Writing a Conference Proposal…and getting it accepted!

Faculty and staff sometimes do not realize that what they do in their classrooms, advising sessions and programming is unique and worth sharing on a larger stage. Think about how you have developed your craft—it is likely that many of the skills and strategies you employ have been workshop topics at conferences. Presenting and conducting a workshop is an opportunity for you to share your ideas and help others learn new techniques and perspectives on education.

All conferences have a general theme but often accept workshop and presentation topics that are tangentially related. This opens the door for you to present on a variety of topics, but keep in mind that linking your topic to the theme in a concrete way may increase the likelihood of proposal acceptance. Look at previous conferences to see if the topic has been covered in recent years—reviewers often want to see new and innovative ideas.

If you are new to conferences, start here with a basic introduction to writing your proposal.Submitting a conference proposal from Julie Shaw.

Once you have a topic in mind, the conference proposal writing is the next step.

Some things to keep in mind with when writing your proposal

There are many formats for conference sessions—workshops, formal presentations, teaching tips, posters. The length and type of information required in your proposal can vary, too. Each conference proposal process is unique, so read the guidelines carefully. Make sure you are providing the information requested and have included all the relevant details that will make your proposal a success.

Consider teaming up with a colleague for your proposal and potential presentation. Sharing the workload and doubling the ideas can be a smart approach especially if you are new to conferences.  Even if you go it alone, have a second reader for clarity, understanding and proof reading.

Three upcoming conferences to consider:

Check with Judi Greene-Corvee to see if professional development money is available to help cover conference costs which can include registration, materials and travel.

NEFDC Conference: Call for Proposals

New England Faculty Development Consortium Spring Conference
Roger Williams University, Bristol, RI
Friday, June 6, 2014
Moving from STEM to STEAM: What Really Works
Call for Proposals Deadline: Feb. 23, 2014
Consider submitting a proposal for this conference! More information can be found here.


Identifying Students who are Struggling and Taking Action

In the first few weeks of the semester, we are often preoccupied learning student names, creating course materials and getting back into the swing of a busy teaching schedule. This is also a time to be on the lookout for students who might struggle in your course.

Some of the early signs are:

  • Falling asleep
  • Arriving late or not at all
  • Making rude or mean remarks toward you or a classmate
  • Not completing work
  • —and the list goes on

The temptation to ignore some of these behaviors is strong, but there are plenty of reasons to get involved… and to do it sooner rather than later. An intervention does not need to be a full-on confrontation, but merely making the student aware that his or her behavior is affecting others.  Sometimes students do not understand the social norms of a college classroom or perhaps they need to have rules and expectations clarified.

If you are facing challenges, remember that you are not alone and that there are resources to help. Lisa Rodriguez, Ph.D. offers tips for dealing with and preventing many common classroom/student issues

Click here for an 8-step plan for dealing with disruptive students.

Perhaps somewhat more rare, but sadly increasingly common, is to have an emotionally troubled student in class. These tips help you to recognize these students and take appropriate action.

Dealing with disruptive students can be frustrating and can sometimes leave you feeling drained. Keep in mind that this is not an issue reserved for new faculty, at some point all faculty experience these challenges. Seek the support of your colleagues, department chair and experienced faculty.

Spring Semester: Let’s Get Started!

What an electrifying time of year— a new year and the start of a new semester! The next two weeks are sure to be filled with excitement and questions. Don’t worry! There are many resources to help you be successful in the classroom, with your advisees and colleagues.

Maybe you are teaching a new course or contemplating changes to an existing class. To design your course and overcome common teaching challenges look to Honolulu Community College for articles and useful tips. From first day success to course design, they have it all.  For those teaching a new course, the Step by Step: Planning a College Course can help take your course from concept to a fully-designed course efficiently. Allow yourself plenty of time at each steps to consider what you want students to learning and how to achieve those learning goals in ways that are stimulating and engaging.

You might be wondering how to be better organized and more efficient. Part of teaching is materials management…what to do with all the papers and course materials?! Saving materials from one semester to the next can plunge our offices into chaos. Get a handle on all the detritus of teaching without stress using these helpful tips from the Chronicle of Higher Education. Saving paper and materials is only part of the task…saving time and being efficient is also key.

Perhaps you are considering how to communicate better with your advisees and help them be more successful in their courses. The advisor-advisee relationship is often strengthened through clear communication and enhanced listening skills. Monmouth Community College offers some simple, yet effective tools to help you grow your academic relationships and be a better advisor.  Understanding our role as an advisor can help us to make the most of each interaction with students and be their advocate, mentor, motivating force and cheerleader.

Avoiding Academic Burnout: A primer on Self-Care

When you fly on an airplane, the flight attendant instructs you to put your oxygen mask on first, before helping others.  This an important rule for ensuring survival, if you run out of oxygen, you can’t help anyone else with their oxygen mask. The airlines have a point–we need to take care of yourselves as a step in being able to help others.

This rule is true in most facets of life, especially when we work with students. Think about the skills you use every day with students and co-workers…patience, problem-solving, communication, the list goes on and on. When we are tired and run-down, we are less likely to communicate clearly, use our innate sense of humor or telegraph enthusiasm for our work.

Working with students is often an endurance event with high potential for burnout. We need to be in great shape physically, emotionally and intellectually to do our best work. The end of the semester is the ideal time to take stock and recharge. Distance yourself from distressing events, forgive the unmet challenges, observe the lessons learned and most of all, plan for the future. Create a plan for self-care that can move us successfully through the semester and beyond.

Avoiding burnout should be a long term goal. The steps you take today make a difference tomorrow, especially When Teaching Grows Tired—a Wake-up Call for Faculty.

Consider these 10 Steps for Avoiding Teacher Burnout, they can help you regain your teaching passion and capture that enthusiasm that brought you to the classroom in the first place. Creating a long re-charging to-do list is not the point. Look at self-care resources for teachers and be mindful of how each of these suggestions might improve your health, well-being and ability to do your work.  Treat these suggestions as a buffet, take what appeals and leave the rest

Mary McKinney, PhD argues that part of being a successful academic is taking steps to avoid burnout. Her website offers ideas about self-care, stress management and balancing the demands of work and a well-lived life. 

Wrapping up the Semester

At the end of the semester we are often preoccupied with crossing the finish line and getting grades submitted. We may overlook opportunities to wrap up the semester in a meaningful way for both our students and ourselves.  Faculty struggle over what has been left out and how to make sense of all the ground that has been covered from day one until now. By providing course closure and acknowledging student learning, we can promote a sense of achievement and recognize next steps in the learning process.

The last day of class is a time to praise students, examine teaching effectiveness and plan for the future–everyone deserves and needs a pat on the back!

Read what some faculty do to end the semester on a high note and ideas for the last day of class and  think about how you can adapt these ideas to fit your students, discipline and teaching style.



Creating a Rubric: The why and how…

Creating an effective rubric can seem daunting, but is well worth the effort and will save time grading. Grading rubrics are valuable tools for both instructors and students not only for grading purposes, but also as a tool to communicate expectations about skills and information mastery.

Sharing student learning goals and how these will be measured helps students to understand your assessment strategies. Rubrics also describe the importance of individual grading items and can emphasize learning priorities for students. Rubrics help students meet learning objectives and actually do better on assignments. It is a measure of respect we provide to students about how they will be assessed—they are less likely to be caught off guard.

Many resources exist for rubric construction, but most start with learning objectives for each lesson that are clear, specific and measurable. Once we know what students need to learn and how they are going to accomplish it, we can look at how to assess their progress and how to weight each learning goal in terms of relative importance.

This link to Carnegie Mellon University provides a strong induction to using rubrics and examples of rubrics for assignments, projects, presentations and more.

This primer on creating rubrics offers a simple how-to for creating a rubric. How to Create a Grading Rubric

MA is now designated as a Leap State which means that the AACU Value Rubrics are important for measuring program level student outcomes. Look at this resource for more information on Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education (VALUE).

For examples of rubrics for assessing different types of learning, multiple disciplines and skills, look at Stephen F Austin State University, Association for the Assessment in Higher Education or the University of West Florida.

If you have interest in sharing a rubric you use any an assignment, please do. Send them to sheldonl@gcc.mass.edu and they can be added to the T & L site.

Making Video Lectures for Your Flipped Classroom

Making video Lectures

If you are contemplating the move toward a “Flipped Classroom” you are likely to need are a series of recorded lectures. Creating these lectures can seem like a daunting proposition! Being in front of the camera can leave even the most experienced instructors feeling a little nervous.  But, there is no need to be! Some forethought and planning can ensure that your videos are professional, useful and communicate both your subject knowledge and passion for teaching.

Review resources available from the GCC Educational Technology Department. These technology professionals  can help you create video lectures right in the TV studio—they do the camera work and editing. Even if you decide to create your own videos, you might use Garry, Karen and Fraser as a sounding board for your ideas.

Best Practices for Your Videos

When creating your videos for an online environment it’s good practice to observe the following rules:

  • Write a script before recording your video to make it sound more professional (also helps you avoid ‘uh’ and ‘ah’ sounds).
  • Engage viewers, give them things to do throughout the video.
  • Keep your videos short! (two to five minutes is ideal).
  • Many of the same lecture “rules” you use in class apply here—speak clearly, think about how slides might help reinforce your message, and then relax and be yourself.

Getting Started

The resources here are just to give you an idea about how to get started with video lectures, not all of the resources listed on these pages exist at GCC, or are accessed in the same way.

Helpful do’s and Don’ts for online lectures from Towson University is a helpful for getting started thinking about your lectures, your message and your own style.

10 Ways to make Lectures More Dynamic. These tips can be used for both the online and traditional classroom environment

Maybe you want to look for a guest lecture. Explore the immense resources at this site to find materials that can easily be used in your online class.



The Flipped Classroom: What it is, how to do it and what to expect

The Flipped Classroom is a teaching approach that moves lectures outside of the classroom to allow classroom time to be spent in more dynamic learning activities. Before arriving to class, students often watch recorded video lectures and read through lecture materials, complete a basic assessment to ensure they have understood basic concepts. They then arrive in the classroom ready to engage with their peers in discussions and other student-centered learning activities.

Overview: Watch one instructors approach in her YouTube video

The Flipped Classroom: Pro and Cons

Flipping A Class: A How-to Guide for Beginners

This teaching strategy seems to be gaining momentum because it gets results. Shaking up tried and true teaching methods can be controversial and this approach is not for everyone, but for some teachers and students, it is breathing new life into the learning experience. Read more from the NYTimes on the Flipped Classroom.


The New, Nonlinear Path Through College

The article entitled The New, Nonlinear Path Through College, provides us with a gentle reminder that many GCC students have tried or will try other educational opportunities. The path to a college degree is not as clear and simple as it once was—students have many choices and they often struggle to find the right fit. The danger is that many students start, but do not finish their degree. At GCC, it is critical to help prepare students for their futures through skill development and by creating confidence in their personal potential for success.

We must consider how we are helping students to enhance and develop skills in our courses, and also how we embrace their entry and in some cases, their re-entry. For adult students, using the principles of andragogy can make a significant difference in their comfort level and the value they place on prior learning (both formal and informal). Diverse voices must be heard in our classrooms and we must create a safe educational space for students with different perspectives and life philosophies. University of Michigan Center for Research on Learning and Teaching has a wealth of information on building a respectful and dynamic classroom, and honoring the needs of diverse learners.

Making a personal connection with each student, whether our role is as advisor, support staff or faculty impacts how students feels about their GCC experience. The key is building rapport. Knowing one personal and positive thing about each student creates a starting point—it might be something about their family, work, a favorite hobby or sport. Building rapport and engaging students on this level that shows we care about them as individuals and learners, and that we value their commitment to GCC and the choice they have made to be a student here.