The Office of Faculty Development

November 2016 Tuesday Tips

1 November 2016:

Last year an accomplished professor came by the office for some grading help with a midterm which our students are sometimes able to provide (so long as we stay FERPA compliant). He noticed many students were getting the same answer wrong in the same particular way over and over. Perplexed, he wondered aloud what could be happening until one of the student staff members in the office remarked that the exam and/or study guide was probably on Quizlet(opens in new window). We both responded “What is Quizlet?”Quizlet Logo

Quizlet is one of a suite of websites leveraging crowdsourced content for study help for students. Study Blue(opens in new window) is also popular and there are probably dozens of others I am not aware of. In most cases these sites offer study guides students have uploaded that can be turned into flash cards or practice exams. On the whole, the sort of thing we all hope students do. Of course there are also less than exemplary practices. In the case referenced earlier, someone had uploaded nearly an entire exam. Even further on the spectrum, there are many pay-for-essay sites online offering products of dubious origin. We have come a long way from file folders of essays and exams passed from friend-to-friend over years and are likely to go even further in the coming years.

We have tools at our disposal to help with academic honesty including digital products like turnitin(opens in new window) and personnel with expertise in Student Conduct, Rights, and Responsibilities. These can be extremely useful, but I also want to direct you to the most valuable resource at your disposal: your students. Asking current and former students what tools they or their peers used in your classes can give you a baseline. You may like what you hear and decide to help curate the collections on Quizlet yourself or direct future students to especially valuable guides. You may find your students are utilizing out-of-date, incorrect, or unethical resources. Then it may be up to you to change your exams or teaching practices to accommodate. If you do talk to your students and find something interesting, especially a web service or a network, don’t keep it a secret, pass it along and let us know.

8 November 2016:

I have heard a frequent refrain from friends and colleagues about election day this year, “I am ready for this to be over.” It rings true for even those of us who love politics. The Presidential campaign is 19 months old; if it were a child it would be climbing on things and learning new words every day. However, as I often suggest, we also need to consider this from a student’s perspective. For the vast majority of our students this is their first time voting in a Presidential election, let’s not dampen their enthusiasm with our exhaustion regarding the election cycle. Student voices matter:

  • This year the First-Year Experience program partnered with the Civic Engagement office to register and inform student voters at Chico.
  • Today there are signs and people all over campus urging voting in general or supporting particular candidates.
  • Our own student groups have been present and visible on campus throughout the election season.
  • Across the nation we saw students engaging in dynamic ways. College Republicans were split on their support of Donald Trump this year, so an enthusiastic group formed StudentsforTrump with pop-up groups all over the nation. The group is even mentioned by Trump in speeches, which is a testament to the power of the student voice.

Students often emerge from events like an election with interest in a specific topic, but without a clear path to activism. One such outlet on campus is Civic Engagement which was made a Strategic Priority last year. The campus is looking for a new Director of Civic Engagement right now and it is a great time to get involved. Even if you are not interested in the leadership position, it is worth keeping an eye on the office to learn how to get your students involved in the community. Civic Engagement is not for other students in other classes only during the election, it is for all of us, all the time.

15 November 2016:

I have really struggled with what to write this week. Coming up with the thing to say after the election is something a lot of us are struggling with. Then I realized I was asking the wrong question. As faculty we often default to the perspective that we have wisdom the world needs. What I, and I think all of us should be asking is, what do other people have to say?

Listen to your students who have been harassed on and off campus with an open mind. Listen to your students in class as they complain that everyone is talking about the election, when they want to learn about what they came here to study. Listen to your students who were thrilled at the election results, but are afraid about voicing their enthusiasm on campus. These may be office hour conversations, they may occupy class time, they may be email exchanges or comments as you walk across campus. The form of the conversation is not particularly important and do not worry about how you will respond or not having the right answer, just start with listening. You will find yourself listening to things you disagree with and do not understand. You will find yourself surprised at the things your students and colleagues think and experience. You may find your own views on expression changing, but it has to start with listening, even if it takes us outside our comfort zones. Sometimes listening is what helps us make a change, sometimes listening is all that is required. My background is in communication and one fascinating truth from that field of study is that we hear all the time, but listening is an active choice requiring work. If you want to take this a step further toward discussion you should read about what Villanova is doing after the election.

No one ever looks back on a decision and says to themselves “I wish I would have understood people less before proceeding.” So ask students how they are doing, let them know your office hours are open to them, and listen.