The Power and Potential of a New Notebook (or a New Name)

First as a student and then as a teacher, I have always loved the first week of school. For the 17th time as a professor at UCA, I watched as students poured into our buildings and classrooms last week. They were (mostly) well rested, alert, and hopeful as they considered the possibilities each class will offer them this semester. They had showered(!), many of them sporting new outfits, and all of them pulling out fresh, clean notebooks to begin a new semester.

The air in our classrooms was palpably charged with the electricity of the potential a new course and a fresh start offers, both for our students and for us as educators. I, too, came into my classes with a new notebook and a refreshed attitude toward the teaching and learning to take place this year.

This isn’t the only new beginning I’ve experienced recently. Over the summer, the devoted staff of the Instructional Development Center engaged in a transformation process that culminated in a new name, mission, values, and programming focus. What emerged was your Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE), and we feel the same eager anticipation we see in our students in beginning this academic year. We even renovated our physical space to accommodate the growth our new vision promises to deliver.

The values of excellence, responsiveness, and community guide us in fulfilling our reimagined mission: CTE collaborates with faculty to foster personal well-being and create a learning community that facilitates innovative, high-quality teaching and learning.

As you begin the 2015-16 academic year, in what areas do you need the fresh enthusiasm offered by a new notebook? Further, how can the CTE serve those needs to help you fully capitalize on the power and potential of a fresh start? Visit to further explore what UCA’s CTE can do for you.

–Amy Hawkins, CTE Director

In Search of the Fountain of Youth

Please allow me to begin with a quote that I recently read by the late General Douglas MacArthur:

Youth is not a period of time. It is a state of mind, a result of the will, a quality of the imagination, a victory of courage over timidity, of the taste for adventure over the love of comfort.

We can lose our youthfulness in our profession, can’t we?

Where are you lacking in imagination? For example, have you presented the same content in the same way for several semesters, yet been disappointed in students’ comprehension or application? A way to jump-start imagination may be to look for a second right answer or to change the wording of your questions. Try approaching things from a different direction; reversing your viewpoint. What if you provided students with an “answer” and require them to figure out a “problem”? What if you gave students the final assessment first and designed your course backwards? Or taught just one day of your course backwards or from a bird’s-eye or ant’s-eye view? What if…?

When have you been brave lately? Did you seek out a colleague to discuss a new research project? Or did you own up to a defeat or inadequacy and seek guidance or training? What if you take a class in something that is quite unsettling for you? Recently I was in a workshop on improvisational theater techniques. Not only did I begin to overcome some inhibitions, but I learned listening and discussion techniques that have influenced my teaching.

Adventure is many things, but rarely is it comfortable. Often it requires planning and preparation—two skills of which I am not particularly great. And it may include the unexpected and spontaneous—causing uneasiness. Have you been out of your comfort zone recently? What if you increased your service to include a new audience, such as another age-group, discipline, or culture? I have had opportunity to take my skills of teaching traditional basketry techniques into unconventional settings and these experiences have sparked new directions for my research.

As we close this academic year, how may we cheer one another on to youthfulness in our professional lives regardless of the period of time?

–Deborah Kuster

Hey, is that my teacher at the HPER?

I’ve often wondered why many faculty members choose NOT to work out at the HPER Center when it is on campus, free, open over 100 hours/week and a state of the art facility. Through the years I’ve heard several reasons for why they don’t use the facility.  The more common reasons……. don’t have time during the day, don’t want to get sweaty during their lunch break,  they need to get home after work to care  for their family or elderly parents but, the one reason that baffled me was…… they did not feel comfortable working  out  around students.    How can this be when their life’s work is to work with students?  The most common concern in this regard was that the students might make fun of them because they were older and out of shape.   I was baffled because I, being much older do not relate to that statement.  Even though I am not in the shape I was when I was younger, I actually enjoy working out with the students at the HPER.  I feel it allows them to see me as a person and not their “instructor” outside the classroom.  However, as perception is reality, I understand their concern is real and I quickly point out that students are really not at all interested in making fun of us “older” exercisers.   They are really interested in checking themselves out in the mirrors and some actually do look up to us.  :)

Having taught Concepts of Lifetime Health and Wellness for the last 4 years, I have found that my students are more impressed with the fact that I still workout since I started working out when I was their age.  I love how they give me a sweaty high five at the end of a Zumba class or stop by my office to say hi when they come to work out.  This sometimes leads to discussions on life, exercise and their fears and concerns on what the future holds for them upon graduation.  This is a perfect time to do some out of class room mentoring and advising.

Some have even shared that they wish their parents would take an interest in their health and workout as I do.  I feel that many of them see us gray haired instructors as role models for what healthy living can do for them in the years to come. Or, that it’s never too late to get started working on our health.   I have learned that I can have a great impact on my student’s lives not just in the classroom with lecture but also outside the classroom by practicing what I preach amongst them at the HPER.  :)

–Ary Servedio

Images of Teaching

Think about your philosophy of teaching/learning. Which one of the following 11 images best represents an important element of your philosophy and why?

Image #1


Image #2

Blended Learning

Image #3


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Image #9


Image #10

images (1)

Image #11


Sources for images:

Teaching Through The Eyes Of A Student

I finally was beginning to think that I really was becoming an effective online teacher. I had six years under my belt and my novice methods were beginning to be a thing of the past. I had worked hard understanding technology by attending training, hungrily reading any info on teaching and using as many BlackBoard tools that I could fit into a course.  I was using synchronous class formats, Tegrity lecture capture and voiced over PowerPoints. Then after 17 years, I became a student again.

Now, I am dutifully reading syllabi, scouring reading assignments and creating interesting online discussion posts. I follow assignment guidelines, grading rubrics and apply the latest research to given topics. I meet with fellow classmates on synchronous online classrooms and then wonder; Is this what I am doing to students?

Am I stacking more and more work on students who already have a full plate of life responsibilities? I can empathize as I too am overloaded with responsibilities as a wife, mother, daughter, sister and a student.  I work full time and take care of my family while struggling to complete my assignments and course work. At times, I am just completing a task, other times I am really synthesizing new knowledge with an eagerness to learn more.  I am just beginning to appreciate how this experience is impacting my personal teaching.

First, just because a tool exists, doesn’t mean it needs to be utilized. After an evening of synchronous online class (Yes, I nodded off multiple times), I had the gall to do the same to my pathophysiology class. It was clear by the lack of student comments, there had to be some snoozers. BlackBoard has some amazing features but use should be based on this underlying premise, will this make my student yearn for more?

Discussions are another tool that is used heavily in online courses. In most instances, I find the utility of discussions to be quite low especially when there is lack of involvement from faculty. I want my teachers to stimulate me and make me think outside the box. I want them to dangle new knowledge in front of me and stand back while I seek it out. I don’t want to summarize my required reading. I want to apply it to my practice and I want to do the same to my students.

Yes, my life is pretty complicated right now, but it is also inspiring to be focused on learning as a student and to be learning to be a better teacher through my experiences of being a student.

Can you relate?  What experiences have encouraged you to look through the eyes of a student?  Did your experience change your mind on a long-held approach to teaching?

–Stacy Harris

Will this be on the test?

For me, the question “Will this be on the test” sparks a roiling churn of assumptions and emotions. I immediately label the student lazy, apathetic, and indifferent; an individual who does not care about knowledge or ideas. They are in my course just to get through it. I flush with frustration, disappointment, and anger. And I’m simultaneously deflated by the question; it’s a pin that pricks my enthusiasm and joy.

I clearly bristle at the question. But what might I learn by stepping back from my initial response? What might I learn by viewing the question as one worth asking?

Perhaps the student who asks, “Will this be on the test,” is not lazy, apathetic, and indifferent, but simply confused. There are, after all, exams in my course. Have I done enough to clearly articulate expectations? And have I done enough to clearly articulate why course content matters beyond the exam? Beyond the classroom?

Perhaps the student who asks, “Will this be on the test,” is not lazy, apathetic, and indifferent, but realistic and practical. My course is, after all, part of an institutional system that the student needs to navigate. Should I save my frustration, disappointment, and anger for the societal pressure that tells them they need to be here?   To a larger system that forces the funneling of learning and ideas into a binary value system: important – not important, worthy – unworthy?

My initial response to this question feels so right, so natural. And that’s precisely why I need to turn that response around; to question and evaluate it from the perspective of the person asking. Sitting in my student’s seat is an effective astringent, akin to applying rubbing alcohol or witch hazel to a wound – painful, but ultimately therapeutic.

How do you react to the question, “What will be on the test?” How does it make you feel?

And is there a different classroom scenario where your response to a student feels right and normal and good? Might you begin to question that feeling? Where will it lead?

–Ellen Hostetter

What Is My Role?

I am called a teacher, instructor, and educator, but I have never considered myself to be any of those.  There is even the ceremonious occasion when I am referred to as a “college professor,” but I have never embraced that title because I consider myself a “facilitator.”

Facilitating a valid learning experience in the college classroom is what I aim to do.  My role in the classroom is to do more than just teach, instruct, and/or educate.  It is to serve as a mentor, advisor, role model, and encourager (just to name a few) to my students.

I am the person in charge of empowering my students to be critical thinkers and effective communicators as they embrace the goals of the “Institution of Education.”  No offense intended to those who teach, but in my opinion, teaching is too easy.

Teaching is like a mundane cycle that repeats itself—arrive, lecture, and leave.  The students sense the indifference and miss the “point” of a quality college education.

When I facilitate, I spend a great deal of time meeting students where they are and inspiring them to finish what they started.

At the end of the day, do you ask yourself what your role is as an academician?

— Adriian Gardner