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

18k2cxh8fg58wjpg

Image #2

Blended Learning

Image #3

brain_to_brain

Image #4

BrainInterfacing-300x216

Image #5

Figure1

Image #6

huge.8.42064

Image #7

images

Image #8

o-TOP-BRAIN-BOTTOM-BRAIN-facebook

Image #9

shutterstock_140571478

Image #10

images (1)

Image #11

two-child-brains-250

Sources for images:

http://www.middleweb.com/2847/how-to-build-happy-brains/

http://www.activistpost.com/2014/08/researchers-achieve-first-successful.html

http://esciencecommons.blogspot.com/2014/03/when-i-becomes-we-brain-to-brain.html

http://gawker.com/5730199/how-your-brain-is-like-facebook

http://unitedwithisrael.org/good-news-israel-israeli-researchers-discover-new-brain-disease-mechanism/

http://www.illustrationsource.com/stock/image/42064/man-pouring-letters-into-mans-head/?&results_per_page=1&detail=TRUE&page=4

http://cal-brain.org/node/4

http://www.baen.com/ScienceOfDarkships.asp

http://bumbr.com/head-tree/

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

FYS Fridays

I still remember the first time I heard about the First Year Seminars that would be part of the new UCA Core. Everything about the program seemed appealing as I quickly ran through a mental checklist. A chance to help first-year students transition to the rigors of university education? Yes! Additional expectations for discussion and writing? Yes! Small sections where students could forge meaningful relationships with each other and the professor? Yes! Then I learned more at the Core Institute about the full list of things faculty were expected to achieve. We were to teach about the UCA core, the university’s mission and values, and the value of university education. We were to assess students’ knowledge of these things as well as written discourse and collaboration. We were to provide opportunities for low-stakes writing, writing in the discipline, and collaborative learning. And, do not forget, we were to find the time to teach the content of the actual course. At this point, I was still enthusiastic about FYS, but I must admit to feeling a bit of trepidation. How could I achieve all of these goals in one semester?

My first attempt produced mixed results. I devoted a couple days at the beginning of the semester to discussing the Core and the other non-content related aspects of the FYS experience. Surely, that would be enough, I thought. I had PowerPoints! Then, at the end of the semester, I assessed their familiarity with the Core. As I flipped through the answers students had recorded in their blue books, I realized that my strategy had largely failed. They had clearly learned a fair bit about the history content and writing in the discipline, but they conveyed a limited understanding of the other aspects of FYS. I needed a new approach.

Instead of isolating FYS content into a few days at the beginning of the term, I decided to integrate it by sprinkling information throughout the semester when opportunities presented themselves. More systematically, I devoted the first five or ten minutes at the beginning of each class on Fridays to discussing an FYS-related topic. I began calling these parts of class “FYS Fridays.” Early in the semester the students and I explored topics related to being a successful student. These included note taking, time management, active reading skills, and the like. After this series of Fridays I asked students to read an excerpt from Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit to frame a discussion on how routines can be key to achieving goals. Then, we moved on to other FYS matters each subsequent Friday.

I had intended Duhigg’s message mainly for the students, but I took something from it, too. My strategy for incorporating FYS topics through the course became a habit. My weekly routine grew to include a somewhat natural incorporation of the goals of FYS with the content of the course. So far this approach has produced better results, and the enthusiasm that had been threatened by the long list of FYS expectations has survived intact. I worked on them one Friday at a time.

What strategies have you used to achieve the goals of the First Year Seminar?

–Michael Rosenow