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.

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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.

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Why Aren’t They Reading?

It is late Spring, and you are scanning your classroom as students walk in. To your horror you see textbooks still wrapped in plastic, others that appear to have never been cracked, and many students who arrived with no book at all. Later you reference an example from the text in an activity or lecture only to be confronted with an ocean of blank stares. Your experience is one many of us have had, and we wonder why aren’t they reading?
This is a complicated question without an easy answer. Also, to be fair, many of them are reading. Of the students who are not having a positive experience with the textbook there are many explanations:
  • The book could be dry and inaccessible
  • The book could prove to not be useful
  • The book could be too expensive to buy/rent
  • The reserve copy of the book could be unavailable at the times the student has to study
A report compiled by the Student Public Interest Research Group found some interesting results about textbook usage among students. I would urge you to read part of their report, but I would encourage you to do some of your own research using a variation of their tested items. James Tyler and I worked together to pull four key questions we believe will give you a better understanding of how your students are utilizing their textbooks and what alternatives might be viable:
  • Have you ever decided against buying (or renting a textbook because it was too expensive? (yes or no)
  • If yes, were you concerned that not buying (or renting) the textbook would hurt your grades in the course? (yes, significantly concerned; yes somewhat concerned; no;  not applicable)
  • Does the cost of textbooks impact which classes and/or how many classes you decide to take? ( yes, significantly; yes, somewhat; no; not applicable)
  • All other things being equal, do you think you would do better in a course if the textbook was available free online and buying a hard copy was optional? ( yes, significantly better; yes, somewhat better; no; not applicable)
If you would like to distribute these to your class, but need some help and have some additional items you would like to use email us at FDEV@csuchico.edu, and we will do the work for you.
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For 2017/18 Faculty Development and Statistics professor Edward Roualdes have secured a $50,000 grant to encourage the adoption for lower cost course materials, so if you want to explore some of these options to increase access for your students, your window of opportunity is now. These are complicated issues with a variety of perspectives. Read this recap of a recent debate if you think otherwise. We encourage you to consider working with us next year to lower costs and increase access for students at Chico. Please fill out this form if you are—this is not really an application, just a way for us to stay organized. If you have a high cost textbook and want to work with some folks to explore alternatives, you are in.
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Don’t forget to subscribe to the Caffeinated Cats podcast! Our newest episode is out now! Mary, Tracy, and I take on seven topics in 30 minutes! Link to it on soundclouditunesovercast, or follow the podcast on facebook.

The Technology and Learning Program is Moving

Today’s Tuesday Teaching Tip is brought to you by TLP Manager Laura Sederberg.

The Technology and Learning Program (TLP) is moving up in the world! Our location in the basement of Meriam Library has served us well for 20 years now. But as we have joined efforts with the Faculty Development Center (previously CELT). Their home in MLIB 458/459 has become a destination for faculty, and now we have the opportunity to join them and better serve the faculty of CSU, Chico.

Our Instructional Design/Technology Consultants (ITCs) are moving upstairs on Thursday, April 13. The Walk-in TLP Lab will follow soon. In this move there are some changes.

  1. We will be close to Faculty Development allowing for better collaboration.
  2. We will be seeing more of you! The more visible location means we will be in a position to serve you and your students even more effectively, and we look forward to seeing you.
  3. We are transitioning our technology lending program. If you have a problem and need a piece of technology for a class we can still accommodate you, but please try and work with your home department and/or the Meriam Library lending program while we are transitioning.
  4. We will no longer have access to our training lab, but we will still be offering trainings.

There is no doubt this move will result in some disruption, but we are excited that in the long term this will be the right move for us and the campus.

If you have any concerns or questions about this change, please contact TLP manager, Laura Sederberg x4326 or lsederberg@csuchico.edu.

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 take on seven topics in 30 minutes! Link to it on soundclouditunesovercast, or follow the podcast on facebook.