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Teaching Tips

Teaching Tips from the TLC is the Teaching and Learning Center's blog. Regular posts include brief, practical, research-based strategies for improving students’ learning, as well as tips for managing workload and stress. Drexel faculty and staff can read Teaching Tips from the TLC [requires Sharepoint Login] on Drexel University's SharePoint site. Check back often —new tips are added every few weeks!


Our previous ChatGPT Teaching Tip offered a broad overview of the pedagogical potential (and pitfalls) of chatbot technology. In this tip (and forthcoming workshop series ), we will take a closer look at some of the most interesting examples of teac…

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Our previous ChatGPT Teaching Tip offered a broad overview of the pedagogical potential (and pitfalls) of chatbot technology. In this tip (and forthcoming workshop series), we will take a closer look at some of the most interesting examples of teaching with (or about) the bot shared by educators across America: 

Prompt engineering 
One of the best pedagogical uses for GPT technology is “prompt engineering”: helping students understand what makes for strong ChatGPT outputs by asking them to create and refine prompts. These are skills many students will need in their professional lives as AI-enhanced work systems become more pervasive. In academic contexts, prompt engineering affords an opportunity for in-depth analysis, pushing learners to consider what exactly makes for a successful essay, code sequence, lab report, short story, legal briefing, and so on. As students coach the bot to improve its outputs—as well as rectify its biases and correct its errors—they exercise precisely the analytical, research, and communication skills we hope to foster in higher education.  

Example: Ethan and Lilach Mollick share a series of sample assignments involving ChatGPT output analysis and prompt design. In one of them, students ask the bot to add, delete, or refine steps in an explanatory sequence in order to challenge the illusion of explanatory depth. Also from Mollick, a checklist for crafting effective ChatGPT prompts. 

Fun with forgery
A fun sub-category of prompt engineering is getting the bot to produce simulacra of documents (historical, legal, professional, scientific) that could pass for the real thing. We already know the bot can fake plausible scientific abstracts. Students can try their hand at “forging” texts relevant to their disciplines—a legal brief, an 18th century pamphlet, a section of an instruction manual—and then testing their creations on novices as well as experts to refine their understanding of disciplinary norms and genres.  

One of the most neglected aspects of learning in higher education is metacognition. Our desire to convey the what of our disciplines can sometimes get in the way of pausing to consider the how and the why. The AI upheaval affords an opportunity to rethink, together with our students, what skills and knowledges we value and for what reasons. Does assembling and curating pre-written segments of text still count as “writing”? To what degree is relying on the work of others an unspoken part of the creative process—and where is attribution still essential? How might the crowdsourcing power of ChatGPT upend our notions of subjectivity and originality? Can AI serve as an equalizer, aiding learners in areas of weakness (provided they know what those are) so their strengths can shine? These questions are inherently interesting to our students, whose futures will unfold in an AI-saturated world. Inviting students to conversations and shared norm-making gives us an opportunity to learn from each other and to start navigating this brave new world together.  

Example: Paul Fyfe designed a reflective, human-bot hybrid assignment (“Professor Fyfe’s Turing Test”) in which students explore questions of authorship, agency, and academic ethics by co-writing a paper with ChatGPT. (See here for professor Fyfe’s explanation of his assignment in video form). 

Considering the context 
It’s important to note that many of the above activities require students to create their own accounts with OpenAI. Is this a good idea? ChatGPT presents numerous ethical challenges—from privacy and equity issues to labor and environmental concerns—that may make many professors (and students) hesitant to jump on the chatbot bandwagon. Instead of working with the bot directly, we can invite students to consider the ethical, socioeconomic, and disciplinary implications of ChatGPT ‘s emergence by looking at the bot’s key texts (like privacy terms) and contexts. Autumn Caines offers an excellent list of activities designed to help students think through the role of ChatGPT (and AI more broadly) in the contemporary world, from socially annotating the bot’s terms of service (TOS) to conducting a techno-ethical audit. These activities allow students to gain a more informed view of AI’s implications for their academic disciplines and professional futures without sharing personal data. 

For a more in-depth look at these and other pedagogical applications of ChatGPT, sign up for our workshop series! 


We all recognize that the cost of textbooks has risen dramatically over the last 40 years, increasing at four times the rate of inflation since 2000 . While these rising costs impact all students, researchers have noted that historically underserved…

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We all recognize that the cost of textbooks has risen dramatically over the last 40 years, increasing at four times the rate of inflation since 2000. While these rising costs impact all students, researchers have noted that historically underserved student populations are the most impacted. Open educational resources (OER), such as textbooks and other learning materials freely available through an open license, help to reduce the financial burden on students, narrow performance gaps, lower failure rates, and level the academic playing field—while still supporting attainment of learning outcomes.

The use of OER has well-documented benefits for students. Overall, OER adoption results in improved end-of-course grades, particularly among historically underserved, part-time, and Pell recipient students. Open educational resources can help increase affordability and completion, as well as decrease attainment gaps and DFW (D, F, and Withdrawal grade) rates for all students. Multiple studies show positive student and faculty attitudes regarding the utility, quality, and relevance of OER. Faculty who adapt open-source resources for their courses report that they’re not just saving students money, but also improving their courses along the way.  

Contrary to common misconceptions, many open educational resources have gone through rigorous peer review. High-quality, peer-reviewed open resources can be found on sites like OpenStax, BCCampus or Merlot. As higher education institutions struggle to contain rising costs, and to recruit and retain students amidst demographic shifts, OER can be an asset not only for individual courses but also entire programs of study.  For example, in a recent press release, OpenStax announced a collaborative project that will provide a comprehensive free online curriculum consisting of 8 peer-reviewed textbooks for nursing education in spring 2024.  This ambitious OER Nursing Essentials (O.N.E.) project has the potential to transform nursing education and beyond. 

Is OER Right for You? 
How many times have you had to ‘shoehorn’ a textbook into your course, skipping chapters, adjusting assignments, or supplementing content to better align course materials with your learning objectives? Open educational resources are released under an open license that protects the intellectual property rights of the author while giving others permission to use and adapt as they see fit, so they offer you a head start in customizing your course. Many open resources feature modular formats, making it easier to combine content, modify assignments, and keep up with emerging trends. Customization is the superpower of OER! 

How Can You Get Started With OER? 
First, you can check out our very own Drexel University Library’s Open Education Resources Library Guide. This guide offers helpful tutorials, FAQs, evaluation criteria, and much more.  Our dedicated librarians are available for consultations and support.  

There is a wealth of open educational resources available to you and your learners. It can be quite overwhelming. You can check out Stenger’s 10 Open Educational Resources You Should Know About which provides a brief description of each resource. You may also want to check out the numerous events occurring March 6-10 in celebration of International Open Education Week. Now in its 11th year, Open Education Week is a global event with a singular purpose: raising awareness of open education by showcasing innovations in open resources and practices. This global event offers a wide variety of live and asynchronous events, presentations, resources, and opportunities to connect with colleagues from around the world. These connections can also help you get started. Finally, in our own backyard, the Teaching and Learning Center will be hosting two OER workshops in the Spring Quarter where you can hear from colleagues here at Drexel who have adopted OER in their courses.


Since its meteoric arrival in November 2022, ChatGPT has been shaking up the world of higher education. Is this the end of the college essay as we know it? Will we need to redefine academic integrity and intellectual property? Are we getting a glimp…

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Since its meteoric arrival in November 2022, ChatGPT has been shaking up the world of higher education. Is this the end of the college essay as we know it? Will we need to redefine academic integrity and intellectual property? Are we getting a glimpse into the post-human future of learning? And, most urgently, what can we do in our classrooms today in response to the AI revolution? 

First things first: what is ChatGPT and what can it do?  
Open AI’s ChatGPT is a large language model (LLM)—a deep learning algorithm that can parse and generate natural language, as well as computer code. The unwieldy acronym stands for Generative Pre-Trained Transformer: each of the chatbot’s outputs is generated in real time and is therefore unique; the outputs are generated by drawing on massive pre-existing training datasets; the bot is based on “transformer” architecture, meaning that it can process inputs all at once (rather than word-by-word) by attending to structure and context.  

Open AI’s chatbot has successfully passed not only the Turing Test, but also a final exam in Wharton’s MBA program, the Evidence and Torts portions of the bar exam, and the US Medical Licensing Exam. It can fool experts by generating believable scientific abstracts. Most disturbingly—to many of us—ChatGPT can churn out decent simulacra of student academic writing in a matter of seconds. Here’s a sample response from ChatGPT regarding chatbot prompt writing-skills:

Should I start panicking now?
If you’re wondering what this means for your teaching and your students’ learning, you’re not alone. The educational field is buzzing with new (and a few old) ideas on how to (1) avoid, (2) outwit, and, most excitingly, (3) collaborate with ChatGPT. Here are some insights from this ongoing conversation:   

Option 1: Avoid 
One response to the AI revolution is to dust off low-tech educational tools like hand-written essays and oral exams. These screen-free options might offer a welcome break from pandemic-era digital fatigue—provided we don’t neglect questions of accessibility. But turning back the clock is not a permanent solution. Our students will need to navigate AI-saturated professional settings, and we need to prepare them for that future. Still, hitting the pause button can be a viable temporary answer for educators who need more time to figure out the next step. 

Option 2: Outwit 
Another approach involves understanding ChatGPT’s limitations and designing assignments that the bot cannot crack (for now). ChatGPT generates outputs by identifying statistical patterns in large amounts of pre-existing text—and is thus bound to replicate the limitations (and biases!) of its source material. For example, it will flounder on prompts involving post-2021 events, highly specialized topics, hyper-local contexts, or individual student experiences (although it will competently churn out fake personal narratives). It doesn’t do well with irony or ambiguity. It will struggle with tasks requiring citations (but won’t shy away from fabricating references). Finally, it cannot process audiovisual data, so it won’t be able to complete visualization, mapping, or audiovisual tasks. In addition to choosing subjects and modalities outside of the chatbot’s current range, educators can “botproof” their assignments by applying trusted principles of student-centered design: scaffolding projects to foreground process; supplementing or replacing high-stakes assignments with distributed low-stakes work; and adding a layer of metacognitive reflection. Truth be told, we should be following these principles anyway—of which ChatGPT's emergence is a valuable reminder. 

Intermission: Invitation to a mind-shift 
As evidenced above, the key question for many educators has been, “How can I prevent students from cheating?” This is a legitimate concern. (If you have the courage, spend some time browsing #chatgpt on TikTok.) But the bot’s greatest gift to professors is that it forces us to take a long hard look at why we assign the work we assign in the first place. ChatGPT does not “think” in the way we want our students to think: it recognizes patterns without understanding or discernment to produce what James Vincent charmingly calls “fluent bullshit”—text that offers the appearance rather than evidence of learning. Sound familiar? As John Warner argues, “we have actually been training students to behave like algorithms engaging in pattern matching, rather than making them think like humans working inside a genuine rhetorical situation”. If Warner is correct, AI’s ability to produce efficient simulacra of academic work forces us to ask ourselves why we’ve been using assignments that invite bullshitting in the first place. And how can we do better? The following section offers ideas on learning activities designed—in the spirit of curiosity and collaboration rather than surveillance and distrust—to help professors explore, together with their students, new possibilities afforded by ChatGPT’s arrival. 

Option 3: Collaborate 
Here are a few strategies for using ChatGPT in a range of academic disciplines: browse and get inspired! We will delve deeper into teaching with ChatGPT in our next Teaching Tip, as well as our upcoming workshop series. (Register for online or in-person sessions.) 

  1. Play with prompts: since ChatGPT generates its outputs in response to prompts, students can learn by designing (and revising) instructions for the bot. Students can compete to see whose prompt yields the best answer; improve the bot’s outputs by refining consecutive prompts; and analyze prompts to better understand what makes a successful response. 

  2. Brainstorm: Chat GPT provides a useful antidote to the terror of the blank page/screen. Students can use it to generate ideas, propose solutions, create outlines, provide counterarguments, and start the ball rolling.

  3. Revise: much like Wikipedia (for all its imperfections) provides a useful first step in researching a new topic, so can ChatGPT generate preliminary material for further refinement. Students can design rubrics to assess ChatGPT’s outputs; revise the bot’s products; compare and discuss their revisions; or, conversely, ask the bot to revise their work.

  4. Compare: ChatGPT generates a new response every time, providing easy grounds for comparative analysis. Students can evaluate outputs generated from the same or different prompts; compare outputs generated for different audiences/in different genres/from different disciplinary perspectives; or anticipate ChatGPT’s answers and compare their guesses with the bot’s outputs. Conversely, they can ask the chatbot to perform comparative analyses of pre-existing texts, including their own.  

  5. Factcheck: ChatGPT can be highly unreliable (although it will do its best to make its answers sound trustworthy). Students can play factcheckers by spotting errors and evaluating the bot’s claims through independent research and lateral reading.

  6. Integrate: Consider adding the bot as a group member to collaborative learning activities like debates, Think-Pair-Share, small group discussions, etc. ChatGPT can also serve as a private tutor, especially for students with learning needs not easily met in group settings.

  7. Cultivate metacognition: Working with the bot can help students identify their academic strengths and shortcomings, as well as gain a more granular understanding of intellectual labor (synthesis vs. analysis, generating vs. curating content, application vs. evaluation, and so on). By discovering what ChatGPT can and cannot do for them, students can hone their metacognition skills—provided we offer a framework and time for metacognitive reflection. 

  8. Get some help: Yes, Chat GPT can help professors with their work, too. It can design syllabi and lesson plans, draft lectures and exam prompts, compose letters and reports, create learning goals and rubrics, and even comment on student work. Do we dare to consider how the bot can automate some of our labor?

  9. Play: ChatGPT can be fun! It will turn your article into song lyrics. It will help you write code for a simple game. Here’s a haiku it composed for this post:  
    Chatbot in the class 
    Assisting student learning
    Future is here now 

Final thoughts
Using ChatGPT is not without dangers. The bot will replicate biases present in its learning datasets; it won’t credit the intellectual labor it depends on to produce its outputs; it will collect data from conversations with users; once behind a paywall, it will amplify inequities between learners. Our students need to understand these realities. They need to know what ChatGPT can do for their education, how it might hinder their progress, and how they can best use (or skip!) AI tools to meet their goals. As educators, we need to keep the conversation open, and keep modelling for our students the commitment to lifelong learning we profess. 

Links worth clicking 

General introductions to ChatGPT and AI: 

Resources for using AI in higher education: 

Register for TLC's ChatGPT two-part workshop: online or in-person


James Lang’s book, Distracted: Why Students Can’t Focus and What You Can Do About It offers useful context around ideas about distraction and tips on how to understand it, educate around it, and manage it. Lang notes “The difference between us and o…

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James Lang’s book, Distracted: Why Students Can’t Focus and What You Can Do About It offers useful context around ideas about distraction and tips on how to understand it, educate around it, and manage it. Lang notes “The difference between us and our nineteenth-century cousins is not that our attention capacities have somehow been permanently diminished, as Carr would have it, but that people and devices that seek out attention have become better at soliciting it from us” (pg. 48). Lang urges us to “cultivate attention” rather than “prevent distraction,” and argues that supporting students to understand the nature of distraction and the ways in which their devices leverage the understanding of distraction can be helpful; below are a few ideas from Lang on how to do this. 

Bringing awareness to the nature of our distractions 
Supporting students to make sense of the learning process helps them learn. Lang maps out the necessity of grasping students’ attention because it “precedes and underpins the kind of cognitive work we expect students to undertake” (pg. 46). Students are not always aware of how distracted they can be in class. One way of combating this is to help them recognize attention as an important part of the learning process – sharing this process with students can help to refocus them on being mindful about where their attention is. 

Attention & Learning 
To learn something, we must first pay attention to it, then process it (think of the Piagetian notion of schema) and then be able to retrieve it. If we are not paying attention, or our attention is divided; we cannot stimulate the learning process as effectively as we like. Most students can relate to this – think about all the times we’ve read a passage and then had to read it again. 

Ask students to participate in an experiment in class – (a) give out a post-it note and a pen; (b) ask students to put their phones in their bag for 15 minutes; (c) go about class as you normally would for 15 minutes; (d) ask students to put a tally on the post-in note every time they habitually think about or motion as if they’d check their phone. Collect the post-its, ask students to estimate the average, and then share the data with your class. Alternately, you could use an online poll to ask students to respond to the prompt: “Are you good at multi-tasking? YES/NO/SOMETIMES.” You can then share with the class the following ideas about learning and multi-tasking. 

Lang explains what neuroscience research tells us about multi-tasking: “When a task or activity becomes familiar to us and requires little thought, we can effectively pair it with unrelated tasks. …If both tasks require your attention, or if they operate in similar regions of the brain — such as attempting to read while someone speaks to you, which both involve language — then the limited capacity of our attention interferes with our apprehension and processing” (pg. 48). One of the reasons I really like this explanation is that it holds true the idea that there are times when multi-tasking works – we can watch tv and fold laundry or unload the dishwasher and listen to the radio. But when it comes to learning new information, it’s challenging to have divided attention.  

With this new information, and data on the level of distraction in your classroom, it’s a good time to ask each student to share their plan for how they will minimize distraction in your class and outside of the classroom as they prepare assignments for class. It’s also a good time to ask what you can do as a professor to keep their attention in class – what kinds of activities and topics are most engaging for your students?  


As we start the new year, you may be looking for new ways to promote students’ sense of belonging and build a positive climate in your classroom. Look no further--value affirmations are simple writing exercises designed to affirm a student's values,…

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As we start the new year, you may be looking for new ways to promote students’ sense of belonging and build a positive climate in your classroom. Look no further--value affirmations are simple writing exercises designed to affirm a student's values, increasing their confidence and sense of self-worth. This strategy can have positive effects on student achievement, especially for minoritized students in STEM disciplines. While researchers have not identified all factors required for statistical results, it is believed that these reflections reduce stress and cortisol levels and may buffer students against the negative emotions caused by stereotype threat.

It’s simple to do. Present your students with a list of values and ask them to write about a few values that are important to them personally. You might ask them questions, such as:  

  • Which of these values do you most naturally use to guide your choices?  

  • What do you appreciate about yourself?  

  • Which of these values matter most to you? Why?  

The whole activity should take no more than 15 minutes.  In addition, you can ask your students to reflect on how their values may have influenced their career choices or have them return to the values throughout the course and reflect on how the course may have affected their value statements. Their responses can also help to inform how you structure future class discussions and assignments. For instance, you might intentionally incorporate references, examples, or debates that link to values they identified.  

Below is one example of this assignment that can be adapted to fit your specific course or context. 

Values Writing Activity 

Read the following list of common values. Choose three that are personally most important. If something comes to mind that is not on the list, write it down.  Write about your top three values for 15 minutes. Explain why this value is most important to you and describe a time in your life when you had the opportunity to really express this value.  

Acceptance Discovery FriendshipIndependencePersonal Growth 
Adventure Efficiency Fun InnovationProblem Solving 
Challenge Enthusiasm Generosity Integrity Reliability 


Gratitude Interdependence Resourcefulness 
CommitmentEquality Happiness Leadership Self-Reliance 
Community Equity Hard Work Love Simplicity/Thrift 
CompassionExcellence Harmony Loyalty Strength 
Courage Fairness Health Meaningful Work Tradition 
Curiosity Faith/Religion Helping Others Mindfulness Trust 
Creativity Family Honesty Openness Willingness 
Discipline Freedom Humor Peace/Non-Violence Wisdom