Synergia | From the Director

From the Director - May 2014

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It is proving to be a bittersweet end-of-year as we celebrate and bid farewell to 22 faculty colleagues who are retiring this year. Several of them are personal friends and have served as mentors to me over the years and it’s hard to imagine UST without them.

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From the Director - April 2014
IDEA revisited: Helping students respect the process

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Recently the Committee on Teaching Evaluation sent out a new ‘script’ for faculty to use when administering IDEA student rating of instruction forms in your Spring classes. The new script is an attempt to prime students to treat the feedback process with respect and civility and is a needed reform.

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From the Director - March 2014
The UST climate for faculty: Effective mentoring needed here

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This semester we’re launching a new faculty peer mentoring initiative guided by our mentoring consultant, Dr. Buffy Smith. You may ask, “Doesn't mentoring go on informally?” or “How am I supposed to find time for one more service activity?” Yes, you are busy. But mentoring is an important way for experienced faculty to give back. Can you recall benefiting from some sage advice or tactful guidance in your early years? It’s your turn, now, to share what you've learned. And yes, mentoring does happen informally, but it’s not always effective or successful; in some cases it can result in poor guidance or misinformation.

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From the Director - February 2014
Can Blackboard improve your social life?

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When faculty talk about their daily lives as professors, a consistent theme is TIME. There’s never enough of it, and the culprit is grading. I have yet to hear anyone report approaching this task with joy; more often I hear of elaborate self-reward schemes that involve chocolate.

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From the Director - December 2013

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F‌rom my desk to yours: Two end-of-semester tips and one heartfelt wish for a great holiday.

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From the Director: The Mid-Career Issue

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By: Dr. Ann Johnson
About a year ago I ran across an article asserting that mid-career faculty (defined in this article as associate professors) are “some of the unhappiest people in academe.” This special issue of Synergia focuses on the challenges, "anxiety of alternatives" and conversations with colleagues experienced by mid-career faculty.

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From the Director - October 2013

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By Dr. Ann Johnson, Faculty Development
This week I was part of a faculty forum called by Dr. Sullivan on the status of online learning at UST. A question arose about verifying the quality of our new technology-enhanced course offerings and it led to some discussion of assessment efforts...

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From the Director: September 2013

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Among the many notable remarks Dr. Sullivan shared with faculty at Convocation, I was especially interested in this summary of results from her recent survey of the UST community: "Hands down, the number one thing I hear and read is your pride in our academic and educational excellence. Faculty, staff and students uniformly agree the world-class quality of our faculty and the learning experiences you provide are our greatest strength. You are described as 'committed', 'dedicated', 'engaged', 'talented', 'caring', and 'passionate'. Students speak gratefully about your accessibility and the personal relationships they develop with you." This perception of our faculty is well-earned, and over the summer I got a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how and why these accolades apply.

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From the Director - May 2013

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The wrap-up: Ideas for the last day of class

When I was younger I recall having many good intentions about using the last day of class to reflect on and integrate what had happened during the semester. Students would think about and share their Meaningful Learning Experiences, there would be significant bonding, perhaps a few tears shed, and we would all leave on a high note – in my imagination. In reality, I often use that day to catch up, students are exhausted and cranky, and they’re glad when I let them go early.

This semester I’ve scheduled an entire class session for nothing but integration exercises. I’ve been collecting ideas from experts about wrapping up a class and thought I’d share them with you. I’m excited about trying some of these – but, honestly, I’ll probably let students out a little early, too.

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My Students Catch Me Dancing

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April is National Poetry Month, and because I’m a poetry fan, I decided to consult the poets (and not the researchers this time) about the life and work of the professor. Click through to read Ann Johnson's interview with Leslie Adrienne Miller, author of six collections of poetry and professor of English at the University of St. Thomas.

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April 2013 From Director

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April is National Poetry Month, and because I’m a poetry fan, I decided to consult the poets (and not the researchers this time) about the life and work of the professor. My first thought was a recollection – of reading Leslie Adrienne Miller’s 1990 poetry collection, Staying Up For Love, and finding the lovely poem called “My Students Catch Me Dancing.”

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From the Director: Take your time: finding balance in the classroom

Dr. Ann Johnson, Faculty Development

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The old lecture format certainly hasn’t disappeared, but we seem to have made an important shift toward believing that learning occurs best when students actively engage with course materials inside the classroom and in collaboration with professor and peers.

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From the Director: IDEA -- Ideals and realities

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Dr. Ann Johnson, Faculty Development
It’s not unusual for me to field complaints about the IDEA system for student evaluation of courses; every system has its flaws. But over J-Term, I talked with a faculty member who voiced concern of a different sort. His conversations with other faculty had convinced him that IDEA feedback was, in some cases, having a demoralizing impact.

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Student evaluations: What's in it for me?

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By: Dr. Ann Johnson, Faculty Development
I’ve been thinking a lot about student evaluation of teaching recently and reading up on the research – some critical and some affirming its value for helping faculty improve teaching practices. I feel positive about our adoption of IDEA but lately have come to think we’re not optimizing its possibilities for giving faculty formative feedback about teaching.

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From the Director: Meditating on . . . Contemplative Pedagogy.

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At two recent conferences, I’ve attended sessions on “contemplative pedagogy” – integrating strategies for promoting quiet reflection, prolonged opportunities for focusing, and even meditation in the classroom.

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From the Director: Bridging teaching and learning – moving from the grey zone to the comfort zone

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“There are gaps, sometimes considerable ones, between what was taught and what has been learned. By the time faculty notice these gaps . . . it is frequently too late to remedy the problems.” Angelo & Cross, Classroom Assessment Techniques

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Beth Bergfield joins Faculty Development

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Join us in welcoming Beth Bergfield to the Center for Faculty Development.

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From the Director: Begin afresh!

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Professors often say that the beginning of a new school year is like January first – a moment when we hit the reset button, make new resolutions, and greet all that is new in our work lives. In Philip Larkin’s poem “The Trees” May is the month of rebirth, when trees perform their “yearly trick of looking new” and seem to call out “Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.” For academics, September offers that kind of promise.

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From the Director

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In a recent essay in The Teaching Professor, Keith Starcher from Indiana Wesleyan University tells of his transition from private industry executive to college professor: “I had long dreamed of being a college professor and imagined I’d be joining a collegial community where faculty would help each other improve as teachers. But that didn’t happen. Instead, I discovered that professors are just too busy teaching to help one another become better teachers.”

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From the Director: Can we de-stress yet?

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It is that time of the semester again. After Spring break, everything seems to speed up, particularly for those with heavy student advising loads.

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Welcome Peter Weinhold - IRT Liaison

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We are happy to welcome IRT Client Services Associate Director Peter Weinhold who will serve as IRT liaison to Faculty Development. As more and more faculty engage creatively with new strategies and make effective use of technology in the classroom, our connections with IRT have become stronger and better. I'm excited to hear of Peter's plans to create an "ongoing technology dialogue" with departments and units and looking forward to working together. --Ann Johnson

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From the Director: The State of SoTL at UST

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For so long, teaching has been a private, closed-door enterprise; the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) advances a fresh air policy that allows teachers to share ideas, successes, failures, strategies, and innovations.

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From the Director: Impressions from the Academically Adrift reading group.

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During J-Term, Faculty Development sponsored weekly breakfast meetings to discuss Academically Adrift by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa – a book that has been receiving lots of attention in higher education circles this past year. Twenty-one UST faculty and staff members committed to meeting weekly and discussing Academically Adrift, and we had some rich conversations about Arum and Roksa’s findings and suggestions.

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From the Director

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Are we academically adrift?

In her convocation talk to faculty this Fall, Sue Huber mentioned a book that’s been getting a lot of attention in Higher Education circles this past year: Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses by sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa. The timeliness of this book is enhanced for us because...

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News from the Director

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"Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are."
--Bertolt Brecht

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New Faculty Development Director Comes On Board

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Ann Johnson, who will begin as FD director this July, talks about her hopes for Faculty Development.

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Director is calling it quits and leaves for Vietnam in December.

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From the Director's Desk

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"I taught a 300 level physiology course once a year for eleven years straight, and was relieved to finally give the course over to a colleague. I had polished, modified, refined, revised, etc. the course until there was nothing left to tweak; I was getting stale. What do you do when that happens? How do you keep the courses you teach exciting for both you and your students?"

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