Complaining about students has consequences.

In her most recent blog post,  addresses the topic of a 2012 article in the Journal of Chemical Education. I have been guilty of this but I am working VERY hard to understand that students have reasons for their behavior and are mostly responding to their built environment in the smartest possible way.  If we want different behavior, we must design a learning environment that demands it.

Sometimes we do need to vent. It isn’t easy teaching students who don’t come to class prepared, seem to always want the easiest way, are prepared to cheat if necessary, don’t have good study skills, and aren’t interested in learning what we love to teach. Venting, especially to a trusted colleague, helps us put things in perspective. At some point, though, venting morphs into complaining, and what we say about students becomes what we think about them. And that’s when it starts getting dangerous, because it affects how we teach.

Source Article: Cooper, M. L. (2012). Cherry picking: Why we must not let negativity dominance affect our interactions with students. Journal of Chemical Education, 89,423–424 DOI:10.1021/ed3000217

Read the entire post at the Faculty Focus blog.

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AAC&U Statement:  Reaffirming a Deep and Abiding Commitment

The AAC&U posted the statement regarding election-related harassment and intimidation …

Reaffirming a Deep and Abiding Commitment

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

By Lynn Pasquerella

A week ago today, more than 132 million voters across America made their voices heard in an historic presidential election. Since then, the Southern Poverty Law Center has reported over 300 incidents of election-related harassment and intimidation, with the highest occurrences in primary and secondary schools and on college and university campuses. Higher education must play a leadership role in safeguarding the free exchange of ideas and providing models for fostering respectful dialogue across ideological differences.

The Association of American Colleges and Universities’ mission of making liberal education and inclusive excellence the foundation for institutional purpose and educational practice is grounded in the conviction that a deepening engagement with diverse perspectives is fundamental to a flourishing democracy. AAC&U stands alongside its nearly 1,400 members in reaffirming a deep and abiding commitment to the values of diversity, inclusion, and equity as critical to the wellbeing of our democratic culture and as the cornerstones of excellence in liberal education. For a sampling of how campuses are taking action to advance these ideals, we invite you to visit our link to Resources for Campus Leaders Crafting Messages in Response to Issues of Racial and Social Justice. We look forward to continued collaboration in championing our shared objectives.

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Looking to Step Up Your Game?

The Governor’s Teaching Fellows program is a statewide program for professors from both public and private institutions in Georgia. The goal is to create a kind of “think tank” for professors who are deeply dedicated to the quality of their teaching and provide them with the time, space, and support needed to reinvigorate themselves and their courses. A few former fellows you might know include Julia Metzker, Amy Burt, Scott Butler, Judith Malachowski, Jan Clark, and Jennifer Flory. Amy Sumpter is a current fellow, and I’ve been teaching in the program since I was a fellow myself in 2001-2002. So the question is, would YOU like to be a Governor’s Teaching Fellow? If you follow this blog, you are likely the kind of person the program is looking for, and Winter Break is a smart time to get your application together. Your application has to go through a nomination and approval process on your campus, so it needs to be pulled together well before the actual due dates. The application is not onerous and will likely only take a couple of hours to complete.

There are two cohorts each year of about 12 Fellows each. One meets for two weeks in May and the other meets the first Wednesday through Friday most months for an academic year. For exact dates and more information about the program and the application process, please see . Please note that all candidate letters of support and application materials must be received no later than February 3, 2017 for the Summer Symposium and April 21, 2017 for the Academic Year Program.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me for more information or contact former fellows in order to hear their thoughts.

Cynthia Alby, Georgia College,

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Why didn’t I know about this?

Imagine if scientists found a cheap, easy-to-administer, minimal-side-effects, drug that could significantly reduce your chances of getting cancer. It would be front page news, we would all be popping this new magic pill, and it would be morally wrong to not allow everyone access.

Well in this case, the cancer is the fact that there is an achievement gap between students who are African American or Latino/a, and their white counterparts. And the “drug” is a small social intervention that can (should!) take place in freshmen courses.

It’s not often that a paper published in Science has a big impact on my life. But I will now approach my introductory courses differently after recently reading an article that was published in Science 5 years ago. This paper is “A Brief Social-Belonging Intervention Improves Academic and Health Outcomes of Minority Students” by Gregory Walton and Geoffrey Cohen of Stanford University. It’s available for free and I highly recommend that you read it.

The research in a nutshell

The researchers conducted a randomized controlled trial (the gold standard in experimental design) which measured the effect of having freshmen students read a survey, with actual quotes from upper level students from the same university, about how feeling isolated and intimidated is typical in the first year of college but these feelings go away and are replaced with a sense of comfort and belonging. Basically that being worried about acceptance and not fitting in is a normal part of the college experience and NOT an indication that someone shouldn’t be in college. Then the students wrote short reflective essays on what they read and created videos that shared their insights with future students. And before you worry about all the class time lost to such an activity, the researchers reported that it took less than one hour of class time.

The results

I’m going to focus on the long-term results of the study, collected during the second semester of the students’ senior year, because I think these results are the most impressive. But the researchers also looked at short term results.

3 years after the treatment there was:

  • An increase in GPA for African American students who received the social intervention treatment. This halved the achievement gap between African American and European American students.
  • An increase in the self-reported health and well-being of African American students in the treatment group compared to the control group.
  • A decrease in self-reported doctor visits by African American students in the treatment group compared to the control group.
  • No difference in any of the measured variables between European American students in the treatment and control groups.

This research shows that feeling excluded can lead to lower academic performance and lower health outcomes. First year college students experience feelings of doubt, intimidation, and social adversity. Most European American students don’t view these social belonging struggles as an indication that they don’t belong in college. However, many African American and Latino American students do. And this feeling of not belonging leads to less success. All our students need to feel like they belong in our classes. Their success depends on it.

How this will change my teaching (and please consider letting it change yours):

I cannot teach an introductory course again without applying this research. I am going to build a similar type of intervention into my courses, measure the impact on student success, and teach others how to do the same.

Here is what I will do:

  • I will collect stories from a diverse group of graduating students about their journeys through feeling like they did not belong in college to finding that they did fit in and could be successful.
  • I will share these stories with incoming students and ask my students to reflect on these stories.
  • I will give students an assignment where they need to create their own group or individual videos to share with future students.
  • I will strive to make my classroom an inclusive classroom. This means that I will know everyone’s name, encourage and expect participation from everyone, and I will regularly share diverse stories of how normal it is to struggle, fail, try again and finally succeed.
  • I will educate myself further about this type of research.

Why didn’t I know about this?

I’m still a bit incredulous that the first time I came across this study was in CIRTL MOOC that I just finished up called “An Introduction to Evidence-based Undergraduate STEM Teaching”. FYI – this course is free and available from EdX. It provides a great overview of the backward design process, which most ICbGers will be familiar with, and it also has a great section on Inclusive Teaching.

When this paper was published in 2011, I was an assistant professor who would have readily admitted to all of the following: putting teaching above research, wanting all her students to succeed, caring about social justice issues and receiving my weekly subscription to Science magazine. I don’t remember reading this article (I’m embarrassed by how many issues of Science I have recycled unread), and I know it was not brought to my attention at work. I think it should have been. CTL directors, department chairs, SOTL scholars and professional educators should have been talking about this (I’m sure some were. I just never got the memo) and, much more importantly, implementing this. We’re talking about a relatively easy way to improve the success, health, and well-being of a group of students who have been chronically underserved by our educational system.

Now I admit that we still need to research if this intervention works for most students under most circumstances. And I am planning on looking more deeply into this research (this paper has been cited by 542 other articles according to Google Scholar) and similar studies. But in the meantime, we need to be incorporating this strategy into our classes and teaching other faculty to do the same. I believe that if we don’t apply this knowledge, then we are being negligent as educators.


Walton, G. M., & Cohen, G. L. (2011). A brief social-belonging intervention improves academic and health outcomes of minority students. Science, 331(6023), 1447-1451.

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Good Read: At Valparaiso, the Holistic Department Opens Up New Possibilities for Faculty 

In recent decades, the strain of ever-increasing faculty workload has been the source of much angst among college and university professors. Faculty responsibilities have greatly expanded to include a wide range of tasks. “We started a list of all the things faculty are expected to do now that they were not expected to do thirty years ago,” says Rick Gillman, associate provost for faculty affairs and professor of mathematics at Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Indiana. “I never thought I’d be involved in recruiting, marketing, fundraising, or be expected to have international partners.” Teaching online courses has also created vast demand for new skill sets, in addition to the traditional areas of scholarship, teaching, and service in which faculty are expected to excel. At Valparaiso, faculty are addressing these challenges and opening up new possibilities for student learning by implementing a new model: the holistic department.

Reforming the Department Model

Read the rest at the Association of American Colleges & Universities

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Joann Previts named top professor in Middle Level Education!!

Congratulations to our very own Joanne!


Dr. Joanne Previts was named the nation’s Outstanding Professor of Middle Level Education. She received the award at the Association for Middle Level Education Annual Conference in Austin, Texas, this week.

Criteria includes that the awardee must be licensed for grades 5 – 8, 6-9, or intermediate level and must be an advocate for teacher candidates by serving as an effective advisor, recruiting future students, modeling outstanding teaching and having quality supervising of field experiences.

During her seven years at Georgia College, Previts, an associate professor of middle grades education, has served as a mentor leader and professor at the graduate and undergraduate levels. She is currently the co-editor of the “Middle School Journal,” a scholarly publication of the Association for Middle Level Education. Previts also received the 2016 University Excellence in Teaching Award for Georgia College. She received her Bachelors of Arts in elementary education from Notre Dame College, Master of Education in curriculum and instruction from Cleveland State University and her Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from Kent State University.

Source: Georgia College News and Events

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IC-bG Reflection Dinner Oct 5

All teaching faculty and staff are welcome to join the Innovative Course-building Group (IC-bG) for dinner at Amici’s Cafe at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 5. The topic for this dinner is “Tackling Your Challenges.” Instead of always relying on the things we do well in the classroom, let’s try to tackle our challenges together. Think about aspects of your teaching that you think could use some improvement, and we can try to help each other figure out ways to make those improvements.

The Innovative Course-Building Group (IC-bG) is a faculty-led, grass-roots social network for learning that supports teaching faculty and staff across disciplines.

For more information, please contact:

Kasey Karen at or Allison VandeVoort at

Please see our WordPress blog page where you can follow us, sign up for blog updates or just get more information about the group.

Keep an eye out for upcoming event announcements. We would love to have you join us.

Maureen Horgan
Music Faculty
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Responding to Incidents of Hate Speech 

The Center for Research on Learning and Teaching recently posted advice and strategies for faculty responding to incidents of hate speech on campus

The recent incident of hate speech that occurred at U-M is part of a disturbing national trend. A recent article in Inside Higher Education referred to “an epidemic of racist incidents at campuses across the country.” These upsetting events in combination with the heightened rhetoric of the election campaign have the potential to increase the stress levels experienced by members of the campus community, especially those from groups targeted by hate speech. It is useful to keep in mind that such incidents may still be on students’ minds when they enter your classroom, and that such incidents take a toll on faculty and GSIs as well.  What can instructors do?

Find the answers at the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching website

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Call for Proposals: 10th Annual SoTL Commons Conference

[Submission Deadline: October 14, 2016]

Join the conversations and collaborations at the 10th Annual SoTL Commons Conference in Savannah, GA, March 29-31, 2017 hosted by The Centers for Teaching & Technology at Georgia Southern University. Proposal submissions are now being accepted for the 10th Anniversary SoTL Commons Conference.

Submission Guidelines available at SoTL Commons Website.

Conference Tracks include:

  • Online Learning
  • Teaching with Technology
  • Assessment
  • Academic and Professional Development
  • Learning Theories and Pedagogy
  • About SoTL (Non-Research Projects)

Also accepting applications for the Lorraine Gilpin Travel Award (Deadline October 17, 2016).

What is SoTL? The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) engages individuals in designing, conducting, and publishing research on teaching and learning. SoTL emphasizes that teaching is a serious intellectual activity that can be both deeply personal and highly collegial.

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Building a better ruler: Does ditching grades lead to better assessment of student learning?

A recent profile by Jonathan Lash, president at Hamilton University, in the Hechinger Report takes a look at how his institution has been able to increase retention and diversify its student-body socioeconomically.  He draws a straight line from this change to the use of narrative student evaluations in lieu of grades, a need-blind admissions policy, and no longer accepting ACT and SAT exams for admissions.

After almost five decades of our professors’ assessing students using written evaluations, we’ve seen and documented their benefits as an alternative to grades. Grades tell students the absolute minimum about their abilities; they tell them only whether they have earned enough points under a teacher’s rubric to get a good mark.

Too many students use grades to figure out how to do only what’s required, asking their teachers questions like “What do I have to do to get an A?” At the same time, they’re trying to determine the minimum they can “know” to pass. “How can I game the system?” “What are the fluff courses that will get me an easy A?”

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