This week, a new article on student feedback came across one of the listserves I belong to, and since we’re getting close to midterm grade reporting, I thought I would give it a read. One thing I’ve been struggling with in my own teaching is balancing the time I spend providing feedback to students with time for…well, everything else. It’s easy to spend a huge amount of time commenting on student work, but we also know from the research that students often don’t read that feedback; rather, they scan for their grade on the assignment and that’s it. And who wants to spend a lot of time creating feedback that goes unread and unused?
Over the last year, we’ve been using the phrase “student-ready” to describe what’s at the heart of Grand View’s approach to student success. It’s a phrase we’ve heard a lot, but one whose simplicity belies its the dramatic reorientation it asks of us. Traditionally, the discourse in higher education has focused on “college-ready students.” In other words, are our students ready for us? Do they have the necessary preparation in [insert academic subject here]? Do they understand the things we’ll be asking of them, and the necessity of doing those things correctly? Those are legitimate questions to ask, but if they’re the only way we think about our students, we risk seeing them solely as problems, as deficits, as problems to by fixed. And thus the conversation stays stuck in what students can’t do, instead of what they can.
This week, we enter week three of the full semester, and as has become the standard practice at Grand View, this is the week instructors will be asked to prepare early alert and progress reports for their courses via our Navigate software. While that may seem early (it still feels like the semester started yesterday, to be honest), there’s a reason this process begins when it does. For most full-semester courses, if a student is still struggling by week six, their chances of righting the ship significantly decrease. But if we and our students are able to identify areas of struggle and then implement strategies to address them early on, the odds of a successful outcome are enhanced. Thus, the early alert system is designed to proactively address areas of concern for a particular student, but more importantly, provide enough time for different choices and new strategies to actually bear fruit.
Now that the first week of classes is behind us and the dust has at least somewhat settled, I’m pleased to publish the Fall schedule of CETL events. There are two priorities that are guiding CETL’s programming and development opportunities this semester:
Creating Opportunities for Community and Social Connections: The overwhelming consensus from every one of y’all with whom I’ve met, spoken, and/or consulted is that we are tired, stretched, (very?) close to burnout, and in dire need of renewed connections and sustenance from one another. I know last year was the most detached, atomized experiences I’ve had in higher ed (even more than the year I spent in a carrel in the basement of Thomas Cooper Library at the University of South Carolina studying for my comprehensive exams!), and I am certainly not the only one with that experience. To that end, the main emphasis for CETL’s development work this year will be on opportunities to be in community with one another. Workshops are scheduled from 3:30-5:00 PM in the CETL, and the first forty minutes or so of that time are reserved for “happy hour.” We will have beer, wine, sodas, and light refreshments available, and encourage you to come when you can to hang out with colleagues; the “formal” (such as it is) program will begin around 4:10 or so. These sessions will be interactive; that is, oopportunities not only to learn, but to share and collaborate as well. We invite you to come nourish both mind and spirit!
Responding to the needs and suggestions many of you articulated in your feedback from last May’s Summer Institute. The topics for our sessions reflect the suggestions many of you made about areas of need for our campus and teaching practices; they’re also intended to complement the larger campus work that’s happening, particularly our ongoing student success and justice and equity efforts. There are two distinct “tracks” of programming this semester: the first is a continuation of our ongoing work on student success and equity and justice-oriented pedagogies, and the second is centered on some of the outcome iterations in the GV Core Curriculum.
All sessions are open to every member of the faculty and staff community–full or part-time–and are designed to offer something of use to everyone, no matter where or how you intersect with our students. Some of them will be more classroom-oriented, but anyone interested in teaching, learning, and student success at GV will find something that resonates with them.
Without further ado, then, here is this Fall’s schedule of CETL programming:
Thursday, 9/9 Conversations on Teaching: “Laziness Does Not Exist”: A Conversation About Barriers to Student Success. Facilitated by Jade Horning, Student Success Program Manager and Director of the ALT Center. Using Dr. Devon Price’s article, “Laziness Does Not Exist,” as a starting point, we’ll explore the sometimes overlooked factors that derail student success. We’ll discuss Braxton’s social integration model of college student retention, and we’ll share realistic actions for addressing the financial, procedural, and bias-based factors that can get in a student’s way. 3:30-5:00 in the CETL
Wednesday, 9/15 Conversations on Teaching: What Does it Really Mean to Be “Student-Ready?” We’ve heard the phrase “being a student-ready college” a lot, but what does it mean in practice? How might we put this paradigm into action here at GV, in our own specific teaching and learning spaces? This session will introduce the research of Tia Brown McNair and her colleagues on student-ready colleges and serve as a kick-off event for a reading group on student-readiness, which you’ll have the opportunity to join if you wish. 3:30-5:00 in the CETL
Thursday, 9/23 Conversations on the Core: Oral Communication This session will feature several GV faculty with experience in effective embedding the OC iteration into their courses, and examples of what those assessments and practices look like. If you teach a class with the OC iteration, or are interested in developing a course with it or adding it into a current course, this session is for you! 3:30-5:00 in the CETL
Tuesday, 9/28 Conversations on Teaching: Handling Difficult Discussions In our current political moment, class discussions can become difficult terrain to navigate. Topics such as race, class, privilege, and power have always been fraught, but even areas like, say, scientific evidence are now contested ground as well. In this session, we’ll discuss how to prepare our class climate for difficult discussions and steps we can take if a discussion veers into a place where we didn’t expect it to go. Whether it’s dealing with one student who says something that angers the rest, or strategizing ways to engage students who resist discussing particular topics in a constructive way, this session will offer some resources and strategies for cultivating the type of conversations that best facilitate learning and belonging for our students. 3:30-5:00 in the CETL
Wednesday, October 13 Conversations on the Core: Written Communication Facilitated by the English Department. What does it mean to teach (as opposed to simply assign) writing? How do we assess student writing constructively, effectively, and equitably? There have been lots of important and generative conversations about these questions and more in the field of writing/composition studies, and our colleagues in the English Department will share those insights–and suggestions for practice–in this session. If you’re looking for ways to better teach and assess student writing, or want to figure out how to evaluate student work without turning into a copyeditor, this session is for you! 3:30-5:00 in the CETL
Monday, October 25 Conversations on Teaching: Dis/Ability and Student Learning Co-facilitated by Megen Johnson, Director of Disability Services. We know that the number of students who request accommodations for their academic success is increasing every year. What if these requests could offer us strategies for designing our teaching and learning spaces to improve learning for all of our students? This session will introduce some of the principles associated with Universal Design for Learning (UDL), and we’ll also hear from our campus experts of the ways dis/ability is shaping the ways in which Grand View students learn. We’ll offer strategies and resources to help you not only account for the different ways in which our students learn, but enable you to meet their needs more effectively. 3:00-4:30 in the CETL (note the earlier start time for this session)
Wednesday, November 10 Conversations on Teaching: Equitable Assessment Assessing student learning accurately and well is one of the most difficult parts of our job as instructors. How do we ensure that we’re actually measuring learning, as opposed to how well a student “plays the game,” or how much cultural capital they possess? This session will examine ways in which we can design and implement assessments–low and high-stakes, formative and summative–with equity in mind, so that we’ll be able to tell the story of our students’ learning based upon accurate data.Participants will have the opportunity to workshop their own assessments, examine the ways in which they fit into their larger course learning goals, and consider additional practices that could improve assessment of student learning. 3:30-5:00 in the CETL.
Tuesday, 11/16 Conversations on the Core: Quantitative Communication This session will feature several GV faculty with experience in effective embedding the QC iteration into their courses, and examples of what those assessments and practices look like. If you teach a class with the QC iteration, or are interested in developing a course with it or adding it into a current course, this session is for you! 3:30-5:00 in the CETL
Outlook calendar invites will be sent for all of these sessions, and the Zoom links will be included in those invitations. You don’t have to accept in advance; the invites are simply for those who wish to add these sessions to their Outlook calendars. Whether or not you respond to those invites, please know you are welcome to any and all of these programs. We look forward to seeing you!
Welcome to the Fall semester, which is here whether we’re ready or not. (*leaves computer to go outside and shriek*).
OK, now I’m ready.
We know this fall will likely involve challenges and unpredictability, even if those may differ somewhat from the challenges and unpredictabilties of the last 18 months. One thing is certain, though: as much as we hear about going “back to normal,” that horse has left the barn. “Normal”-as unsustainable as it was for many of our students and ourselves-is gone, one of the many empty spaces left in the wake of the ongoing pandemic.