Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Lazy Summer Day

If you are reading this post, chances are, you are on break, thinking about a quarter or summer that just ended, or maybe the summer term coming up. Perhaps you are even thinking about the fall term which right now seems pretty far off! 

With all that in mind, when you have some spare time to reflect on this amazing profession that we are engaged in, here are some great sites to visit. Be sure to take a look at the article on Flipping the Classroom. Who knew that education is the new punk rock?

The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
Bonni Stachowiak provides a list of intriguing podcasts that delve into the growing research on teaching and learning in higher education. (Teaching in Higher Ed)

Flipping the Classroom as an Educational Tool

In this video, a former punk rocker and current professor describes how flipping the classroom—posting lectures online so students can watch them on their own time—is a way of bringing education to the students and giving them flexibility and choice in their learning. (Higher Ed Jobs)

Don’t Do It for Me: Encouraging Student Agency and Power

In describing how she reaches out to students who miss deadlines or blow off classes, Cathryn Bailey clarifies that she is not sending these reminders to solicit apologies, but to remind students that they have control of and are responsible for their own learning. (The Virtual Pedagogue)

Champion for Adult Students: Colleges Must Change How They Teach

Marie Cini describes ways instructors and institutions are rethinking their approach to higher education through such strategies as using Open Education Resources instead of more expensive textbooks to meet the needs of adult students. (EdSurge)

With Innovation, Colleges Fill the Skills Gap

Many colleges are developing programs to meet the needs of employers, including Miami Dade College, which offers a “stackable” approach to a data analytics degree, where students accumulate credentials as they move along the path to their eventual career. (The New York Times)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Summer Reading 2017

What I’m reading this summer – Advice from faculty professional developers

Rhonda DeWitt
Rhonda is the chair of Pro-Development for Lake Washington’s Equity Diversity Inclusion (EDI) Council, which consists of employees from across the campus (VP, Deans, Faculty, Staff) and has 20 members reading the book, Is Everyone Really Equal? by Özlem Sensoy and Robin DiAngelo. The purpose of the EDI Council participating in reading and discussing Is Everyone Really Equal? is to ensure we are working from a stance of informed knowledge, rather than personal opinions, and to ensure we have the essential tools for effective communication and work on the subject of equity on our campus and in our classrooms here at LWTech. This is our way of showing a unified stance on our unwavering commitment to advocating equity at LWTech. 

Melody Schneider
Melody is the current Co-Coordinator for Faculty Professional Development at Edmonds Community College and she is recommending Small Teaching by  James M. Lang.
Melody says: Faculty in my department (High School Completion) at EdCC started reading this book last winter.  We tried strategies from the first chapter during winter quarter. For my part, the strategies around retrieval had a great impact on a student’s memory and they thought so too!  This summer I'm ready to finish the book and apply additional strategies.  I particularly like how Lang uses research to support each idea along with stories and examples.  It's a small book, a quick connect and absolutely useful.

Claire Murata

Claire is on the library staff at Shoreline Community College. She’s reading the assessment section from Reading for Understanding, R. Schoenback , Cynthia Greenleaf and Lynn Murphy, and also Metaliteracy in Practice Eds.  Trudi E. Jacobson and Thomas P. Mackey. This book shows how teachers and students can work together to boost literacy, engagement, and achievement. Specifically, it helps readers use the Reading Apprenticeship® framework to increase student engagement and academic achievement in subject area classes. Amazon says of Metaliteracy: “Today's learners communicate, create, and share information using a range of information technologies such as social media, blogs, microblogs, wikis, mobile devices and apps, virtual worlds, and MOOCs. In Metaliteracy, respected information literacy experts Mackey and Jacobson present a comprehensive structure for information literacy theory that builds on decades of practice while recognizing the knowledge required for an expansive and interactive information environment.”

Sally Heilstedt
Sally is the Associate Dean of Instruction at Lake Washington Institute of Technology. Sally says, “I would like to finish The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from a Secret World, by Peter Wohlleben. So far, I have been astounded by the connectedness that communities of trees (aka forests) practice to survive and thrive. I find myself reflecting on the beautiful complexity of our world and where we have complicated it unnecessarily. I am inspired to seek out the same connectedness with family and friends and with colleagues. It has been a challenge. Trees have powerful resources for preserving their communities and even those fail. I face distractions and seeming urgencies that keep me from focusing on the great work and meaningful relationships that result when connectedness is the primary goal. Here’s to learning from our leafed neighbors!”

Natasa Kesler
 Natasa is the Director of Cascadia’s Teaching and Learning Academy. A couple of years ago at Cascadia College we had a very successful Faculty Learning Circle inspired by Therese Huston’s book “Teaching What You Don’t Know” (2009). The title summarizes a typical problem faced by faculty (especially at Community Colleges) who are often called to teach outside their own expertise area.  However, Huston’s book is much more than a manual for novice teachers. It is a well-organized work, full of practical advice and detailed descriptions of numerous successful classroom strategies for new and seasoned instructors. In addition to addressing the struggles faced by college faculty, the book offers very practical active learning classroom ideas, describes approaches to collect student feedback and ways to design meaningful assessments.  Cascadia’s Teaching and Learning Academy (TLA) was so impressed by Huston’s book that we decided to make a tradition of gifting it to all new Cascadia faculty.

Peg Balachowski
Peg is the Associate Dean of Teaching and Learning at Everett Community College. From Peg: This summer I am going to read Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher by Stephen P. Brookfield. Marzano’s “Becoming a Reflective Teacher” is a handbook that I refer to often, and it’s a great handbook for strategies (important!) Brookfield opens his book with “We teach to change the world.” How can you not read a book that begins with that statement? After finishing this I hope to be able to move on to his more recent book, “Teaching for Critical Thinking. “ Critical thinking is one of EvCC’s College Core Learning Outcomes and I want to make it a big part of my work with faculty in the coming year.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Student Evaluations – Should We Pay Attention to Them?

The answer is YES!

Summer is a great time to reflect on the most recent academic year. Not only can you sit in the sun enjoying a refreshing beverage, reviewing your classroom activities and what went right and what might need some tweeking, you can and should also take some time to reflect on your student evaluations from the past year. In a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education: As Summer Sets In, a Chance to Regard the Good, Bad, and Ugly of Student Evaluations, author Chris Quintana says, “Some of the weirder things students write in course evaluations can be fun to mock. But professors say they get helpful comments, too, and sometimes transformative ones that lead to improvements in how they teach.” Have you been dinged because of your accent or the way you dress? Quintana reminds us, “On the one hand, the students’ concerns can seem off-topic or mean-spirited. On the other hand, students’ unreserved criticism can be invaluable in improving a course.”
Sometimes we hear comments from students that are conflicting. Some students like projects, some students hate them. Some students like your jokes in class, some students think they’re stupid. What would you do with these comments? How would you take this information and use it to improve your course?

If you are one of those people who doesn’t really believe in the importance of student end-of-course evaluations or wonder if students are really “qualified” to evaluate their courses, you may ask why do we even do them? Betsy Barre, Associate Director of Rice University’s Center for Teaching Excellence, did a study and was highlighted in an article in Vitae. She concludes that despite many issues around student evals (such as they are used for a multitude of purposes), she says they are still important and valuable. In fact, “studies showed a positive correlation between student evaluations and learning.” While they are an “imperfect tool,” we have few other instruments of teaching effectiveness. And remember, these are evaluations of students’ perception of their own learning.

Some recommendations from this article in Vitae include:

Take your time – look at the results as soon as they are available, but remember that these reports contain a lot of valuable information. So if the results aren’t what you were hoping for, put them away and go back a week later when you’ve had some time to process.

Do a deep dive - Many of us go right to the numbers. However, there are other parts of the evaluation report that are (in my opinion) far more important! Make sure you are paying close attention to how students responded to the questions on the evaluation that are most important to you.

Go back in time – When you are thinking about the evaluations that you will be doing in the future, plan, plan, plan. Then plan some more! Remember that checking in with students several times during the quarter (remember to do a PLUS/DELTA at mid-quarter!) will ultimately result in better connections with students and better evaluation results.

Put the evaluations in context – Unlike other types of assessments (and that’s really what student evaluations are) these are anonymous student feedback. However, because you are asking the students that you have spent the entire quarter with to complete the evaluation, they are not exactly random!

When you are reviewing your evaluation report, you know what happened during the quarter…the students in your class, how each of them did academically, the material you covered. There may be students who didn’t do well and may express some of those “concerns” in their comments. Try to keep these comments in perspective. I can remember having many nice comments from students, and then one that seemed like a “grudge” comment that got me down in the dumps. How to deal with that? Keep it in perspective! We cannot make every student happy every quarter. It may be a comment from the student who didn’t show up every day and/or didn’t complete work, and who chose to be disengaged. Sometimes we have to admit we cannot reach all students.

So, in the end, with our refreshing beverage and a sunny day, the big take-aways from a review of student evaluations include: look for trends, look on the bright side, and look for ways to improve next time around.

Happy summer!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

What Would You Do Wednesday: Scenario 17

Each week we will bring you a short scenario to address issues that you, your colleagues and students might face. How would you respond to these scenarios? Would you file a report, or do something different? Talk to your colleagues about these situations - the classroom should be a safe learning environment for students AND instructors!


It’s the last week of classes. Students are anxious about their grades. Projects are due. The final is next week. Not only are teachers becoming more demanding (in the eyes of the students), but for students who have jobs, it seems as though their bosses are also becoming more demanding, as well! Sometimes students do not organize their time well, and the end-of-the quarter creeps up on them without any warning. So there might be some tension in your class. Suppose a classroom discussion topic that you think will be “easy” to wrap up the last week of classes suddenly has a student getting frustrated, and the discussion becomes more heated than you’d like. The student begins criticizing other students and challenging you! How do you help to de-escalate this situation and transform this into a healthy debate instead of an argument?

Post your comments below!

If you'd like someone from the 5 Star Consortium to follow up with you regarding this scenario, please email