CTL Newsletter: October 10, 2017

Small Tweaks

As I was reading a book about easy ways to reinforce learning in the classroom, Faculty Focus sent me an article on the same topic. I’m taking this as a sign that I should share a few of their tips.

  1. Use the first few minutes of class for review. Cue students to retrieve previously-learned facts and/or theories in order to cement their knowledge before moving on.
  1. At least once a week, begin class with a low-stakes quiz to assess whether everyone has actually learned those facts and/or theories.
  1. End class with a minute-paper. Students write the most important thing they learned in that class. They may add a follow-up question or a point of confusion.
  1. Help students to connect new learning to previous experience by offering or soliciting examples, cases, or other relevant information.

Okay. That’s enough for now. For more ideas, read on . . . .

— Jocelyn McWhirter, Religious Studies

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Resources

Incorporating Principles in Cognitive Psychology to Improve Student Learning. In this article, Christopher Grabau reviews methods to help students retain, retrieve, and sustain what they have learned.

Small TeachingIn this book, James Lang offers even more tips for enhancing student learning, understanding, and motivation. Coming soon to the Albion College CTL library.

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CTL News

Congratulations to Drew Christopher! The Society for Personality and Social Psychology has recognized him with their 2017 Teaching and Mentoring Award. You can read all about it in the Albion College News.

Stereotype Threat: When the Teacher Feels It. If you think that students are stereotyping you, there’s something you can do about it. Join us in discussing strategies for resilience on Wednesday, November 9 from 5:00–6:00. Save the date and look for details!

GLCA/GLAA Consortium for Teaching and Learning: The redesigned website is up and running! This week, look for Claudia Thompson’s article, “Should You Try a Flipped Classroom?” Claudia teaches psychology at the College of Wooster.

Talking about Teaching. You can always talk about teaching. Find a partner, trade classroom observations, and talk about teaching while having a Baldwin Cafe lunch on the CTL! To register, contact Jocelyn McWhirter by replying to this newsletter.

Teaching Reflections. If you’d like to contribute a brief essay about teaching and learning, please contact Jocelyn McWhirter by replying to this newsletter.

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Upcoming Conferences

Teaching Professor Conference, June 1-3, 2018 in Atlanta. “There’s simply no better place to explore and celebrate the art and science of teaching.” Call for proposals closes October 31.

Teaching Academic Survival and Success (TASS) Conference, April 8-11 in Ft. Lauderdale. “The Teaching Academic Survival and Success Skills Conference is a forum for faculty, staff, student support personnel, administrators and others who help under-prepared students succeed in college and beyond.” Call for proposals closes December 15.

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CTL Newsletter: September 26, 2017

Things I Learned about Teaching by Spending Time outside of the Classroom: Part 3

As I approached my sabbatical semester I dreamed of long days of productive research, hours of uninterrupted and concentrated writing, and submissions to peer reviewed journals. I planned to take a true vacation from teaching. Instead, three powerful experiences transformed the way I think about teaching and learning. I started a grassroots gathering of Flint-area women promoting civic action, I participated in the Holocaust Studies Service Learning project uncovering graves in an overgrown Polish cemetery with Albion students, and I was schooled by incarcerated trainers – including some juvenile lifers – on how teaching and learning takes place in American prisons. This Teaching Reflection – on the transformative power of experiential learning – is the third in a three-part series that reflects on my lessons learned.

Offering “hands-on” learning opportunities – in the class and outside of it – can help students feel and experience new ideas and not just think about them.  I can spend an entire semester exposing students to debates on transitional justice – the actions that people take to be able to live together again after horrible human rights abuses – but they understand the dilemmas in a more meaningful way after spending just a single day in a forgotten cemetery in Poland. I can talk about deep social divisions that divide our society but when my students have to be “patted down” to enter their classroom on the other side of the prison wall, they start to “get it” in a new way. I’m not saying that I think that every course or class session requires such an obvious experiential component, but I do think it’s important to think periodically about ways to focus attention on class structure and the processes students will use to engage the material and not just what material they should engage. This means devoting thought to how to expose students to experiences that will engage their hearts, souls and bodies around the ideas that I seek to teach them, and not just their minds.

What I learned in each of these non-traditional teaching venues is that education is not just about reaching minds. Teaching also can touch the heart and engage the soul. Human beings are complex and learning can be a full body experience because ideas, beliefs, and feelings are often interconnected. I saw the transformative power of education when learning was approached as a communal enterprise. But building a shared learning community means taking the time (and not a small amount of courage) to build a “safe enough” learning environment where participants actually see and engage each other, in productive, if also challenging ways. This semester I strive to create such a community – if only for an hour or a few fleeting sessions – in each of my classes. I will also strive to rotate between teacher-led and student-led learning activities. I know that I won’t always succeed but I will do what we ask each of our students to do every time we give an assignment – I will practice.

— Carrie Booth Walling, Political Science and Prentiss M. Brown Honors Program

For Carrie’s previous reflections on prioritizing the process of student learning and employing learner-centered teaching methods, go to the Center for Teaching and Learning website.

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Resources

Active and Experimental Learning. Some classroom strategies and design guidelines from the Yale University Center for Teaching and Learning.

Getting More out of Exam Debriefs. Two strategies to help students (and teachers!) learn about what went wrong on an exam. Mary Ellen Weimer shares them in this Faculty Focus article. Jocelyn McWhirter explains how she appropriated them in this post on her teaching and learning blog.

Mid-Term Check. Attached please find the mid-course feedback form that Peter Frederick shared when he ran a workshop here in 2011. As you check in with your students about their learning experience so far, feel free to use or adapt this form. Or just give a simple index card survey: With regard to your learning, what’s going well for you so far? What’s going not so well? To help you learn better, what can I do differently? What can you do differently?

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CTL News

Lizet Ramirez meets Kathleen Gabriel! In Jennine Capó Crucet’s novel Make Your Home among Strangers, Lizet–a first-generation Cuban-American student at a small liberal arts college–gets called out for plagiarism, fails her chemistry mid-term (she was an A-student in high school), and feels like an impostor. In the book Teaching Unprepared Students, Kathleen Gabriel outlines some concrete strategies for promoting academic success. So when Lizet Ramirez meets Kathleen Gabriel, what would Kathleen do? We’ll discuss the issues over dinner tomorrow and lunch on Thursday. For details and to RSVP, reply to this newsletter.

Talking about Teaching. You can always talk about teaching. Find a partner, trade classroom observations, and talk about teaching while having a Baldwin Cafe lunch on the CTL! To register, contact Jocelyn McWhirter by replying to this newsletter.

Teaching Reflections. Many thanks to Carrie Walling for today’s Teaching Reflection! You could be next! If you’d like to contribute a brief essay about teaching and learning, please contact Jocelyn McWhirter by replying to this newsletter.

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Upcoming Conferences

The Lilly Conference on Evidence-Based Teaching and Learning, October 19-21 in Traverse City. Plenary speakers include Todd Zakrajsek, co-author of Teaching for Learning and one-time psychology professor at Albion College. Off-site registration is open from now until September 15.

Teaching Professor Conference, June 1-3, 2018 in Atlanta. “There’s simply no better place to explore and celebrate the art and science of teaching.” Call for proposals closes October 31.

Teaching Academic Survival and Success (TASS) Conference, April 8-11 in Ft. Lauderdale. “The Teaching Academic Survival and Success Skills Conference is a forum for faculty, staff, student support personnel, administrators and others who help under-prepared students succeed in college and beyond.” Call for proposals closes December 15.

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CTL Newsletter: September 12, 2017

Things I Learned about Teaching by Spending Time outside of the Classroom: Part 2

During my recent sabbatical leave, I participated in several transformative educational experiences that have changed how I think about my teaching. I learned from incarcerated trainers about teaching college courses in prison; I did physical labor alongside Albion students as part of the Holocaust Studies Service Learning Project; I started a grassroots gathering of women interested in fostering local civic action in the aftermath of the women’s march. I’m now reflecting on what I’ve learned. In my last Teaching Reflection, I argued that focusing on the process of how students learned deserved as much attention as the focus on course content. In this one, I make a second observation: learner-centered teaching really means finding ways to share the stage with students.

On my course syllabus, I describe the method of instruction for the class. I emphasize that student attendance and participation are crucial. All members of the class have unique experiences and meaningful ideas that contribute to the learning process. For a long time, I have given “lip service” to the idea that we are all teachers and learners in the college classroom. Now, I realize that putting that into action might mean stepping back and taking on the role of a facilitator or coach giving direction from the sideline rather than standing as the instructor at the front of the room. This means abandoning the hierarchy of the classroom, loosening my control over the learning process, and truly sharing the space with my students. This means creating opportunities for students to select course topics, lead class discussions, and intervene in the learning process more generally.

Occasionally, it might require sacrificing efficiency to allow students to discover the answers for themselves through a slow and wrenching Socratic dialogue in which they weigh all possible alternatives in collaboration with their peers. If we wait long enough and refuse to fill the awkward silences, students will often come up with the answers in their own words. This has a more lasting impact than hearing us say those same things in our own. It also offers students ownership over their own discoveries rather than rewarding them for internalizing ours.

What might this look like in practice?

It might mean a hands-on activity that takes most of the class period but through which students come to internalize an important concept at a deep level. For example, I can tell my students what the immigrant experience is like in the United States, or I can create the conditions in the classroom through a role-play or in-class exercise that allows them to explore it from the immigrant’s perspective.

It might also mean following a student digression if it offers a productive learning opportunity and empowers students in the classroom. If the assigned readings for the day address the pros and cons of nuclear proliferation, it makes sense to let students express their ideas and feelings about the North Korean missile launch the night before. Sometimes it might even make sense to ditch the syllabus to talk about a consequential event for students—like the neo-Nazi and white supremacist march in Charlottesville—that can be creatively brought back to course content.

This semester, then, I’m going to plan a script but try to “do improv” when it feels right.

— Carrie Booth Walling, Political Science and Prentiss M. Brown Honors Program

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Resources: Learner-Centered Teaching

Five Characteristics of Learner-Centered Teaching. Maryellen Weimer stresses active learning, explicit skill instruction, meta-cognition, student agency, and collaboration. Her book Learner-Centered Teaching is available in the CTL Library. You can find the first edition in the Albion College library (that is, as soon as I’m finished with it!).

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CTL News

Lizet Ramirez meets Kathleen Gabriel! In Jennine Capó Crucet’s novel Make Your Home among Strangers, Lizet–a first-generation Cuban-American student at a small liberal arts college–gets called out for plagiarism, fails her chemistry mid-term (she was an A-student in high school), and feels like an impostor. In the book Teaching Unprepared Students, Kathleen Gabriel outlines some concrete strategies for promoting academic success. So when Lizet Ramirez meets Kathleen Gabriel, what would Kathleen do? We’ll discuss the issues over lunch on September 26 and after hours on September 27 (not on the 12th and 13th or the 19th and 20th as previously announced). Watch for details!

Talking about Teaching. You can always talk about teaching. Find a partner, trade classroom observations, and talk about teaching while having a Baldwin Cafe lunch on the CTL! To register, contact Jocelyn McWhirter by replying to this newsletter.

Teaching Reflections. Many thanks to Carrie Walling for today’s Teaching Reflection! Look for Part 3 on September 26 . . . and then maybe one from you! If you’d like to contribute a brief essay about teaching and learning, please contact Jocelyn McWhirter by replying to this newsletter.

The CTL Lounge has been recently stocked with chocolate and CTL swag. Take a minute to grab a snack, swipe a pen or a mug or a phone stand, and respond to our blackboard survey on TLOs (Teacher Learning Outcomes)! It’s all right there in Ferguson 108.

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Upcoming Conferences

The Lilly Conference on Evidence-Based Teaching and Learning, October 19-21 in Traverse City. Plenary speakers include Todd Zakrajsek, co-author of Teaching for Learning and one-time psychology professor at Albion College. Off-site registration is open from now until September 15.

Teaching Professor Conference, June 1-3, 2018 in Atlanta. “There’s simply no better place to explore and celebrate the art and science of teaching.” Call for proposals closes October 31.

Teaching Academic Survival and Success (TASS) Conference, April 8-11 in Ft. Lauderdale. “The Teaching Academic Survival and Success Skills Conference is a forum for faculty, staff, student support personnel, administrators and others who help under-prepared students succeed in college and beyond.” Call for proposals closes December 15.

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CTL Newsletter: August 16, 2017

“The first week of classes may be one of the most important weeks,” says Kathleen Gabriel. “It is during this time that we set the tone and climate for our courses. . . . Starting off on the right foot during the first week of class is critical. Most experienced teachers will testify that trying to redirect students later in the semester or undo a climate they are not happy with is very difficult.”

So, how to get it right from the beginning? Gabriel offers some helpful suggestions.

  1. Clarify course information and policies in a comprehensive written syllabus. Include concrete, measurable student learning objectives. Let students know how we will evaluate their progress and calculate their grade.
  1. Set some ground rules for the class climate. These can be written on the syllabus and/or compiled as a result of class discussion. Should anyone skip class? Arrive late? Arrive unprepared? Engage in disrespectful speech or behavior? Use our smart phones? Leave early? Cheat? Ground rules can be determined and recorded on the first or second day–and, as instructors, we can decide beforehand which rules are so important that if students don’t set them on their own, we will.
  1. Learn students’ preferred names and pronouns. Help other students learn them, too.
  1. Treat students with friendliness and respect.
  1. If students add the course after the first day, take the time to initiate them regarding expectations and ground rules.

Once the tone and climate are set, we need to enforce them throughout the semester. We need to follow the syllabus and use it as a point of reference; address infractions of ground rules as soon as possible; use everyone’s preferred names and pronouns; maintain a friendly attitude; and earn respect by offering respect, living up to our responsibilities, and apologizing for mistakes.

Kathleen Gabriel is the author of Teaching Unprepared Students. If you’d like to read this book, you can request a copy by responding to this newsletter. The quotation was taken from pp. 25 and 28.

— Jocelyn McWhirter, Religious Studies
August 16, 2017

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Resources

The Cutting Edge Course Design Tutorial: Design your course, starting with learning objectives and working backwards to assignments and class activities that will help students achieve those objectives.

A Learner-Centered Syllabus Helps Set the Tone for Learning. So says Lolita Paff (Economics, Penn State Berks). Paff explains how she has moved away from a “contract” syllabus to one that sets a tone for “learning and intellectual development.”

First Day of Class Activities That Create a Climate for Learning. Mary Ellen Weimer (author of Learner-Centered Teaching) lists “a few novel activities for using that first day of class to emphasize the importance of learning and the responsibility students share for shaping the classroom environment.”

The First Day of Class: Barbara Gross Davis from the University of California, Berkeley, outlines “the three important tasks of the first day: handling administrative matters, creating an open friendly classroom environment, and setting course expectations and standards.” From her book Tools for Teaching.

The Most Important Day: Delivee Wright from the University of Nebraska discusses anxiety, introductions, and expectations.

The First Day of Class: Suggestions from the Vanderbilt Center for Teaching on creating an inviting classroom and clarifying responsibilities and expectations.

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CTL News

Tips for Teaching Modern Learners. This Faculty Focus webinar covers topics like characteristics of millennials and how they affect the teaching and learning process, how to structure your class to accommodate their growing diversity, and how to improve student achievement by creating a learning environment that is better suited to their expectations. Join us on Thursday, August 31, from 2:00–3:00 p.m. Location TBD. RSVP to Jocelyn McWhirter by replying to this newsletter.

What Would Kathleen Do? In Jennine Capó Crucet’s novel Make Your Home among Strangers, Lizet–a first-generation Cuban-American student at a small liberal arts college–gets called out for plagiarism, fails her chemistry mid-term (she was an A student in high school), and feels like an impostor. In the book Teaching Unprepared Students, Kathleen Gabriel outlines some concrete strategies for promoting academic success for students like Lizet. We’ll discuss the issues over lunch on September 12 and after hours on September 13. Watch for details!

Teaching Reflections. Starting August 29, look in this newsletter for Teaching Reflections. Faculty and staff will contribute brief essays about teaching and learning. If you’d like to write a Teaching Reflection, please contact Jocelyn McWhirter by replying to this newsletter.

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CTL Newsletter: April 18, 2017

What to do when the teacher gets stereotyped, and the teacher is us? In their article “Contending with Stereotype Threat at Work,” Caryn J. Block et al. review what we often do. We often fend it off. We overcompensate and work harder. We blame ourselves if something goes wrong. We disassociate ourselves from our stereotyped group. We assimilate to the values and habits of a less-stereotyped group.

Alternately, we often live with discouragement. We dissociate ourselves from the stereotyped domain. If something goes wrong, we blame someone or something else. We experience anger and stress. We withdraw, disengaging emotionally and spending as little time as possible on the job.

J. K. Rowling does a great job illustrating (stereotyping?) faculty and staff who engage in these strategies. Hagrid, the half-giant and sometime Care of Magical Creatures professor at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, puts extra care into preparing an exciting lesson and then blames himself when the stereotyping student gets hurt. Madame Maxime, the unusually large headmistress of Beauxbatons, insists she is not half giant. She just has big bones. Hogwarts caretaker Argus Filch, a Squib (non-magical wizard), blames everybody for everything, and Cuthbert Binns, a typical boring professor, is so disengaged that he is dead.

Block et al. don’t recommend any of those strategies. They only increase our stress and decrease our performance. So what else might we do? What spell might we cast?

We might practice resilience. We might call out the stereotypes; communicate favorable attributes of our group identity; take collective action to change the workplace environment; affirm our personal values and goals; succeed on our own terms.

According to Claude M. Steele, we might also cultivate authentic student-teacher relationships; broaden our perspective by interacting with a variety of colleagues; talk to ourselves with a “growth mindset voice.”

We might cast the spell of Manya Whitaker (Colorado College) who presents her authentic self to her students and deftly corrects their misconceptions. And we might cast the spell of Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore (Hogwarts School) who stick to their values and goals, succeed on their own terms, extend their circle of relationships, and try to learn from their mistakes.

— Jocelyn McWhirter, Religions Studies

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Resources

Designing a Course This Summer? The “go-to” resource is the SERC Cutting Edge Tutorial for Designing Effective and Innovative Courses. It was written by geologists but it works for everyone.

GLCA/GLAA Consortium for Teaching and Learning: In “Changing Campus Culture, One Conversation at a Time,” Lorna Hernandez and Deirdre Johnston (Hope College) write about Intergroup Dialogue, a pedagogy from the University of Michigan “that incorporates: 1) understanding one’s own social identity, intersectionality, and the identities of others, as well as oppression, power and privilege, 2) engaging in hot topics with one identity focus (e.g., age, race or ethnicity, sex, sexual identity, able-ism, religion, nationality, or gender), and 3) building alliances to work for social justice.” Their video demonstrates the process at work.

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CTL Newsletter: March 28, 2017

When teaching an introductory course, should we introduce every aspect of the discipline? What should we include, and what should we leave out? And what if we have to cover certain topics and skills in order to prepare students for the 200-level or for graduate school entrance exams? In these cases, we might not be able to leave anything out.

These were some of the questions we addressed in our recent workshops on “Gateway Courses: Challenges and Opportunities.” The workshops began with some time for us to reflect on our gateway courses, especially the opportunities and challenges that they present for students, for us, and for our departments. We then discussed our answers, focusing on how we might be able to address some typical challenges.

Alongside the challenges related to content, there are the challenges of teaching first-year students. Many are not prepared for hard work and critical thinking. They are not enculturated into an academic environment. Moreover, some lack the necessary quantitative and/or literacy skills. For them, the gateway is already half shut.

We might address these challenges by prioritizing student learning. The important thing is what students need to learn, not what teachers want to teach. As always, best practices (as articulated by Arthur Chickering and Zelda Gamson) are in order. These include high expectations, active learning, time on task, and prompt feedback. If we need to enculturate our students into an academic setting, then it’s important for us to be transparent about our values and our expectations. And we can foster a growth mindset in our students, so that they will rise to the challenges of gateway courses without being too discouraged by the inevitable setbacks.

I’m struck with the urgency of addressing these challenges. Departments want to keep the gates open for potential majors and minors. Teachers want to introduce students to their beloved discipline. And students want to pass their gateway courses in order to choose and enter their chosen fields of study – and, ultimately, to graduate from college.

— Jocelyn McWhirter
   Director, Center for Teaching and Learning
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Resources

Gateway Courses:

The Challenge of Teaching the Introductory-Level Course

Seven Principles for Good Practice in Higher Education

The Unwritten Rules of College

The Mindset Kit

New on the GLCA/GLAA CTL Website: In a home-page video presentation,Deirdre Johnston (Hope College) and Dagmar Kusá (American University of Bulgaria) discuss their cross-cultural course, Narratives of Peace, Justice, and Conflict: Transition in Post-Apartheid South Africa. Together with Rima Rantisi (American University of Beirut), they and their students engaged in reading, reflection, and interaction to help them deconstruct myths, stereotypes, and prejudices in and beyond their own cultural settings. Professors and students then traveled to South Africa, where they witnessed similar myths, stereotypes, and prejudices in a cultural setting that was different for everyone. The online presentation is engaging and instructive. For a brief written description of their course, see the abstract of their AAC&U presentation.

The collaboration was made possible by Global Course Connections. For more information about Global Course Connections, please contact Albion College liaison Midori Yoshii.

Also on the GLCA/GLAA CTL home page: a highly embarrassing “Teaching Tips” video. Jocelyn McWhirter (Albion College) waves her writing assignmentswhile discoursing on transparency.

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CTL Newsletter: March 14, 2017

Checking in. The week after semester break is always a good time to assess how our courses are going so far. Many of us conduct midterm evaluations so that we can see what’s working for our students and what might need a mid-semester tweak. In Faculty Focus, Gillian Parrish recently shared some ideas for “Transforming Midterm Evaluations into a Metacognative Pause.” Parrish advocates using a midterm course evaluation that prompts students to reflect on specific course components that help or hinder their learning, the challenges they have faced, and their connections with the course material and class environment. In the process of completing this evaluation, students learn about their learning. In the process of reading it, teachers learn about their teaching.

— Jocelyn McWhirter
   Director, Center for Teaching and Learning

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Resources

Academic Advising: The week after semester break is also a good time to start thinking about academic advising. If you’re looking for some effective prompts or ways to brush up your technique, the CTL website “Resources” page is linked to some hot advising websites. Try “Sound Bites for Sound Advising,” “Promoting Student Success: What Advisors Can Do,” and “Teachable Moments: Advising as Liberal Learning.”

New on the GLCA/GLAA CTL Website: Jeremiah Alberg (International Christian University) has contributed an article on “‘Flipping’ a Classroom” — in this case, his 90-student “Introduction to Christianity” course. He describes the step-by-step process, concluding, “I did feel like I was talking more to the students and less at them.”

Also, in a home-page video presentation, Gabriele Dillmann (Denison University) and Diana Stantcheva (American University of Bulgaria) discuss cross-cultural interaction among their German students, made possible by Global Course Connections. For a written summary of their experience, see Steven Volk’s article “COLLABORATIONS.”

For more information about Global Course Connections, please contact Albion liaison Midori Yoshii.

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CTL Newsletter: February 28, 2017

Teaching Reflection: The Real Lesson of Frederick Lutz

Every day on my way in to my office, I walk over a bronze plaque in the pavement dedicated to Albion College professor Frederick Lutz.The plaque tells us Lutz was “Professor in this College 1885-1920.” The preposition has always nagged at me. These days we speak of ourselves as working at Albion College, not in it. Lately, however, I’ve begun thinking that there may be a lesson in that tiny word about our role as teachers and students and about Albion’s role in the wider community.

There is a valuable historical lesson in the change from “in” to “at.” The word “in” was once the more common choice. If Google’s Ngram is correct, the use of the phrase “professor in the college” peaked just before the Great Depression and then declined precipitously. By 1945, “at the college” had become the most common form. The reasons seem fairly clear. The Depression upended many traditional views of work and social class. It completed the process of alienation from one’s labor that had begun on the factory floors of the industrial revolution and extended it to higher education. After the 1930s, being a college teacher slowly became just a job. Professors became employees who worked “at” a college or university just as a machinist might work “at” Ford. Students underwent a similar transition, from studying “in” to studying “at” a college.

Something was lost in the transition, though, and not just genteel Victorian elitism. When we teach and learn “at” a college, we cease to be members of a community and become employees and consumers. We start calling Albion “the institution” and use corporate phrases like “the value proposition.” This process pulls students and faculty apart. The classrooms of the past may have been paternalistic, but they were also places in which faculty and students thought of themselves as being “in” it together, and for life.

The preposition “in” has another potential meaning when applied to the College that might be worth recovering. We use “in” to describe units within a larger whole. I usually say that I am in the English department at Albion College, and we even say someone is “in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Michigan.” To think of ourselves as being in Albion College is to think of the College as part of a wider community. This community might be academia, but it is also part of the City of Albion (and its surrounding area). If we and our students can begin to think of ourselves as “in” the College, we may help ourselves to think of the College as an integral part of Albion as a whole

What would it look like to resurrect the good parts of this in-dwelling attitude toward teaching and learning? We would make Albion not merely a place atwhich students and faculty work and study but a community in which we belong.

— Ian MacInnes, English

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Resources

Writing Pedagogy: The CTL Resources webpage features links to tips on teaching writing, style guides, and an online tool to rate a piece of writing for stylistic elegance.

GLCA/GLAA Consortium for Teaching and Learning: Check out new articles by Amity Reading (formerly Albion College; now DePauw University) on “The Risks and Rewards of Teaching Pop Culture” and Peter Rutkoff (Kenyon College) on “Creating a Democratic Classroom.”

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CTL Newsletter: February 14, 2017

Give a bunch of professors some flip charts and markers and ask them about the challenges facing higher education today, and what do you get? “We’re competing with ‘alternative facts’!” “We’re competing with ‘Google U’!” “The public doesn’t value us any more!”

Such was the outlook of many who gathered for a GLCA/GLAA Consortium for Teaching and Learning colloquy this past weekend. As we lamented our lot, it occurred to me that the best way for us to assert our value is to teach our students. And the best way for us to increase our value is to keep learning how to teach them well.

In that spirit, I’ve revisited Arthur Chickering and Zelda Gamson’s “Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education.” They say:

Good practice in undergraduate education
1. Encourages contact between students and faculty.
2. Develops reciprocity and cooperation among students.
3. Encourages active learning.
4. Gives prompt feedback.
5. Emphasizes time on task.
6. Communicates high expectations.
7. Respects diverse talents and ways of learning.

Chickering and Gamson published their principles in 1987. Since they are based on solid research, they still hold true. And, since human beings still need to learn, teaching still holds value. That’s why I’m still teaching.

— Jocelyn McWhirter
   Director, Center for Teaching and Learning

 
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CTL Newsletter: January 31, 2017

Teaching Reflection: A Few Words for Us White Folks

A week before classes began, I joined forty or so Albion College faculty and staff for a three-day workshop on understanding systemic racism led by the good people at ERACCE (Eliminating Racism & Claiming/Celebrating Equality).

The most important and compelling insight I took home had to do with the legacy of white supremacy in the United States. Had you asked me on the morning of our first day in the workshop to sketch a picture of white supremacy, I probably would have produced some stickfigurish Klansman in a white robe or a skinhead with a swastika neck tattoo. The images would have been drawn with little artistic skill but lots of moral certainty (and, to be honest, moral superiority).

But if you would have asked me to do the same thing on the last day of the workshop, to sketch what white supremacy looks like, I would have drawn a stack of papers, representing laws, or maybe an official-looking building, suggesting a courthouse—or a college.

I had gone, that is, from associating white supremacy with morally reprehensible individuals I could feel superior to and distant from, to seeing white supremacy as a foundational principle in the very laws and institutions that create, maintain, and distribute the resources I depend on. And I’m here to tell you, white supremacy is easier to deal with when it’s attached to degenerate individuals rather than to the institutions that gave me and Jess our house loan, our advanced degrees, and our basic sense of safety and security.

Thinking about white supremacy can be uniquely challenging for white folks, especially us liberal-leaning white teachers. If all of our institutions in the U.S.—political, economic, educational, scientific, literary, artistic, religious—were built on the foundations of white supremacy, then the legacy of white supremacy must be in our classrooms, and I don’t just mean in the racist attitudes and assumptions we sometimes see in our students. I mean in the ideas and theories we teach, in the assumptions we have and the values we hold, in our assignments and our syllabi.

All this reminds me of a conversation in my last session of the ERACCE workshop. I was sitting around a table with some amazing staff, faculty, and, as luck would have it, one student.  I’ll call her L.

L (a white female) is a force for good in all kinds of ways at Albion College, but most relevantly right now for her open, public, and honest efforts to encourage conversations with other white students about racism and white privilege. L said something that really stuck with me. She said that in her classes she sometimes (maybe even often) feels alone when trying to have tough conversations about racism—and she wasn’t talking about feeling alone among her fellow students. She was talking about feeling alone among us, her teachers.

What L wanted most was for faculty to use our power and authority to help her not feel alone when she tried to confront the ugly reality of racism in our lives.

One way we could do that would be to find some way, in each and every class we teach, to acknowledge the fact of white supremacy and our own indebtedness to it.  I’m not saying that we all need to teach a unit on the history of white supremacy or that we should publicly confess our sins as white folks. I’m just saying that we need to find some way—whoever we are and whatever we teach—to acknowledge openly that we know white supremacy is real and that, in real ways, we’ve benefited from it.

Finding a way to do that openly and honestly would be risky, no doubt. But anything worth doing is risky, particularly anything worth doing in a classroom.

— Nels Christensen, English

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Resources: Teaching Blogs

Tomorrow’s Professor: Stanford University puts up 100 posts per year. Topics range from Self-Care Strategies and Work-Life Balance  to “A Dozen Things You Need to Know about Adult Learning” and “Working in Groups and Facilitating Discussions.”

The Ethical Professor: Mitchell Handelsman writes on “thinking well and doing good in academia.” A publication of Psychology Today, but relevant for professors in all disciplines.

This Is How I Teach: Society for the Teaching of Psychology members share their secret strategies.

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