The Summer Instructional Development Institute

The Summer Instructional Development Institute is an annual event or series of events to reinvigorate one’s teaching practice, to encourage conversation about best practices in the classroom, and to implement research-proven techniques for improving student learning outcomes.

For 2014 we have two events:

Structuring Student Risk to Foster Rigor: A New, Motivating Grading System

Colleges and universities generally require that we submit letter grades to represent student performance, but how we determine those grades is up to us. The grading system we have used for decades earns low marks on many criteria. This Institute session presents an alternative system, specifications (specs) grading, which does better, especially in motivating students to achieve outcomes and produce high-quality work. Better yet, it saves faculty time. The system works effectively because it gives students more choices and control and structures in challenge and risk to ensure greater rigor. A new gestalt on assessment, it combines satisfactory/unsatisfactory grading to uphold high performance standards, a token system to allow flexibility, and “bundles” of assessments associated with outcomes and final letter grades to accommodate institutional requirements.

By the end of the day, participants will have

  • Adapted one of more of their courses to specs grading;
  • Turned assignment directions into specs;
  • Bundled assessments;
  • Developed a token system;
  • Revised their syllabus accordingly.


Linda B. Nilson is founding director of the Office of Teaching Effectiveness and Innovation (OTEI) at Clemson University and author of Teaching at Its Best: A Research-Based Resource for College Instructors, now in its third edition (Jossey-Bass, 2010), and The Graphic Syllabus and the Outcomes Map: Communicating Your Course (Jossey-Bass, 2007).  Her last book, Creating Self-Regulated Learners: Strategies to Strengthen Students’ Self-Awareness and Learning Skills (Stylus, 2013), was released in 2013.  She also co-edited Enhancing Learning with Laptops in the Classroom (Jossey-Bass, 2005) and four volumes of To Improve the Academy: Resources for Faculty, Instructional, and Organizational Development (Anker, 2007, 2008; Jossey-Bass, 2009, 2010), the major publication of the Professional and Organizational Development (POD) Network in Higher Education.

In addition, Dr. Nilson has published many articles and book chapters and has presented conference sessions and faculty workshops at colleges and universities both nationally and internationally on dozens of topics related to course design, teaching effectiveness, assessment, scholarly productivity, and academic career matters.  Her most recent articles document the serious validity problems with student ratings and propose ways to measure learning in courses.


Register for this event!


Our second SIDI event will focus on Large Enrollment Classes and new features in CourseWeb. This event is scheduled for June 24 in ALUM 532. We’ll have more details about this event soon!