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 4. Read other issues

Student Survey Question

What is the best kind of assignment or exam for evaluating your learning?
Students were offered nine choices for this question: in class essays, take home essays, multiple choice tests, T/F tests, research papers, presentations, portfolios, oral exams, and projects. The results of the survey show that students have a varied preference, which affirms the established principle that assessment of student learning should be constructed to address different learning styles. Here are the survey responses:

  • In class essays: 5
  • Multiple-Choice tests: 11
  • T/F tests: 1
  • Take home essays: 7
  • Research papers: 4
  • Presentations: 4
  • Portfolios: 4
  • Oral exams: 2
  • Projects: 8

The Best Assignments Have Clear Objectives

The question to ask when designing assignments is: "What is the value of this as a report of learning and as a means to learning?" The very best assignments are those constructed with a clear sense of which objective the professor has in mind. If you are simply looking for a report of learning, you may opt for those in-class exams that literally test knowledge, and for those you must also determine what kind of knowledge you are testing: memorization, skills or synthesis.

If you want your assignments to do more than give you summative reports of learning, you may look for more creative approaches, such as projects, presentations, essays, research papers, and portfolios. If you are seriously looking to help students take responsibility for their learning, you might consider formative assignments that are ungraded. These types of assignments can give you the chance to offer constructive feedback that is separate from the burden of grading.


  • Learn more about why and how to create ungraded assignments.

Teaching Suggestion from the SCTE

"Provide incentives for learning opportunities outside of the class - if it's relevant to the material it will help us to learn in a different context."

Students on Teaching

What gets rave reviews:

  • Clear grading policies that are consistent and fair.
  • Timely feedback that assists in learning.

What doesn't:

  • Assignments that are returned weeks (or even months) after completion.
  • Ambiguous feedback and grades that appear to be detached from clear learning objectives.

Students on Learning

If you want to be successful, do this:

  • Take charge of your own learning - ask questions in class and talk with other students about class assignments.
  • Try to find the value in everything you learn, whether it's in your chosen discipline or not.

Don't do this:


  • Don't give up when you get confused - keep working through the problem.
  • Don't expect that writing happens naturally. It takes effort and revisions.

The March Teacher of the Month

Margaretha Wilcke, M.S.W., Ph.D., Associate Professor, Social Work

Margaretha received quite a few nominations that the SCTE found unanimous in praise of Margaretha's willingness to go the extra mile to help her students learn.

Excerpts from nominating submissions:

  • "Dr. Wilcke is an amazing professor. She is passionate about the social work program and the profession. She is caring and understanding of her students and pushes is to do our best. She is a fair teacher and is willing to work with her students to help us."
  • "Dr. Wilcke is a very understanding teacher who is good at listening and teaching. If you don't understand something, she will explain it until you do."
  • "Dr. Wilcke has a way of capturing students' attention with little effort. She is very knowledgeable about her subject and is willing to answer or find the answer to any question."

Margaretha, like the other Teacher of the Month award winners and nominees this year, has a foundational respect for her students that the students immediately respond to. She is able to build a relationship with her students that provokes them to become more engaged in their own learning. Margaretha's own words suggest a key element in her success: "I love teaching; I get excited when I teach."

She also grabs their attention by her ability to help students make relevant connections in their own learning. As she says, "I like to try to blend theory and practice by bringing in examples of my own experience or theirs. Experience needs to be tied to content and theory and so we ask, What does it mean? What are we going to do with it?"

The CTE Teacher of the Month coffee mug means that someone has been recognized by the SUNY Plattsburgh students for having created a valued teaching technique, a teaching style, or a teaching moment. Margaretha can do whatever she likes with hers.

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