Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education


Date of this Version



Essays on Teaching Excellence: Toward the Best in the Academy (2008-2009) 20(3)

A publication of the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education


Copyright 2009, Karlene Ferrante. Use by permission


I have developed a course in communication theories that foregrounds active learning, with structured opportunities for support. The result is an “Inside-Out Course” in which students are required to turn in a “ticket” for entry to class— usually a concept map of the reading. Since the first exposure to material is through homework, class time is used for quick overviews and learning activities designed by student teaching teams. Students are motivated to create good concept maps for tickets, since they are allowed to use those maps for the case study exams, taken with open notes. Assessments require students to select and use a theory to analyze a real life communication problem, and to use the theory to develop concrete solutions, writing the analysis and recommendations in a business letter, a personal letter, or a report, tailoring their writing appropriately. Students can readily see how useful these skills can be, but they need direction and practice to learn to do it well.