Monday, April 30, 2012

Will you be spending time this summer preparing your academic portfolio?

Recently, a Faculty Focus post by Joy Burnham, Lisa Hooper, and Vivian Wright offered their "Top 10 Strategies for Preparing the Annual Tenure and Promotion Dossier." As someone who has gone through the tenure and promotion process elsewhere and who is pretty closely familiar with the process at Metro State, I find all 10 of the recommendations sound pieces of advice that are applicable to our newly changed Metro State process. It's hard to overemphasize the suggestions to read guidelines carefully, to demonstrate transparency in your portfolio, and to follow rules and guidelines regarding what should and should not be included in portfolios.

One suggestion by the authors that is all too often overlooked is to seek out mentors. They write that "no one on the tenure-earning track should be on an island. Find people who will assist you. Seek multiple mentors, such as fellow tenure-earning peers who are in the same boat with you."

To that end, the Center for Faculty Development is sponsoring a small group-work session across 3 Fridays in June (June 1, 8, and 15 from 9am to noon), open to the first 12 tenure-line faculty who sign up. Space is still available to faculty who wish to work collaboratively and benefit from peer feedback as they work on completing drafts their portfolios. Please note that participation all three days is essential to meeting the workshop outcomes.

Can't make it in June? We will be offering the small group-work sessions again early in the fall (dates TBA).

Friday, April 20, 2012

End of semester checklist

A few years ago, Ethan Watrall wrote an end of semester check list for professors closing out their semester-long courses. As we head toward the end of this spring semester, it's worth taking a look at that list once more. Some of items on the checklist capture good ideas for all teaching faculty; others likely pertain more to some faculty members than others. My own comments follow each of Watrall's checklist items:

  • "Backup my Course Websites": Most Metro State faculty who have course Web sites use Blackboard, so the specific suggestion for how to back up a course Web site on WordPress might not apply. Still, it's probably a good idea to have backup files or even hard copies of materials that are housed on Blackboard. The end of the semester is a great time to review your files to make sure you have copies (hard or electronic) of everything that's saved to Blackboard.
  • "Update my CV": For many of us at Metro State, this now means updating our entries in Digital Measures. Whether you're using Digital Measures or maintaining your CV the old fashioned way (as a Word file), the end of the semester is a good time to make sure your CV is updated before losing track of your accomplishments.
  • "Write an 'End of the Semester Roundup' Post on Your Blog": Perhaps you maintain a blog, but even if you don't, there is no better time to pause, reflect, and write about what worked well in your classes this semester, what you want to try differently next time, or even interesting pedagogical problems that arose for you that might be the basis of a SoTL project.
  • "Shred Exams/Papers from X Number of Semesters Ago": I have been informed from the Registrar's Office that it is good practice to retain a student's academic records (for most of us, this means the stacks of final exam booklets that line our shelves) for 5 years after the student's graduation or last date of attendance. I don't think anyone expects faculty to track all their students' graduation dates or last dates of attendance, so take these parameters with a grain of salt. Talk to your colleagues to find out what your department practices are regarding the shredding of old exam books.
  • "Backup my Class Materials": This is just good sense--make sure you have all your files saved in more than one place. Watrall adds "now is a good time to clean up the file names and remove any duplicate files, drafts, or other garbage files."
  • "Unplug": Your office machines, that is, during any lengthy absences.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Upcoming in faculty development

Metro State faculty and staff are welcome to attend the following workshops, brown-bag discussions, etc., taking place over the next week. Be sure to check out the Faculty Development Events Calendar for more information and for instructions regarding registration.
Spaces are available in each of these drop-in events!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Should we count effort in assigning final grades?

Maryellen Weimer reports on a study that finds, not surprisingly, more students than faculty think that effort should count toward a course grade. What is surprising is that the faculty surveyed in the study thought that effort should count for nearly one-fifth of a final course grade (versus students who thought, on average, that effort should count for about 40% of the final grade). Weimer reacts:
I'm rather mystified by faculty thinking that effort should account for 17% of the grade.I suppose if it's the course grade, and effort is equated with things like regular attendance, completion of homework, asking and answering the right questions that, by the end of the course, faculty might have a sense of who's trying hard and can be rewarded for doing so. But it still doesn't make much sense. How could you be in class, do the homework, regularly participate and not master the material? What about the students who aren't in class, don't do the homework but still perform well, are they docked for not showing effort?
Weimer's bottom line is that mastery should determine the final grade. The readers' comments, on the other hand, betray a number of alternative perspectives on the matter. One example:
Although I don't believe in bumping up points for effort, I do believe in distributing a lot of opportunities for points throughout a course: free participation points (for example through clicker questions or in-class assignments), extra credit, and repeatable, online quizzes. That way, if a student completes all of the homework, attends class regularly, and participates, then s/he'll acquire enough points to raise a D to a C.