From the GSCC Archives

Welcome to the Jam!

From February 16th-February 19th, hundreds of developmental education faculty from 44 states and the District of Columbia will participate in Pedagogy Matters!, the first national Jam on developmental education pedagogy.  Keep up with the conversation by reading and commenting on the blog below.

Post-Jam Survey

Thank you for being a part of the first national Jam on teaching developmental education!  It has been exciting to engage with hundreds of developmental educators from Hawaii to Boston to Alaska on this all important topic of pedagogy.

We hope that you have found these conversations to be both thought provoking and useful.  Since there was so much rich content posted, we’ve decided to make the forums and the Pathfinder inventory available to you for the next couple of weeks, in read-only mode. But you can still “talk” to each other (and us!) and to the community here on our blog, Facebook and Twitter.

The GSCC Team will analyze the Jam and prepare a report, which we will share with you in the coming months. The pre and post Jam surveys will be part of this work so please complete the post-Jam survey.

This conversation is just beginning.  In the coming months, we hope to develop additional opportunities to continue the discussion and ways to further craft smart plans of action, because truly, pedagogy matters.

All the best,

The GSCC Team

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SUMMARY: Strategies and Resources for Action

Jason Evans summarizes:

In the “Strategies for Resources and Action” thread, several ideas began to coalesce around Gail Mellow’s idea for “a system where faculty could be a central part of the conversation about how to increase student success.”

Rosemary Arca & Liz Clark discussed “ROI, or return on investments” in relation to developmental education, to document clear “returns” and to help developmental education advocates argue for investments in an increasingly austere political environment. Bruce Vandal agrees, citing the success of one math program in which “[t]he increase in enrollments in math have literally increased the institutional retention rate. Generating more revenue and saving faculty jobs…. we need more evidence to back up our anecdotes and stories.”

Liz Clark also introduced the need for better training of future developmental faculty through graduate programs. This idea resonated with Forrest Helvie: in graduate programs in English, “there is so little (if any) required exposure to pedagogy.” Yasser Hassebo mentioned that he had worked with a single graduate student on pedagogy, but that a more systematic approach would be greatly beneficial.

There has been lively discussion of future sites and methods to encourage professional development. Liz Clark mentioned a “‘boot camp’ for faculty about how to talk about education,” and Lori Hirst suggested “an online professional development model” similar to the one used by GSCC. Yasser Hassebo pointed out that he is currently jamming from Egypt, and earlier in the semester delivered a lecture in spite of being snowbound in New York.

Lisa Levinson and Bruce Vandal discussed the power of Twitter to help developmental education advocates.

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SUMMARY: Developing a Pedagogy Matters Manifesto

From Michael Dubson

The following is a summary of this discussion from 9:00 to 12:00 this morning. This is a tough one to summarize because it is not only a lot of ideas, but those ideas are flowing into the creation of a document. I didn’t want to simply rewrite the document, and the flow of ideas is cumulative into its creation–so I will try to capture the ideas using alternate langauge. Here goes:

1. A well educated population is necessary for the sucessful function of a democratic society.

2. Commitment to education is critical for prosperity of local, state, national and global communities.

3. Teachers must be commited to excellent teaching, show intentionality and transparency in pedagogy, and develop and display passion for the classroom experience.

4. Students who get into college level courses are more likely to graduate.

5. College faculty know it’s all about the students; students must be kept at the forefront of all activires.

6. Professional development is crucial to reinvigorate teachers; teachers must reflect upon classroom pratcie. Engaged teachers will continue to improve the educational experience for students.

7. Advance pedagogy for graduate education in regards to teaching developmental students

8. We must educate ourselves in how to present ourselves to students, families, voters, politicians and the media.

9. We must participate in the democratic process in our work.

10. We must pledge to work for the good of the whole student both in the classroom and through college services.

11. Part-time faculty must be included in the discussion of faculty

12. More full-time jobs must be created, qualified and dedicated part-time faculty should be given those jobs, and teachers should be respectfully compensated.

13. “Regular teachers” need to be involved in the polticial process, not having it just left to unions, administrators and city and state officials.

That’s a lot–some of these ideas are already incorporated in the emerging document, others are still caught up in the composing/revision process.

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SUMMARY: Introduction to Formative Assessment (Pt. 2)

From Eric Kraus

During the second part of this discussion the participants have continued the discussion on assessment techiniques and strategies and how the feedback from the assessments can be used. The following is a summary of some of the important ideas that have been addressed:

  • Lori Hirst, from St. Louis CC, shared her concerns for incorporating MyWritingLab assessment pieces into her class.
  • Mauvlette Joseph, from Palm Beach State College, shared her use of white boards for formative assessments. This is a non-threatening, quick, and engaging method for a teacher to see each student’s level of understanding for a given topic.
  • Liz Clark, GSCC’er from LaGuardia, contributed a lot to the discussion by contrasting the computer’s limited grading technique with that of authentic assessment, which can be performed by trained faculty.  She discussed with Jason Evans, GSCC’er from Prarie State College, about the whole (class) versus individual assessments.
  • Renee Dimino, from Monroe CC, discussed her use of the MyWritingLab’s student Study Plan.
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SUMMARY: Introduction to Formative Assessment

From Kristin Duckworth:

During the first part of this discussion participants have brought up specific assessment techiniques and strategies and how the feedback from the assessments can be used. The following is a summary of some of the important ideas that have been addressed:

  • Participants have mentioned using student reflection papers, brain dumps, muddiest point questions, assigning a paper entitled “What I Still Don’t Understand About Writing”, and pretest/posttest assignments.
  • The point was made that formative assessments allow both the teacher and the student to assess progress and to adapt.
  • Formative assessment is best if it’s brief and done consistently and frequently throughout the semester.
  • Frequent low-stakes assessment can help reduce anxiety around high-stakes assessment.
  • There may be a tension between assessing learning which occurs in discrete lessons (on specific concepts) and more cumulative learning (development of global skills and ideas).
  • It’s important to clearly define objectives before assessing – what are you actually trying to measure?
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Refurbishing computers for those who need them

A novel idea came in from a Jammer. The Computer Club at her school started a computer repair project. “People from the community donate used computers, and the club fixes or updates them, and they present the computers to students who apply for them. In less than a year more than 120 computers have been given out. It is a fantastic win/win/win program…” Students who need computers get them, community members benefit by tax deductions, students get hands on experience in computer repair, and we’ll add another: less landfill.

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Online Professional Development

A GSCC design team member’s thoughts on training developmental ed. faculty:

“An online professional development model can/will be a flexible and potent tool for helping those who are already teaching, full-time and part-time, encounter both ideas not necessarily new, but new to us, and change. No profession can afford not to keep abreast of change! Using online venues, we can help one another do so.”

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Putting It All Together

“The content and methodology should connect with the rest of the institution. Developmental education should not be seen as an obstacle by teachers, students or advisers. It is a tool or an opportunity. It is a resource for innovative ways to reach students at whatever level they enter the university. Researchers, practitioners, administrators and students can take advantage of it.”

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A faculty member from Rochester wrote:

“I am moved to say that I sincerely respect the GSCC team’s comprehensive focus on helping students. I can’t stress this enough–how your grassroots, organic approach seems to be a model of the teaching/learning process. My hat, heart, and chalk salute you!”

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“Gatekeeping” Tests
Assessment & Developmental Education

Thoughts from a Jammer about “gatekeeping” tests:

This is a question that concerns me. When I first started at my current position, I was told that my success would be measured by how many of my students passed the compass test in reading. My issue with this narrow focus, is what is our larger goal. For me there are three goals 1) to pass the compass, 2) to have the motivation and skills to do well in their courses once they exit learning support, and 3 ) have a love for reading. I think now that my college is focusing on graduation rates, we’ll see a shift in emphasis. I hope so. Eager to hear about how others deal with the emphasis on passing a gatekeeping test, and how much time they put on preparing for the test, for study strategies, and for reading about the larger world.

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Meta-Cognition and Developmental Education

This just in from Dr. Gail O. Mellow, President of LaGuardia Community College:

The thread on meta-cognition was especially thoughtful last night. It was chock full of great conversation and lots of resources and strategies to promote meta-cognition among students and in the faculty themselves.

I fear that all too often, when people think “developmental ed,” they are imagining a college classroom with crayons and smiley stickers—that is, juvenile content and pedagogy. But the meta-cognition section reveals the sophistication necessary for developmental faculty to be effective teachers. With faculty literally across the country (Rochester NY, Baltimore, Georgia, Missouri, Arizona, California and Hawaii), the dialogue in the thread shows again and again the strategies great faculty use to ensure their students receive not just the content of mathematics or English, but the intellectual skills necessary for all other college courses.

In response to the Rochester faculty member’s question, one California faculty wrote:

You raised a compelling question: How can I better create an environment where they want to engage and think about that process? [after describing a new class structure, she writes] … it creates a dedicated environment for students to really engage with meta-cognitive reflection, not only about their reading/writing processes and behaviors, but also about how those processes and behaviors inform their ability to achieve course, program, and/or institutional outcomes (which, of course, requires heightened awareness of those outcomes).

This brief post shows the animating force that infuses so much of what I am reading about in the Jam – developmental education faculty taking so much into account (themselves, their students, the intellectual growth required of students to succeed) and combining all of those factors as they seek to improve their practice. Probably Robin Ozz, one of the GSCC faculty design team members said it best in the meta-cognition thread “Anything that works is my motto.”

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SUMMARY: Faculty Skills and Attributes: Passion

Some more notes on passion from GSCC Team Member, Brenda Kaulback:

The need for passion as part of pedagogical success mix seems to have general support among posters in this forum. Some perspectives on passion have included the question of whether we are born with passion or it is something that can be learned – and taught. Terry suggests that it might be possible to jump-start passion in others or at least encourage passion in pedagogy through an Appreciative Inquiry approach. (Read more about this in the resources listed in our diigo group).

Another aspect highlighted by Neil is how to balance passion for pedagogy and passion for content, or as Lizzie puts it, for students and for subject. Another poster (me!) asks whether this balance is different in developmental pedagogy than in non-developmental pedagogy.

There were also some suggestions as to how passion might play out in the classroom. Evan gives an example of bringing students into a faculty conversation around the work, as in having students participate as faculty work out a math problem. Neil offers the idea that humor can play a part in making his passion less threatening to his “less-than-thrilled with math students.” Bronte and Sarah describe passion in the classroom as played out through a sense of enthusiasm or contagion.

One caution is advised by Neil, however, is that passion could be a barrier that stands in the way of student engagement, “My passion for math can actually get in the way of me teaching students as it becomes an Off Switch for my students who are not passionate about math. “

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SUMMARY: Instructional Strategies: Contextualization

Some more tidbits from this afternoon’s continuing discussion about contextualization:

  • Amy believes fundamental to contextualization is understanding students’ lives as well as capturing their interests. She described her use of Civil War and slavery topics in her English class because of her school’s proximity to civil war battlefields.
  • Robin added that adaptability invariably accompanies contextualization in order to relate to your class audience.
  • Evan exemplified some of Robin’s thoughts about adaptability accompanying contextualization. He explained how he used to describe signed numbers by using a banking example. With mixed reviews, he changed his approach to teaching signed numbers to a treasure map explanation. He also allowed students to create their own word problems.
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SUMMARY: Student Context: Whole Person

A “field report” from GSCC Team Member, Lisa Levinson:

It was interesting in this thread that colleagues from the same college are meeting here for this discussion!

Teaching to the “whole person” is teaching to inspire confidence and independent learners. Trisha stated that “barriers are often more affective than cognitive”.

Some of the ways that that thread participants are building confidence:

  • Provide immediate, ongoing, and frequent feedback
  • Provide many ways to practice
  • Acknowledge students’ definition of “stress” and incorporate into academics
  • Use technology in concert with one-on-one, peer-to-peer, or other tutoring
  • Change the pace and timeframe for developmental education courses. Stuart wonders if open exit-open entry courses would work to allow students to work at their learning pace and feel successful
  • Incorporate other aspects of college life, such as financial aid.

Some concerns are:

  • Professors having training to effectively help students with life issues
  • Effectively incorporating student life into academic requirements and curriculum
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SUMMARY: Faculty Skills and Attributes: Passion

It seems that passion takes many forms but is always accompanied by caring and enthusiasm. Some have a more “outgoing” routine in the classroom while others emphasize deep routed characteristics. In any event, no one disagreed that passion is a requirement in the classroom.

  • Gail opened by asking the question, does passion come automatically for good teachers or must it come from deep inside?
  • Forrest explained, without it you end up like the principal in the Breakfast Club! He also described how enthusiasm and caring are cohorts with passion and that students need that passion to facilitate their own caring about the core material.
  • Evan described the difference between passion for a subject and passion for teaching. Both, he describes are necessary for good teaching Evan also shared his 3 questions he asks his students in the beginning of each semester: How do you feel about math? What is something I would not know about you from looking at you? What is something you would like to know about me?
  • Elizabeth echoed Forrest’s sentiments that students often do not bring passion or even caring to class and that magnifies the importance of passion from the instructor.
  • Fartema answered Gail’s initial question by stating she feels that passion is something that comes from deep within and that it must be genuine and sincere.
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SUMMARY: Instructional Strategies: Peer Engagement

Lori Hirst, a GSCCer from St. Louis Community College, noted students often have reservations about opening up and meeting other students. However, most students tend to find value in meeting and working with other students.

Evan Yoshimura, a tenure track mathematics instructor at Kapiolani Community College finishing his second year, offered that he incorporates group work to promote peer engagement. Evan really believes in the benefits of peer engagement in the classroom; however, creating the right environment is not something teachers know starting out. Evan is an advocate of students helping other students.

Rick Pescarino noted that increased peer involvement promotes higher order thinking which we all feel is important for our students to experience.

Jason Evans, a GSCCer from Prairie State College in Chicago Heights, IL, acknowledged that initiating peer engagement is sometime awkward. Jason solicited “easing in” strategies for getting students involved early in the course.

LaVache Scanlan, a GSCCer from Kapiolani Community College in Honolulu, believes in setting the tone of peer engagement from day 1. Activities LaVache has implemented include “support group” and the “appointment clock” to promote peer engagement. An excellent learning activity employed by LaVache is a group test where part of the test is done within the support group and the other part of the test is done individually.


The Importance of community in Alaska

A Jam reflection from Dr. Gail O. Mellow, President of LaGuardia Community College:

In reading the thread on building community among students, I was taken with what Professor Ronald Illingworth posted. It is important not only to demonstrate the way many developmetnal faculty use the building of community to support their students, but also because it reminds us of the wide range of experiences under which community college faculty members teach across the United States.  Ronald posted:

I teach students in a developmental English course using distance delivery modes (audioconference, no visual component). They come from all over Alaska and usually are 1 or 2 to a community. Those who have another student in their community make a real effort to encourage each other, to check on each other if one misses class, and to help each other out of class. It is much more difficult to do this for students who do not have another community member in their class but regular e-mail contact from the instructor and sharing of e-mail addresses of all of the students help to build community. I spend the first class going over course expectations and the syllabus and having each student introduce her or himself and tell a bit about their community. Some times this runs over into the second class but it is always important to giving the students a sense of “being” in the class.

The fun part of our national jam is that Ronald was answered by Professor Lavache Scanlan, who teaches developmental mathematics in Hawaii.
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SUMMARY: Student Context: Community

Michael Dubson’s latest summary from the discussion on Community:

  1. Building community can derive from the context of the class–first day introductions, being sure students learn each other’s name, students being able to and encouraged to support and help each other.
  2. Smaller classes bond faster and build community, collaborative learning helps build community and intensive and accelerated classes help build community.
  3. Students working together to identify what makes the class work, what they want in the class, what kind of topics and subjects they will write about in the class enhances their experience and helps build community.  In particular, having a say in writing topics helps students develop trust for each other, which facilitates community.
  4. Group work can help build community.  It is not clear as to whether one constant group throughout the semester or mixed up groups, faculty chosen or student selected groups are the most useful in building community.  Can group work build community which lasts beyond the class, and beyond the semester in which it occurs?  Group work can suggest the importance of community and will install that realization into the students even if the initial groups do not last.
  5. Discussions on blackboard and other on-line sites can help the quieter and more reticent students engage in the classroom community.
  6. Community building is very important in the beginning and middle of a semester because it prepares students for the end when the stakes are highest.

Happy jamming to you all.  It is pushing 10:00 pm here in MA, and I have an 8:30 class tomorrow!

Good night!


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SUMMARY: Faculty Skills and Attributes: Adaptability

This just in from Elizabeth Nicoli-Suco:

Hi Everyone,

During the second “3-hours”, the focus was still on adaptability.

Neil Hatfield, who teaches Mathematics, shared with us 2 power point presentations that, in my opinion, will keep our students very active, very focus, very motivated in the classroom. Neil is always asking his students to “think”.

Brooke Castine, who teaches Nursing, has found that letting the class steer what is needed for information helps to better focus on their needs; however, she thinks that having the faculty present is imperative to keep the focus on task.

Jack Gantzer, who teaches ESL, thinks that “humor is immensely important” though education is serious business. He also thinks that as one becomes more comfortable with himself/herself as a teacher, then one becomes more flexible.

Sarah Leone thinks that one of our main jobs is to prepare our students for the work force and by that she means that we must teach students to be accountable and meet deadlines on time; otherwise, we will be doing them a disservice.

Bronte Miller felt that all of us, educators, are empathetic people and that we want to help our students. She feels that we listen to their stories and help them make good decisions, in the sense that the students might need to get his life together before coming to college and/or for us to try to get them some support services to help them with their burden.

Please feel free to comment or add to this summary.

Thank you.

Math – Miami Dade College

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SUMMARY: Instructional Strategies: Contextualization

From Jam facilitator & GSCC Faculty Design Team member, Kristin Duckworth:

Several interesting questions/ideas have emerged over the last three hours:

  • What evidence do we have that contextualizing reading, writing, or math actually helps our students learn?
  • There are two “flavors” of contextualization – relating the content to “real world” experiences and relating the content to the student’s own experiences, including what takes place in other academic classes.
  • Adult learners need connections and many of us remember the excitement of finding connections among the different classes we were taking.
  • What makes reading (or math or writing) important to students? Don’t we all want to read (or do) something that we either find interesting or useful?
  • The connections between reading and math are deeper than one might think at first. Many students have difficulty with math because they have difficulty with the reading and/or vocabulary. Understanding “word” problems is often quite difficult for math students. How can we bring what we know about teaching reading into the math classroom (e.g., Neil’s reading guide) and vice versa (e.g., Polya’s Problem Solving)?
  • Service learning can be an invaluable tool for contextualizing academic learning.

Please feel free to elaborate on any of these ideas or to take us in a totally different direction with your thoughts on contextualization.

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