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?

Think About Thinking

Ever know someone who was a really bad driver but thought they were especially good? Their perceived competence was high but actual performance was low. This could be a result of poor metacognitive skills (i.e. awareness of one’s own thought processes) as discussed in this Tedx Talk. The same concept holds true for some students in the classroom. Those who feel confident about their understanding, but do poorly on exams, may lack awareness of their own true knowledge or skill. That inability to accurately judge their own competence can affect how much they study. Students with poor metacognition will often shorten their study time prematurely, thinking they have mastered course material when, in fact, their learning may actually be fragmented or inaccurate. As we prepare students for lifelong learning by developing their critical thinking, creative thinking, and interdisciplinary thinking, we should also weave metacognitive thinking throughout our curricula. Below are eight ways to integrate metacognition in your courses.

  • Use formative assessments throughout the semester (i.e. short, low-stakes assessments). Clickers are a great way to accomplish this and TLP can help you get set up.
  • Implement Exam Wrappers.
  • Use the active learning strategy “think-pair-share” so students can reflect on their own learning before sharing in a group.
  • Have students create a practice exam and then answer their questions as a homework assignment. Then, ask them for a judgement of their confidence in their understanding of the material.
  • Ask students to reflect on the strategies they’ve used in the past to learn. Were they effective? Could they be improved?
  • Assign a 60-second in-class writing where students reflect on a prompt about their learning from the homework.
  • Assign students to generate two questions from the assigned reading and think about them throughout class.
  • And perhaps most importantly, role-model your own metacognitive practices


Drop by Events in October

Event Invitation #1

What: Rose Garden Room open house – check out the quiet faculty space for writing, grading, reading, and relaxing. Stop by and enjoy popcorn, snacks, coffee, prizes, juice shots, and other fun activities (see attached flier) sponsored by FDEV and Meriam Library.

When: Wednesday, October 10th – drop in any time between 8am-5pm

Where: MLIB 459

Visit: for more information

Event Invitation #2

What: Viewing party for the livestreamed 2018 Graduation Initiative 2025 Symposium keynote and afternoon presentations focused on improving degree completion and addressing equity (see below). FDEV will provide coffee, hot tea, and snacks so we can listen and discuss how the presentations relate to our campus. Please click here to let us know if you plan to drop by so we can ensure we have a large enough room.

When: Wednesday, October 17th – stop by any time between 1:30 – 4:30pm. The symposium agenda is here.

Where: SSC 150

No More Cheating with Online Exams

Ever catch a student cheating on your online exam? Studies consistently reveal that over half of college students have cheated at least once. Years ago, a student informed me that his peers were using smartphones to photograph the screen during my online exams and then texting friends who hadn’t taken it yet. I was disappointed but also unsure what to do about it. Chico State now has a solution to address online exam cheating in all its various forms. A remote proctoring service called Proctorio provides the convenience of online exams along with the security of proctored exams. This service, which is free for all Chico State faculty, allows you to:

  • Block internet searching and other applications during the exam.
  • Observe the student and their test environment via camera to ensure they are following your testing rules.
  • Customize the strictness of the rules used to best fit your expectations.

After the online exam, Proctorio provides you feedback on each student including data on browser clicks, eye-movements, and an audio/video recording. You then decide how, if at all, to proceed with the data.

If you’re interested in using Proctorio in Spring ‘19, you must first attend a training. If you’re interested in learning more, please attend a virtual initial information session (via Zoom) on Monday, October 15th at 11am to see an overview of this new technology to see how it can fit your needs. Click here to RSVP if you’re interested.

If you have any questions about the information session or about bringing remote proctoring to your course, contact TLP at 898-6167.

Tell Your Story

In a recent interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson argued that universities fail to adequately communicate with the public about their discoveries, which reduces their educational impact. He noted “there’s a whole culture [in academia] that does not embrace…pop culture. If communicating with the public were valued in the tenure process, [faculty] would be better at it.”

  • Do you agree with Dr. Tyson?
  • Should faculty become better storytellers to inform and inspire the public about their scholarship?
  • Should communication to a lay public audience (e.g. local TV news stories, popular magazine publication, YouTube channel, advocacy website) be rewarded in Chico State’s RTP process?

Neil deGrasse Tyson – Chronicle Interview

Share your comments below.

Understanding What’s in a Name

This week’s tip brought to you by Nathan Heggins Bryant, assistant professor in English and co-coordinator of this year’s Book in Common (BiC).

To create an inclusive and welcoming space for students, faculty must be cautious of word choice in the classroom. In her recent book, Dismantling the Racism Machine, Karen Gaffney discusses issues pertaining to naming and diction. She suggests, “Pay more attention to how you respond to other people’s names.” She references a recent study showing that employers and teachers alike respond more positively to names that sound white than those that sound black.

Making an effort to learn and pronounce students’ names is an important step in creating an environment where students feel welcomed and engaged. But so, too, are our decisions to use damaging terms like “illegal alien” (as opposed to “undocumented person”). The implication of name choice is one of the tenets of this year’s BiC (All They Will Call You). If you are interested in learning more, consider attending one of these upcoming Book in Common events.

  • BiC campus kickoff (September 26 from 11-1 on Glenn Lawn)
  • Public film screening and discussion of the documentary Who is Dayani Cristal?, about the efforts to uncover the identity of a man who died at the border (November 6 at 6:30pm in PAC 134)
  • Panel discussion entitled “The Politics of Migrant Death at the Border,” featuring Chico State colleagues (November 14 from 6-8pm in Colusa 100A)

If you are teaching the BiC in a course, in part or in whole, there are resources available for you to use (reading lists, discussion questions, etc.) or you can contact co-coordinators Nathan Heggins Bryant or Hannah Burdette to assist with curricular planning.