5 Star Consortium Colleges


Thursday, February 14, 2019

4th Annual Mentoring Conference: New Dimensions

Join us for the 4th Annual Mentoring Conference on Friday, April 12, 2019! The theme is "New Dimensions."

The EvCC Mentoring Conference is a full day of speakers and workshops focused on sharing best practices, bright ideas and both individual and institutional experiences with mentoring. This is a rare opportunity to build networks and share ideas with colleagues involved in mentoring across our region.

Would you like to be a presenter? Workshop Sessions are 45 minutes in length, including time for questions and evaluation. This year, we are particularly interested in starting conversations about equity and inclusion. Got a great idea for a presentation? Send it to the Mentoring Conference Planning Team today! Presentation proposals may be submitted through March 1, 2019. Notification of acceptance will be sent by March 8th. More information is available at: http://www.everettcc.edu/administration/admin-services/professional-development/disruptive-innovation-mentoring/conference

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Conference Take Aways

You’ve probably had this experience: there is a conference that you’ve been looking forward to attending. There are speakers that inspire you, workshops that are invigorating, networking with colleagues from across the state or country. You come back refreshed with dozens of ideas that you want to implement right away! And then you see that pile of exams to grade, emails to answer, prep to do, and suddenly the tyranny of the everyday life of a teacher takes over.

What to do?

Some of my favorite conferences have been the ones where I am asked to reflect deeply on my role as an educator, especially how I address issues of equity in the classroom and on campus. In sessions like this I often walk away with ideas that I grapple with for a while, continuing to think about, and usually have an a-ha moment later in the conference or even when I am back on campus. The same kind of thing can happen in one-on-one conversations with colleagues from other institutions (why networking is so important!!) As an example, it was over breakfast one time that a colleague shared her research findings (primarily dealing with new college students who are not well-prepared for what we often call the rigor of college, but many are now calling the unwritten rules of college). She said that students ask 3 questions when they walk into your classroom: Can I do this? Is it relevant? Do I belong here? That very brief conversation stuck with me, and has become the focal point of my conversations with faculty. And it all happened in 15 minutes.

So my big conference take-away to share with you is that while you may learn new activities to implement in your classes, it’s often the conversations before, after or between presentations that have the biggest impact on the way we think about teaching. At your next conference, invite a new friend to coffee!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Are Formative Assessments an Equity Tool?

First, let’s define assessments, and then formative assessments. An assessment is a tool used to provide information about the thinking, achievement or progress of students. Usually when faculty think about assessments, summative assessments come to mind. These include exams, quizzes, projects, or papers. And usually, this type of assessment comes with a grade. An instructor might give an exam at the end of a chapter or unit and use it to evaluate progress against a benchmark. A formative assessment, on the other hand, is a check-in with students that can be used by the instructor to modify classroom practices and learning activities. Formative assessments are assessments for learning rather than of learning. A subtle but importance difference. Can they be used as an equity tool?

We know that effective assessment must be a balanced system. Yes, grades are important (and required!) but formative assessment techniques (FATs) help to tell the rest of the story. Let’s ask students what they think! It’s way better than relying on body language! Think about the times you thought you were delivering a brilliant lesson…students were nodding like they were following, smiling, seeming to hang on every word, understanding every word. Then the test reveals otherwise.
Let’s look at this from the Transparency Framework* perspective:

Purpose: The purpose of formative assessments is to learn the whole story. Is learning taking place in your class? And are you adapting to the needs of your students?

Task: Choose a formative assessment technique (like the 3 Minute Pause) and use it several times during the term. When you collect data, report back to students what you heard.

Criteria: Look for the trends in the student feedback, and make adjustments to your classroom practices as needed.

So, you might be asking, how is this an equity tool? FATs give us an opportunity to hear from ALL students. It emphasizes getting all students to the same start and finish line of understanding. Because it helps all students, it helps our underserved populations to a greater degree.

Formative assessments also help develop a sense of belonging in your classroom. Research tells us that having that sense of belonging improves student confidence, and not having a sense of belonging can have an emotional impact on students and can lead to failure to learn and stay.  Formative assessments help us shift from a one-way communication path (as the instructor I have all the information and I will deliver content without thinking about how it’s being received) to a two-way path (students, I hear what you are saying and I will adapt classroom practices to help more learning take place as well as develop a greater sense of belonging).

Want to know more about what formative assessments are easy to use? Check with your faculty development professional on your campus! 

*Transparent design increases student academic confidence, sense of belonging, and persistence rates. Winkelmes. Liberal Education 99, 2 (Spring 2013) Winkelmes et al. Peer Review 18, 1/2 (Winter/Spring 2016)

Monday, August 20, 2018


submitted by Peg Balachowski, Associate Dean of Teaching & Learning at EvCC
I love butterflies. This summer I have been watching butterflies in my garden, and am delighted when they flutter around, landing for just a moment on a flower before heading off to search for more nectar.

The kind of butterflies I don't like are those I get on the first day of class. Walking into a classroom with a group of new students, wondering what kind of impression I’ll make has always made me a bit nervous. When I share this with students, they can hardly believe it - What? they say...but you’re the expert! You’ve been teaching a long time! Why do you still get butterflies on the first day??

Delaney J. Kirk Ph.D. from University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee (and who has 27 years teaching experience!) still gets a little nervous at the beginning of a class. In the most recent edition of the Faculty Focus blog she outlined 10 tips for getting ready for that first day:

Faculty Focus

  1. Develop your own routine before going to class. Take a short brisk walk beforehand. Twirl your wrists to gently shake the stress out of your arms. Relax your shoulders; people tend to “hunch up” their shoulders when tense. Do some deep breathing.
  2. Check out your classroom before the students get there. Walk around and get familiar with the room, podium, how the seats are arranged, etc. Make sure you know how to work any technology you’ll be using.
  3. The first few minutes are crucial. Your students are curious about you and the course. Everything (how you dress, walk, present yourself) are clues as to your personality and credibility. Walk briskly and with purpose into the classroom.
  4. Chat briefly with the students as they come into the room to make yourself (and the students) feel more comfortable.
  5. Act confident and enthusiastic about what you will be doing that first day. Don’t say that you are nervous as this makes the students uncomfortable and you will lose credibility with them.
  6. Also, it’s best not to tell your students that this is the first time (if it is) that you have taught this particular course. You should know more about the topic than they do so they’ll assume you’re an expert.
  7. Use notecards or form to gather information about your students (name, email address, past class experience with the topic, work experience, etc). This takes the focus off you and onto the task which gives you time to get comfortable.
  8. As you begin, make eye contact with two or three people in various parts of the room. Learn their names and use them several times. You are essentially beginning to build a relationship with your students.
  9. Be enthusiastic about being in the classroom so that they will be also. Don’t just stand behind the podium but move around and move toward them. Look happy to be sharing your knowledge with them.
  10. Start with something that is easy for you to talk about. Tell a story you’ve told often before, read something that is relevant to the class from the newspaper, share something from your days as a student or talk to them about why you went into teaching.

Are there some ways that you prepare for the first day? What do you do to help with that nervous feeling on Day 1 of the course?

Monday, August 13, 2018


Submitted by Peg Balachowski, Associate Dean of Teaching & Learning at EvCC

It’s August, and that means the days are getting shorter (bit by bit). You are might be looking forward to a vacation or at least some time away from the classroom. Summer term, even though it’s shorter, sometimes seems like the longest of all! So given that you might still be teaching a summer class or are planning your getaway to relax and rejuvenate, have you started planning for your fall courses yet? Have you considered how you might “humanize yourself” in your classes, demonstrating to students that you are supportive, without adding to your workload? Here’s an intervention that could prove to improve student retention and possible improve their performance in your course. 

I recently read an article on the Evolllution website (yes, that’s how they spell it) called Small Changes, Large Rewards in which the author, Zoe Cohen, Assistant Professor in the College of Medicine Tucson, University of Arizona, says “By identifying struggling students and sending them personalized emails encouraging action and providing support, educators can make a significant difference to the success of their learners.”

Cohen provides sample emails. In one of the samples, she connects with students who have failed the first exam: “I was looking at the exam #1 scores for (Course name) and saw that you didn’t do as well as expected. Since it’s still early in the semester, now is the time to try and figure out what went wrong and how we can fix it. I have some quick questions for you that I’m hoping you’ll be willing to answer for me.” In this email she lists some questions that ask students to reflect on things like class participation and exam preparation. After sending this email for the first time she worried that there would be a “backlash” from students, blaming her instead of taking responsibility for their behavior. Instead, she got some amazing responses from students, thanking her for taking the time to care about them! And not only that, there has been an improvement in student average grades.

Read more about Dr. Cohen’s experience, and think about how you might nudge students to move them towards success in your course.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Revisiting Online Quizzes

Are you working on or planning to revise the tests in your classes soon? Rather than just refreshing or updating the questions, Derek Jorgenson, Instructional Designer at EvCC, encourages you to take a step back and think about exams in the larger context of assessments. Listen to a two-part podcast about Revisiting Online Quizzes at the Center for Transformative Teaching blog. Handouts and other resources are also available.

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Spark of Learning

What are you reading this summer? Will it be a “beach read” with some fun capers in lovely Paris? Will your list include detective novels (like the Harry Bosch novels I love)? Will the list include some of the classics, like “To Kill a Mockingbird” or maybe “Moby Dick”? If you are more interested in keeping up with your professional reading while you sip your morning coffee or tea and relax on the deck, the 5-Star Consortium faculty development specialists have some recommendations.

I am starting my summer reading with a book by Sarah Rose Cavanagh, “The Spark of Learning.” Check out this sentence from her preface: I am going to argue that if you want to grab the attention of your students, mobilize their efforts, prolong their persistence, permanently change how they see the world, and maximize the chances that they will retain the material you’re teaching them over the long term, there is no better approach than to target their emotions.”

I can’t wait to start reading and have even set aside a little time at work each day to begin learning, among other things, how to change how I ask questions in the classroom and tell students about my own failures as a student!

Want to know what the other books on our list of recommendations are? Check off how many you’ve read, and if they aren’t in your institution’s library, check with your college’s faculty development specialist – maybe they have a copy in their library!

5 Star Consortium Recommended Reading


Reynolds, Garr. Presentation Zen