Talking about Teaching and Learning at Lilly-Asheville 2018

For almost four decades, the Lilly Conferences have provided faculty and graduate students from all disciplines an opportunity to present and share scholarship and ideas on teaching and learning.  The conferences are held throughout the year in different locations around the U.S. and internationally.  The Lilly-Asheville conference is held in early August each year for two and a half days and is the most geographically convenient for Duke attendees.

I’ve been to Lilly-Asheville three times over the past few years and have always come away with information, tips and resources about teaching which I share with colleagues and Duke faculty.  Here’s some of what I saw this year.

Metacognition was a theme of several presentations this year, with faculty considering how students can reflect on and take more control of their own learning.

Stephanie M. Foote, Assistant Vice President with the Gardner Institute, looked at how active learning techniques can be improved by metacognition.  She recommended transparency about the process of learning in the class, helping students understand how they will use what they learn later, and, most importantly, giving students time and opportunity to frequently reflect on the progress of their own learning in the class.  (You can read more about how this concept is used in Biology classes in this journal article.)

Patrick Cunningham, an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, developed a set of six online modules that can be used as a supplement to undergraduate STEM courses.  The modules use videos, self-assessments and in-class activities that help students understand metacognition and how they can use self-reflection to improve their study habits and learning.  The modules are designed to make it easy for undergraduate STEM faculty to use them as a course component that takes the students about thirty minutes to complete outside class and around ten minutes for in-class activities.  A sample module is available online.

Lillian Nave, UDL (Universal Design for Learning) Coordinator at Appalachian State University presented on UDL and metacognition.  She discussed how students can continue learning after a test or assignment is due, through self-reflection.  As an example, she has students bring a printed copy of writing assignments to class when they are due.  The students then spend class time with the assignment rubric, reviewing their peers’ papers.  At the end of the class, the students examine feedback from their peers and briefly write how they would change their paper based on this feedback.  The grade for the assignment is based both on her assessment of the papers using the rubric and on the reflection turned in with the paper.

Nave assists faculty and students with UDL concepts at Appalachian State, Western Carolina, and Fayetteville State.  She and her colleagues have assembled several faculty development modules and case studies on Universal Design for Learning at

Metacognition was only one theme at the conference – presenters also demonstrated teaching tools and activities and presented information useful for course and program development.

Carrol Warren, Michelle Bartlett and Peter Hessling, faculty from North Carolina State University’s College of Education, demonstrated a new web-based tool, Dotstorming, which they have used for decision-making in faculty meetings and in class activities.  The software, which is available in a “free” limited-use version on the web, allows faculty to do something similar to a Gallery Walk in an online format, where students submit and then vote on ideas or possible answers to a question.

In a session on “Play in Courses and Feedback,” Dennis Chen, a professor of Business Management at Belmont College, presented an interesting active learning exercise he does with students where they rank ideas on cards.  It works like this:

  • Give students a question prompt that’s open ended or doesn’t have an easy answer.
  • Give each student a card.  Have them write their response to the prompt on the card.
  • Have students trade the cards with another person in the room.  (You might have them do this a couple of times so the cards are thoroughly shuffled.)
  • Have the students talk to their neighbor about their answers on the card they have. 
  • Give them a certain number of votes they have to distribute between the responses on the two cards, assigning more points to the best answer.  The students write the agreed upon score on the back of the card.
  • Have the students trade cards again and repeat the ranking exercise with their neighbor on the new cards.  Repeat trading cards and ranking again so there are at least three scores on the back of each card.
  • On the third and last iteration, have the students total up the numbers on the back of their cards.  Look for the cards that got the highest number of votes and use those to start a discussion.

Lori Moog, Director of Service Learning and Community Outreach at Raritan Valley Community College, presented on a three year grant-funded assessment project that looked at service learning courses at different community colleges.  She is making several sample assessments and rubrics for grading in these courses available to others for use in assessing their own service learning courses and encouraged anyone interested to contact her at Raritan Valley’s Service Learning Program for more information.

At the Lilly Conference, I always hear many faculty talk about how much they take away from the experience and enjoy the opportunity to talk about teaching and learning with colleagues from different disciplines – conversations that often don’t happen at disciplinary conferences or in their own department or campus.

I hope I’ll see you at a future Lilly Conference.  If you would like to know when the call for proposals and registration is open for the next event, or if you would like to talk more about some of the topics I saw there, just contact me.