Tag Archive: college students


Innovation, Adaptation, and Change

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Our students maneuver the world in ways that are astonishing.  Rapid innovation that allows them to access, share, store, and manipulate information with increasing speed has been almost dizzying for digital immigrants who must be intentional about adapting these changes to the learning environment.  Electronic modes of communication have evolved from the time of Samuel Morse and Alexander Graham Bell to now with individual and group texting for students who prefer to text rather than talk; Morse would probably be happier about this than Bell.  Further, increased bandwidth has allowed the evolution of video conversations to multiple people participating from a distance with near-in-person communication; imagine what Bell would have thought about this!

In education, we organize educational material in course management systems with increasing bells and whistles and even adapt the learning environment by engaging students in classes with thoughtful use of the technology they carry to access the world.  Increasing access to information and the cost of higher education have resulted in many of our students coming to SUNY Plattsburgh with a significant number of college credits they earned through dual enrollment programs; some of the courses were taken online.

We are challenged with the need to innovate, adapt, and change as many students come to us with increasing technological skills and with curricular needs that may fit into a three-year model rather than a four-year model.  We must remain intentional about adapting ways students access the world into our pedagogy.  We also must be aware of gaps that result from overuse of technology and help our students develop good interpersonal skills that occur face-to-face, especially when it comes to managing conflict.

All of this provides context for a few questions that can be framed in our shared values:

Excellence in Teaching

  • Given our commitment to academic quality, what ways must we innovate, adapt and change to meet the educational needs of our current students?
  • As more students come to college with greater numbers of general education credits, how do we adapt our traditional curricular models to ensure students leave with what we value in a college education given our commitment to liberal arts?
  • What are the best approaches for supporting students who have not had the privilege of AP courses, especially those who need some remedial support, graduate from college in four years?

Professionalism

  • How do we build stronger bridges between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs to collaborate in a whole-person approach to students’ development?
  • What are the best approaches to strengthening face-to-face communication skills across the curriculum?

Inclusion/Culturally Responsive

  • With increasing numbers of racially diverse students who enrich the academic learning environment, how do we as individuals and members of a complex system need to adapt to improve communication, pedagogy, and an overall supportive campus culture/climate/community?
  • With appreciation for cultural differences in family involvement, what are the best ways to improve communication with families of our students?

Our ability to innovate, adapt, and change will chart a successful course for our future and the future for our students.  Exploring creative approaches together is exciting and focuses our energies in the right places.

Bonus:

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First image (September 27, 2016). Retrieved on April 23, 2017 from: https://m.yourstory.com/2016/09/book-review-innovation-is-a-state-of-mind-innovation-is-good-business-but-it-can-also-be-good-life-new-book-gives-creative-tips/

Second image (March 11, 2009). Retrieved on April 23, 2017 from: https://www.slideshare.net/mobile/hblowers/innovation-quotes

Decision for Excellence

 

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The vision statement for our School of Education, Health, and Human Services at SUNY Plattsburgh contains a goal of our graduates modeling excellence in their careers. The path to excellence is not about perfection, but about continuous improvement and striving for excellence; walking this path is a decision that conveys a chosen attitude.  Achieving excellence happens during class time, during advisement and mentoring sessions, and during opportunities for leadership training. The path to excellence has many obstacles, including mediocrity, fear/anxiety, and lack of self-discipline. Here are a few topics and quotes you can share with students to help them manage these obstacles.

Mediocrity

  • Help students define clearer short-term and long-term goals.
  • Make sure there are no mental health issues impeding motivation; ask about depression and anxiety and seek appropriate supports is necessary.
  • Ask, “In what ways are you currently accepting mediocrity in your studies?” “What is one thing you could do to overcome this?” Adapted from Randy Gage
  • Share with advisees that each semester they learn new skills to be successful, greater potential is possible for the next semester. The skills build on each other and evolve to make greater success in each new semester a possibility. Ask, “What are you doing now to develop these skills?”

Fear and Anxiety

  • The greater the distance between the “real self” and the “ideal self,” the greater the anxiety. Help students focus on acceptance of the current “self” with well-defined steps for meeting short-term goals.
  • Help students reframe some degree of fear or anxiety as a normal feeling if they are growing; we don’t grow when we are comfortable.  Discuss the difference between non-productive anxiety and productive anxiety.
  • Talk about expanding comfort zones, as described by Susan Jeffers, by “feeling the fear and doing it anyway.” Courage is the key, a great topic for discussion.
  • “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Self-Discipline

  • “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” Jim Rohn
  • “The most valuable form of discipline is the one that you impose upon yourself. Don’t wait for things to deteriorate so drastically that someone else [or a policy] must impose discipline in your life.” Jim Rohn
  • “Self-discipline is the ability to do what you think you should be doing rather than doing something based on how you feel.” Brendan Baker
  • In our society, things happen at increasingly faster speeds with greater connectivity. A conversation about delayed gratification is important (e.g., shutting off your phone and focusing for 30 minutes, not allowing yourself to check social media or email for 30-45 minute periods when studying, etc).

There are additional obstacles students face when they have made a decision for excellence such as roommate issues, financial concerns, and family problems; however, addressing mediocrity, fear/anxiety, and self-discipline during advisement and office hours provides a clearer path to success. Help students make a decision for excellence and let them know some lessons that have been on your path. As Sheldon Kopp once remarked, we are not gurus, we all are pilgrims on this path together.

Bonus:
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EHHS Shared Values Highlighted

  • Excellence in Teaching
    • Helping Students Achieve Goals
    • Lifelong Learning/Growth

References
Image (n.d.) Retrieved on March 18, 2017 from: http://refe99.com/quotes/excellence/

Gage, R. (n.d.). Fighting mediocrity. Retrieved on March 18, 2017 from:  http://www.randygage.com/fighting-mediocrity/

Jeffers, S. (2007). Feel the fear and do it anyway: Dynamic techniques for turning fear, indecision and anger into power, action and love. Santa Monica, CA: Jeffers Press.

Kopp, S. (1980). If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him: The pilgrimage of psychotherapy patients. Palo Alto, CA: Science and Behavior Books.

Rohn, J. (n.d.). The Key to Getting All You Want? Discipline. Retrieved on March 18, 2017 from: http://www.success.com/article/rohn-the-key-to-getting-all-you-want-discipline

Second Image (n.d.). Retrieved on March 18, 2017 from: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/r/ralphmarst104215.html

Excellence in Teaching

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Excellence in teaching requires us to ENGAGE students in the learning process.  It also requires a lifelong pursuit of knowledge, a pursuit that deepens the knowledge we can share, as well as deepening our knowledge about approaches for helping students learn.

There was a time when PowerPoints were engaging because they were “bright and shiny” compared to overheads; however, the phrase “death by PowerPoint” is common in our vernacular these days for a reason. I remember when I was an undergraduate student and “dyed in the wool” lecturing professors would bring in their notes that had yellowed over the years. Back then, I used to wish they would at least put some Liquid Paper around the edges to make the notes look new; this was before computers when a fresh set of notes could be printed with the click of a button. PowerPoints don’t yellow, but if sound effects occur when text appears on the screen, that’s a hint of yellowing. If slides are still being read to students in class, that may be a technique that is yellowing if overused.

When I taught a graduate voice disorders class last fall, I experimented with a flipped classroom model. Students read assignments and slides before class. Clinical cases were presented in class and in the voice lab and therapy techniques were practiced. The students helped me find my balance by requesting I review highlights from slides they had access to on a course management system, Moodle in this case. After 25 years of teaching, this felt like one of the best classes I have taught. Students were engaged more deeply with the material and feedback was positive.

Since teaching that class, I’ve been reading a book loaned to me by the Chairperson of Expeditionary Studies entitled, Make It Stick by Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel (2014) that details better ways to help students retain material over longer periods of time. There are approaches to learning I would change the next time I teach based on information in this book. For example, I would place exercises on Moodle that required more retrieval of course content and I would increase quizzes and formative assessments in class. A few key points from the authors include:

“Practice at retrieving new knowledge or skills from memory is a potent tool for learning and durable retention”

“Effortful retrieval makes for stronger learning and retention.”

“After an initial test, delaying subsequent retrieval practice is more potent for reinforcing retention than immediate practice, because delayed retrieval requires more effort.”

“Repeated retrieval not only makes memories more durable but produces knowledge that can be retrieved more readily, in more varied settings, and applied to a wider variety of problems.”

Life-long learning by instructors and a willingness to try new approaches to engage students while teaching are crucial to achieving our highest shared value of Excellence in Teaching. It’s no coincidence that someone from Expeditionary Studies loaned me a book on learning so I could explore new territory for supporting students’ success. I am grateful to be in a community with colleagues who embrace this ongoing work.

Ask a few colleagues to share their most engaging teaching techniques with you this week. I suspect it will be an enlightening conversation.

Bonus: “Trying to come up with an answer rather than having it presented to you, or trying to solve a problem before being shown the solution, leads to better learning and longer retention of the correct answer or solution, even when your attempted response is wrong, so long as corrective feedback is provided” (Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel, p. 101)

EHHS Shared Values Highlighted
• Excellence in Teaching
• Lifelong learning

 

References

Brown, P., Roediger, H., & McDaniel (2014). Make it stick. Cambridge, MA: The Belkbap Press of the Harvard University Press.

Image (n.d.) Retrieved on February 12, 2017 from: http://www.newspakistan.tv/high-fructose-diet-harms-brain-genes-study/

Meaningful Micro-Moments: Elevating Excellence

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News consumption, whether through traditional means such as television and newspapers or more recent means such as news apps and social media, has been focused on many areas of conflict and strife within our country. There are multiple issues about which we care deeply. We can start to feel somewhat helpless in the face of circumstances over which we have little control; yet, your voice and contributions are important.  Regardless, you might want to consider a bad news diet.

Now, for the good news. Step back and ask yourself, “What do I have influence over during the next few weeks?” This perspective, one that is good to share with students, brings focus to the present moment where there is some “control.”  I believe this perspective is paramount as we move into the last few weeks of the semester, a stressful period in and of itself. There is a lot that can be done for yourself, your colleagues, and your students.

Yourself
It is critical for you to take care of yourself so you have the energy to care for others. There are the common statements of eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep; that’s a good start. There also are micro-moments during the day that can make a big difference too.

  • Take a short walk with a friend.
  • Get out your headphones and listen to your favorite song.
  • Read some highlights you made on your e-reader in a great book you read (the app is probably on your phone and the highlights are only several clicks away).
  • Pause, close your eyes, and focus on a few deep breaths.

Colleagues
There is a common thread of humanity that is important to remember as we choose to thrive over the next few weeks. This commonality can be the foundation for compassion and allow you to be someone else’s micro-moment.

  • Ask someone how s/he is doing while making eye contact and really meaning it.
  • Let colleagues know why you appreciate them – say it directly, leave a note, or fill out a Cardinal Cares card.
  • Ask newer professors if there is anything you can to do support them in the next few weeks, especially if this is their first semester.
  • Share something inspirational with someone in person rather than posting online.

Students
Our students have more responsibilities than they did even ten years ago. The demographic of our students has shifted significantly with a higher proportion of historically underrepresented students, first-generation students and/or low income students. There are meaningful micro-moments that can make all of the difference for these students and other students too as we approach the end of the semester.

  • Share the importance of getting organized and “setting the stage” for finals. Taking a few minutes each day to organize notes, study schedules, and responsibilities can put some free-floating anxiety to good use.
  • Speak with our students about self-discipline and focus. For example, encourage 30 minutes blocks of study without electronic interruption; neural pathways are better built when uninterrupted. Help them understand that now is the time to push what may feel like a personal limit around self-discipline, something that will result in new understandings of self and greater success in the future.
  • Students can push the boundaries of perceived capabilities, especially if you are there in an intentional way to encourage them. In addition to class, walk through the Flint Commons, the Learning Center, or the library and find a few students to encourage. All of our students must feel, on a deep level, that we believe in them.
  • Emphasize the importance of self care. Explain that the capacity for grit and determination can be increased with self care.

SUNY Plattsburgh has a caring community focused on students in excellent academic programs. This drew me here 25 years ago and continues to draw students and new faculty here too. Let’s take a few moments each day in the coming weeks to amplify our caring community because it will lead to higher levels of excellence.

Bonus:
“How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.”
William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

EHHS Shared Values Highlighted
– Respect and Empathy
– Helping Students Achieve Goals
Image (n.d.) Retrieved December 4, 2016 from:

 

A Dean’s Road Less Traveled

 

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SUNY Plattsburgh: Delta Sigma Phi fall 2015

Early in the fall of 2015, amid the tsunami of daily emails, I read a subject line from a student that said, “Delta Sigma Phi Advisor Search.” The email was not a widely-cast net, it was to me. The fraternity’s President, Jacob Pasa, wrote about a “new fraternity” and was asking that I consider being their advisor. As Dean of Education, Health, and Human Services, this initially felt like it might be incongruent with my daily role at the college; it also was foreign to me because I had never been in a fraternity and knew little about them. Regardless, I always keep an open mind when venturing into new territory, so I decided to investigate. Complementing this investigation was a statement I made to other administrators within the last year about the need for a stronger connection between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs. I responded to the email with questions and received answers that piqued my curiosity. As a leader, I wondered what I might contribute and responded by saying I would meet with the Executive Board.

The Executive Board meeting revealed a collection of bright, diverse members and someone from the national organization who professed a values-based organization. The unchartered fraternity was in its first semester of formation and felt like a yet-to-be-driven new car with a manual that had been cracked open a few times. I took the “manual,” The Gordian Knot, home and read it from start to finish. I also read all of the information on the National organization’s web site. Based on my experience at the Executive Board meeting, on my reading, and on discovering that the fraternity was founded in 1899 on the principles of diversity and inclusion, I started envisioning the possibility of being an advisor. Maybe this was yet another opportunity to get back on ground level with students, a must for administrators who are making decisions that affect students’ daily lives.

As a Dean, however, I still had many questions that centered on time commitment, expected roles, strategic planning, organizational structure and goals related to becoming chartered. These questions were answered in face-to-face meetings with the fraternity’s president and a representative from the national organization, whereupon, I committed to be an advisor.

I began attending Chapter and Executive Board Meetings once each month. Upon request, members sent me an introductory bio so I could know each of the 31 members. I established advisor goals focused on academics, leadership, and members. I met with the chapter’s president each week to discuss leadership.  I also met with other advisors of sororities and fraternities once each month and gained a deeper understanding of Greek life. Interaction with a new group of students and with more employees on campus provided additional times where collaboration and community felt important.

While I made my decision to be an advisor with 100% commitment, I still had concerns as an administrator due to others’ stereotypical perceptions of Greek organizations. What I learned about Delta Sigma Phi didn’t fit the stereotypes; however, I had lingering “what ifs.” There were several bumps in the road over the academic year that required additional attention, problem solving, support and nurturing, all of which are expected in the daily life of an administrator.

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Following the 15th Annual Fraternal Awards Ceremony on April 17th, 2016

By the end of the academic year, there were many collaborative efforts by this group of dedicated students that led to great successes.  Delta Sigma Phi established their shared values and defined what these looked like inside and outside of the fraternity (provided at the end of this article). They had the highest GPA of all fraternities for both semesters. Members installed hundreds of smoke detectors in local homes as part of their community service for the Red Cross. There was a true sense of brotherhood in this diverse/inclusive organization that was apparent in meetings and in study areas; they serve as a role model for our current, seemingly-fractured society. They received awards at a ceremony for all 22 fraternities and sororities that included: Emerging Leaders, Excellence in Diversity, Excellence in Brotherhood, as well as a Service Initiative Award. I humbly received the Advisor of Excellence Award. imageThat same week, the national organization for Delta Sigma Phi sent a representative to let the members know they met all requirements to receive their charter. This coming Saturday, there will be a formal ceremony and banquet for members and their families at the Valcour Inn and Boathouse celebrating the chartering of SUNY Plattsburgh’s Chapter of Delta Sigma Phi.

Being an advisor for Delta Sigma Phi at SUNY Plattsburgh has been rewarding. I was given the privilege to make a positive difference in the lives of students, one of the top priorities in my daily work. The bridge between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs was strengthened. Most importantly, I now see my advisement for Delta Sigma Phi as congruent with what I do on a daily basis to provide a positive model and a positive learning environment for developing current and future leaders. I am grateful for my fraternal journey on a road less traveled by deans and encourage others, regardless of their position at the college, to consider additional ways to strengthen the bridge between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs; I know a number of you are already doing this work.  Dedicating yourself to the service that strengthens this bridge will support our whole-student approach to education and our commitment to students’ success.

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Delta Sigma Phi’s Executive Board from left to right: N’Faly Kaba, Treasurer;  Jeffrey Perez, VP for Recruitment; Mikiyas Molla, VP for Membership Development; Mike Kayigize, Vice President; Pat Mancino, Sergeant at Arms; Eric Paige, Interfraternity Council; Will Hodge, Secretary; and Jacob Pasa, President 

Bonus: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”   Mahatma Gandhi

EHHS Shared Values Highlighted:
*  Helping Students Achieve Goals
*  Inclusion/Culturally Responsive
*  Service

______________________________________________________________

Delta Sigma Phi
SUNY Plattsburgh Chapter
Shared Values

Brotherhood
• Communication
–  Lending an ear to a brother in need
–  Able to speak openly/freely with each other
• “Staying hungry” and never becoming complacent as individuals or as a fraternity
• Consistently challenging one another (course attendance, study habits, grades)
• Treating all members with the same respect
• Genuine friendship
• Helping each other
• Having each other’s back and looking out for each other
• Maintaining confidentiality
• Deepening unity through shared values
• Attending social/academic events
• Meeting outside of formal events
• Being Reliable

Respect
• Inside Delta Sig
–  Understanding each other and treating all members with the same respect
–  Demonstrating openness for different perspectives
• As seen by others outside of Delta Sig
–  Helping and taking advice from members of other organization’s
–  Socializing with members of other organization’s and making friends

Accountability
• Inside Delta Sig
–  Adhering to bylaws and respecting standards board
–  Holding each other to a higher standard using a brotherly approach rather than an
authoritative approach
• As seen by others outside of Delta Sig
–  Responding quickly to situations involving our brothers
–  Seeing the betterment of our brothers as their time progresses as members of
Delta Sig

Diversity
• Inside Delta Sig
–  Valuing diversity and inclusion
–  Life-long learning about diversity
• As seen by others outside of Delta Sig
–  Having events that focus on diversity
–  Being an example to the community

Service
• As seen inside Delta Sig
–  Being committed to community service
–  Showing that we do care
• As seen by others outside of Delta Sig
–  Showing we care and investing our free time
–  Raising awareness and supporting the Red Cross

Open-Mindedness
• As seen inside Delta Sig
–  Always being open to new ideas and growth
–  Learning from each other
• As seen by others outside of Delta Sig
–  Modeling diversity and inclusion as a student-leadership organization
–  Attending events and demonstrating we are not an isolated organization

Growth
• As seen inside Delta Sig
–  Pushing each other and ourselves to be Better Men
–  Deepening our collective sense of purpose
• As seen by others outside of Delta Sig
–  Setting high standards and striving for success
–  Striving for growth in all of our shared values

 

The Foundation On Which We Stand

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New students entering Giltz Auditorium for the matriculation ceremony as faculty and staff cheer and clap.  Photograph by Konrad Odhiambo

Our students are moved in (often a Herculean family feat, both financial and physical), new students are matriculated and the first week of classes completed successfully. Now, we focus our energies on being the best learning community possible for our students and for us at SUNY Plattsburgh.

Our student-centered approach to education is supported by our shared values. The foundational values established by faculty members in the School of Education, Health, and Human Services are not collecting dust on a shelf; rather, we continually revisit our shared values to guide our work together. Today, I share student-centered thoughts and questions after each of our shared values.

Respect and Empathy
What is the best way to respect the backgrounds our students bring to our learning environments? 37% of our freshmen and 42% or our transfer students are from low-income families. There may be a need to be more flexible with rising scholars who are working several jobs, some of whom are helping to support their families. Here is a short commentary from The Chronicle of Higher Education that will provide more insight for you. Pay particular attention to the second recommendation: http://www.chronicle.com/article/What-Colleges-Can-Do-Right-Now/237589

Excellence in Teaching
What will you do this semester to learn one or two new teaching techniques you can use in class to engage students at a deeper level? I have learned numerous techniques from professors in Teacher Education. Don’t underestimate the ways in which we are resources for each other.

Lifelong Learning and Growth
It is important to consider how we are preparing our students to be life-long learners. How do you reinforce this in your classes? What skills and dispositions are needed by our students to do this successfully?

Inclusion/Culturally Responsive
Almost 25% of our incoming students are from historically underrepresented groups. How are scholars and experts from these groups represented in your curriculum? Deeper connection and learning, in that order, will result from including diverse and inclusive perspectives in the curriculum.

Social Justice
There will be a number of forums and events on campus this academic year examining and supporting social justice. They often are held at the end of a long day, but I guarantee attending and listening to students’ voices will change how you see the world in which you were raised and will inform how you teach. I hope to see you there.

Helping Students Achieve Goals
When we hand out our syllabi, the goals are written for all to see. Take the time to do a “quick write” at the end of one of your classes to ask your students about their goals in your class and take a mindful approach to aligning your goals with their goals.

Professionalism
We are the models for professionalism for our students. We must never forget this fact, not even for one second.

Broad-Minded
I walked into the graduate class I am teaching this semester and said, “How do you want me to teach this class?” They stated they had never been asked this question before. After some discussion, they came up with a model they wanted to try. I said, “the information in this class is the medium throughout which I will teach critical thinking, problem solving, diagnostic thinking, knowledge and skills. The subject matter (voice disorders) is like clay to a potter and we can make many different types of vessels together.” We are all excited about the class.

Collaboration
What person or which offices could you collaborate with this semester that would strengthen your teaching excellence? Examples include the Institute for Ethics; The Center for Diversity, Pluralism, and Inclusion; The Center for Teaching Excellence, and multiple offices in Student Affairs. Commit to a new level of excellence through collaboration.

Honesty
How can we best be accountable to each other in a way that promotes each person being his or her best self for our students? Don’t be a bystander.

Appreciation
Who will you acknowledge today to show your appreciation?

Please take a few minutes to review the EHHS Shared Values document. We are all responsible for creating a culture that supports learning and inspires us to do our best work together.

Bonus: Always remember that you are not just touching the lives of your students, but you are touching the lives of their current and future families. Use your privilege wisely.

The Lecture: What Are You Willing to Risk?

Lecturing

Faculty members at SUNY Plattsburgh, as at other institutions of higher learning, are professors, full/part-time lecturers, and adjunct lecturers.  These titles conjure up images of experts in their fields standing in front of students, speaking and professing (AKA: lecturing). Lecturing commences with the hope of being inspiring enough to keep students engaged for three hours each week for 15 weeks.  The reality of doing this in our short-attention-span-society is challenging, even for the most engaging speakers.

I recently read a post from The Teaching Professor Blog by Maryellen Weimer (2016) entitled, Why Are We So Slow to Change the Way We Teach?  She shared the results of a survey from 275 faculty members in the area of economics who reported that, “they lectured 70 percent of the class time, led discussion 20 percent of the time, and had students doing activities for 10 percent of the time.”  She wrote about continuing reliance on lecturing in many fields and resistance to changing other aspects of the profession including course design, approaches to testing, assignments, and grading.  There are, of course, some who have become comfortable with change and they embrace new approaches that have a long-lasting impact on students’ learning.  These reflective teachers use a continuous improvement model and are always seeking new, effective teaching approaches through workshops, the Center for Teaching Excellence, collaboration with colleagues, and reading.

CTE-main-image

 

I tried new approaches to teaching after discussions with colleagues that were inspired by reading Ken Bain’s book, “What the Best College Teachers Do.” I  became much more democratic and involved my students in decisions about how they wanted to learn material.  I changed the way I used class time and took a different approach to testing with help from The Center for Teaching Excellence. Hanging around with professors from Teacher Education also gave me a few new teaching techniques.  Changing my approach to teaching was a huge risk in my mind because I had high ratings on my Course Opinion Surveys.   I was comfortable with lecturing – something I later labeled, “Death by PowerPoint” after changing to approaches that required deeper engagement by students.  I knew I was presenting the information my students needed to be successful in clinical settings with clients.   So why change?

The students had changed.  They had grown up in a world where they had immediate access to information.  No card catalogs, no waiting weeks for research articles to arrive, and reduced time standing at copiers to make information from the library mobile; now, it’s all just a click away.  These students obtained and worked with their information in new ways compared to the recent past.  I had made many of these changes too, but started asking if my progression of change matched changes in their way of learning.  Another reason was based on the question, “Given all of the tools available to me, what teaching approaches would have the greatest long-lasting effect on deep learning?  I became much more interested in how my students thought about course content rather than learning a lot of content.  I knew they might forget some of the information I taught them, however, they had instant access to information; they didn’t have instant access to good thinking.

FishThinkBigger-Copy-300x187

Is it time to consider new titles for those who teach in higher education?  In the K-12 environment, we still have teachers, an honorable title that encompasses more than lecturing and professing.  Notice the blog I quoted earlier that came from “The Teaching Professor.”  When considering teaching, there are a few questions to ask.

  • What risks need to be taken to employ new teaching strategies that maximize learning and are you willing to take the risks?
  • What teaching environment would encourage the willingness to take risks with new teaching approaches?
  • What are the best ways to take student learning objectives from a Master Course Outline and backplan learning for students with varying abilities? How do we assess these learning objectives to ensure learning has occurred?
  • What role might project-based or case-based learning play in curriculum design to promote deep learning?
  • What if you lectured for half or even one quarter of class time and planned activities to engage active learning the remainder of the time? If you did this, how might students gain information about content in ways that don’t require as much lecturing?

There are so many possibilities these days that provide good answers to these questions.  The bar of change that must be jumped is set by a willingness to take risks.  The beauty of making this jump in higher education is that you don’t have to do it alone.

Bonus:  As Dean, I have spent many hours over the last month reviewing faculty evaluation files.  One of the things I appreciated was when someone shared a self-reflective statement that addressed how a new approach did or did not work in class.  What I appreciated most was the vulnerability shared when something did not work and what would be tried next time; this is where wisdom is born.  Evaluation files, to me, are about growth, not judgment and this is what supports an environment in which risks can be taken.

EHHS Shared Values Highlighted
Excellence in Teaching
Lifelong Learning/Growth
Collaboration

Bain, K. (2004). What the best college teachers do. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Weimer, M. (2016, February, 3) Why Are We So Slow to Change the Way We Teach?  [Web Log Post].  Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/why-are-we-so-slow-to-change-the-way-we-teach/

Lecturing Image (April 27, 2012). Retrieved March 20, 2016 from:  https://suifaijohnmak.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/change11-cck12-is-lecturing-the-cream-of-teaching-at-the-mercy-of-learning/

Teaching Excellence Image (n.d.). Retrieved March 20, 2016 from: http://academics.lmu.edu/cte/

Fish Image (February 19, 2013). Retrieved March 20, 2016 from:  http://www.forbes.com/sites/margiewarrell/2013/02/19/four-risks-you-need-to-take/#761d40044d36

Reaching the Summit Together

False Summits

Above the tree line, in the rarefied air of the Rocky Mountains, Andrew’s glacier rests with a small pond at the bottom.  Each carefully-placed footstep up the glacier is motivated by not slipping and sliding down into the rocks or the pond.  If you are a “flatlander” and have not spent enough time acclimating to the altitude, each step reminds your heart and lungs that you are in new territory.  As my climbing partner and I made our way up the glacier, the summit was in sight.  We avoided crevasses and made our way to the top, so we thought.

When we reached what we thought was the summit, the real summit loomed above us in the distance.  Reaching the summit would take a lot more effort.  It is at that moment of reflection when you have to determine if you have enough resources, mental and otherwise, to reach the real summit.  Will the summit need to be reached on a different day?  Is a new trail necessary?  Are there new skills that might need to be learned to reach the summit?  Is it possible a guide is needed? Is a higher self possible?

There are false summits in everyday life.  Here are three recent examples of false summits with a student, with a client, and with colleagues:

  • While working with a student last semester, the false summit was presented when the student thought sufficient effort and dedication were being given to reach a successful goal. When grades were given, that perceived amount of effort and dedication turned out to be a false summit.  Deep reflection, discussion of new study skills, and approaches to learning needed to reach the real summit took place over the winter break.  The student is on a new trail this semester, but as is often the case, reaching the summit is taking a lot more effort than what was originally believed to be necessary.  Guides will be a key to success too.
  • In the Speech and Hearing Clinic, I had a client who had been to many doctors in search of a diagnosis for voice and health concerns. Each visit, test, and ineffective medication, up to the point of my evaluation, presented as false summits.  While I was not legally able to provide a medical diagnosis for the client, I was able to serve as a guide to help the client move further up the trail to getting the answer.  Two students joined my in the evaluation and learned a lot about the diagnostic process.  Mentoring the students about the false summits and helping the client find the right trail provided insight for everyone involved.
  • I attended a diversity workshop recently, led by several national experts, who underscored some perceptions about our academic environment. SUNY Plattsburgh is a friendly, supportive college where people are willing to go the extra mile for each other; however, as with many institutions of higher learning across the country, there was a false summit by thinking this cultural belief permeated deeply into all groups on campus.  In other words, from the lens of the majority, a summit had been reached, but it was a false summit.  New tools are being acquired, new trails are being taken, and expert guides are being used to make sure everyone on campus can reach the real summit together.

There are common lessons on journeys from false summits to the real summits.

  • There is the lesson of perseverance. The determined path will lead to new lessons about the self and reaching the summit will provide a new view of the self.  Once on top, the view provides more summits on the horizon that invite life-long learning.
  • As educators, it is important to keep our skills honed to better guide our students. Talking about the trails is not enough; our students need to see that we are on our own self-actualizing trails.
  • We will climb higher together if we are willing to be guided as well as guide. The lessons we learn from each other will allow equal access to the summit.
  • There also is the lesson of the heart. While working hard in the thinner air of new territory, the heart beats best when accompanied on the journey by the hearts of friends and community members, and by guides who have traveled the trails to similar summits.

EHHS Shared Values Highlighted

  • Helping Students Achieve Goals
  • Inclusion/Culturally Responsive
  • Lifelong Learning/Growth

False Summit Image (September 2, 2015). Retrieved February 15, 2016 from:  https://timbdesign.com/appalachians/

Andrew’s glacier (July 13, 2012). Retrieved January 31, 2016 from:  http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/man-dies-in-fall-on-glacier-at-rocky-mountain-national-park

The Power of Potential

potential unlock

Some of you have heard me tell the story about a disheveled student named Miguel, who I first had in class 16 years ago.  I was going to counsel him out of the CDS major until I had a fateful meeting with him.  During the meeting, I sensed potential in him and as we talked, I challenged him to discover his potential.  It turned out he was exceptionally bright.  What followed was remarkable.  Over time, we performed several research studies together, presented at national and state conferences, and published together.  After graduating with a Master’s degree, he worked at a hospital in New York City and also had a private practice on the side.  Eventually, he went back to school and earned a MBA and became the Director of Business Development at Aetna Insurance.  Now, he is Director of Market Development for AmeriHealth Caritas.  He is highly successful and has a beautiful family.  I always think of Miguel when I am working with students and considering their potential.

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With Miguel at the 2005 ASHA Convention in San Diego , CA

I met with another student named Miguel last week in my role as faculty advisor for a new values-based fraternity on campus named Delta Sigma Phi; check out the link because it might surprise you. As I was talking with him, I considered his untapped potential and tried to find words that would challenge him to discover it.  At the end of our conversation, I thought there is little else more important in the day-to-day operation of an institution of higher learning than to be able to tap the potential and support the maximum development of our students.  These mentoring moments where you deepen curiosity for what is possible are crucial to our students’ future.   How do we inspire, engage, deepen curiosity, challenge, and motivate our students to discover their potential?

Last spring, I talked about unlocking students’ potential at our community gathering.  One of the things I said was, “If students can’t feel your passion and your courage, the path to their potential will be impeded.”   They also must feel your belief in them, even when they are making mistakes and learning challenging lessons.  How do you show passion for your material and show your belief in students during day-to-day interactions?  Are you helping them discover their potential in a way that will create a future that might be hard to imagine?  How do you rationalize what is and is not your responsibility when it comes to helping students develop their skills and discover their potential?

You may ask where the wellspring of energy is to do this important, selfless work.  We all find it in different places, but one of the purest sources is found in the way our students inspire us once we help them dig deeper into their potential.  There is a positive energy at the source of inspiration that can move mountains.

One of the resources we have on campus at SUNY Plattsbrugh to help students develop their skills and discover their potential is The Claude J. Clark Learning Center.  Karin Killough, Director of the Learning Center, recently gave a great presentation to the College Council.  During the presentation, she introduced several students who are tapping into their potential and are helping others do this too.

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Francine Frances

Francine Frances talked about being a biology major with minors in chemistry and music; she said she has a music minor because she likes to be well-rounded.  Her goals include going to medical school and eventually running an organization that builds schools and hospitals in third-world countries.  If you heard her speak, you would be inspired and would believe it is possible.

 

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Mike Kayigize

I also was inspired last week by Mike Kayigize, the academic chairperson for Delta Sigma Phi.   He has lived in many places around the world and has an amazing perspective on life and the world.  He wants to accomplish goals that will have a positive, global impact.  I also enjoyed our discussion about academics.  My conversation with him was inspiring to say the least because there is great potential in this young leader.

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Jake Pasa

Another student who inspired me last week is Jake Pasa, President of Delta Sigma Phi. I am inspired by his insights and his innate leadership skills.  We have great talks about leadership and examine approaches to achieve meaningful goals in a values-based organization.  He demonstrates the adage, “Good leaders are also good followers.”  His leadership will make a significant, positive contribution to developing the foundation of Delta Sigma Phi in the coming year.

Those are a few of the examples where I found inspiration with students recently.  The wellspring of energy is sitting before you in your classes and in student organizations.  You access the source of this energy by helping each student discover his or her potential.  If you do this, as many of you know, you will be inspired and will have even more energy to make a positive difference in the lives of students.

I posed the following enduring question to you at a community gathering, “What responsibilities do we have for ourselves, for each other, and for our students, that will allow all of us to maximize potential?”  The inspiration I received last week will have me working harder to respond to this question with my actions.  I know more positive, fulfilling energy lies in the answers for all of us.

What You Can Do Today: Help students discover a curiosity for what might be possible and help give them the courage to pursue it.

Shared Values focused on in this blog:

Excellence in Teaching

  • Model passion and professionalism
  • Engage students
  • Recognize and respond to students’ needs

Helping Students Achieve Goals

  • Reaching out to struggling students
  • Challenge students to create connections, follow passions, and think critically
  • Empower students to realize goals

The Final Weeks

Graduation Success

The academic year is coming to a close as we do all we can to ensure the academic, professional, and personal success of our students. Projects, assignments, internships, field work, and finals are the typical territory where we support and inspire this learning. In the focused moments of the final two weeks, there is a range of emotions from lessons learned to great accomplishment.  Professors can take great pride in the growth they have inspired in their students; the students will probably need a few weeks after it is all over to reflect so they appreciate the depth of their growth.

There is an overriding sentiment I always consider amid the various struggles necessary to accomplish end-of-the-semester goals that comes from Maya Angelo who said, “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”  This is only partially true in an academic environment, at least I hope, if lectures and learning experiences are engaging.  In academe, we strive for students to remember what they learn.  Have you ever wondered what was most memorable from your course?  David Head (2011) wrote an article for Inside Higher Education entitled, What Do Students Remember?, where he discussed what students remember.  He used an interesting one-point, extra-credit question on his final exams to explore this, “What one thing from the course did you find most memorable? Explain why.”  It may be interesting to try this question on final exams with your students.  Regardless of their answer, however, they will always remember how you made them feel.

As we move toward finals, and toward graduation for some, there will be many ceremonies and celebrations.  It is an honor for us to attend these events.  There are several supervisor appreciation events I am honored to attend where students and supervisors speak publicly about their appreciation for the lessons learned during internships.  At another event, there is formal participation by family members as students are honored for their success.  There are many additional events that highlight students’ success where families are present to value the moment.  These accomplishments by our students, sometimes amid great struggle and sacrifice by themselves and their families, are valued and celebrated.  It is during these celebrated instances of students’ academic, professional, and personal success when I am thinking, “This is why we do what we do.”

Bonus: There are successes and challenges with colleagues over the semester too.  What answers would you get if you asked your colleagues, “What one thing from our interactions this semester did you find most memorable?  How would the answers inform what we do next semester?

Shared Values Highlighted:

Helping Students Achieve Goals – Empowering students to realize goals
Appreciation – Celebrating success

 

Head, D. (2011).  What do students remember? Retrieved May 3, 2015 from https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2011/03/01/essay_on_what_college_students_remember

Image (2011). Retrieved May 3, 2015 from  http://hosted.verticalresponse.com/660062/d4f410d13e/287518461/7b0c53c445/

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