Podcasts and Teaching/Learning

This tip pulls together several recommendations connected by a common theme: podcasting. I love the format of podcasts because it allows me to learn something while I am doing chores or walking the dog. 

First, Dr. Jamie Gunderson from the School of Education has started the fifth season of our own Rise, Teach, Learn podcast. I was happy to join Jamie along with two of my favorite campus colleagues, Assistant Vice President Mary Wallmark and Dean Tracy Butts to discuss Caffeinated Cats – the first Faculty Development housed podcast at Chico State. I hope you enjoy listening to this episode and exploring the wonderful library of work Jamie has created. 

Second, think about exploring podcasting as a tool for teaching and learning. Faculty Development has a whole workshop series on the topic in our archive. This can be an alternative format for student work and for distribution of your own course content. When I teach I often assign podcasts. Students have traditionally responded well to the change of pace. 

Third, I continue to think the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast with Bonni Stachowiak is an industry leader in exploring key topics related to our work in the classroom. She interviews an excellent guest every week and covers nearly every topic related to teaching and learning. Recent episodes on Equity and Social Justice in STEM Education and Assignment Makeovers in the AI Age have been especially good. 

Finally, I want to remind you that we have purchased an institutional membership to the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity. Last week we sent out the simple steps needed to activate your individual membership (look for them below). In each Tuesday Tip I will be trying to highlight a resource or upcoming event through NCFDD. On Thursday of this week they are hosting an interesting webinar on How to Engage in Healthy Conflict hosted by Dr. Ndidiamaka Amutah-Onukagha. It is an area of potential growth for many of us. 

1) Go to http://www.FacultyDiversity.org/Join
2) Choose your institution from the drop-down menu. 
3) Select “Activate my Membership” 
4) Complete the registration form using your institutional email address (i.e. @InstitutionalEmail.edu) 
5) Go to your institution email to find a confirmation email. Click “Activate Account” in the confirmation email.

Zach Justus
Interim Director of Faculty Development
Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences
Google Voice/Text: 530-487-4150

New Colleagues and Old Problems

This time of year can be challenging for all of us—but especially for new faculty. The balance of scholarship, teaching, service, and life outside campus can be difficult to maintain even if you have been at it for a long time, but take a minute to recall the time when it was all new. In Faculty Development we have a formal mentoring program run by Susan Wiesinger that provides assigned mentors for new tenure-track faculty and a specialized workshop series for lecturer faculty. However, we acknowledge that the most important mentoring work is almost always informal and local. I want to highlight a few realities of these relationships that I hope you will keep in mind as this semester closes and we look toward Fall 2017.

  • Lecturer faculty need mentoring too. Lecturers have a dramatic impact on student success as they are often the people called on to teach first-year students and serve in other critical roles. Prioritizing student success means equipping lecturers with research, resources, and drawing on their expertise. It also means engaging them in conversation on effective teaching, research opportunities, and helping them navigate the university. This is a job for all us, regardless of classification. Talk to new lecturer colleagues about professional development like the CELT conference and how to access resources for travel.
  • Minority faculty face unique challenges, but you do not have to share the same life experience to be helpful. A recent Chronicle article highlighted key strategies for mentoring new minority scholars. I encourage you to read the whole article, but I want to highlight the first piece of advice “Practice cultural humility” and in doing so “demonstrate empathy for the professor’s experience as a faculty member of color in the institution.” In institutions like ours with strong organization culture we are often too quick to bring newcomers up to speed with “how things are done here” without being attentive to other strategies or experiences. Mentoring is mainly learning and listening.
  • Make a plan and get out there. Writing “be a good mentor” on a post-it note may be a reminder for you, but it is not a plan. Talk with your colleagues and your department/college leadership about what is being done and what is possible, but get started. Make a point to drop by a new colleagues office to ask how things are going, make a trip to a different floor or building to talk to a new lecturer that you have not met, but take the first step in outreaching to your new colleagues.

I am advising this now in hopes of helping our colleagues at the end of the term, but also to compel you to think about how next year could be even better with new faces, new ideas, and new mentoring relationships.

The call for the 23rd annual CELT conference is live! Submit an abstract today to change the world tomorrow—or maybe in October.

Got feedback on this tip? Got an idea for a tip? Send it along. Check out our new and improved wordpress site here.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Caffeinated Cats podcast! Our newest episode is out now! Mary, Tracy, and I are joined by student guest Martin Morales to discuss housing and food insecurity at CSU, Chico. Link to it on soundclouditunesovercast, or follow the podcast on facebook.

L.E.A.R.N.

Welcome Back!

This week you will have a flyer entitled L.E.A.R.N. in your mailboxes from the Campus Incident Response Team. The flyer is a quick-start guide for managing contentious classroom discussions. It is designed for you to keep in a notebook, post it outside your office, or clip it to the board in a classroom. As a companion the team has also produced an extended guide which you can find on the new “Our Democracy” page off the University main page. To save you a click, we are also posting it here as today’s teaching tip. Good luck out there!

Contentious classroom discussions can be difficult for everyone involved. As an instructor you are often balancing the roles of teacher, peacemaker, and arbiter. This is the extended version of the L.E.A.R.N. quick-start guide distributed to campus.

Listen to what your students are saying. Listening can be hard, especially if someone is saying something with which you strongly disagree. However, it is a precondition to everything that should come next. Listening allows us to understand, find meaning and agreement, and opens the possibility of reaching a better solution.  In the same way that you want your students to listen to you, be open to being challenged by your students.  If you make a mistake, apologize.  Learn from it.  Unsure how to get started? Watch this short informative video about active listening.

Empathize with their position, especially when it is difficult. In the contemporary political environment this is often the missing piece. In the moment of a contentious classroom discussion it can be difficult to fully grasp why students feel the way they do, but making an effort is important. Try to consider why people feel the way they do rather than just focusing on what was said, but do so without casting judgment.  Assume the best of others.  If a student says something alarming or seemingly out of place, ask about it.  Listen for the subtext; sometimes the most important thing is under what is said.  Or, offer a tentative interpretation about the student’s feelings and intentions.  Question in a manner that requests more information or attempts to clear up confusions.  This part of the process can also be taken off-line with an email expressing empathy or a follow-up office hour visit. Empathy is a powerful teaching tool. This recent podcast is a great primer on why teaching with empathy is so effective.

Assess what to do. Take a minute compose yourself. We have been conditioned to respond immediately and avoid silence, but you need to fight the impulse to act immediately. If things get heated, take a time out.  Spend five minutes writing about what you feel.  Then resume the conversation. This can be awkward, but it is okay to tell your class everyone should take a moment to process what was said and consider how to move forward. This tactic will be helpful for them and it gives you a minute to compose yourself. Your solution does not have to be perfect, but taking a minute will make it better.

Respond directly, redirect the conversation, or end it. There is no one path forward from a difficult classroom conversation. Instead of having a go-to tactic, try being aware of the options at your disposal in a contentious classroom. You can respond directly and engage the topic at hand. This is a great option if you feel well equipped for the conversation and you feel the conversation can be productive for the class. You can redirect the flow of the classroom, frequently toward the usual classroom content. This is a good tactic if you feel a conversation is headed in an unproductive direction and it does not shut you off from following up later with a Blackboard or in person announcement to start the next class. The last resort in a contentious class period is to end class early. This should only be reserved for situations where the rest of class will be unproductive and/or people in the class feel like they might be at risk. This tactic re-centers your control in the classroom. If you end class, you should follow up with any student who may feel isolated, with an explanation to the class, and consult with your department chair.

Negotiate how to move forward. You have so many options as you consider what should happen next. You can seek advice from your chair or from colleagues. You can communicate through Blackboard or in person to start the next class period. You can follow up with individuals or groups from the class. In some situations you may want to contact Student Judicial Affairs to get a better understanding of your options. Writing down what happened for your own purposes is a useful exercise regardless as you can make a note of details you may not remember later. The most important thing you can do is seek advice. You may be shaken up following a contentious classroom incident and getting guidance from someone with a clear head and a different perspective is the best thing you can do for yourself and your students.

Dr. Sara Cooper has provided additional Book in Common Material. Check out this section ofthe CELT page for regular synopsis updates, discussion questions, and other resources.

Got feedback on this tip? Got an idea for a tip? Send it along. Check out our new and improvedwordpress site here.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Caffeinated Cats podcast! Our fourth episode of the Fall is out now! Mary, Tracy, and I discuss the election with Juni Banerjee-Stevens and Mike Pence (not really, just checking to see if you were still reading). Link to it on soundclouditunesovercast, or follow the podcast on facebook.

 

Who changed Blackboard?

You awake from your holiday hibernation, heat up some coffee or tea, turn on a cranky computer to sort through a backlog of emails. Feeling accomplished after accepting some Linked-In requests and correctly identifying some spam, you remember that you do indeed teach courses and point your browser to Blackboard Learn…and then…the horror…. CHANGE!

blackboardYes, Blackboard has been updated and not everything is where you remember it. The adjustments are designed with students and instructors in mind. You can find more details on the TLP Blog, but I want to draw your attention to a few key issues that are not immediately obvious:

  1. The new design is mobile friendly. Data analytics reveal a steady increase in mobile access of Blackboard. Nationally, 56% of students access Blackboard with a mobile device and our old interface was not conducive to mobile access.
  2. The new interface separates Organizations from Courses and Faculty from Student tabs to make it easier to organize your work.
  3. The old design had not been updated since 2012 and the list of issues with accessibility as well as inconsistencies with new product designs were growing by the day.

There are other changes as well including, we are sure, some unwelcome ones and we welcome your feedback, but overall the changes really were designed to create a better and more accessible experience for you and your students. Speaking of your students, remember their access to courses starts today!

Dr. Sara Cooper has provided additional Book in Common Material. Check out this section of the CELT page for regular synopsis updates, discussion questions, and other resources.

Got feedback on this tip? Got an idea for a tip? Send it along. Check out our new and improved wordpress site here.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Caffeinated Cats podcast! Our fourth episode of the Fall is out now! Mary, Tracy, and I discuss the election with Juni Banerjee-Stevens and Mike Pence (not really, just checking to see if you were still reading). Link to it on soundclouditunesovercast, or follow the podcast on facebook.

What is next?

Faculty across the nation are struggling with how to address, or not address, election results and new administration priorities in their classrooms. Some students are excited about where the nation is headed and are concerned about retribution for speaking up. Other students are deeply concerned about themselves or loved ones and what new policies may mean for their lives. Instructional faculty can be in a difficult position as students will come to your class after the inauguration with varied expectations, compounded by the fact that you have your own opinions about where the nation is headed. One place we can set up norms and guidelines is in the syllabus which is why I am bringing this to you now, before your Spring syllabi are finalized.free-speech

In the campus “Free Speech Training” many of us attended I learned an important lesson that may help in syllabus creation—we can have a civility policy. Regulating speech is extremely difficult and for good reason, but there is a good argument to be made that maintaining an atmosphere of civility is critical to the educational environment of the classroom. San Jose City College encourages such wording and the campus has drafted some possible language that might be a good starting point for your own policy. Look for some material specific to Chico in the coming weeks.

When I was involved with the Chico Great Debate we hosted conversations on hot button issues every semester. One debate featured Tea Party Activists and Occupy Wall Street protesters engaging over use of public land. We also hosted contentious debates on affirmative action, private security forces, the death penalty, and everything in between. There were always moments of tension, but setting the expectation of civility prior to the debates made a difference for us, and it can for the classroom as well.

Dr. Sara Cooper has provided additional Book in Common Material. Check out this section of the CELT page for regular synopsis updates, discussion questions, and other resources.

Got feedback on this tip? Got an idea for a tip? Send it along. Check out our new and improved wordpress site here.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Caffeinated Cats podcast! Our third episode of the Fall is out now! Mary, Tracy, and I explore athletics at Chico and beyond in the aptly titled “locker room talk.” Link to it on soundclouditunesovercast, or follow the podcast on facebook.

Make a Habit of it

Finals are just around the corner and many of us are sprinting/struggling to the finish line. In many courses grading is the thing standing between us and a change of pace during the summer. There have probably been semesters when you moved through grading efficiently and others when you are wondering how serious those requirements on timely grade entry from the Office of the Registrar really are. Those different experiences were probably driven by different habits. Take a minute to think of your best and worst grading habits.

My best habit has always been preparation. This was the time in the semester when I would be motivated to focus in the evenings and clear my schedule of lingering grading, manuscripts in need of attention, and other projects. This allowed me to focus on grading final papers or exams when they came in without having other work to do. When I executed well I would be done with grading on Wednesday of final exam week. My worst habit was the mini-reward. I would be proud of myself for grading one or two papers and take a minute to read ESPN or check facebook, then that minute turned into 10, then I needed a cup of coffee, soon 30 minutes had passed without additional progress.

Despite commonly held beliefs, you do not have enough time to create a new habit before final exams and papers come in, but you do have time to get started. The least we should do is commit to being conscientious of our habits so we can make note for the future. This can be a challenge as habits, by their nature, are often automatic.

This tip was inspired by one of my better habits, listening to the Teaching in H
igher Ed podcast by Bonni Stachowiak and her episode on habits.

grading effectively podcast quote
Teaching in Higher Ed podcast

Her guest Natalie Houston is a regular contributor to the Chronicle and said something
that hit home for me, “habits save us tremendoustime and energy, but they can also lead us to doing a lot of things mindlessly.” It made me think about the things I do mindlessly which are not that productive.

Got feedback on this tip? A bad habit to disclose? Leave a comment or email it to us. Got an idea for a tip? Send it along.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Caffeinated Cats podcast! The newest episode is on food on and off campus. Link to it on soundclouditunesovercast, or follow the podcast on facebook.