Earlier this semester I was in a webinar about a project I was already pretty familiar with. I had participated in a similar program a few years ago and had done some reading in advance. I was excited to learn more about the program and sat down with the best of intentions.
Ten minutes in, I was completely lost. There were acronyms, complex questions, nuances, and personal histories I was completely unfamiliar with. I was so lost, I got bored. I made sure my webcam was not on and pointed my browser to espn.com to familiarize myself with the 49ers depth chart. 35 minutes later the webinar had ended and I had gained almost nothing. I started to do some catch-up reading to see if I could be less lost the next time there was a webinar, and then something occurred to me, I was a novice learner again.
This is the experience many students have in our classes. They are well intentioned, ambitious, interested in the subject matter, and overwhelmed by what we are talking about. The content seems obvious to us, key concepts jump off the page and are elaborated with ease for us, but not for them.
This process does not have to remain a mystery. There are several things you can do in and out of class to transition your class from novice learner status.
- Provide them with a preview of one or two main concepts from a class period, then reference them, then repeat them at the end. The goal is not memorization, it is providing them with a framework for understanding.
- Check in with them during class. Break up an activity or a lecture to re-center a conversation on a framework you find useful.
- Engage in perspective taking. Imagine (with help from them) encountering the material for the first time, what would you think?
A little outside reading never hurt. Check out “The Journey to High Level Performance: Using Knowledge on the Novice-Expert Trajectory to Enhance Higher Education Teaching” by Moore, O’Neil, & Barrett from The Changing Roles and Identities of Teachers and Learners in Higher Education as a good topic primer.
Just remember, every change comes with a cost. With increased attention on the course material, how will your students keep up on the 49ers?
In Faculty Development we are making mentoring a priority. We formally and informally connect new faculty with experienced peers in their colleges. This program is critical to new faculty members as it allows them to ask tough questions and it values the experience of our wonderful full and part-time faculty members. In the new and exciting “U-Courses” the leadership of instructors is put into motion by advanced peers who help students move through complicated course content. We also value the mentoring relationships faculty build with students in undergraduate research efforts which have been recognized by AAC&U as a high-impact practice.
Increasingly, we know mentoring is important for our students and our faculty, but questions persist:
What is mentoring?
How do I know if I am engaging in good mentoring?
I enjoy pointing out other people’s failings in public settings to embarrass them, does that count as mentoring?
While mentoring is as old as human experience, we are still figuring out how to value it in the academy. At Purdue it is increasingly valued in tenure and promotion. On our campus, it is the focus of an exciting and diverse exploration in the upcoming mentoring conference. See the message below for a chance to learn about something we almost all do, but we could all benefit from knowing more about.
When: Friday, October 16, 2015
Where: Colusa Hall 100A&B
[Register for one or multiple sessions, see conference schedule for details]
*No registration fees*
Reasons why you should attend:
- Mentoring helps people establish caring relationships
- Provides resources to help people learn and succeed
- Build mentoring skills that you could use in workplace, community, and education settings
- Opportunity to connect with clubs and organizations that are interested in mentoring, leadership, and civic engagement
- Learn how programs at Chico State implement mentoring into their organization
Interested? Register now.
For more information, contact Gina Tigri at the First-Year Experience Office at 530.898.3705 or visit our Experiential Mentoring Website at http://www.csuchico.edu/fye/mentoringconference.
Last week I shared with you some of what I have learned from when things go sideways in the classroom, when mistakes are made and you have the opportunity to be a role model in working through a problem. Today we deal with the 2nd part, a more sensitive issue, what happens when someone, even you, says something terrible. Maybe a student referred to another student by a sexist name under his/her breath. Maybe a slip of the tongue resulted in you saying something racist. Maybe you realized what you thought was good-natured candor, turned out to a pattern of homophobic harassment directed at another student. Maybe you realize a student does not speak up because they are being bullied away from the classroom.
What do you do now?
There are lots of options, but you can probably guess my first piece of advice will not be “pretend like it never happened.”
The first thing to realize is that you are not alone. The Cross Cultural Leadership Center, the University Diversity Council, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Student Judicial Affairs, the California Faculty Association, the Title IX contacts, and your colleagues are all resources to help you figure out what you need to do to help your students.
The second thing is not a course of action as much as it is a mentality. Realize you might be partially to blame. We all have work to do in creating an atmosphere of inclusion in the classroom and no one ever “has it down.” Open your mind to what you might do differently in the future and make a note of it, maybe even share it with the class.
The third thing to do is realize that, unfortunately, this happens all the time. A 2013 publication in the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education reports on great research and highlights some best practices. Click here for the short version or here for the full version. Some great starting points include “Reactive usage: Turning overt conflict into a learning opportunity” and “Proactive usage: surfacing underlying or covert conflicts for learning.”
We would never give our students the problem solving advice “ignore it and it will go away,” so let us practice what we preach and engage the difficult problems in our classrooms, even when they make us feel uncomfortable.
This tip is brought to you from our partners in the Office of Civic Engagement.
If you are interested in learning more, check out the discussion led by Ellie Ertle at the CELT Conference at 2pm on Friday the 9th. While you are thinking about, be sure to register for the conference!
“In the end, higher education should be devoted not just to the spread of knowledge but to the pursuit of virtuous action. It should have an impact on how students make the important choices that shape their lives.” – Thomas Ehrlich, Civic and Moral Learning
What did you see on your way to work this morning? Perhaps on your drive you struggled with traffic as high school students crossed a busy intersection, crossed the bridge on campus and saw the dry creek bed or saw someone sleeping in Children’s Park. As faculty, we are fortunate to live and work in a beautiful place that, like communities everywhere, has wonderful assets along with real problems to address. Fortunately, Chico State brings a bounty of intellectual resources and people-power that can be channeled to positively impact our community while expanding student learning.
Simply put, civic engagement is about connecting students with real problems and opportunities in the community and world in which they live. Chico State faculty have a rich history of helping students be solutionaries – whether it is working with community leaders to address local issues, teaching lessons in schools, or engaging students in service learning projects. In doing so, we create space for students to learn more about themselves as well as about how they can use their unique talents to impact the world for the better.
Chico State values civic engagement and education for the public good. It may seem intimidating, but there are resources on campus to facilitate these opportunities for your courses. The Office of Civic Engagement (OCE) can help you incorporate civic engagement into your curriculum in a way that works for you, your class and your students. Visit OCE’s website for more information or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today’s tip is “Get to know your students.”
During New Faculty Orientation an accomplished professor from Business told a powerful story of a dedicated instructor who poured hundreds of hours of time into course design, but did not know the name of a single student. Evaluations revealed the students had a disappointing experience in the class despite the extensive planning.
Names are one way we can get to know our students, but there are others, too. Every year, Beloit College publishes their “Mindset List” detailing the life experiences of incoming students. Here are a few highlights that might help you get to know your students:
- They have grown up treating Wi-Fi as an entitlement.
- The therapeutic use of marijuana has always been legal in a growing number of American states.
- The Lion Kinghas always been on Broadway.
- Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic have always been members of NATO.
The time we take to get to know a little about our students as a group and as individuals tends to pay off in the form of a more dynamic classroom and a better learning environment for all of our students.