Working with Student Veterans: Moving toward Success!

It is not just military service that sets student veterans apart from their classmates. According to a 2013 American Council on Education report, they are often the first members of their family to attend college and are often about a decade older than other students. They tend to study harder and are driven to succeed, but feel less engaged and connected to campus life.

The good news in this study is that many veterans feel supported by their institutions. This support is found at every level—from the financial aid process and registration and the classroom. As faculty and staff, we need to find ways to ensure that veterans have the tools and skills they need to walk their educational path. But, there are challenges as you will read in this article from military.com.  Misconceptions about veterans abound, do a reality check at NEA Ten Things You Should Know about Working with Today’s Student Veterans.

Cultivating a sense of belonging on campus can be helpful. So, how might we get started?

Here are some ideas:

  • Ask if a student in interested in sharing his/her experiences rather than singling someone out in class discussions
  • If a student veteran seems to be struggling, talk with him or her
  • Know the resources that are available, this includes VetNet, but also the services that are available to all GCC students, both traditional and online
  • Remember that sometimes active duty students need flexibility with due dates—be accommodating when possible
  • Introduce them to organizations and activities on campus. Review tips for Getting Student Veterans off the Sidelines for some ideas
  • Capitalize on each veteran’s strength and determination to help reach educational goals

The VetNet resource center is a must-stop for veterans on campus—it is the place to get certified for educational benefits, meet other vets and find support for challenges. Advisors can learn how to meet the needs of this population from the NACADA: Advising Student Veterans.

Perhaps one of the best all around sites for learning about student veterans is the American Council on Education: Supporting Student Veterans. The articles and resources here are directed at all members of the educational community. You will find information on helping make the transition from soldier to student and much more.

 

 

 

Facing Mid-semester Doldrums with new Ideas

At the mid-semester point, we can start to see and feel fatigue setting in for both our students and ourselves. Finding that spark of creativity and enthusiasm can bring our classes to life and give us the energy to finish the semester as strong as we began. It can be as simple as new discussion starters, innovative ways to structure assignments or useful encouragement for students.

Working from the experience and practice of other faculty is often helpful. The Center for Teaching and Learning at UNC Charlotte has compiled an impressive list of Best Practices in College Teaching that looks at the kinds of challenges we all face.

  • The Thoughtful Questions section is full of stimulating one-liners for those times when there is a lag in the discussion. These can also be used for critical thinking about course material and concepts.
  • Use the Rewarding Learner Participation section to help move discussions forward in ways that simple praise doesn’t often do.

This is just a fraction of what this link has to offer!

You are sure to find your own favorite new ideas to try. Our challenge to you is try one new idea during your next class. Write it into your lesson plan for the day. Then chose another and another….

Mental Health Issues in College Students

As professors and educational professionals, we are expected to be experts in our discipline, but may lack the skills and knowledge to help students who struggle with mental and emotional health issues. This is not a new concern, but studies show that the number of college students with both diagnosed and undiagnosed mental illness is increasing. Mental Health Awareness Week (Oct 5-11) at GCC has raised our consciousness of the issue and stimulated discussion about meeting the needs of all our students.

In 2011, The Wall Street Journal published a piece entitled, A Serious Illness or an Excuse? Looking at the issue of mental health and college students by Andrea Petersen This article highlights some of the common challenges for both students and faculty as they try to navigate these often stormy waters. Take a few minutes to read this article– you will gain a fresh perspective on what it is to be a student who is struggling.

If you think mental health issues are isolated or overstated, look through the National Alliance on Mental Health’s report, College Students Speak, A Survey Report on Mental Health. In essence, this organization has found a significant demonstrated need for support for college students face a variety of mental health issues such as depression, bi-polar disorder, anxiety and PTSD. The report includes a section on what students should know and what faculty & support staff need to know.

While it might be somewhat easier to identify students who are struggling when we see them in person and work face-to-face, online students are often a different story. In Identifying and Addressing the Mental Health Needs of Online Students in Higher Education, Bonny Barr provides some common clues that students may need extra support. Just as valuable as her insights and research are, the links she provides at the conclusion of the article to mental health resources are ones to bookmark. Keep in mind that resources are available for online GCC students, just as they are for traditional students. Think about adding a link to the GCC Wellness Center to your online class.

Here at GCC, many faculty and staff have worked with students who are dealing with mental health issues in our classrooms and offices. Don’t go it alone.  There are specific resources to help students create paths to learning and being a part of the GCC community.

 

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.

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.

 

Building Your Online Class

Pedagogy for Online Instruction

Online learning is a significantly different experience for both students and instructors. It is not a simple transfer of content and classroom activities to the virtual world. Instructors must consider how students will navigate content and engage with the learning process when that process is removed from its traditional setting.

According to West Virginia University’s Tips for Teaching Online, pedagogical changes must occur to make the online teaching/learning experience a positive one. Look for ways to adapt your face-to-face class and to ways to add new elements.

Whether you are new to online teaching or an experienced instructor, there are many common challenges related to course design.While it is impossible for students to have the same exact experience in an online class as they do in a face-to-face classroom, we can make the experience just as rewarding and satisfying using these tips for Humanizing Your Online Course.

Just as critical as pedagogy, is strong knowledge of your learning management system, Moodle and learning how to navigate this tool.

Other considerations when building your course might include the size and type of files you use. Remember that some students may have difficulty with large files or downloading depending on the strength of their connection. This can be a significant problem for students in rural areas. See the comments of GCC President Bob Pura and Chief Information Officer Michael Assaf in the Chronicle.

Helpful resources for online course creation:

11 Strategies for Managing Your Online Courses

Designing Online Courses: models-for-improvement

Five Common Pitfalls of Online Course Design from Faculty Focus

10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching

Report on Online Course Design13 Strategies for Faculty

Report on Online Course Quality

Balancing Online Course Workload

7 Assessment Challenges of Moving your Class online

 

 

Pedagogy and Andragogy

Pedagogy/Critical Pedagogy:

Many instructors seek strong pedagogical/theory-driven teaching and instructional approaches that show students are learning and that they can demonstrate the essential course objectives. Perhaps an additional goal is to create a culturally-responsive atmosphere for learners where they feel welcomed and included in decision making and the learning process as a whole.  Additionally, students need to understand the value of what they are learning and how it applies to their lives. The work of Paulo Freire is relevant toward this goal, but at the same time there are simple steps we can take in our classroom to promote cooperation and collaboration.

Andragogy:

Adult learners are different than traditional college students—based on age, development, life stage, career and family. As a result, adult students sometimes feel isolated and distanced from their traditional-aged colleagues and the learning experience They need an instructional strategy that reflects their unique needs and goals. Student-centered andragogy (adult learning theory) offers a framework for individual growth and problem-solving through learning.

Core concepts of andragogy focus on learner interests, self-concept, prior experience, learning readiness, learning orientation and motivation. Adult learners bring a wealth of experiences related to learning, and have perceptions about their abilities, strengths and weaknesses. It is important for instructors to understand personal learning histories and student perceptions about how they learn best and what they want and need to learn. Andragogical principles make learning relevant and meaningful which stimulates student excitement, engagement and participation.  The result is a classroom where experiences of all learners are respected and diversity is valued. Knowledge and deeper understanding is developed through sharing and collaboration. Review the article  Motivating Students with Teaching Techniques that Establish Relevance, Promote Autonomy.

Principles of andragogy encourage students to embrace learning though goal exploration, peer and faculty collaboration, formulation of learning objectives and goal setting.  Instructors build trust and cooperation using specific teaching strategies that rely on consultation and participation with adult students. Andragogical principles can be adapted to any classroom, traditional or online. Andragogy focuses areas for student growth such as organization, time management, prioritization, study skills, self-evaluation, and communication and negotiation.

Andragogy Presentation

Principles of Adult Learning

Targeted Populations

Our classrooms are more diverse than ever and as instructors and staff we need to respond to the needs of all students through our teaching approaches, the creation of strong community of learners and the availability of resources to make learning available to all. Josephine Scott offers some ideas for meeting the needs of diverse learners.

VetNET

VetNet is GCC’s club for student veterans. Our primary goal is to generate a campus-wide culture that embraces the leadership, discipline, and high standards veterans bring to our campus while translating their military experience to student success. Learn more about student veterans in Alison Lighthall’s article for NEA’s Thought and Action, 10 Things You Should Know About Today’s Student Veteran.

Scuttlebutt Sep 2014 for staff

Scuttlebutt Nov. 2014 EXTRA-1

Peer Tutoring

Peer tutoring offers students the opportunity to look at how they learn. Students enrolled in any GCC course are welcome to meet with peer tutors in the fall and spring semesters. In tutoring sessions, students explore ways to study and problem-solve, and they apply these strategies to specific course assignments. Students meet individually with tutors in our offices in the 4th floor of the Core. In many introductory math and English courses, peer tutors assist students in the classroom.

Disability Services

The Office of Disability Services works with students, faculty, and staff to promote universal design and to remove barriers to access on campus.

Disability Services collaborates with the GCC counseling staff to provide ongoing support for students with a variety of disabilities, including cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, mental illness, low vision/blindness, deafness and traumatic brain injury. Disability Services also serves as a resource center for medical and legal advocacy, information, and referrals. Disability Services is also responsible for verifying student eligibility for accommodations, coordinating accommodations across campus, and providing consultation and training about disabilities for faculty and staff.

For more information on Universal Access and learning how to make materials available to all learners, visit the National Center on Disability and Access to Education.

Some tips for working with students at GCC:

ü	Always speak to the student privately about their disability or accommodation(s).<br /><br /><br /><br />
ü	Avoid allowing other students or faculty to hear these private conversations. This includes conversations regarding testing accommodations, class absences related to disability, etc.<br /><br /><br /><br />
ü	Arrange for students to pick up copies of notes for class materials that have been put into accessible format in a time and manner that protects their confidentiality.<br /><br /><br /><br />
ü	When in doubt as to what to do to protect the student’s right to confidentiality ask the student how they would prefer something to be handled or call the Office of Disability Services.<br /><br /><br /><br />

Communication/Netiquette

Students may be uncertain how best to communicate with their colleagues and their instructor in an online class–from emailing to posting in discussions, students often need additional information. It is the faculty’s responsibility to set the ground rules about communication and the tone of the learning community. While there are many opinions about communication style and the use of specific language, most faculty can agree that they want to promote an atmosphere of respect and tolerance where multiple voices can be heard and all students are encouraged to share their ideas.

This document on EMAIL ETIQUETTE explains to students how to create a professional email that is not only appropriate for college interactions, but is also helpful for students in the work world.

Click on the image for some ideas about Netiquette: the Social Code of Online Students and how to promote civility and communication among students.

Here is just one set of “rules” for posting in an online class. Edit the list to fit your course needs. How to communicate and participate in online classes. The University of Pittsburgh provides advanced tips on netiquette for students.

Creating a Classroom Community

How we communicate and talk with students helps to establish the tone of our classroom community. This article from the NEA, Seven Ways to Talk with Your Students, can help improve how you talk with students and the messages you send about not only your course, but also the process of learning and being a student.

The flip side is getting students to talk in class and engage with content, each other and you. Get them involved in discussions and class activities using these suggestions from Stamford. David Brooks provides interesting and thoughtful strategies in his piece, Getting Students to Talk, for the Chronicle of Higher Education. Tapping into student motivation can be critical for achieving optimal participation.

And, what happens when something goes wrong? Take a deep breath and look for a solution.