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:

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.