Vol. 1, Issue 2, April 29, 2020

Alternative Assessment Strategies 
Crystal Wong teaches remotely from her home work station. 
Crystal Wong, CEETL Faculty Fellow on Reflective Practice and Lecturer Faculty in the Department of English, shares her insights on Alternative Assessments.

Despite this historically challenging time, our faculty have managed to transition from face-to-face to remote instruction (with some learning iLearn and Zoom for the first time) and made best efforts to meet our students’ needs while taking care of ourselves and loved ones. 

Now that we inch towards the end of the semester, we face a new challenge.  How do we assess our students? Say “alternative assessment” and one might think portfolios, letters to an editor, proposals, oral/digital presentations, blogs, journal entries, creative projects, and self-evaluations.  Drawn from the field of composition and teacher education, I think of these like a photo album, not a single snapshot of a moment in time, like a final exam, but a collection helping us experience a fuller presentation of students' learning, experience, and development.  

Helen Chen, professor of Engineering at Stanford and a pioneer in the development of ePortfolios, coined the term “folio thinking,” a pedagogic process that asks students to synthesize their knowledge and reflect on their personal and professional development.  The use of ePorftolios is recognized as a high impact practice, allowing students to showcase their best works, and give a sense of authorship to demonstrate their learning, with a focus on growth instead of “getting it right" like in traditional “single snapshot” assessments. It’s not about what grades students earn––but what they learn. 

At CEETL we are committed to student learning, inclusive pedagogy, and building communities of support. We know teaching is hard work, which is why we offer time to discuss, debate, and reflect among faculty colleagues, and provide support in crafting different types of assessments. Feel free to reach out. We are here to help with thinking, planning, and implementing.

CEETL Events & Opportunities

An online course about online teaching! 

Sign up now for the May Cohort of the QLT Online Teaching Lab. The CEETL Quality Learning and Teaching (QLT) Online Teaching Lab (OTL) is a fully (asynchronous) online course that prepares instructors to teach online. Comprised of four main sections, along with several Special Topics, instructors create their own personalized learning paths by choosing from a total of 30 hours-worth of learning activities. To receive a completion badge and stipend, instructors are expected to complete 50% of the OTL activities, which will require on average 5 hours per week for a total of 15 hours, and submit a teaching ePortfolio, which includes a reflective introduction and artifacts from their own online course that they will have either developed or revised as a result of their engagement in the OTL. 

The OTL is self-paced; however, the CEETL team offers facilitated cohorts throughout the year.  By focusing on humanizing online experiences, student-centered design, universal design for learning, and academic integrity through various assessment strategies, the QLT Online Teaching Lab promotes resilient course design.  It also incorporates technology how-to resources to facilitate rapid transition to remote instruction.  
By engaging with the OTL, faculty consider the following evidence-based practices and reflect on how to apply them to their own teaching:
  • Humanizing online classes to increase student motivation, satisfaction and success
  • Designing courses as collaborative learning environments instead of content repositories
  • Engaging students’ intrinsic motivation by providing multiple ways to learn
  • Designing assessments to promote academic integrity and authentic engagement
  • Promoting inclusion and belonging through universal design for learning and strategies
  • Prompting student reflection which correlates with student learning outcomes 
Click here to join the Learning Community!  You will be added to the course and receive a confirmation message within 2 business days. 

Co-Sponsored Workshops

"Working together in support of student success."

Join CEETL and our campus partners for these upcoming co-sponsored workshops on service learning. 

Co-sponsored Events: 

Institute of Civic & Community Engagement + CEETL
Developing a Remote Learning Course (With Experiential and/or Service Learning in Mind). Part 1 of 3: Thursday, April 30, 2020 - 3-4:00 p.m.
Institute of Civic & Community Engagement + CEETL
Enhancing Remote Learning thru Virtual or Place-/Project-Based Service Learning Experiences Part 2 of 3: Monday, May 4, 2020 3-4:00 p.m
Institute of Civic & Community Engagement + CEETL
Incorporating Critical Reflection into Online Service Learning Courses. Part 3 of 3: Thursday, May 7, 2020 3-4:00 p.m.

Social Distancing Diversion

"Design your own CEETL Beetle!"

Practice mindfulness and activate both parts of the cerebral hemisphere while coloring your own CEETL Beetle. Coloring activities have been shown to help adults de-stress, activate both parts of the cerebral hemisphere, reduce anxiety, practice mindfulness, spark creativity, connect with their inner child, and transport themselves to a time and place far away. Download the coloring page here and take a moment to design your own CEETL Beetle. Then snap a picture and send it to We will feature your CEETL beetle in an upcoming issue of CEETL Circles. Invite your friends and family to participate, too!

Our Partners in Teaching
"Sustaining learning communities in remote modalities."

Savi Malik, Director of Curriculum & Faculty Development, Metro College Success Program

How are Metro faculty supporting student communities? The Metro Academies College Success Program (Metro) uses targeted outreach to support first-generation, low-income and/or historically underrepresented students in their success at SF State. Each broadly career-themed Metro Academy has a foundation of social justice paired with personalized in-class academic support, advising and tutoring. Students learn together in a cohorted learning community in their first two years at SF State to write and speak with confidence and power, master mathematical concepts, and think critically about real-world issues.

Metro guides itself by values of love, community and justice. This difficult time requires that we come together, now more than ever, to support one another and continue to build a community in which we can all thrive. Metro’s faculty are assuring student academic progress while supporting students emotionally through these difficult times. Faculty communicate as a group weekly about how they and their students are doing in our classes and our lives. We hold classes via Zoom whenever possible to give students the opportunity to see their classmates and learn directly from their faculty. Curriculum work sessions for faculty teaching the same course allow us to consider ways to modify assignments, content and instruction to remote modalities.

The larger social context that encircles this pandemic has starkly exposed our culture’s fault lines and the inequities and preventable suffering they create for our citizens. We are anchored in a commitment to exposing through education and modeling in our culture the shift towards greater civility and justice that must happen. Our young people are critical to this vision. Teaching with presence, optimism, resilience and strength as faculty is more important now than ever. Metro’s faculty learning community will continue to reach out and check in to support each other and our students as we weather this incredible storm together.

"Service learning without immersion in our communities."

Nina Roberts, Faculty Director of Community Engaged Scholarship & Learning (ICCE) & Professor, Parks, Recreation, Tourism & Holistic Health

How are instructors with service-learning courses handling the shift to remote modes of teaching? Many service-learning instructors are suspending their community service-learning (CSL) component or finding remote options. For example, some instructors are having students complete some type of Internet-based research for a partner organization. Because many activities take place in direct contact with our communities of interest, ICCE recommends providing as much flexibility and accommodation as possible to support students. Please check for updates on the ICCE Covid-19 information page for students and faculty. Feel free to contact the ICCE office professional staff for advice as needed for your specific course.
Additionally, here's a few resources that might support your remote service-learning class:

Service-Learning in the online landscape
How can I create an online service-learning project?
Engaging online students with their communities

This is a scary, turbulent time for everyone. Embrace that this experience can have a positive impact on us in many ways; seek ways to calm your mind and relieve mounting stress. The impermanence and struggle we currently face enables us to accept life's challenges will always come and go like the wind. Find reasons to give you hope and remind yourself the dawn always comes after the darkness. With empty streets the air is clear; nature is thriving. Remind yourself creative energy and community can still flourish amid a crisis. The sun will rise, and we will endure.

"Actual things people have done to simplify their [remote] classes."

From the members of the Committee on Written English Proficiency (CWEP)

CWEP shares suggestions that give students and instructors time to balance everything a bit easier during remote instruction without compromising the learning outcomes.  

Anonymous: I asked the tutor embedded in my class to help me learn Zoom, and to act as the co-host and chat monitor during class.

Chris Koenig: Focusing on communication, I use one e-mail and one platform to communicate with students. Ideally, everyone should contact students through iLearn Quickmail (which also keeps a neat record of all messages sent), and keep e-mails clear (no more than 4-5 points and less than 1 page).

Grace Yoo: In my First -Year Experience course I eliminated the final research paper (worth 20% of their grade!) and replaced it with iLearn forum posts, and re-focused on scaffolded writings about how students are coping and managing under COVID-19.

Jolie Goorjian: At the beginning of synchronous class I do a quick check in with students with a question to answer in chat or on a poll, which builds care and community. I also hold one short synchronous class and one asynchronous class a week to give students (and me) time to balance everything a bit easier. 

Juliana van Olphen: I have reduced the word count for written assignments, and simplified the expectations for the formal writing assignments (without compromising the learning outcomes).

Karen Wiederholt: For my two-hour seminar, I start 5 minutes late, set a timer for a break, and end 10 minutes early to do follow-up (or walk around the block).

Paul Morris: I have made use of graphic organizers for group projects, replaced student teaching demos with lesson plan designs submitted by pairs and then workshopped by the class, and tried to remember to include a break!

Theresa Roeder: I eliminated the two remaining exams in my class (40% of the course grade) and am substituting a pandemic-focused group case study.

Vanessa Powers: I’ve committed to only emailing my students 1x/week - and have stuck with it!

Wei Ming Dariotis: As CEETL Faculty Director, I am not teaching at the moment, but I’ve been talking with a lot of instructors who suggest the following: teach your students remote learning protocols as well as technologies and reduce/simplify the number of assignments or quizzes where possible. 

Health & Wellness 
"Quarantine Nutrition"

Zubaida QamarRegistered Dietitian & Assistant Professor of Nutrition & Dietetics, Department of Family, Interiors, Nutrition & Apparel
An apple a day keeps the doctor away...but wash that apple (and your hands) properly before eating. As we cope with the new reality of restrictive lifestyles, it is imperative to sustain health and nutrition while following regional public health guidelines. Good nutrition can go a long way in allowing you to function optimally and maintaining your immune system. The importance of consuming fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain products, lean proteins and adequate intake of water is evident as grocery sales increase and cooking at home becomes widespread. As you prepare for grocery shopping, create a running grocery list and add items to it so you are able to buy all you need in a single, short trip. Certain food products store well, such as canned items, dried beans/lentils, and frozen produce. With canned items, opt for low-sugar, low-salt varieties. Frozen produce is almost as nutritious as fresh produce and lasts longer. Lastly, washing hands is crucial as soon as you get home and also after storing grocery items.

Food safety should also be kept in mind. Practice the principle of “first in, first out” which translates to using older food products first and preventing food waste. Being knowledgeable about food labels and implementing temperature guidelines are beneficial for optimal cooking, storage, utilization and eventually nutrition. Have fun experimenting with ingredients you have in stock and trying new recipes at home. Apart from nutrition, other aspects of wellness should be considered such as continuing physical activity at home or outdoors, and managing stress. When we come out of this pandemic, we will have taken the steps that we can to keep ourselves and our communities healthy and safe.

Tiny Stories of Love and Loss on [Remote] Teaching
Photo of Doreen with camera
"That small moment reminded me of the teacher that I am."

Doreen Deicke, Lecturer Faculty, Department of English, CEETL Faculty Fellow, Written Composition PIE, CEETL Teaching & Learning Community Lead
What's your secret power? I was having trouble feeling natural on Zoom. I felt too teacher-y and not my usual more relaxed self. Starting the class with an ice-breaker felt too forced and somewhat of a waste of time since I know students have so much going on. But during my last class, while we were waiting for people to arrive, we started talking about the grey weather and how it was affecting our mood. I mentioned that I always wanted my secret power to be the ability to control the weather on vacation (controlling it all the time seems too greedy). Then students started piping in with what they wanted their secret power to be--the ability to know every language fluently, the ability to fly. The conversation became a natural ice breaker and we even organically referred back to it at the end of class. That small moment reminded me of the teacher I am.
"I actually fell in love with the polling feature in Zoom."

Zubaida Qamar, Assistant Professor, Family, Interiors, Nutrition & Apparel
Polling for the win. When the decision came to move instruction online and "shelter-in-place" by the university, I was ready given my extensive online teaching experience and training. I dug into my tool box and started working on modifying my courses to online instruction. In my experimentation, I actually fell in love with the polling feature in Zoom while doing synchronous lectures! As a researcher, looking at data is fascinating and this polling tool has allowed me to get real-time, instant data from the students about a certain topic or question. It has also increased student engagement, creating a win-win scenario!

PIE Bites
Introducing our new PIE Bites illustration by Wei Ming Dariotis.
Photo of Teggin in her home office
"Tip #9: Emphasize learning over testing."

Teggin Summers, Director of Teaching & Learning Programs & Services, CEETL
Top ten tips for adjusting to a new model of teaching and interacting with students. SF State faculty, staff, and students have done a tremendous job of rapidly transitioning to remote instruction.  As we approach the end of the semester and look beyond to summer and fall, CEETL has aggregated some tips for adjusting to a new model of teaching and interacting with students.  These tips were informed by a number of resources, including the Virginia Tech “TLOS Top 10: Instructional Continuity Special Edition,” the CSU Teaching Remotely During Disruption infographic and the SF State instructional continuity website.
  1. Lead with Empathy and Generosity
We are currently experiencing an unprecedented global health and economic crisis.  This experience adds trauma to existing life circumstances of faculty, staff, and students, making for an even more challenging teaching and learning experience.  It’s important to be kind to yourself and patient to those around you, especially students and support providers.  Be sensitive to your students’ emotional needs and your own at this time.  The instructional continuity website’s page on Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Resilience is a valuable resource for promoting equity and inclusion during times of remote instruction.
  1. Set Realistic Expectations
Given that students are dispersed across new learning environments, it will take more time and energy to complete coursework.  These circumstances call for empathy and generosity by adjusting expectations around assignments and class activities.  As discussed in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Brandon Bayne, an associate professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, suggests Five Guiding Principles, which he applied to update his syllabus.  He notes, “We cannot just do the same thing online.  Some assignments are no longer possible; Some expectations are no longer reasonable; Some objectives are no longer valuable.”  You may choose to reduce the number of assignments, simplify assignments, adjust quizzes and tests to be open note and open book, and extend deadlines.  Additionally, it’s important to be transparent with your assignments: make the purpose and task for each activity clear; specify steps and criteria for evaluation; and estimate time to complete.
  1. Make Learning Accessible to All Students
As we keep teaching through remote instruction, many faculty are wondering how to ensure that ALL students keep learning.  CEETL regularly promotes universal design for learning, which involves providing course content across a variety of modalities and offering multimodal student engagement and assessment activities.  We encourage faculty to ensure that all files, images, videos, and other posted content are accessible (i.e., visual content can be clearly translated by a screen-reader and audio content has visual captions).  In additional to accessibility, it’s also important to verify that content is mobile-friendly and consider that students will have varying levels of access to computers and stable internet service.  Finally, flexibility in terms of policies, course assignments, and assessments is key to making learning easier for students, particularly in times of crisis and uncertainty.  View this site on maintaining equity and inclusion in virtual learning environments, by San Diego State University, for additional strategies.
  1. Adopt an Asynchronous-First Approach
For the remainder of the semester, students may be in different time zones; they may have limited internet access, bandwidth, and technology at home; they may be caring for family members; or they may be dealing with any number of other complications in their lives.  Pre-recording lectures (using something like the university’s CourseStream platform) and planning activities that can be completed offline and at their own pace will give students the best chance to succeed.  Faculty choosing to meet during original course times should consider using Zoom to record each class session.  These recordings will help students who encounter technical difficulties, aren’t able to attend the session, or who need extra review of the course material.
  1. Communicate Consistently and Often
All instructions and assignments should be conveyed through iLearn. Communicate regularly using the same platform, and check-in with those who don’t respond.  For instructors uncomfortable or unable to use iLearn, campus email can be used as a method for communicating with students and sharing instructions or assignments.  Be sure to download class rosters from Faculty Center, including students' email to ensure durable access to student email addresses.  Campus email uses Microsoft Exchange. For best results, use the Microsoft Outlook email program or the Outlook Web App.  Additionally, iLearn Quickmail is an easy way to email your whole class.
  1. Look for Low-Tech Alternatives
When transitioning assignments and activities to remote modalities, it is worth asking “What is the lowest-tech way to accomplish the learning objectives of this activity?”  High-bandwidth platforms, like those associated with video and Zoom, may be necessary for some activities but, in many cases, using options like iLearn Forums or collaborative documents will reduce complexity and increase interactions among students.
  1. Make Small Adjustments to Improve the Online Experience
If you have already considered ways to take an asynchronous-first approach and have also worked to choose low-tech options when possible, another idea to consider is making small adjustments to improve video-based instruction.  This involves selecting video spaces that have good light and minimal noise and visual distractions.  If using Zoom, you may opt to select a virtual background.  It’s always a good idea to avoid backlit spaces.  For example, if possible, sit facing a window instead of having a window behind you when making a recording of yourself or participating in a synchronous Zoom session.  You can also use a microphone, headset, or earbuds to improve audio quality.  If you find that you consistently experience internet connection problems during asynchronous Zoom sessions, you may benefit from turning off your video and having students turn of their videos as well.
  1. Share Tips and Reminders with Students
Many students have little or no experience with online courses and may also be facing challenges with internet and technology access, different time zones, caring for family members, and a host of other difficulties.  Consider proactively sharing tips and resources with your students, such as those listed below:
Division of Student Life FAQ for students during remote instruction, SF State
HOPE Crisis Fund, Division of Student Life, SF State
Tutoring and Academic Support Center, SF State
For students: How to finish strong during remote instruction, SF State News
Internet Access Resources, SF State instructional continuity website
Technology tips for managing with lower-speed connections, Virginia Tech
Student Guide, SF State instructional continuity website
  1. Emphasize Learning Over Testing
Necessity is the mother of invention. When possible, replace high-stakes exams with projects that promote creativity and collaboration. You and your students might create new ways to integrate and demonstrate learning.  Visit these websites for ideas and strategies for alternative final exams: 
Remote Exams and Assessments Rutgers University
Alternatives To Traditional Testing: Center for Teaching and Learning, UC Berkeley
Alternatives To Traditional Exams and Papers: Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning, Indiana University
Moving Your Final Exams Online: Office of Teaching and Learning, University of Denver
Online Alternatives to In-Person Proctored Exams: Office of Distance Learning, University of Florida
Final Exam Options: Keep Teaching, UC Davis
A Different Kind of Final: Faculty Focus
The Final Exam Experience: Center for Teaching and Learning, Brigham Young University 
Alternatives to Exams and Finals The Ohio State University
Assessments for Virtual Instruction Cal State San Luis Obispo
What Do Final Exams Mean During a Pandemic? Chronicle of Higher Education
  1. Connect with CEETL, Academic Technology, and Campus Units for More Help
Throughout the COVID-19 situation, CEETL, Academic Technology, and host of units on campus are available to answer questions and support remote instruction.  Here are some ways to continue developing your courses through remote modalities. 
Thank you for all of the work that you have done and are continuing to do to keep teaching and keep learning in support of student success.
Register to participate in a facilitated cohort of the CEETL Online Teaching Lab (OTL).  The OTL is a fully (asynchronous) online course that prepares instructors to teach online.  On May 1 we are launching a 3-week facilitated cohort and participants who complete the OTL will receive a stipend.
Visit the CEETL Keep Teaching Webinars and Resources page to view slides and recordings of webinars on the fundamentals of remote instruction.
Check the CEETL Calendar often for upcoming programming related to remote instruction.
Contact Academic Technology for desktop and teaching technologies support.
View Campus Updates for continuing campus information.
Visit the Instructional Continuity website for ongoing information and support of remote instruction.
Visit the CEETL Hub webpage to identify additional professional development and services in support of teaching and learning at SF State.

Cal State University Shared Resources
CSU Logo

Resources from our faculty development colleagues across the
Cal State System.
The CSU sponsors a variety of webinars that support support equity, inclusion and diversity in online and face to face environments, which are recorded and archived for future reference.

These recent webcasts have been recorded and archived in the CSU professional development calendar archive.

Coping and Caring: Being a Virtual Mental Health Ally in the COVID-19 Era
Friday, April 24, 2020
10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

As colleges and universities have rapidly shifted to remote instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty may seek strategies to address a wider range of student needs than ever before. Rates of depression and anxiety among college students have been increasing in recent decades, and disruptions like the current pandemic tend to magnify needs related mental health and well-being.
In this webinar, Dr. Bonnie Gasior, Professor of Spanish at CSU Long Beach, and Dr. Darci Strother, Professor of Modern Language Studies, will present basic tools and strategies to help identify students in mental health distress and connect them with resources. Drawing upon their experience with Mental Health First Aid, a groundbreaking public education program that helps people identify, understand, and respond to individuals showing signs of a mental illness or substance use disorder, Dr. Gasior and Dr. Strother will prepare participants to become virtual mental health allies and provide a forum for sharing ideas and resources.

Addressing Racial Bias and Microaggressions 
in Online Environments

Webinar Facilitators
Photos of Facilitators
April 28, 2020 at 10:00am-11:15am (Pacific Time).
The transition to online instruction and student services in response to COVID-19 presents a substantial challenge for most postsecondary institutions. Among the most pervasive challenges are issues with racial bias and racial microaggressions that serve to impede the student experience. In an environment typified by time constraints, stress, and the unknown – racial strife is at an all-time high.  This webinar will focus on strategies that educators can use to address issues of bias and microaggressions in order to meet the needs of historically underrepresented and underserved students in the online environment. The conversation will be facilitated by Drs. Frank Harris III and J. Luke Wood.

For more information about the webcasts, please contact Dr. Emily Magruder, Director, CSU Institute for Teaching and Learning, at (562) 951-4752 or

Closing the Loop
"Thinking about how we assess students and how it can motivate (or impede) learning, led me to think about how we assess faculty teaching."

Wei Ming Dariotis, Faculty Director, Center for Equity & Excellence in Teaching & Learning & Professor, Asian American Studies

Alternative Assessments and Their Rubrics.

A few years ago, I participated in a campus-wide capstone course norming session. We started by using the Written Communication VALUE Rubric, sponsored by the American Association of Colleges and Universities and developed by teams of faculty from member institutions. I had a visceral response against this rubric and had to ask myself, why? 

Though this particular AAC&U rubric is thoughtfully constructed and useful as an instrument for institutions to measure their programs against a national standard, which is the intended use, the rubric itself is not intended for grading student work, though it closely resembles those that are so used. The problem, I found, is that such rubrics, no matter how well-considered, rely heavily on the instructor to subjectively evaluate what they consider to be “thorough,” “appropriate,” “relevant,” or “skillful.” These are abstract terms for which an individual instructor may not even have the same definition moment to moment, and which are definitely challenging for a student to find meaningful or instructive. 

Thinking about the pedagogical usefulness of rubrics, as well as the oppression that manifests itself within assessment practices, led me to Asao Inoue's AntiRacist Writing Assessment Ecologies: Teaching and Assessing Writing for a Socially Just Future.

Although SETEs are not something we need to concern ourselves with at this time, given the recent Academic Senate resolution for a temporary suspension of some of the requirements for SETEs during the COVID-19 crisis, I started to think about how we assess faculty teaching. As a CEETL Fellow, my ongoing Legacy Project is an examination and hopefully transformation of Teaching Effectiveness Assessment (TEA), which I started by looking at Student Evaluations of Teaching Effectiveness (SETEs). The response to this initiative across campus has been intense, showing that there is a sincere desire to develop the Teaching Effectiveness Assessment process at SFSU.

CEETL has worked with the Academic Senate to develop a task force on TEA, which will build upon the model used at the University of Oregon

A meaningful and instructive assessment structure, when paired with appropriate development and support, can be both transformational and socially just. 

If there is something you’d like to see in future issues, let me know at

Yours in PIE,

Wei Ming Dariotis, Faculty Director 
Center for Equity and Excellence in Teaching and Learning 

CEETL Circles invites submissions from members of our SF State Teaching and Learning Communities. Send your suggestions

CEETL CIRCLES is a newsletter launched by the Center for Equity & Excellence in Teaching & Learning (CEETL) to help foster and support Pedagogies for Inclusive Excellence (we call these PIE) at SF State and beyond. 

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