Many of my female faculty colleagues probably experienced being addressed as Mrs. or Ms. at least once every semester and not just by incoming freshmen. Or they read comments about shoes in their end-of-semester evaluations. But are those isolated incidents or does gender matter in how students perceive the knowledge and expertise of an instructor? Do they see differences in pedagogies? Types of course work that male and female faculty assign? Do students find female instructors more relatable? Do they themselves behave differently in the classrooms of male and female instructors? Last academic year, I finally got a chance to collect data on several of these research questions as part of our Teaching Scholars Program. Continue reading
Recently I had the opportunity to attend a Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) Workshop on integrating undergraduate research into faculty workload and tenure and promotion guidelines. You may wonder, why would the Director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning be interested in this topic? Continue reading
Prior to becoming the Director for the Center of the Advancement of Teaching and Learning I was unaware of what a special entity we as a campus had available to us: the UW System Office of Professional and Instructional Development (OPID).
I guess I assumed all large state systems, such as the UW System, had an office whose role was to serve as a central teaching and learning resource to faculty and staff throughout the system. I was wrong. OPID is rather unique among systems and so I wanted to share with you OPID’s mission and let you know how, as a faculty or staff member, you can take advantage of this fabulous resource. Continue reading
As a 2014 CATL faculty consultant I have spent a number of hours concerned with facilitating the development of our colleagues during their early years on campus. Those of us who have been at it for a while recognize the importance of mentoring our nouveau faculty. But in addition, I value the importance of faculty revitalization, as we all recognize that the intense 24/7 demands and politics of academic life have the potential for burnout. This is not an anecdotal observation—a search of the scholarship on faculty burnout yields pages of titles, from “Academic burnout: Faculty responsibility and institutional climate, “to “Emotional labor in American professors.” This burnout issue does not only exist on U.S. soil. There are studies from Turkey, China, the Netherlands, and Columbia. And then there was the opinion in the New York Times Sunday Review of May 30, 2014, entitled, “Why You Hate Work.” Authors Schwartz and Porath speak to many of us academics: they claim that our disenfranchisement with works stems from not feeling appreciated, finding it difficult to get anything done, and feeling as if our efforts do not make a difference anyway. Yet, we all know of faculty who have been on our campus for many years, whocontinue to remain enthusiastic and passionate about the teachinglearning process. What motivates them, especially when the tangible rewards are so meager? Why do they continue to care?
For this blog at the end of the 2014 spring semester, I reflect on my own journey from burnout to recommitment to my teaching. Why do I continue to care? For the most part, this journey juxtaposes the professional with the personal:
I actually have three major sources of inspiration for my teaching.
One source is my daughter Laura. Laura received her Master’s Degree in Student Affairs and Leadership from the University of St. Thomas on May 24th. So I actually had a second graduation to attend the week following UW-Green Bay’s. This time, I was the ridiculously proud parent in the audience. When the processional began, and that all-too-familiar “Pomp and Circumstance” accompanied the sea of caps, gowns, and hoods, I cried like a baby. The rituals were very familiar, the commencement address themes I have heard before. But I was there to honor my daughter as I was there to honor the graduating students of UW-Green Bay.
My teaching insight from Laura stems from her high school days. I remember once coming home from a full day of teaching, drained, and running on fumes. I also was fuming because my classes were not going well, students were not participating, and clearly were not connecting with me or the material. And so I whined to my child about “those students,” clearly placing the blame for the poor classroom chemistry on their shoulders. To which my daughter replied: “Mom—when you look at those rows of kids, they are me sitting there. And the reason why there are so many of them not responding to you is because, like me, they have a history of burnt out teachers who stopped caring about their students and their learning process. So if you feel that way, go and do something else and open the door for another teacher who does care. And if you do still care, picture me sitting in the back row.” Wow—it was an epiphanous moment—changing me forever as a teacher.
My second source of inspiration is my son, who currently holds the position of Director of Jazz Studies at Boise State University (sorry—I am a proud mother). Early on in Alex’s graduate studies, he made a shift from concentrating on being a performer on trumpet to being a teacher. It was a deliberate decision. Alex found that he loved teaching—must be something genetic. He was excited about helping students become the best musicians they possibly could, looking for solutions to technical problems, instilling musical maturity, and fostering a love for the art of making music. Alex and I have had many conversations about teaching, what students need, and what makes effective pedagogy. Although his teaching experiences are very different than mine, his enthusiasm, innovative ideas, and genuine concern that his students learn have influenced my own pedagogical techniques in countless ways. I cannot teach my students to play the trumpet, but I have had them journal about their learning process (an Alex idea), look for patterns in their learning (also an Alex idea), and keep on demanding excellence from my students (not unique to Alex, but we frequently talk about this). Most importantly, Alex reminds me that our careers are a gift because we get to do work that is meaningful to us.
Finally, it is my students at UW-Green Bay who have inspired me. Truly I hate it when I hear complaints about the current generation and their bored culture of self-indulgence and indolent materialism. All I see are students with lives complicated by demanding jobs and family, and a passion to create a meaningful existence. And for as long as I am able, I want to guide them through the process of discovery and help them to develop a thirst for life-long learning. If I can teach them that their education is more than just the degree, and that there are committed faculty who want to guide them along the way, then I will consider my days of teaching to be of value. It is why I continue to care.
In the New York Times article mentioned earlier, Schwartz and Porath specify that when four core needs are met people are happiest in their jobs. I am not certain I fulfill all four, which involve opportunities to renew and recharge (alas the summer is too short), feeling valued and appreciated (although I often get wonderful letters of gratitude from my students), opportunities for mental focus (too often I feel like a scatterbrain here in my office) and feeling connected to a higher purpose at work. Ah—the last one is what keeps me going. I hope that I am not totally delusional, but I do believe that I have made a difference through my work with my students. And I certainly feel that is true of my incredible colleagues.
Professor, Human Development
Last Fall the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning welcomed a new director. Professor Jennifer Lanter hit the ground running and quickly commissioned a faculty survey to assess the perception of the Center and to identify future areas of growth. The survey received a very healthy turnout with over 40 faculty responding from a broad range of academic units. Continue reading
Over 25 staff, faculty and students met recently to talk about the Rebekah Nathan’s ethnographical book My Freshman Year, the CATL Book Club selection for Spring 2014. With discussions led by Professor Denise Bartell of the GPS program, participants talked about Nathan’s insights into the Freshman experience. While the discussion and the reading led to many considerations, here are were my top takeaways! Continue reading
By the time you are standing in front of a classroom of students, ready to teach for the first time, you have probably spent at least 20 years on the other side of the lectern. You have sat through years of wonderful, inspired teaching, and probably an equal amount of less than exhilarating lectures. You have taken hundreds of tests, submitted literally tons of homework and skipped months of classes. You stand there with the benefit of an ‘Apprenticeship of Observation’ having become an expert in teaching through exposure.
Did you feel as prepared the first time you taught an online class?
In 2008 the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning (CATL) was officially formed. CATL was established in response to a recommendation made by the Task Force on Teaching Evaluation in fall 1998, a Faculty Development Council proposal submitted to the Academic Affairs Team in spring 1999, the recommendation of the Comprehensive Academic Program Review Task Force in fall 2006, and the receipt of initial funding to support the Center through the UW-Green Bay Growth Initiative. Continue reading
When I was first starting out as a professor students would ask me questions I just found ridiculous. Like, did they need to take a particular art history course. I thought, geez, take what the catalogue tells you to take! I didn’t always comprehend that a major or minor could have options, there could be confusion, and that the students themselves maybe didn’t know who else to ask those questions of. No, I thought, as the professor, their questions for me should be strictly limited to class content! Everything else was, “See your advisor.” And the advisor was never going to be me. Continue reading
While the weather outside did not feel like Spring, the recent Office of Professional and Instructional Development (OPID) Council meeting focused on exciting Spring programming that is available to faculty across the UW System. I wanted to take this opportunity to give you a little background on OPID, as well as share with you some of the programs OPID offers that, perhaps, you might this year (or in the near future) like to get involved in. Continue reading