American Liberal Arts Blog

Teaching the Liberal Arts in the American Context

Gerson Moreno-Riano

Obscenity, Statesmanship, and High School Students
By Gerson Moreno-Riano on July 21, 2009

I confess that after much reading and reflection it is still hard to nail down the essence of a great leader or statesman. Justice Potter Stewart’s comment on obscenity and pornography is easily applicable to statesmanship: “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced . . . [b]ut I know it when I see it.” While it may difficult to pin down the core of statesmanship, one knows it when one sees it.

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The President as Facilitator not Statesman
By Gerson Moreno-Riano on June 04, 2009

We have reached a new era in the history of the American presidency. No longer should Americans expect the President of the United States to be a person of extraordinary leadership – to be, in other words, a statesman in the tradition of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, or Ronald Reagan. Rather, we have been told and have come to accept the notion that one of the President’s chief tasks, if not the primary task, is to be a facilitator – a guide by our side and not a sage on the stage of American and international politics.

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Some Characteristics of Effective Teaching: Seek Commitments
By Gerson Moreno-Riano on May 26, 2009

As any faculty knows, the craft of teaching is even more fulfilling when one has students eager to learn. Perhaps we can all point to a handful of students in our courses that came to class with this intellectual eagerness ready to be engaged and following our every word. Unfortunately, it is too often the case that one hears of the opposite cases – students that just “show up” to class because they are externally obligated given their degree requirements or some other reason. Is it possible to turn these students into the eager ones we all wish filled our classrooms?

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Some Characteristics of Effective Teaching: Forget Content and Think about the Students?
By Gerson Moreno-Riano on May 13, 2009

Forget disciplinary content. Be student centered not content focused. Don’t worry about content and how much you can cover in a class. Rather, think about connecting with your audience and starting with what is important to them not you. It’s about the students not the material of the faculty.

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Some characteristics of effective teaching: Teaching is like an advertising commercial or Get your students’ attention and keep it
By Gerson Moreno-Riano on April 30, 2009

In a previous post, I began to consider some suggestions from Ken Bain, author of the highly recommended “What the Best College Teachers Do” (Harvard, 2004). In Bain’s extensive study, he discovered what he considers to be seven common principles of great college teaching. I discussed Bain’s first discovery- all great teachers create a natural critical learning environment. Bain’s second finding is that great college professors are able to get their students’ attention as well as hold on to that attention throughout the class time. This is easier said than done.

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Some Characteristics of Effective Teaching: A critical learning environment
By Gerson Moreno-Riano on April 20, 2009

Please consider the following question as a prelude of what is to come in this post: Can learners/thinkers be created or are they simply born?

Sometimes faculty are expected to be superheroes. We are to be experts in teaching, service, administration, assessment, research, counseling, mentoring, technology, social networking, development, and the list goes on and on. It is almost as if we are to be able to walk on one hand while perfectly balancing numerous and often mutually irreconcilable responsibilities. The highly celebrated book “What the Best College Teachers Do” (Harvard, 2004) helps one to focus on one of the most important responsibilities of university faculty – teaching (hopefully faculty reading this have not forgotten that teaching, after all, is one of our key responsibilities). The author, Ken Bain, sets out to demonstrate some common characteristics of excellent college faculty and college teaching. The findings of Bain’s study should not be surprising...

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Assessment and Student Learning Outcomes
By Gerson Moreno-Riano on April 16, 2009

According to the Commission on the Future of Higher Education, “College standards are becoming diluted and there is a fuzziness about what faculty teach and what is expected from students.” This has led much of higher education to move to “outcome-based education,” the practice of beginning with “a clear picture of what is important for students to be able to do, then organizing the curriculum, instruction, and assessment to make sure that this learning ultimately happens.” Outcome-based education, then, focuses a lot on SLOs – Student Learning Outcomes. These are defined differently in the literature but the general consensus appears to be that SLOs involve “skills, knowledge, and attitudes that students are expected to acquire in a program and be able to demonstrate upon course and program completion.”

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What is Assessment?
By Gerson Moreno-Riano on March 23, 2009

An attempt to arrive at a meaning of assessment is much like looking for a needle in a haystack. Definitions abound. For example, in the document “Five Dimensions of Good Assessment,” a document produced by Linda Suskie of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, one finds seventeen different operationalizations of good assessment, each with 7-10 sub-categories. This itself suggests that academics and administrators conceptualize and understand assessment in different ways thus making the task of answering “what is assessment?” a difficult one.

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Higher Education's Dirty Little Word: Assessment
By Gerson Moreno-Riano on March 13, 2009

For weeks I have debated whether or not to write on the topic of assessment. My hesitation stems from the fact that in all of my discussions with colleagues, whenever I mention the word "assessment" I receive stares of disdain. The faces of my colleagues become red and distorted as blood rushes either to the brain or the heart at such a rapid pace as to leave NASCAR's Jeff Gordon in the dust. One could almost hear the rapid palpitations of my colleagues' hearts as their levels of indignation rise. And then the words just come out: "What did you say? Assessment?" "Is there something wrong with you?" Apparently, I have just uttered a word that is tantamount to a curse among scholars. So, I ask myself (then and now), why this hatred and animosity toward a practice that is more and more prevalent within higher education in the United States?

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about the author

Gerson Moreno-Riano
Gerson Moreno-Riano

Gerson Moreno-Riano has been appointed as Dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies at Regent University.  He is also an associate professor of government at Regent.  He has been at Regent since 2006.

Moreno-Riano's latest publications include the co-authored The Prospect of Internet Democracy (Ashgate, 2009) and the edited volume The World of Marsilius of Padua (Brepols, 2007).  He is currently at work on two commissioned projects: 1) a companion to Marsilius of Padua and 2) organizational evil in the modern era.