The following terms and concepts are useful for Lafayette faculty members to know as they continue to design excellent learning environments for their students.  

active learning – Describes students doing more than merely listening to a lecture; students participate in activities that allow them to be reflective about their learning. Examples of active learning approaches include small group discussion and project-based learning.

concept inventory – An assessment used to monitor the development of students’ conceptual understanding; a variety of concept inventories exist within STEM disciplines.

formative and summative assessment – Formative assessment is low-stakes, ongoing and sometimes described as “assessment for learning.” Summative assessment is high-stakes, occurs at the end of instruction, and is typically performed for accountability reasons (e.g. to give a grade). Clicker questions or classroom discussion can be formative assessments, whereas term papers and exams are examples of summative assessments.  Typically, formative assessment is more impactful in helping students achieve learning goals compared to summative assessment.

growth mindset – Espousing the belief that intelligence is not fixed; based largely on the work of Dr. Carol Dweck. Having a growth mindset has been associated with higher academic achievement for low income and at risk students.

inclusive pedagogy – Instruction that is intentionally designed to create equitable educational experiences for students of diverse demographic backgrounds, attitudes and prior experiences. Becoming aware of and minimizing the impacts of instructor biases, understanding learners, and fostering a sense of belonging are important components of inclusive teaching. As an important note, although the terms diversity and inclusion are often used together, diversity refers to the number of students with particular attributes, and inclusion the intentional behaviors utilized to create equitable and welcoming environments for such learners.  

learner- or student-centered – When the ultimate goal of instruction is student learning, and the classroom environment is designed to achieve this aim.

learning styles – The preferred modes in which an individual understands and processes information (e.g. kinesthetic, auditory, etc.). There is currently a lack of evidence supporting that when instructors teach to students’ preferred mode that more learning occurs. Thus, learning styles are considered a neuromyth.

metacognition – The process by which students “think about their thinking.”  Faculty can integrate metacognitive activities into their courses to advance student learning.

threshold concept –  “[C]an be considered as akin to a portal, opening up a new and previously inaccessible way of thinking about something. It represents a transformed way of understanding, or interpreting, or viewing something without which the learner cannot progress. As a consequence of comprehending a threshold concept there may thus be a transformed internal view of subject matter, subject landscape, or even world view. This transformation may be sudden or it may be protracted over a considerable period of time, with the transition to understanding proving troublesome. Such a transformed view or landscape may represent how people ‘think’ in a particular discipline, or how they perceive, apprehend, or experience particular phenomena within that discipline (or more generally).” (Meyer & Land, 2003, p. 1) Threshold concepts are “transformative (occasioning a significant shift in the perception of a subject), integrative (exposing the previously hidden interrelatedness of something) and likely to be, in varying degrees, irreversible (unlikely to be forgotten, or unlearned only through considerable effort), and frequently troublesome, for a variety of reasons.” (Land et al., 2008, p. x) Becoming aware of disciplinary threshold concepts and designing instruction to promote student learning on such concepts is an effective teaching practice.

scholarly teaching – Instruction that informed by research-supported practices.

scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) – Involves the systematic investigation of teaching efforts and dissemination of outcomes.

signature pedagogy – Described by Schulman (2005, p. 52) as “types of teaching that organize the fundamental ways in which future practitioners are educated for their new professions.”  This term has been applied more broadly to disciplines, highlighting that there is pedagogical content knowledge specific to disciplines. Shulman describes signature pedagogies as having three dimensions: surface structure, deep structure and implicit structure. The surfaces structure involves “concrete, operational acts of teaching and learning, of showing and demonstrating, of questioning and answering, of interacting and withholding, of approaching and withdrawing.” (p. 54-55) A deep structure is “a set of assumptions about how best to impart a certain body of knowledge and know-how (p. 55),” and implicit structure is “a moral dimension that comprises a set of beliefs about professional attitudes, values and dispositions.” (p. 55)


Land R, Meyer JHF, Smith J. (Eds). (2008). Threshold Concepts within the Disciplines. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Meyer J & Land R. (2003). Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge: Linkages to ways of thinking and practicing within the disciplines

Schulman LS. (2005). Signature Pedagogies in the Professions. Daedalus, 134 (3), 52-59.