Center for Teaching Excellence




The Common Good


CTE_logo_web.jpgA teaching and learning newsletter

Produced by the Center for Teaching Excellence and the Student Committee on Teaching Excellence (SCTE), with input from the students of SUNY Plattsburgh. Vol. 1, issue 3. Read other issues



Student Survey Question

"Now some think that we are made good by nature, others by habituation, others by teaching." -Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

What are your thoughts on group work?

"In all honesty, while group work has the potential to be beneficial, in most cases students don't like it. In my experience, it usually ends up with one or two people doing all the work." Morgan Pellerin

"I do not like group work. Usually one person ends up doing all the work and it's not fair to them. When others don't do their share of the work those who have tried their best still get their grade compromised." Kayla Millett

"Personally, I hate it. I don't like relying on other people to be responsible for my success as an individual. But I do understand group work merits: that is what you have to do in the real world, but I would stress to professors not to assign a lot of group projects." Amy Was

"Group work and group projects are good if the rules of the group and expectations of each member of the group are met. When the group is able to divide up tasks, that is what makes group work the best." Peter Young

Students often dread group work even when they understand its value in learning collaborative skills and in applying theory to practical issues. If you want to use group work as a teaching technique (or need to because collaborative learning is a course objective), try to apply very rigorous organizational rules.


Some basic tips

  • Be certain that there is a clear learning objective associated with the work; if students perceive group work as busy work or a way to burn time in class, they won't step up.
  • Keep the groups small, more than four is not manageable for the group and invites slacking.
  • Have distinct tasks/benchmarks for each participant.
  • Grade them individually - that is the most fair and since they already know life isn't, you'll earn their respect.
  • Don't let group work dominate the class or assignments; as with most things in life, moderation is central to efficacy.

Teaching Suggestion from the SCTE

Have different kinds of graded assignments and different opportunities for learning so students with varied learning styles can maximize their efforts.

Students on Teaching

What gets rave reviews

  • Having a clear, organized class and syllabus.
  • Checking in to make sure everyone understands what's being covered.
  • Explanations that show practical applications.

What doesn't

  • Making fun of other faculty in front of students.
  • Too much story-telling and getting off-topic.
  • Not making eye contact; facing the board while lecturing.

Students on Learning

If you want to be successful, do this:

  • Do your homework the same day it is assigned.
  • Go to the library to study.
  • Go to the bathroom before class.

Don't do this:

  • Don't distract other students in class.
  • Don't drink on Thursday nights.
  • Don't clam up in class just because everyone else is silent.

February's Teacher of the Month: Jon Chatlos

Assistant Professor of English

Excerpts from student nominating submissions

"Chatlos demonstrates understanding and acceptance of all his students. He pushes his students to perform at their best level and is always open to others' opinions and interpretations."

"Dr. Chatlos is willing to explain things for a second time if the class does not understand it the first time around. He wants everyone to do well."

"He cares about his students and always listens to what they have to say. He's willing to change his lessons around to make the class more enjoyable for students." Jon has been nominated for this award several times, and the SCTE selected him on the basis of students' repeated affirmations of his respect for his students and interest in their success.

CTE says...
Jon seems to have a very full sense of the term office hours, as he meets with student regularly outside of the classroom (sometimes in the Learning Center) to keep the communities of learning on pace. Jon can use his CTE Teacher of Month coffee mug to keep his hands warm until spring actually arrives.

Like the other SCTE nominees and awardees for Teacher of the Month, Jon has a focus on his students' learning that doesn't begin nor end at the classroom door. Students comment about his engagement with them and his genuine desire to nurture the learning process. As he puts it, "I'm interested in fostering active learning in my students, both by building communities of student learners and by coaching and mentoring individual students."

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Contact Information

For more information about the Center for Teaching Excellence, please contact:

Becky Kasper, Ph.D., Director
SUNY Plattsburgh
301 Feinberg Library, Plattsburgh, NY 12901
Phone: (518) 564-3043
Fax: (518) 564-5100