5 Star Consortium Colleges

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

Monday, July 2, 2018

Faculty Developers

What do your 5-Star Consortium faculty professional development leaders do?

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

L to R front row: Scott Haddock and Kristina Jipson (EdCC),
Peg Balachowski (EvCC), Rhonda DeWitt (Lake Washington Tech),
and Elisabeth Frederickson (EdCC)
L to R back row: Jeff Stevens (Cascadia),
and Brigid Nulty (Shoreline)
For the past two years, members of the 5-Star Consortium faculty development leaders have presented a best practices in teaching and learning orientation for new associate faculty at each of the 5 colleges (Everett CC, Edmonds CC, Shoreline CC, Cascadia College and Lake Washington Tech). The orientation has changed and (in our opinion) improved over that time, thanks primarily to input from participants. We conduct formative assessments throughout the session, and conclude with a feedback form called PLUS/DELTA. Using the information from participants, we have made improvements such as including more activities that allow participants to move around rather than just being lectured to.

Earlier this summer, the faculty developers from the 5 colleges met to talk about the future of the orientation. Our big goal includes cultivating a sense of belonging to a teaching and learning community by providing a place to connect to fellow associate faculty (adjuncts), across schools, within schools, and within disciplines. We also want to make sure that the new faculty connect with the faculty developer professional on their campus. Add to that a tool box of classroom activities that will aid new faculty in organizing active learning pedagogies and making important connections with students. We believe that faculty who employ these techniques will not only build critical relationships with students but will also begin reducing equity gaps that exist in many classrooms today.

During the orientation we want to make sure that we model transparency, being explicit about the choices we have made for the orientation. Our research indicates that the topics we have chosen are important to faculty and students across not only the state but the country, in both CTCs and universities. And participants have told us that they appreciate the comfortable and safe space that we provide during the orientation as well as a set of tools that can be employed the first or next day of class.

During out meeting we also revised our orientation outcomes. We also discussed a series of Saturday workshops that will be hosted by different 5-Star colleges throughout 2018-19. Watch this blog for more information on those workshops as well as those hosted by individual colleges!

5-Star Orientation Outcomes:

By the end of the Orientation we want our participants to be able to:
  1. Be reflective metacognitive professionals (with a growth mindset) so that they can model and nurture it with their students. 
  2. Understand the demographics of CTC students via data, including the differences between prof/tech and transfer students, and equity gaps with regard to persistence and success.
  3. Make authentic connections with their students because this is supported by research as a way to mitigate equity gaps.
  4. Implement evidence-based, equity-minded, contemporary teaching strategies in their course to maximize student learning.
  5. Use formative assessment to improve their teaching and student learning using student feedback.
  6. Have an HR introduction, including topics such as ethics, Title IX, FERPA, and how to deal with student conduct issues.

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Meaning of Fulfillment

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

On Sunday, October 26, the New York Times published an opinion piece by Emily Fox Gordon titled “The Meaning of Fulfillment.” Gordon begins, “At 66, I find myself feeling fulfilled. I didn’t expect this, and don’t quite know what to make of it. It’s as if I’ve been given an outlandishly oversize gift.” She speaks about an almost forgotten fantasy – being the “hostess of an intellectual salon.” Guess what –in my role as the Associate Dean of Teaching and Learning at Everett Community College, that’s really my job! The hostess of an intellectual salon.
Pictured: Peg hosting new faculty in the Center for
Transformative Teaching, Fall 2017

I feel like I am working with some of the best faculty that our profession has to offer.
Together with the other 5-Star Consortium partners, we have identified a common need to rework, revise, and/or revitalize our work with faculty, both new and veteran. Here are some questions that we have thought about (and truly struggle to answer):

1. In what ways can we incentivize professional development for all faculty?
2. What are sustainable faculty development best practices?
3. How do you institutionalize professional development practices and policies?

I so appreciate the opportunity to work together with my colleagues to strategize and support each other as we take a critical look at how we can address these big questions. Huber and Hutchings coined the term “the big tent” in 2005 when writing about the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL).  Right now we only have a small tent – maybe it’s a pup tent – but I think we can all fit.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Closing the Loop

How can you tell if your students are really getting it? That’s the question at the heart of this strategy. So often the class time flies by and suddenly it’s over! We don’t get a chance (or make the time) to ask students to reflect on what they learned or what happened in class before they leave. Watch this video and learn how one instructor, Sarrah Saaasa, an Economics teacher, has helped students to develop a metacognitive reflection practice and give her feedback that will help “students cement their learning and informs future instruction.” I especially like her question, “How were we as a class today?”
Sarrah takes seven minutes at the end of class to use this strategy. How would this work in your classroom? Do you think it should be done every day? Note that the students are giving verbal feedback. I usually suggest that formative assessment feedback be done anonymously. Clearly, she has created a classroom culture where students feel free to contribute. Are you willing to give it a try in your next class? Send us feedback on how it worked or what you changed.

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Be Kind Portfolio

submitted by Peg Balachowski, Associate Dean of Teaching and Learning at EvCC

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The quarter is ending. Course evaluations are finished. Exams have been graded. Final grades have been logged. The idea of a relaxing break is what keeps us going for the last few hectic days.  But what keeps you going in the middle of a hectic quarter? How about beginning a “Be Kind Portfolio”? In a recent essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Pam Whitfield she suggests, “Fill it with material culture that demonstrates your love for the (teaching) profession, care for your students, and commitment to your community. You’ll fill it up fast. And looking back through your portfolio on the low days will fill you up and get you back on track.”

When the results of your course evaluations come back, it’s important that you review the quantitative results and look for ways to improve your teaching strategies in the next term. But don’t forget to read through the student comments. Don’t get stuck on the negatives…look for comments by students that you can add to your portfolio. Are there student thank you notes or letters that you can add? Certificates from workshops you’ve completed? Evidence of some special work that you’ve done, committee you’ve served on, colleague that you’ve helped?

If you’re brand new to teaching, plan on collecting these artifacts. We all have interactions throughout teaching careers that make us wonder why we do this difficult work every day. Being able to open that portfolio and reading through those notes will add a lightness to your day that will be a reminder of why we love this work. And don’t forget to take a moment and send a note to someone who helped you so that they can start a “Be Kind Portfolio” as well. We all need a little more kindness in our lives.

Monday, June 11, 2018

First Day of Classes

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

Day 1 – The Fantasy and the Reality

Among the blogs and listservs that I read is one that, although the primary intended audience is university level faculty, frequently has insights that as someone who works at a community college I can totally relate to. In the most recent edition of the “tomorrows-professor Digest,” (Vol. 118, Issue 9), the author of the article, Kevin Bennett, refers to his many years of classroom experience to offer some wisdom as newly minted instructors begin to think about their first day in the classroom. Here is an excerpt from his post:


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“After several years of graduate school, your department has given you an opportunity to teach your very own college level course! Dig, if you will, this picture: your imagination in overdrive, you see yourself performing captivating oratories on every subject within your academic discipline. No one doubts the almost magical synergy between you and your eager students. They hang on your every word, applaud your insightful and witty comments, and commend you on exam day for a superbly crafted test that challenged their mastery of the material. Perhaps you even remind yourself of the scene from Dead Poets Society where students climb on desks to address “O Captain! My Captain!” Soon this will be you.”

I had to laugh as I read this…yep, that’s exactly how I imagined it would be when I walked into my first college level course all those years ago. Here’s how I imagined myself – a real superhero when it comes to helping students learn math!


“Now come back to reality. Teaching a college level class is no easy task. It requires a great deal of work and preparation just to organize a decent course, let alone make one that will have a lasting impression on students. Are you up to the challenge?”

Delivering Excellent Course Content from the Outset

“Based on my years of experience in the classroom, here is a very brief guide to teaching your first college course. The advice is organized around the themes of first day issues, preparation, and balancing teaching and research.”

Want to learn more about Kevin’s advice (whether you are brand new to teaching or you want to freshen up your approach as you prepare for fall quarter)? Article available here. Sign up for the electronic newsletter (see below).

To subscribe via the World Wide Web, visit: https://mailman.stanford.edu/mailman/listinfo/tomorrows-professor