Race as a Classroom Topic

Last year I shared some thoughts and resources for the classroom relating to conversations about race. Many of those themes remain relevant today. Nationally, a wave of racist social media expressions and in-class episodes have many Universities reeling. Locally, many of us participated in a student led event on campus yesterday raising awareness about the experiences of minority groups in the United States and on campus. In light of these developments I asked my friend, colleague, and podcast co-host, Tracy Butts, to offer some insight to help us navigate these issues in the classroom. Here is what Tracy shared.

On Thursday morning, I walked into my 8:00 a.m. class, and one of my white male students greeted me with “are we going to talk about Charlotte?”  While my intention had been to talk about the officer-involved killing of a black man in Charlotte, North Carolina, the subsequent protests in response to the incident, and how it all related to the text we had been reading, Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad, I was certainly not expecting one of my students to initiate the conversation.

Later that afternoon, I attended a Black Faculty and Staff Association (BFSA) meeting during which two students in attendance shared that they were dismayed and discouraged by the seeming lack of conversation regarding these current events, and they challenged us to model for them behaviors that they might be able to emulate. A number of us were chagrined by their comments because we have been talking—a lot—about these incidents—with one another, with colleagues, in classes, on social media. But, ultimately, we realized that the same university silos that make it difficult for us to see and know what our colleagues in other departments and divisions are doing are the same ones that make it difficult for our students to know what we are doing in our workspaces, classrooms, and conversations with others.

Just like my colleagues in BFSA, I know that many of my faculty colleagues are talking about these issues amongst their networks of family and friends.  Yet, it is crucial that faculty model for students what activism and social justice looks like in our respective academic disciplines, that we demonstrate how our fields take up and respond to issues of injustice, inequity, privilege, and oppression. Do not reserve your discussions about social issues simply for the members of your social networks. Do not assume that your students who are not of color are unaffected by, uninterested in, indifferent to, or even struggling themselves to make sense of these issues. Do let your students know that your care and goodwill towards them extend beyond their academic success to their personal well-being as well. Finally, do not be afraid to engage your students in difficult conversations. Not only are they watching and waiting for your validation, your support, they might also surprise and teach you something.

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

The CELT Conference preliminary program and registration link are now available. See you on October 6-7!

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! There will be a new episode posted in the next few days. Link to it on soundclouditunesovercast, or follow the podcast on facebook.

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The Struggling Student

Before I started in Faculty Development, I was the course coordinator for the large lecture public speaking class. In my third year, I abandoned the midterm and final for a series of low-risk open-book quizzes students took through Blackboard. I had read the research and decided to make the switch. Some aspects of student performance increased, but the failure rate for the course more than doubled. I worked with my Teaching Associates to discover why students were failing when the thing they expressed the most concern about in evaluations, the exams, had been eliminated and replaced with a user friendly assessment strategy. Almost universally, the students who did not pass the class had failed to take several quizzes. Very few of these students would have forgotten to take exams because they happen during class time. We were concerned about student success so we set up an alert system on Blackboard, reminders were built in to lectures, and we started doing periodic grade checks throughout the semester to identify students who were struggling. None of these represented magic bullets, but they did help us make progress.Image result for struggling students

12 weeks from now you will be glancing back and forth between an Excel sheet or your gradebook and Peoplesoft entering grades for Fall 2016. It can be an interesting exercise as you realize the student who was always active in class didn’t turn in half of the assignments. Maybe the student who never showed up was actually a star in every category except for attendance. You might realize, like I did, the unintended consequence of a well-meaning change. The time to help students is during the semester, not at the very end. One tool for identifying struggling students is the Retention Center in Blackboard. This can help you set up rules to identify students who are struggling. Even if this tool does not work for you, it is worth your time to scan your gradebook once a month to identify trouble spots.

Once you have identified a student, there are a variety of ways to increase their chances for success. Campus resources like the Student Learning Center, Accessibility Resources, college or department based tutoring, or peers are all available to students. Regardless of how they get help, you reaching out to them is a great first step. We have all had the student in our office at the end of the semester who is shocked their grade is low even though there has been ample information about it throughout the term. The time to help that student and avoid that uncomfortable conversation is now.

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

The CELT Conference preliminary program and registration link are now available. See you on October 6-7!

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! Link to it on soundclouditunesovercast, or follow the podcast on facebook.

QOLT

This week’s tip is brought to you by Chiara Ferrari, Associate Professor of Media, Arts, Design and Technology and the campus coordinator for the grant-funded Quality in Online Teaching and Learning program.

Throughout my academic career I have had many misconceptions about education, one of the most persistent ones was: I know everything about online education (i.e. let me put some stuff online, et voilá I am creating distance learning). The misconception mostly relied on the idea that “online education” was primarily a matter of technology, and that technology was a tool that allowed me to do the same stuff I did in class, but you know… somewhere on the web. Teaching online, learning via distance learning, and training about pedagogy and technology made me realize how wrong, or better said, how limited my perception was. As a techno-nerd myself, I tend to love technology and every new little gadget the market has to offer, but looking closely at technology and its uses in distance learning I realized how it actually offers not one, but a million different opportunities to reach an incredibly diverse body of students, with incredibly diverse talents, and abilities. Not everyone feels the same, however. Some colleagues consider digital technology a gimmick, and to some extent I agree: technology cannot drive a course, instead technologies present us with tools for teaching and learning. At Chico State I have found numerous opportunities to improve my use and understanding of technology while learning about pedagogy, assessment, and overall how to improve my teaching. One such opportunity has been the Quality Assurance/ Quality Online Teaching and Learning (QOLT) Program. The program offers close mentorship with both fellow faculty members and ITC experts, and has provided me with a new understanding about the importance of student feedback, student interaction, and universal design. I strongly invite everyone who wants to learn about pedagogy and the creative use of technology to apply to the QA/QOLT Program for Fall 2016. Here you can find some testimonies from faculty who went through the program last year:

Professor Celina Phillips: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znmuFb7l_AQ

Professor Bev Landers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yZR9UGzHzE

Professor Chiara Ferrari: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVDVKXRxFaI

To apply find the application here. If you have any additional questions do not hesitate to contact the campus QOLT coordinator Chiara Ferrari: cfferari@csuchico.edu

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

The CELT Conference preliminary program and registration link are now available. See you on October 6-7!

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! Link to it on soundclouditunesovercast, or follow the podcast on facebook.

Good News!

In lieu of a normal Teaching Tip we are sharing two pieces of good news for faculty across campus.

First, we have great news regarding MLIB 459, also known as the Rose Garden room. Library Dean Patrick Newell worked with Interim Provost Mike Ward and Interim Dean of Graduate Studies Sharon Barrios over the summer to open up multi-use, multi-purpose spaces for collaboration in the Meriam Library. There are more plans in development, but as of Fall 2016 MLIB 459 is a space for faculty to meet and collaborate during working hours. The space is beautiful, bright, quiet, and welcoming to faculty who want to work outside their offices. It is adjacent to the Faculty Development Office which means you can get a cup of coffee, learn about campus programs, and get to work. The space is secure enough you can leave your laptop open and not have to worry about leaving to use the restroom or get a snack from the BMU. The same space is open to graduate students after hours and is soon to be bustling with late night thesis writing. We want to extend a sincere thanks to Dean Newell, Interim Dean Barrios, and Interim Provost Ward for making this possible and invite faculty to come to MLIB 459 to do great work.

Second, we also want to pass along a more traditional tip in relation to this year’s Book in Common “My Life on The Road” by Gloria Steinem. Dr. Sara Cooper is providing the campus with a valuable resource: teaching notes on integrating this powerful book into your curriculum. Check out this section of the CELT page for regular synopsis updates, discussion questions, and other resources. This work is a wonderful guide if you want to draw in themes and conversation about the book and are looking for expert guidance.

The CELT Conference preliminary program and registration link are now available. See you on October 6-7!

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! Link to it on soundclouditunesovercast, or follow the podcast on facebook.