Teach Students, Not Subjects

It’s 2019 and our incoming students are the first university class born this century. While we serve students from all age groups, most of our incoming freshman grew up very differently than most of us.  For example, they were one year old when 9/11 happened and they’ve always had Wikipedia for “research.”

Here are some realities of our students born after the year 2000…

  • Humans have always lived in space, not just traveled there.
  • They have grown up afraid that a school shooting could happen.
  • Same-sex marriage has always been legal somewhere.
  • Oprah has always been a magazine.
  • They never used a spitbowl in a dentist’s office.
  • A visit to the bank is a rare event.
  • Best-selling books have always been available on an e-reader.

Deep learning requires that we know our students and connect with them when we can. As the saying goes, “we teach students, not subjects.”

Invitation to a Discussion About the Camp Fire

On November 8th, 2018 a devastating wildfire destroyed the town of Paradise and surrounding areas. While we grieve the loss of these communities and begin planning for the recovery process, Chico State has numerous opportunities for teaching, research, and contributing to the RECOVERY efforts. To help you incorporate some of these ideas into your teaching and scholarship, a group of committed faculty developed this website https://www.csuchico.edu/team-teaching/campfire/index.shtml

It compiles INFORMATION ON grant opportunities, social media resources, RESEARCH and teaching ideas.

To further explore these opportunities, all faculty (lecturers, tenured, and tenure-track) are invited to a discussion about the post-Camp Fire era. 

“Teaching the Camp Fire” Roundtable Discussion

Friday, February 8th from 2:00PM – 4:00PM in Colusa 100B

(Light Refreshments Provided)

Tuesday Tip – The Most Important Part of a Syllabus

What is the most important part of a syllabus? Due dates? Point structure? Attendance policy? The concept of “Backwards Design” suggests that Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) are among the most important because they guide every single thing that you and your students do for the entire course. An SLO defines what students should know or be able to do by the end of your course and thus determines what will be taught and how. So, consider spending some time this semester creating or updating your SLOs. They should be in sync with your department outcomes and be clearly stated on your syllabus. All your assessments (labs, exams, papers, projects, etc.) should measure the extent to which students meet your SLOs. Below are a few examples of SLOs that are clear, observable, and measurable.

By the end of the semester, students will be able to…

  • Communicate using academic language appropriate for a nursing environment.
  • Demonstrate the ability to apply basic research methods in psychology, including research design, data analysis, and interpretation.
  • Develop an individual exercise program based on the results of a fitness assessment.

Efficient Grading

“The Laundry of Teaching” – that’s what a colleague of mine once nicknamed the process of grading because as soon as you finish one pile, another one awaits. Grading may not be the most riveting of the professorial tasks, but here are a few strategies to make it more accurate and less time-consuming.

  • Give feedback using a speech-to-text dictation app or create an audio file of your verbal feedback using a mobile device and upload to Box for students.
  • To reduce grading bias on paper exams, fold the corner of the page to hide student’s names.
  • Only write exam questions that assess your course learning outcomes. The rest are likely unnecessary.
  • Grade with a rubric for increased accuracy and consistency. This requires an investment of time up front to create the rubric but it will save you lots of time (and headaches) down the road.

Fall 2018 Grading Oasis

Another Tuesday Tip coming a day early to help…

Starting today, MLIB 459 will have free hot coffee, decaf, hot tea, snacks and fresh fruit for faculty (including T/TT and lecturers) from 8am-5pm Monday-Friday. Drop in at your leisure to grade, read, write, or do whatever you need to get done. We’ve updated the space with some new décor and the amazing view is always refreshing. Our student assistant, Ariana, may be available to assist with some grading as long as student names are not visible.

Best wishes to you for a smooth finish to the semester!

For more information, visit www.csuchico.edu/fdev.

Be Innovative with Your Final

Given the unprecedented end-of-semester challenges from the Camp Fire, it’s ok to ask yourself “Do I really need to administer a traditional final exam?” If the answer is yes because it’s a required high-stakes exam for a certificate or a gateway exam to the next course in the sequence, then by all means, administer it. If, however, you plan to give a written final exam purely because that’s just what professors have always done, then consider a few possible alternatives for students to demonstrate their learning.

  • Ask students to apply what they’ve learned by connecting your course material to other classes they’ve had, or to the current social, economic, scientific, or political context
  • Enhance inclusivity by allowing students to develop some of the final exam questions or essay prompts
  • Have students present their work to each other in a poster session, portfolio reveal, gallery walk, or some other event

The university requires that classes meet at the designated time during finals week. I encourage you to explore innovative possibilities to make that a meaningful, worthwhile, and perhaps even enjoyable culminating experience for students. Provost Larson’s 11/30 e-mail noted that there may be exceptions to the required final exam policy, especially this semester, so you have some latitude to be intellectually creative with your assessments.

How to Manage the 8%

With six missed class days due to the Camp Fire, you and your students lost roughly 8% of the total contact hours for the semester. I encourage you to resist the desire to jump right back into course content and strive to catch up. Doubling up on lectures or assignments may not promote learning and may make an already challenging time more stressful for some students. Investing time in a mindful transition back to the classroom will create a more supportive learning environment. Consider sharing your own experience of the fire and allow students the space to discuss their thoughts and concerns. To manage the 8% of time lost, consider adjusting due dates, omitting non-essential content, modifying exams, putting additional texts on reserve at the library, or even asking students how they want to reshape the final three weeks of class. Most importantly, ensure students are explicitly clear on any changes made to the course. If you have need help modifying your Blackboard pages or managing online content,  TLP is available to assist you (898-6167).

If you want to better understand a framework for trauma and how to support students returning to school, see the attached flyer promoting a presentation later this week. Also attached is a list of support resources for both you and your students.

Best wishes to you and your loved ones from all of us in the Faculty Development Office.


Today’s election could impact how some universities are funded. Several candidates for governor are running on a free college plan as part of their platform. Here is an article on what’s at stake nationally for higher education. In CA, several propositions on the ballot could have implications for teachers, which is why the California Teachers Association (representing K-12 teachers) and the California Faculty Association (representing CSU faculty) have emailed lists of endorsed candidates to their members.

Click here to find your polling place. Polls close at 8pm and Article 23.11 in the CSU Collective Bargaining Agreement ensures that you can get there if you want.

Resources for Co-Teaching

The Office of Civic Engagement is excited to announce the launch of a new website on Co-teaching & Community Engagement.  Co-teaching and community engagement afford faculty innovative opportunities for blending content from different fields into a specialized course that provides a unique learning experience for students. In addition, interdisciplinary teaching and community engagement are well-researched and established high impact practices shown to be beneficial for college students from many backgrounds, especially historically underserved students.

One of the outcomes of the Provost’s Special Initiative on Co-teaching & Community Engagement last spring was a new website for faculty to connect, learn, and try out interdisciplinary teaching and to add a civic engagement component to their courses. The site includes examples of co-teaching here at Chico State, how to find the resources you need, current research related to co-teaching models, and FAQs about the process.

Trigger Warnings in College

The “trigger warning” below is a quote from Jonathan Rauch, a first amendment scholar and best-selling author who spoke at Chico State in 2016 (video here). He advocates for free speech and recommends that every university add this statement to their course catalog, website, and publicity materials…

 “Warning: Although this university values and encourages civil expression and respectful political behavior, you may at any moment without notice, encounter ideas, expressions, and images that are mis-taken, upsetting, dangerous, prejudice, insulting, or deeply offensive. We call this “Education.”

Do you think Chico State should include a trigger warning in our catalog?

Would you include a trigger warning on your syllabus?

Do trigger warnings threaten your academic freedom or ensure it?