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

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

Related image
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:


Related image
“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:

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

eNewsletters and Resources

submitted by Brigid Nulty, Associate Dean of Teaching, Learning and Assessment.

I’m celebrating my 4-month anniversary as Shoreline’s first Associate Dean of Teaching, Learning, and Assessment. One of my little pilot project experiments has been an eNewsletter. I send it out about every 10 days (ish) to about 25 faculty.  It’s not particular fancy (it’s just an email) but my hope is to get some good feedback from my “guinea pigs” that will help me plan a much better all-faculty eNewletter program next year. (Note to self: learn MailChimp this summer. "(The appeal of a tool like MailChimp is that I’ll have access to metrics to find out if people are actually opening my e-Newsletter, and I’ll be able to find out which of the many links I provide actually get clicked.)"

One of the elements I’ve included in my newsletter is a Cool Thing O’ the Week. These are mostly just amusements.

Another component I include in my newsletter is a Question of the Week. The hope is to prompt some reflection and musings, and maybe even elicit responses. So far, only one of my readers actually replies, so this particular feature may not persist next year. In any case, I thought I’d share the questions I’ve asked during these first few months:
  • What experiences would help build community and camaraderie across disciplines, on this campus? 
  •  Which of these ProD approaches would work for you? Here’s a different menu of approaches. 
  • What would make for an awesome Opening Week in the fall? What kinds of experiences would make you feel energized, equipped, and connected? 
  • What would get you to participate in a book group during the summer? Or during Fall quarter? Or, a book group that ran through two quarters? I’m amassing this list of cool books that I think could be so interesting – especially with our individual and institutional aims of creating a more equitable learning environment. Follow-up question: Has anyone ever participated in a virtual book group? If so, what made it successful?  
  • Have you attended a conference this year? Did you go to a session that made an impact, got you thinking differently or trying something new? Tell me!  Are you planning on attending a conference this summer? Tell me! 
  • What compliment do you wish you could receive about your work? [borrowed from Will Allen, c/o swissmiss]

So, now… a question to blog readers: What would make an e-Newsletter appealing to you?

Monday, June 4, 2018

Featured Faculty Developer: Elisabeth Fredrickson

Hear a bit from Elisabeth Fredrickson, one of our blog contributors, and the Associate Dean for Instruction at Edmonds Community College!

What do you like most about your job?

Talking to faculty about their teaching! I love to hear instructors’ success stories, help them troubleshoot friction points in their teaching, and generally geek out on teaching and learning.

What are three career lessons you’ve learned thus far?

I’ll give you one big one: Don’t wait for someone else to bestow expertise status on you. If there’s something that fascinates you, that you want to learn more about, then just go learn it! Read, go to workshops, listen to podcasts, watch videos, talk to people. People in the field of education, in particular, are eager to share what they know!

What would people never guess you do in your role?

Interior design (I got to design my own office space) and hospitality (I make a lot of tea). Those weren’t listed in the job description, but making people feel welcome is a big part of my role.

What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?

Hiking and backpacking. A friend (a fellow English teacher) and I took last summer off and backpacked in the Olympics and Cascades. We hiked Tuck and Robin Lakes during the Jolly Mountain fire and got evacuated by the ranger (fortunately, we’d already reached the lake and were on our way out, so we didn’t miss anything!).

Are you messy or organized?

Let’s just call it controlled chaos : )

Do you have a favorite newspaper, blog?

Three recommendations:

Cult of Pedagogy – Jennifer Gonzales’ excellent teaching blog with quick tips you can apply right away in the classroom.
Teaching In Higher Ed Podcast – Bonni Stachowiak has such a comforting voice. She’s like a den mother for teachers. She also knows her stuff, has smart guests, and offers loads of advice about becoming a more effective, efficient, and joyful teacher.
Teach Better Podcast – Doug McKee and Edward O’Neil take deep dives into a variety of teaching and learning topics and interview award-winning teachers. This is the podcast that first got me excited about the scholarship of teaching and learning.

If you could witness any historical event, what would you want to see?
I’d go back to Paris in the 1920s and hang out with the Fitzgeralds, Gertrude Stein, and the other expats -- just like in the movie Midnight in Paris. Maybe I’d buy a Picasso.

What’s the one thing you can’t live without?

Oxygen? Also coffee.

Best childhood memory?
Camping at Kalaloch, on the Olympic Peninsula, as a kid. We still go every summer with our own kids, who are basically adults now. The tradition continues. . .

If your house was burning down, what’s the one non-living thing you would save?

I can’t think of a single non-living thing that would make me run into a burning house!

Top 3 life highlights?

Marrying my high school sweetheart, bringing our three awesome kids into the world, and climbing Mt. Rainier.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Teaching the Top 100%

The 5 Star Consortium Colleges are thrilled to celebrate our 100th blog post today! Thank you to our readers and contributors!

Please enjoy this timely blog post titled: "Teaching the Top 100%"

by Elisabeth Fredrickson, Associate Dean for Instruction at Edmonds Community College

In a recent TIHE podcast, Sarah Rose Cavanagh reframed the contrast between selective universities and open-access community colleges. Community colleges are selective too, she says. “They select the top 100%.”

In other words, we say to students, “We select all of you. We believe you can learn and succeed.”

Inclusive teaching can mean a lot of things, but generally, it describes practices that support meaningful and accessible learning for all students, taking into account their diverse needs, abilities, backgrounds, and experiences.

How might that play out in the classroom? Here are a few examples:

UNC Chapel Hill professor Kelly Hogan added structure to her Biology 101 class. She started teaching her students how to learn (what to do before, during, and after class). Her explicit instructions and mandatory practice sessions helped all of her students, but it especially benefited first-generation, black, and Latino/a students.

Marsha Penner facilitates classroom discussions using small groups and shuffled response cards for anonymity. That way, even introverted students and students with social anxiety are encouraged to participate.

Kelly Zamudio’s introduction of active learning strategies in her evolutionary biology class boosted self-confidence and sense of social belonging among all of her students, and it also boosted achievement among underrepresented minority students.

Some great examples of inclusive teaching that I’ve seen on my own campus include kinesthetic mock quizzes, peer teaching sessions, community-building icebreakers, low-cost textbooks, and classroom norms that promote active and non-judgmental listening.

What do you do in your classroom to provide support, equitable access, and meaningful learning for all of your students? How do you address the needs of specific populations of students in your classes, and how do you leverage their strengths?

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Bandwidth and Burnout

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

Back in April, I wrote a post about faculty burnout. Since then, I have used the image below to talk about bandwidth and capacity. It’s spring quarter. We’re tired. We’re crabby. When the sun is out and we’re still at our desks grading and planning, mostly what we are thinking about is far different from the tasks at hand. In an article in Contemporary Issues In Education Research, the author cites some definitions of burnout:

  • Burnout is when a person has pushed his/her creative energy beyond the point of discovery.
  • Burnout is experiencing continuous job-related stress where one has the loss of physical, emotional and mental energy.
  • Burnout is the lack of desire and motivation to achieve a balance among professorial responsibilities in the areas of: teaching, scholarship, service, and student care-giving and peer relationships.
  • Burnout is when one experiences detachment (especially from students, staff, peers and clients) and a loss of satisfaction or sense of accomplishment.
Do you see yourself in any of these definitions? Is there a solution? Check out these solutions from The Chronicle of Higher Education:
  • Take time off, if only for an evening.
  • Remember that your job is a job — even if you love it. You are more than your job.
  • Find ways to say no.
  • Choose sleep over extra class-prep time. 
  • Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Sounds really easy, right? I especially like “Find ways to say no.” We have to be very careful about who we say no to (students? Your Dean? A colleague?) and how often! Great advice, but very hard to implement.

We’d love to hear your approach to dealing with (and avoiding) burning.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

After Conference Thoughts

submitted by Brigid Nulty - the Associate Dean of Teaching, Learning and Assessment at Shoreline Community College

It’s Friday afternoon and I’m back at my college, working, after two full days at the ATL Conference in Vancouver, Wa. It was my first time and I loved it for a bunch of reasons: chief among them the opportunity to hang out with with my Pro-D colleagues (go 5-Star!) and meet some amazing teacher-leaders from across the state.

There were many great learning moments, but here were two that really had an impact on me.
1.    Debra Jenkins’ metaphor of the “bridge” as a place we meet others to discuss and engage in conflict. She made the point that change is hard, equity is hard, and that conflict is an opportunity for both personal, professional, and institutional growth. We need to embrace it, and stay “on the bridge”. Not ignore or deny the ravine, not drive others to jump off, not jump off ourselves…

2.    I loved Bevyn Rowland’s pre-conference training! The takeaway? Making time to do healthy self-care is important, and should not be apologized for. We should be supporting it, championing it, for ourselves and for our colleagues. Why? High stress and exhaustion increase implicit bias and negativity bias. Both of these biases harm others. The ethical thing to do is to learn how to take care of ourselves so that we are more resilient and adaptable in the face of [inevitable] stress. Oh and by the way: healthy, long-lasting self-care practices are difficult! I loved this quote that was posted:
“What [they] don’t often tell you is that self-care can be completely terrible. Self-care includes a lot of adult-ing, and activities you want to put off indefinitely. Self-care sometimes means making tough decisions which you fear others will judge. Self-care involves asking for help; it involves vulnerability; it involves being painfully honest with yourself and your loved ones about what you need.” – Mawiyah Patten, on the website, The Mighty

Did you go to ATL? Have you been to some other conference recently? What made an impression on you?

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Featured Job posting - Highline College

Interested in doing some great things at Highline College? At the Learning and Teaching Center, Highline is hiring a Program Manager!

The Learning and Teaching Center (LTC) Program Manager provides leadership, coordination, direction, and vision for faculty professional development.  The Manager directly reports to the Dean of Instructional Resources, while closely collaborating with the Vice President for Academic Affairs, Instructional Deans, Instructional Design staff, and faculty in strategic planning for the Center.

This position requires the ability to plan and facilitate holistic faculty professional development with regard to teaching, learning, cultural responsiveness, assessment, and advising.  The Director coordinates the activities of LTC affiliate faculty in providing peer-based training, is part of Instruction Cabinet, and serves on the Opening Week and Professional Development Day annual planning committee.

This position requires:

  • Master's Degree in Education, Community College Development, Educational Leadership, Curriculum Design, Professional Development, or related field; AND
  • Higher education teaching experience  
For more information and to apply online, visit:

Monday, April 23, 2018

Exams – are they really learning opportunities?

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

“Some faculty members lament that exams can be missed opportunities to cultivate learning because worries about grades consume students' attention. What if there were a better way?”

In a recent post in the Teaching and Learning newsletter (courtesy of The Chronicle for Higher Education) the authors described a two-stage exam:

“Here’s how it works: Students take an exam individually... After they submit their answers, they split into groups of three to five students and go over the test together to hash out the answers.” Hmmm… you might be wondering if students who know this is the exam protocol would neglect to prepare for the exam. I wondered that too. The faculty who used this technique decided to test whether students had really learned anything from the group session and gave a surprise quiz just a few days later on the same material. Note that this was an INDIVIDUAL quiz. To their delight, “students who tested collaboratively learned the correct answers to more than one-third of the questions they had initially answered incorrectly on the tests they had taken individually. And, when students were tested three days later, the knowledge largely stuck.”

Is that enough of a boost in learning to convince you to try this technique? Let us know if you do and how your students did!

By the way, you can sign up to receive the Teaching and Learning Newsletter from the Chronicle by going to this site.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Avoiding Burnout

submitted by Peg Balachowski, Associate Dean of Teaching and Learning at Everett Community College

I know it’s only week 2 of the quarter at our college, but somehow Spring Quarter is when most faculty seem to get that “burned out” feeling. In the Pacific Northwest, the spring can be wet, dark, and kind of gloomy, perhaps contributing to that feeling. There are other contributing factors as well, including the increased workload that comes with campus initiatives, new projects that we’re adding to a class, the increased number of young students in our classes who may feel a certain entitlement and who, as I recently heard from an administrator, demand our immediate attention both in the classroom AND online. Nothing like being on-call 24 hours a day!woman head down on crumpled papers next to notebooks and pens

One of my favorite educational bloggers, David Gooblar (writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education), writes: “ a 2014 study of depression, stress, and anxiety among non-tenure-track faculty in the United States discovered something strange: Among the faculty surveyed — in both part-time and full-time positions — the more committed they were to their institutions, the more likely they were to experience high levels of workplace stress, and to experience depression, anxiety, and stress more generally.”

Not great news, especially as faculty at most colleges are always being asked to do more.  Are there ways to avoid burnout (or to deal with it if you are feeling it already)? Gooblar offers 4 tips:

  1. Take time off, if only for an evening.
  2. Remember that your job is a job — even if you love it. 
  3. Find ways to say no.
  4. Choose sleep over extra class-prep time. 

You may read these tips and think, “I’ve got grading! I have committee meetings! I have to prep for tomorrow’s class!” Yes, all that’s true, and we are not recommending that you abandon all those responsibilities in favor of extra sleep or taking EVERY evening off. Remember that your college has resources, and Gooblar reminds us, “don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’ve got friends, family, and colleagues who can help. If you’re feeling stressed and emotionally exhausted, it’s for good reason — most likely you care about your job and believe in the importance of doing it well. But there’s no benefit to running yourself into the ground. Let people around you know when you’re feeling low, and offer words of understanding and support when you see colleagues struggling to balance it all. If you worry that you’re burning out, you can safely assume that others around you are, too. Share your burden and it will start to feel lighter.”

I encourage you to take several minutes to read the entire article in the Chronicle. Choose one of the 4 tips recommended by Gooblar and see how it works.  Be sure to close your eyes and breathe; move away from your desk (and that pile of papers to grade) for a few minutes; as the weather improves start taking a 10-minute walk across your campus at least once a day. And encourage your students to do the same. It’s likely they are feeling some burnout as well.