Grading, does it ever stop?

thanksgiving breakThanksgiving break has always been my time to catch up and get ready for the close of the semester. For most of us, that can only mean one thing–grading. I have used turn-it-in for years to avoid dragging hundreds of pages of paper with me everywhere and as a tool to encourage academic honesty. A few years ago I found myself typing the same comments over-and-over again “this sentence does not make any sense, try reading it out loud to yourself” or “this is great analysis, but it does not fit well with the rest of the paper” and so on. My fingers were getting tired and so was my brain.

This was about the time turn-it-in started supporting audio feedback. I decided to take a chance and give it a try. Then I explored the different options within the platform: pre-loaded comments to drag and drop onto digital papers, embedded rubrics for easy grading, and a wide variety of other options. It turns out there are built in options to grade a wide variety of assignments from calculus equations to creative writing with feedback from peers. There is also local support through TLP to help get you started. I found the initial investment in time to set-up the remarks for each assignment substantial, but worth it. Eventually, I ended up saving tons to time and the students loved the audio feedback as it contained more information than written feedback.

This is not a great solution for everyone, but the take away from this experience for me was not “turn-it-in is amazing!” Instead, I realized investing in the long-term and learning a few new tools can save you time and enhance the student experience. It can be worth it, even when you are at your busiest.

Looking for inspiration? Don’t forget about our 20 minute mentor subscription.

STEP 1: Activate your 20 Minute Mentor Commons subscription

  1. Go to www.magnapubs.com/sitelicense/registration.html?v=magna61715
  2. Enter information in each of the required fields.  In the Authorization Code box, enter our group Authorization Code CSUCHICO587and click Submit

Please note: entering the Authorization Code is done only once.

STEP 2: Access the 20 Minute Mentor Commons library

  1. Go to www.magnapubs.com/profile
  2. Enter your email address & password & click Submit. If you do not know or remember your account password, use “Forget your password?” to reset it.
  3. On the left side of the screen, under My Account, My Online Access, select Subscriptions. The online content you have access to will be listed to the right. Click the appropriate link to view the content.

Access to 20 Minute Mentor Commons is also available to registered members at www.mentorcommons.com.

Come visit us in MLIB 458 we are open 8-5 five days a week while school is in session and have space for you to spread out and do work.

 

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Are we there yet?

Thanksgiving break is so close you can taste it, and the students can too. This can be a difficult week for substantive instruction as you are probably inundated with emails like “my mom booked a flight for me six months ago and I need to leave town on Wednesday” or “why are you giving an exam this week? Can I take it online?”

Students have lives and we don’t want to be dismissive of them, but how do we balance that with the needs of our other students and our schedules?

I have usually taken a hard line with issues like this, and I have encouraged other instructors to do the same. This week is a scheduled school week and it should be treated as such. If students miss an exam this week then it is the same as if they miss it in the 2nd week of the semester. Some instructors may feel the need to be more flexible, and at times I have been as well.

Regardless, I would encourage you to be clear. Set expectations early in the week or even earlier in the semester about your adherence to the course calendar and expectations for student involvement. Then when you need to break some bad news to a student, it has some context. Nothing softens the blow of bad news like a healthy dose of “I told you so.” Maybe not, but it is still a best practice to keep everyone informed.

Looking for inspiration over break? Don’t forget about our 20 minute mentor subscription.

STEP 1: Activate your 20 Minute Mentor Commons subscription

  1. Go to www.magnapubs.com/sitelicense/registration.html?v=magna61715
  2. Enter information in each of the required fields.  In the Authorization Code box, enter our group Authorization Code CSUCHICO587and click Submit

Please note: entering the Authorization Code is done only once.

STEP 2: Access the 20 Minute Mentor Commons library

  1. Go to www.magnapubs.com/profile
  2. Enter your email address & password & click Submit. If you do not know or remember your account password, use “Forget your password?” to reset it.
  3. On the left side of the screen, under My Account, My Online Access, select Subscriptions. The online content you have access to will be listed to the right. Click the appropriate link to view the content.

Access to 20 Minute Mentor Commons is also available to registered members at www.mentorcommons.com.

Come visit us in MLIB 458 we are open 8-5 five days a week and have space for you to spread out and do work.

Have a great break!

 

Put yourself in their shoes

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 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.

  1. 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.
  2. Check in with them during class. Break up an activity or a lecture to re-center a conversation on a framework you find useful.
  3. 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?

 

Know your limitations and get some help

My academic training is in communication. I am reminded of all the things I do not know every time I have a conversation with my father-in-law who is an engineer or my friend who works as a recreational therapist with physically challenged youth. I like to think of myself as well rounded, but the most important life/academic lesson I have learned is when to ask for help.

This lesson is most important when dealing with students in crisis. We are teachers, mentors, and field area experts, but rarely possess the training or experience to properly assist a student in a time of deep psychological distress. There are as many different profiles of students in distress as there are students. The young man who is away from home for the first time and feels crushed by responsibility, the student who was been the victim of sexual assault, the young women poised to be the first family member to graduate, but riddled with anxiety about what happens next, the high achieving student who appears confident but is actually struggling through a family crisis, and an infinite number of other variations and combinations. The one thing these hypotheticals have in common is that we as faculty members are only a part of the puzzle in supporting the student, not the whole picture.

There arumatter-logoe so many places where students and faculty can find support when dealing with these difficult scenarios.  The Counseling Center is the resource we most often think of, but in many situations Student Judicial Affairs, The Health Center, University Police, or an Associated Students organization like the Gender and Sexuality Equity Center may also be able to offer help.

The first move often falls to you as the faculty member, you need to pick up the phone and ask for help. Even if you call the wrong unit, you can be directed to the right one. When students confide in us or seek guidance about an issue putting them in crisis. What we have to realize is that most often they are doing so because they need some help, and while we may not be the ones to provide it, we can help them get it.