacher-centered model.

Related Resources

Adult Learning, From Theory to Practice
L. Herod, National Adult Literacy Database, Canada
A self-paced online course in which the first module examines current adult learning theory, while the second module relates this theory to the practice of adult education.

Guidelines for Working with Adult Learners
Susan Imel, ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult Career and Vocational Education, [ED377313]

Alternative Assessment

Alternative assessments are non-conventional methods for evaluating and assessing learning and achievement. They are “alternatives” because they use open-ended questions, performance demonstrations, work samples, portfolios, and journals rather than standardized, norm-referenced traditional assessments such as paper and pencil tests. In a diverse population of learners, student achievement cannot always be accurately measured with traditional means. Thus, assessments should reflect a diversity of learning styles.

Related Resources

9 Principles of Good Practice for Assessing Student Learning
Assessment Forum, American Association of Higher Education

Authentic Assessment

Authentic assessment requires students to perform real-world tasks that demonstrate meaningful and relevant applications of knowledge and skills through critical thinking and problem-solving. Student performance is typically scored on a rubric to determine how successfully the student has met specific standards. The advantage of authentic assessment is that an instructor can evaluate whether students just “know” a specific concept or whether they truly understand and can apply the concept in a real world context.

Related Resources

Authentic Assessment Toolbox
Jonathan Mueller, Professor of Psychology, North Central College, Naperville, IL
A tutorial containing everything you need to create authentic tasks, rubrics, and standards for measuring and improving student learning.

Authentic Assessment Resources for Teachers
A portal to online professional development resources on assessment from the School of Education, University of Wisconsin at Stout.

Bloom’s Taxonomy

A classification scheme in which thinking/learning is organized by level of complexity, Benjamin Bloom’s taxonomy commonly refers to the six cognitive levels he identified (in order of increasing complexity): Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation. The taxonomy can be used as a planning tool for instructors as they create more focused lesson plans and learning objectives and infuse different cognitive levels into class instruction.

Related Resources

Bloom’s Taxonomy Breakdown: Roles, Process Verbs & Products from Bloom’s Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain
Connie Lutz has created a table that will come in handy when using Bloom’s taxonomy to plan instruction

Writing Educational Goals and Objectives
Brett Bixler, Instruction Designer, Educational Technology Services, Penn State University
Tips for writing goals and objectives, including how to use Bloom’s taxonomy in their construction.

Bloom’s Taxonomy
Center for Teaching, Vanderbilt University

Bruner, Jerome

Jerome Bruner (1915 - 2016) was a psychologist whose contributions to the study of cognitive learning and educational psychology had great impact on curriculum development and theory. The theory for which he is most well-known states that instructional development should take four factors into consideration: a student’s readiness for learning; the content structure; the sequence in which material is presented; and the student’s motivation for learning.

Related Resources

Jerome Bruner and the Process of Education
M. K. Smith, The Encyclopedia of Information Education

Discover Jerome Bruner: Father of the Cognitive Revolution
Mary Beth DiPrima and Martha Hickson, Rutgers University School of Communication, Information & Library Studies
A wiki on Bruner’s life and theories.

Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs)

Popularized by educational researchers Thomas A. Angelo and K. Patricia Cross in their essential work, Classroom Assessment Techniques, A Handbook for College Teachers, CATs are formative evaluations. As such, they provide instructors and students with feedback during the process of instruction as opposed to end-of-unit or end-of-course exams that are given after instruction has been completed (summative assessments). Quick and easily administered, these non-graded, in-class activities can assist instructors in determining the degree to which students understand the course content and in evaluating whether their teaching methods have been effective. Feedback from CATs helps faculty make instructional changes that will better meet the needs of students. Feedback students receive from CATs helps them self-assess and learn how to monitor and manage study skills.

Related Resources

Classroom Assessment Techniques: Quick Strategies to Check Student Learning in Class
Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, Iowa State University

Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs)
Center for Teaching, Vanderbilt University
An overview of CATs with rationale for their use and links to other resources

Collaborative/Cooperative Learning

In collaborative learning, students work together to find a solution, develop a product or complete a project. They learn by exchanging ideas and sharing information. Cooperative learning is sometimes thought of as a subset of collaborative learning. In cooperative learning, students work together in small groups on a structured activity but are individually accountable for their work as well as for the end product. Collaborative learning encourages active student participation in the learning process and offers opportunities for personal involvement, feedback, and interpersonal development Because students learn best when they are actively involved in the learning process, instructors should review their courses and select content areas or lessons in which collaborative learning—from a simple class discussion to a major group project—could be used as an effective teaching strategy.

Related Resources

Active and Cooperative Learning
Richard Felder, North Carolina State University
Links to articles, videos, and publications related to Dr. Felder’s research on active and cooperative learning.

Introduction to Cooperative Learning
Roger T. Johnson and David W. Johnson, University of Minnesota
Established by two of the best-known researchers in cooperative learning, the Center provides resources and training on practical procedures related to cooperative learning, school-based decision making, academic controversy, decision-making controversy, conflict resolution, and peer mediation.

Cooperative and Collaborative Learning
From the Concept to Classroom workshop series, Thirteen Ed Online
An extensive tutorial that includes step-by-step planning for the use of cooperative and collaborative learning experiences.

Collaborative Learning in Community Colleges
Elizabeth Foote, ERIC Clearinghouse for Community Colleges [ED411023]
A description of five courses using collaborative learning strategies.

Combined Course Library

The Combined Course Library allows you to search all the Curriculum and Continuing Education courses offered by the NC Community College System.

Course Objectives

Course objectives are specific statements of student learning outcomes that indicate what students should be able to do upon successful completion of a course. Objectives may include a standard of performance ("with 85% accuracy") or a statement of condition ("without assistance"). When creating objectives, instructors should be careful to describe the intended result of instruction rather than the process of instruction itself.

Well-written course objectives should be:

  • observable and measurable,
  • clear and easy to understand,
  • created with performance terms and action verbs such as identify, define, solve, compare, and describe,
  • used by the instructor to plan, organize and deliver course content,
  • used by students to direct and monitor their own learning, and
  • used by instructors to create appropriate evaluation methods.

Related Resources

Developing Course Objectives
Illinois Online Network, University of Illinois
A step-by-step guide that includes types of objectives, components of objectives and the difference between goals and objectives.

Worksheet for Identifying or Developing Course Objectives, Strategies, and Outcomes
University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering
A helpful worksheet that could be used as a template for linking course objectives (aims of the course), strategies (means instructors will use to accomplish those objectives) and outcomes (what students will know or be able to do upon completion of the course).

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is an active mental process demonstrated when students gather, interpret and evaluate information in order to reach a decision or find a solution. It is associated with activities such as solving complex real-world problems, drawing inferences, and synthesizing and integrating information. These skills are valued in both the higher education and work environments and thus should be developed. Rather than delivering knowledge to students through lecture methods requiring only rote memorization, instructors should encourage students to think critically and provide opportunities for creative problem-solving.

Related Resources

Critical Thinking
Grayson H. Walker Teaching Resource Center, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
A very good overview of critical thinking, with an explanation of its characteristics and associated teaching strategies.

Critical Thinking in Community Colleges
Sharon Hirose, Eric Digest for Community Colleges [ED348128]
A summary of 1) Glock’s work advising that instructors reinforce verbal critical thinking skills by focusing greater attention on students’ "why" questions than their "who," "where" and "how" questions; and 2) Sheridan’s suggestions for writing exercises that promote critical thinking.


Curriculum is generally defined as a planned set of instruction for a program or course. Program curriculum refers to the integrated series of courses (and their content) that comprise a program of learning, usually toward a certificate or degree. Course curriculum includes the instructional content and plan—including skills and learning outcomes, performance standards, sequenced lessons, materials and resources, and assessment instruments—for a particular course.

Dewey, John

John Dewey (1859 – 1952) was a philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer. He is recognized as one of the founders of the philosophical school of Pragmatism. Dewey believed in progressive education in which schools teach students how to be problem-solvers by helping them learn how to think critically. His work provided the foundation on which constructivism was built.

Related Resources

My Pedagogic Creed
John Dewey, The School Journal, January 16, 1897 (reprinted in The Encyclopedia of Informal Education)

John Dewey: American Pragmatist
The Pragmatism Cybrary
Links to works by and about Dewey.


The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy rights of students. All schools that receive funds from the U.S. Department of Education must comply with this law regarding the creation, maintenance, and access to students’ educational records. Instructors should be knowledgeable regarding their responsibilities for maintaining the confidentiality of student information. For example, information cannot be released to the parent of a student who is aged 18 or older without that student’s consent.

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
U.S. Department of Education,
A one-page brief on what is and is not permissible under the law protecting student privacy.

FERPA and its Implications for Academic Advising Practice
Matthew M. Rust, for the National Academic Advising Association

Online FERPA Tutorial for Faculty and Staff
The University of Utah’s guidebook (with definitions) and tutorial.

Freire, Paulo

Paulo Freire (1921 – 1997) was an adult educator and theorist who stressed that students should be active in the learning process, rather than passive receivers. For instructors, this means abandoning the idea of the sage on the stage delivering content. Instead, education should be a collaborative process. Freire is probably best known for his writing on what he termed the “pedagogy of the oppressed.”

Related Resources

Paulo Freire
M. K. Smith, The Encyclopedia of Information Education
A biographical sketch of Freire, with an overview of his theories emphasizing dialogue and making a difference in the world.

Issues in Freirean Pedagogy
Tom Heaney, National-Louis University
An exploration of the Freirean philosophy—with a helpful glossary of terms he coined—and its implications for adult education.

Gardner, Howard

Howard Gardner (1943- ) is a psychologist at Harvard University best known for his theory of multiple intelligences. Gardner theorizes that there are at least seven different dimensions of intelligence in which people may excel. (See Multiple Intelligences)

Knowles, Malcolm

Malcolm Knowles (1913 – 1997), a professor and theorist of adult education who held the position of Professor Emeritus of Adult and Community College Education at North Carolina State University, is credited with coining the term “andragogy” to denote the teaching of adults.

Related Resources

Malcolm Knowles, Informal Adult Education, Self-Direction and Andragogy
M. K. Smith, The Encyclopedia of Information Education
A biographical sketch of Knowles, with an overview of his theories on adult education and excerpts from his writings.

Malcolm Knowles: Apostle of Andragogy
Robert Carlson, Vita Scholasticae (reprinted by National-Louis University) The theory behind and social implications of andragogy.

Learner-Centered Instruction

Teaching strategies that encourage students to take a more active role in the learning process are considered “learner-centered.” In learner-centered classrooms, an instructor facilitates and guides students to skill development and knowledge acquisition; in teacher-centered instruction, an instructor is solely responsible for content delivery. Learner-centered instruction provides the opportunity for increased student learning, motivation, and achievement. The instructor acts as an information resource for students and provides monitoring of progress and helpful feedback, while students interact and collaborate with other students, solve problems, think critically, and take more responsibility for their own learning.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes are statements defining what students should know and be able to do upon completion of a lesson or course. Sometimes called objectives, learning outcomes describe the competencies students are expected to achieve and the performance standard by which achievement of those competencies will be measured. For instructors, learning outcomes serve as a guide for the development of relevant instructional activities and associated assessment methods. Explained to students in detail at the beginning of the semester, the outcomes provide a statement of expectations which alert them to their responsibilities as learners.

Related Resources

Student Learning Goals
University of Washington, Office of Educational Assessment
A tutorial on designing and using student learning goals as part of a cyclical process to improve both teaching and learning.

Writing Instructional Objectives
Brett Bixler, Information Technology Services, Penn State
A tutorial on identifying and formulating cognitive, affective, and psychomotor student learning objectives.

Learning Styles

The term “learning styles” refers to the ways students prefer to acquire, process and learn information. One simple model of learning styles describes those with a preference for seeing information as being visual learners, for hearing information as being auditory learners, and for experiencing information in a tactile, hands-on way as being kinesthetic learners. Kolb’s more complex model categorizes student learning styles according to their preferences in four quadrants: concrete experience, abstract conceptualization, active experimentation and reflective observation. An understanding and recognition of different learning styles will help instructors select strategies for reaching diverse learners. Using a variety of teaching methods, activities, and assessments ensures that all students have the opportunity to process information in a way that is most effective for them.

Related Resources

“Student Learning Styles and Their Implications for Teaching”
Susan Montgomery and Linda Groat, the University of Michigan’s Center for Research on Learning and Teaching
Compares the Myers-Briggs, Kolb, and Felder-Silverman learning styles models and examines the Grasha Riechmann model which is based on students’ responses to actual classroom activities rather than personality or cognitive traits. Teaching methods associated with each cluster of teaching and learning styles are summarized in a convenient table.

Index of Learning Styles
Richard Felder and Barbara Soloman, North Carolina State University
An on-line instrument used to assess preferences on four dimensions (active/reflective, sensing/intuitive, visual/verbal, and sequential/global) of a learning style model formulated by Richard M. Felder and Linda K. Silverman.

Lesson Plan

A lesson plan is an organizing tool that provides a roadmap for achieving specific learning outcomes. Through detailed descriptions of instructional activities, this document serves as a written guide outlining learning goals and objectives, methods for encouraging student engagement, timelines for content delivery, and other pertinent areas of instruction, such as assessment. Creating a lesson plan prepares an instructor to teach the topic. The process gives faculty time to reflect on how the lesson will be structured, i.e., what content needs to be covered; how it will be introduced, experienced, and practiced; and how mastery of content will be demonstrated. The lesson plan typically contains some of the following elements: lesson title, unit topic, timeline, required materials, objectives, introduction/warm-up, content to be delivered, practice exercises, discussion, review/summary activities, and assessment.

Related Resources

Creating Lesson Plans
Faculty Development Teaching Tips Index, Honolulu Community College
Provides an overview of the process and several blank templates for creating daily lesson plans.

Writing Lesson Plans
Teaching Guides, Colorado State University
This guide describes some of the processes that other instructors have found valuable to their own lesson planning.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a psychological theory proposed by Abraham Maslow in 1943 to address human motivation. He suggested that as humans meet basic lower-level needs, they seek to satisfy increasingly higher-level needs. The hierarchy is generally represented graphically as a pyramid with the needs ascending from lowest-level to highest-level: physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, self-actualization. Instructors can use the theory as a tool for understanding student motivation and thus, for making the learning process more conducive toward meeting students’ needs for self-actualization.

Related Resources

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Teachers Toolbox, Cambridge Regional College, UK
This very helpful diagram describes each of the needs in relation to how a student feels when each need is or is not met. The site also explains how to use the hierarchy to solve behavioral or performance problems and to motivate students to do their best work.

ABC of Learning and Teaching: Educational Environment
Linda Hutchinson, British Medical Journal
The article details how Maslow’s hierarchy relates to the context and climate for learning.

Multiple Intelligences

The psychological theory of Multiple intelligences proposed by Howard Gardner in 1983 suggests that there are several different types of intelligence: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and, intrapersonal. b. The theory states that all types of intelligence should be acknowledged and developed in education. Instructors should recognize the diversity of their students and utilize teaching methods designed to meet a broad range of knowledge and skills and by adapting their instruction to reach students with various types of intelligence. When different intelligence types are taken into account, students have the opportunity to learn based on their individual style, and thus become more involved in the learning process.

Related Resources

Multiple Intelligences: Gardner’s Theory
Amy C. Brualdi, ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation,
An introductory overview of the theory.

Tapping into Multiple Intelligences
Concept to Classroom/Thirteen Ed Online, Educational Broadcasting Corporation
A self-paced tutorial loaded with resources, including the tips for implementation, criticisms of the theory, and a transcript of an online chat with Howard Gardner.

Piaget, Jean

Jean Piaget (1896 – 1980) was a philosopher and psychologist recognized for his work studying children and his theory of stages of cognitive development. He is considered one of the chief theorists of cognitive constructivism.

Jean Piaget: 1896 - 1980
C. George Boeree, Shippensburg University
Provides an introduction to Piaget’s cognitive developmental stages: sensorimotor, pre-operational, concrete operations, and formal operations.

Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development
W. Huitt and J. Hummel, Educational Psychology Interactive, Valdosta State University
Identifies the stages of cognitive development and provides a critique of the assertion that the stages are automatically attained with biological maturation.


A portfolio is an organized collection of a student’s work. Designed to exhibit an array of work completed, portfolios can be used to document students’ efforts and achievement. The process of compiling representative samples of their coursework—in either hard copy or multimedia format—helps students become more aware of their progress and become more actively involved in the learning and assessment process. At the end of the semester, portfolios serve as a demonstration of mastery of course content. (A teaching portfolio contains evidence of an instructor’s teaching practice including: a statement of teaching philosophy, summaries of courses taught, sample syllabi, student evaluations, conference papers, professional development experiences, and most importantly, reflections on the evidence.)

Related Resources

Electronic Portfolios
Michael Day, Northern Illinois University
Best practices in the use of electronic portfolios.

Using Technology to Support Alternative Assessments and Electronic Portfolios
Meg Sewell, Mary Marczak, and Melanie Horn, University of Arizona
A rich resource containing publications, presentations, and support materials developed and maintained by Dr. Helen Barrett, School of Education, University of Alaska Anchorage


A rubric is a scoring tool that can be used to evaluate a task, work, or behavior. Composed of statements or criteria that describe certain levels or qualities of the work to be accomplished, it serves as an assessment guide by providing a scaled description of performance characteristics corresponding to a rating scale. The criteria described in rubrics should be linked to standards and learning objectives. When provided to students upon assignment of a task, well-written rubrics provide valuable information about instructor expectations by establishing clear goals and outlining standards by which achievement will be measured. Rubrics also allow for more efficient, objective, equitable and consistent grading.

Related Resources

Jonathan Mueller, Professor of Psychology, North Central College, Naperville, IL
From his Authentic Assessment Toolbox, this tutorial explains the difference between holistic and analytic rubrics and gives step-by-step instructions for creating each.

Why Rubrics?
Teachnology: The Web Portal for Educators
Explores the philosophy behind using rubrics as assessments that are student-centered and standards driven.


Provided by the instructor on the first day of class, a syllabus outlines content that will be covered, expectations, class rules, attendance policy, grading policy, list of assignments, due dates, required textbooks and course materials, and the instructor’s office hours, and contact information. A syllabus can be an effective tool for helping students understand what to expect from the instructor and also what the instructor expects from students.

Related Resources

Syllabus Tutorial
Center for Teaching and Learning, University of Minnesota
Provides thorough instructions for organizing your course syllabus.

Two-Purpose Syllabus
Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence at Penn State University

Virtual Learning Community (VLC)

The purpose of the VLC is to develop, edit, and broker content for NCCCS courses offered via distance learning. Hundreds of North Carolina community college educators have worked on VLC course development teams to create high quality courses that are available now to all colleges within the system.

Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC)

Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) is an educational reform movement that seeks to make writing a part of the learning process in all courses regardless of department or level. WAC proponents contend that writing is a tool that promotes critical thinking and learning. Including even brief writing activities in instruction can help increase a student’s ability to communicate clearly, to think analytically, and to learn new information. Writing assignment such as journaling, article reviews, research papers, reports, and informal writing can also be used to assess student learning.

Related Resources

The WAC Clearinghouse
Kate Kiefer, Colorado State University
Co-sponsored by the International Network of Writing Across the Curriculum Programs, publishes journals, books, and other free resources for instructors who use writing in their courses. A fantastic resource!

NCTE Beliefs about the Teaching of Writing
Writing Study Group, National Council of Teaching of English Executive Committee
Eleven principles that should guide the effective use of writing within an instructor’s teaching practice.