Video Learning Module: Surface Learning and Deep Learning



How does setting goals contribute to understanding the big picture and performance in the classroom? Understanding the big picture and performance starts by distinguishing and defining surface learning and deep learning. According to Dr. Maryellen Weimer’s blog from the Faculty Focus website, surface learning is “cognitively passive learning behavior” while deep learning is “cognitively active learning behavior.” Passive learning strategies include the memorization of words or study practices that are not likely to go beyond the basic requirements of attending class. Deep learning strategies include an investigative process for solving problems. I use Barkley’s Student Engagement Technique 43 to show that the big picture and understanding the process for solving problems is meaningful for students.

Begin the academic term with the end of the academic term in mind (Barkley 2010, p. 334). Teachers’ goals sometimes differ from student goals. This means that teachers must recognize sometimes that adjusting their goals to align with student goals collectively or individually is part of the process of learning. SET 43 can be reused throughout the course or term to monitor progress in the alignment of goals for students, teachers and departments (Barkley 2010, pgs. 332-335). Teachers should guide students to construct specific goal inventories to monitor progress throughout the term (Barkley 2010, p. 334). Students and teachers together accomplish tasks that reflect goals and communicate the results creatively and critically to others.

Backwards planning is the same as beginning with the end in mind (Bain 2004, p. 50). For example, graduation is the overarching objective for student Dizzy Dolphin (Bain 2004, p. 144). Dizzy should accept that graduation from the university requires completion of a Capstone course first from the university as a senior. Then, Dizzy should determine all the prerequisites that the Capstone course requires as a junior class student, all the prerequisites required as a sophomore class student and all the prerequisites required as a freshman class student in that order. Each class level has a different set of tasks that need completion before moving forward to the next level of coursework (Barkley 2010; 334). Each course requires a student to perform well on any given academic tasks. Surface learning strategies for students include performing well on exams to meet requirements for each course or prerequisite on the path toward graduation (Barkley 2010, p. 333).

Barkley (p. 334) says to use the Teaching Goals Inventory developed by Angelo and Cross. This TGI helps students to set goals that enhance learning through “improving writing skills, developing analytical skills, developing the ability to think creatively, developing concern for social issues, and developing an ability to organize time effectively.” Additionally, “higher order thinking skills, basic academic success skills, discipline specific knowledge and skills and personal development” are among the clusters of goals that Angelo and Cross described (Barkley 2010, p. 334; Angelo and Cross 1993, pgs. 15-19). The TGI could be used as part of each incremental step for teachers to guide students toward the achievement of their goals in the long run and the short run.

Goal theory works (Locke and Latham 1990). The application of goals in the classroom is meant to help students move past just performing in the classroom and toward learning the significance of the process (Barkley 2010, p. 333). Understanding the significance of the process is similar to watching the big picture unfold. According to Barkley, students more concerned with performing well on exams to increase their reputation or social status are less likely to understand the big picture. The use of formative assessment techniques could help teachers to align the big picture goals of students with the goals or objectives of the class.

Active learning becomes more than memorization. Teachers that implement activities intend to develop students’ abilities to acquire the knowledge, skills and understanding in the process for learning (Barkley 2010, p. 335). Students and teachers focused on deep learning strategies are likely to ask, “what can be gleaned from this experience?” What is the most important part of this learning process? What skills and abilities should I take away from this discipline after the experience is complete? How clear should my goals be? How do I measure my goals? What are the key takeaways from this process that I am likely to reflect on tomorrow? Next week? Next year? Five years from now? Even ten? Or some other indefinite period in the future?

Student discovery of knowledge and deep learning processes increase competence, skill and ability (Boyer 1990). According to the NEBO Blog the pursuit of mastery goals increases competence and the pursuit of performance goals increases skill and ability for the subject. The DePaul University resources web site explains that course objectives contain the material and other learning processes and tools that teachers cover in a course. Learning outcomes are the actionable observations that students are expected to articulate at the conclusion of a course. Dr. Maryellen Weimer concludes that teachers provide the tools to students so that students discover knowledge for themselves.


Angelo, Thomas A. and K. Patricia Cross. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques A Handbook for College Teachers. San Francisco, CA: The Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series – John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Bain, Ken. (2004). what the best college teachers do. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Barkley, Elizabeth F. (2010). Student Engagement Techniques A Handbook for College Faculty. San Francisco, CA: The Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series – John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Boyer, Ernest L. (1990). Scholarship Reconsidered Priorities of the Professoriate. Princeton, NJ: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

DePaul University Teaching Commons. (2018). “Course Objectives and Learning Outcomes.” From Resources (Retreived February 21).

Harrell, Adam. (2010). “Mastery versus Performance Goals: Why the Type of Goal You Set Matters.” From NEBO Blog   (February 23).

Locke, E.A., Latham, G.P. (1990). A theory of goal setting and task performance. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Weimer, Maryellen. (2012). “Deep Learning versus Surface Learning Getting Students to Understand the Difference” From Faculty Focus Higher Ed Teaching Strategies from Magna Publications,  (November 19).

Young, Akeisha. (2018). “Arc of Higher Education Teaching” blog. From

Barkley Book Review: Student Engagement Techniques A Handbook for College Faculty

Barkley advises in the preface to start at a point in the book most useful to the reader (p. xiii). I started at the beginning and adjusted my reading of Barkley as I went! The most useful aspects of this book are the concepts contained in each part. I understand that the concepts are designed in a way for me as the teacher to construct the course and the material for which the course is composed for students to learn. After I gain more experience as a teacher in a class I expect to hone the skills I acquire from Barkley (2010) and others to construct synergy for students engaging in the learning process. I started at Part 1 A Conceptual Framework for Understanding Student Engagement (p. 3). Next, I read Part 3 Student Engagement Techniques (p. 149). Then, I finished the book by reading Part 2 Tips and Strategies (p. 80). I follow Barkley’s suggestion for this review.

Part 1. The initial question creates the context for the entire study: create synergy for everyone in the classroom. Barkley provides the groundwork to determine that the overlap between motivation and active learning is the sweet spot for student engagement (p. 6). Teachers seek students who share enthusiasm of the academic discipline and devote themselves to the learning process (p. 5). The learning process occurs through setting goals, timely feedback and stretching students’ existing capacity for knowledge (p. 14). The overarching message that Barkley is conveying to readers is meant for teachers in various disciplines to use the student engagement techniques and tips and strategies to produce synergy in the classroom.

Barkley elaborates on engagement and motivation to construct a model centered on expectancy and value of the tasks in the classroom that need accomplishment. Tasks accomplished in the classroom are likely to assist teachers in assisting students from tuning out from the learning process (pgs. 46-74, 14-15). Barkley enriches the model by illustrating the accomplishment of tasks using teachers’ stories in real time to move the reader from theory to practice instead of testing a psychological theory for engaging students (p. 45). The enrichment of the model highlights synergy. Synergy is created by increasing tension through “stress, anxiety or discomfort” and then releasing tension through accomplishment experienced by students in the classroom after tests, projects or other assignments are completed (p. 31). Synergy is the feeling of optimality that students experience within the learning environment and the sweet spot for student engagement in the classroom (pgs. 27-33).

Part 3. Three SETs became salient to me as I read through Part 3. Chapter 14 discusses “Synthesis and Creative Thinking” and includes SET 16. SET 16 informs the reader to organize their thoughts around a picture or a graphic of some type (pgs. 219-225). Chapter 18 discusses “Self-Awareness as Learners” and includes SET 43. SET 43 instructs the reader to distinguish between surface learning and deep learning in the process of setting goals (pgs. 332-335). Chapter 12 discusses “Knowledge, Skills, Recall and Understanding” and includes SET 2. The message of SET 2 puts forth the idea that “Artifacts” defined as “images and objects” are likely to induce strong feelings or questions that help students to focus on learning. I plan to use SET 43 and possibly SET 16 for future assignments in this class. I outline an activity using SET 2 below.

I plan to use SET 2 with modifications as a template for students in a class. As the instructor, I explain an assignment that includes a collective part that occurs in the classroom and an individual part that takes the form of writing a paper at home. The assignment begins with a class determining groups and selecting topics from a text. Papers written by students individually at home should be 3-4 pages in length, single spaced and use 12-point Times New Roman font. This activity occurs in three steps.

The first step is conducted by the teacher and students in no longer than 15 minutes in class. Small groups consisting of 3-5 students are formed using the count off method (1-2-3-etc, 1-2-3). Number of counts depends on the size of the class. Pictures selected from the text are prepared prior to class. The teacher shuffles the pictures face down so that one student from each group randomly selects a picture for the group. Pictures should correspond to themes found in chapters of the text. Each group selects one member to choose from the randomly shuffled pictures. Groups that do not like the picture or topic may find another group that does not like their picture or topic and trade.

The teacher gives the following instructions to the students in the class in the second step of the activity. The second step is conducted in no longer than 30 minutes. As a group, members discuss the picture that the selected group’s member chose and note observations, feelings, thoughts and emotions that the picture induces from each member of the group. The same member that chose the picture writes down one observation, feeling, thought or emotion noted verbally from each student in the group. Each group member writes down the observation, feeling, thought or emotion of each of the students in the group by the end of the discussion. The written observations become the themes for each paper constructed individually by students in the group.

The teacher reviews and summarizes the themes discovered within each group and explains the broad overview of the assignment in step three. The teacher explains the assignment, questions are asked by students and answered by the teacher. The explanation of this assignment should occur before the six weeks mark of the end of the semester. Lectures and discussion about the final paper remain ongoing. The teacher could prepare to assign groups to present their work as the final, but this should be done so that students have enough time to prepare a presentation.

Part 2. Teachers can observe whether students are motivated or not motivated and engaged or not engaged (p. 80). Barkley instructed readers in Part 1 that engagement is a product of motivation and learning, so that if one or the other is missing, engagement does not occur (p. 6). Part 2 contains tips and strategies for teachers to identify areas in the classroom to bolster synergistic flow between students and the teacher. The tips and strategies are likely to assist teachers in modifying the outcomes that occur for students over the duration of the course. Holistic learning for students in the classroom is a beneficial tool to optimize synergy.

Barkley taught me that the more I read about teaching the less I know about teaching my field. Barkley provides several fantastic tools to observe and engage students in the classroom. I found the psychology very challenging because my educational background is not psychology. I recognize the importance of it, but I found it more than a little dry and tedious to read. I found the emphasis Barkley places on synergy just as important as the psychology in Part 1.

Barkley notes examples of real teachers in the profession. Students respond differently to different styles of teaching. I, for one, am less likely to respond positively to a teacher getting in my face to make a point about the material or the class. I did not like the Menendez vignette, but different types of students respond to different types of teachers in different ways. Having said that, I am glad Barkley kept the (Menendez) vignette in the book because the visualization of the story, hopefully, may give me pause about this type of situation, provided that I actually have the opportunity to teach a class in the future.

I have very little, if any, teaching experience to put forth in the classroom on my own account at this point in my career. I have heard people say that the best way to learn to teach is by teaching. But if I don’t know how to teach before I stand in front of a class, will I be effective in constructing a central message (Bain 2004)? I have asked people “how am I supposed to teach having never actually taught?” The answer is very similar to “get out there and do it.” This is probably the reason that Bain (2004), Barkley (2010), Angelo and Cross (1993) and Nilson (2003) write books on the subject.


Bain Book Review: what the best college teachers do

Ken Bain’s book what the best college teachers do should be required reading for all teachers and higher education professionals. Bain defines excellence for teachers in the classroom as contributing no harm to students or anyone else in the process of learning (p. 5). Bain provides a message to aspiring teachers and veterans of the profession in a conversational tone that instructs teachers on the appropriate ways to connect with their students through preparation and the process of asking questions (p. 50-67).  Students need experienced teachers to guide them through the “struggling, grappling and making mistakes” that occur within the learning process (p. 34). The process of learning is the pursuit to find and share the knowledge and understanding of the discipline to others.

Bain reminds the reader that asking one’s own questions is the initial step to scientific inquiry. Teachers that foster a climate of trust in the classroom are likely to engage students in the learning process and encourage them to ask their own questions for their studies (p. 117-134). Teachers that reject power over students are likely to build trust, set standards to achieve goals and appraise the performance of each student in class to initiate the process of learning (p. 72-75).  Teachers that tap into the intrinsic value or the passion that each student brings to class are likely to succeed in crafting a central message to connect with students and impart knowledge to them (p. 72). Connectivity between teachers and students together as partners generates knowledge and understanding of phenomena under observation.

On a personal level, I chuckled warmly upon reading the first page of the appendix. I appreciate the example that Ken Bain set as an educator specializing in Middle East foreign policy, which happens to be a field that I have been researching for several years. The interesting thing to me about Bain’s work is that he began his career researching a field that is common to me, he developed centers for teaching excellence in multiple places and served a community of scholars in the process. I observe differently as an aspiring political scientist phenomena associated foreign policy. However, Bain’s background in history and his over three decades of experience provide him the knowledge, skills and abilities to highlight some of the most important events and activities that teachers in the profession should consider in preparing themselves to partner with students in the process of teaching and learning.





Teaching Philosophy Statement

There I was convalescing for the first three months of 2005. I contracted viral meningitis during rigorous training in the mountains of northern Georgia. I never envisioned an extended week long stay in a hospital to start my career.

I found the General’s reading list helpful prior to my arrival at the military installation. After I regained the ability to walk, I returned to Barnes and Noble at least twice a month to begin my collection of new books. The books and the instant message conversations with a professor from my college assisted me in renewing my strength. It was there on the military installation that I resolved to complete my commitment to the Army. “What do you plan to do after the Army” the professor asked in one conversation. I responded that I would most likely go to law school to earn a Juris Doctorate and a Master’s of Business Administration degree. The professor interjected “this world is filled with lawyers. Why don’t you go for your PhD?” Graduate School became the very least of my worries in the days, months and even years ahead. I left for my duty station out west in California after recovering from the illness ten months later.

Knowing and understanding the intersections between teaching, research and service as it relates to the rest of the world, my discipline and the students I am privileged to teach are a part of the first step on the path toward learning. The process of learning is a journey that enables the paths of teachers and students to align and ultimately provides opportunities to build a community of scholars and professionals that exchange ideas and techniques in a manner that is freedom promoting given the constraints of individuals’ views within the ever-changing world in which they live. Course objectives are constructed on each respective course syllabus. Students should construct goals for themselves before enrolling in class. Therefore, I seek to accomplish seven objectives as a teacher.

  • Advise the student in the alignment of their goals with the course, which allows for the process for the alignment of course goals and objectives with the department and/or the institution to occur
  • Determine the direction of the class as early in the semester as possible and modify the direction of the class on an as needed basis to accomplish course objectives
  • Create and maintain balance throughout the duration of the term and the academic year
  • Foster a learning environment conducive to the development of critical thinking
  • Practice active listening with students and ask questions that guide students toward their goals and/or course objectives
  • Explore, investigate and question phenomena with respect to the process first, and use humor on an as needed basis
  • Above all, remember to perform duties with a service minded mentality and have fun

My teaching interests include international relations and diplomacy and local or county government administration.

I worked as a supplemental instructor in the department of economics and finance at the University of South Alabama from January 2003 to May of 2004. I consider the period from June of 2004 to January of 2010 field work. I conducted research for one year in economics during the 2010-2011 academic year at San Jose State University. I worked as a security guard at a ski resort and trained in the police academy from approximately November of 2011 to July of 2013. I conducted formal research in the department of political science at The University of Alabama from fall of 2013 through February of 2015. I worked on a grant as a research assistant while at The University of Alabama and as a teaching assistant in the spring of 2016.

My interests widened over the course of my career. Initially, I worked part time as a supplemental instructor for principles of macro-economics and principles of micro-economics courses in the business department. My academic interests gradually shifted from business administration toward economics as a social science, which is slightly different from economics in the business college, and then toward political science, public policy and administration and international relations. The commonality between the study of business in the private sector and the study of democratic institutions in the public sector is administration. The key differences are politics and profits and the outcomes that occur from the pursuit of one over the other. Although, I gained practical experience in the military and trained with law enforcement at a police academy in California, these interdisciplinary interests naturally inclined me toward policy.

Interdisciplinary backgrounds provide researchers the opportunity to observe similarities and differences at the intersections between disciplines. Intersections between disciplines become prime interaction points for constructing policy. The differences and similarities between disciplines can be observed and analyzed. My research interests follow.

Part I includes a realist theoretical approach for three quantitative studies and implications for one American foreign policy for Iraq. These quantitative studies are: Mediation in Iraq; Aid: A Tool to Counter Insurgency in a Population; and Peace Agreements and Peacekeeping in Iraq. Additionally, I contribute an implications sections for the research that uses the rational actor model and the concept of opportunity costs as a template to understand terrorism, counter terrorist ideology and undermine the message of rebels so that their associate organizations eventually collapse.

Part II briefly reviews Grodzins’ (1966) Marble Cake Federalism to construct a research design and three case studies for the administration portion of the research. Part II argues for the development of values for individuals, organizations and decision makers to implement policy. According to Grodzins, each department and associated institutions of government render support to a system of systems and share a purpose that serves the public.

I constructed a book review of The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Institutional Integration and Impact authored by Anthony Ciccone, Mary Taylor Huber and Pat Hutchings also. This book review guides my understanding of the Professoriate.

Undergraduate students could contribute to these interests through finding and completing local internships in city or county offices. Students selected for internships should prepare to construct a research paper relating their experiences to public service and present their findings as the culminating exercise. Public service may include and not be limited to topics related to social justice, diversity, team work and administrative organizations, and merit-based approaches to public organizations in the open system. Public service topics should be pre-approved by the instructor before enrollment in the course. Internships should be conducted during summer term.