Thursday, February 16, 2017

Transgender Inclusion in the Classroom

Transgender Inclusion: LGBT CenterThe LGBT Center will be hosting a faculty and student panel titled:
Transgender Inclusion: Policies and Practice in the Classroom

The panel will include faculty, student, and staff perspectives on practices in the classroom that lead to transgender inclusion. The panel will discuss new guidelines on preferred name use.
See the event description provided by the LGBT Center below.


Transgender Inclusion: Policies and Practice in the Classroom
Faculty, staff and students are invited to a panel discussion about policies and practices that create an inclusive campus for transgender students. Topics will include best practices in the classroom, the experiences of current transgender students, and an introduction to the new UNF Preferred Name Policy. Panelists include Dr. Nick de Villiers (College of Arts & Sciences), Andrea Adams-Manning (Student Ombuds and Assistant Dean of Students), and student Bane Campos. Kaitlin Legg (LGBT Resource Center) will facilitate the discussion.
More informationsee the event facebook page.

Friday, February 10, 2017

How Well Do You Know Your Class Workloads?

Flower Cutter Ants
Photo by Steve Corey
For many professors, it is difficult to gauge how much time their students spend on assigned tasks outside of class. How long does it take a student to read 30 pages from a textbook? Two scientific journal articles? How long would it take a student to write a 5-page, double-spaced article summary? With these difficulties in mind, two professors from Rice University have developed the Course Workload Estimator. This tool allows an instructor to enter the specifics of assignments given to students and to determine the estimated weekly workload.

We gave the estimator a try using an old syllabus from a 3-credit College Algebra course. The class had 4 exams (one of which was cumulative), approximately 20 pages of assigned reading from a textbook per week, and 50 other assignments (25 online homework assignments and 25 online quizzes). Entering this information yielded an estimated workload of 10.1 hours per week, slightly more than 3 hours of study per hour spent in class.

Although it varies by professor, most faculty members try to give students 3 to 5 hours of outside classwork per hour of class. For example, if a student is taking 12 credit hours, she would need to study somewhere between 36 and 60 hours per week in order to keep up.
Unfortunately, there is a substantial gap between teacher expectations and actual student behavior. According to the most recent National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) data, UNF students report studying between 1 and 1.5 hours per credit hour weekly. Thus, the student taking 12 credit hours, would only study 12 to 18 hours per week, instead of the expected 36 to 60 hours.

Recent research has shown, however, that time spent studying is not, in and of itself, a reliable predictor of academic performance in college (Nonis & Hudson, 2006; Plant, Ericsson, Hill, & Asberg, 2004). Rather, time spent studying interacts with other factors, including ability, motivation, and the quality of studying environment, to predict academic performance. The Course Workload Estimator could be a good starting point for translating your class content into clear time-commitment expectations for your students, but more studying does not necessarily mean higher performance. It seems that course workload is no substitute for good course design and planning.

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The Shared Benefits of a College Degree

Publicly-funded education has long been considered integral to the health of our country. In 1822, James Madison noted, “learned Institutions ought to be favorite objects with every free people. They throw that light over the public mind which is the best security against crafty & dangerous encroachments on the public liberty.” He goes on to advocate for public funding of education as a path towards equal opportunity, noting “Without such Institutions, the more costly of which can scarcely be provided by individual means, none but the few whose wealth enables them to support their sons abroad can give them the fullest education… At cheaper & nearer seats of Learning parents with slender incomes may place their sons in a course of education putting them on a level with the sons of the Richest.”
How has public funding for Florida colleges fared in the past decade? According to a recent study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, state funding has been cut 22.7% since 2008, a reduction of $2,132 per student (a glimmer of hope is that since 2015, Florida has increased funding 3.5%, or $244 per student). As a result of public finding cuts, institutions have been forced to raise tuition costs. Indeed, Florida’s universities increased tuition costs by an average of 64.3% between 2008 and 2016, a hike of $2,490 per student. Florida is not unique in this, and these data point to a worrying national trend in higher education: less state funding and more reliance on students to carry the load of the cost of college education – many by taking on substantial student loan debt.

In a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Philip Trostel argues that making cuts to higher education is easier when law-makers emphasize private, individual benefits of a college education (e.g., higher annual and lifetime income, longer life expectancy, more access to higher-quality healthcare, higher retirement accounts). When the value of higher education is framed on these individual benefits, law-makers and citizens alike often exclude discussions of the larger societal goods that result from higher education. Trostel argues that the notion of an educated populace as a public good has been completely omitted. With that omission, and the prevailing notion that private goods are best served by private means, financing of higher education has been deemed better-served by the free market, and not by public funding of universities.

Making higher education out of reach for those, as Madison suggests, with "slender incomes" has the consequence of inadvertently diminishing the "public mind" and threatening "public liberty." Shifting the narrative of the benefits of college education away from private gains to public gains might not change much in the short term. Over time, focusing on the shared social goods a society receives from college graduates can bring wider support for more public funding to achieve those aims, supporting a public that is ready to defend their public liberties.

By Greg Rousis

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Friday, September 16, 2016

Transformational Learning Opportunity (TLO) Workshops

Transformational Learning Opportunity (TLO) Workshops

The Office of Undergraduate Studies and the Office of Faculty Enhancement (OFE) will be hosting two workshops to help faculty plan for Transformational Learning Opportunities (TLOs) and to apply for the TLO Grant Program. The first session will provide an overview of the program and foundational perspectives. The second session will provide a hands-on workshop for developing effective assessment strategies.


The TLO Application Deadline for projects taking place in 2017-2018 (July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018) is Friday, October 28, 2016. Find more details on the TLO Application webpage.

Designing Successful Transformational Learning Opportunities (TLOs)
Friday, September 30, 2016, 12:30-2:00 p.m.
Social Sciences Building 51, Room 1205
RSVP to ofe@unf.edu or contact Dan Richard with inquires.
Faculty and staff interested in applying for Transformational Learning Opportunity (TLO) funds are invited to attend the TLO workshop titled, "Designing Successful Transformational Learning Opportunities (TLOs)." This session will provide an overview of the TLO concept, some examples of past successful TLOs, and guidelines for applying for financial support.   

Manageable and Meaningful Assessment of Transformational Learning Experiences
Tuesday, October 4, 2016, 1:30-3:00 p.m.
OFE/FA Conference Room, Building 16, Room 3108 
RSVP to ofe@unf.edu or contact Dan Richard with inquires.


UNF Faculty who apply for TLO funding design a wide variety of truly transformational learning experiences for students. Designing an assessment plan both enhances the TLO application and provides an important way to maximize student benefit from the experience.  Yet assessing transformational learning objectives can be difficult because the objectives can be difficult to define, and because TLOs may not include graded assignments in the same way as other classes do. This workshop will help participants define transformational learning objectives and develop manageable assessment strategies for determining the impact of the TLO experience. Faculty and staff interested in applying for Transformational Learning Opportunity (TLO) funds are especially encouraged to attend.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Teaching for Robust Understanding (TRU) and Deep Learning

One of the most difficult tasks for instructors is to fully engage their students with classroom material. Encouraging a deep and lasting understanding of the underlying structure of material - also known as "deep" learning - has been shown to lead to higher quality learning outcomes than rote memorization of concepts - "surface" learning (Chin & Brown, 2000). Deep learning, however, is difficult to encourage in practice.

In order to assist teachers with this, Alan Schoenfeld, an education researcher at UCLA-Berkeley, has developed a tool called the Teaching for Robust Understanding (TRU) framework. Although initially designed specifically for teaching math, Dr. Schoenfeld has broadened its applicability to other fields. The TRU framework lays out five characteristics of classrooms that promote deep engagement with class material. The five dimensions of powerful classrooms are:
  1. The Content
    • The content of classrooms should be clear and concise and reflect the most current understanding of the subject matter at hand
  2. Cognitive Demand
    • The material should be difficult enough to encourage critical thinking and problem-solving, but not so difficult as to overwhelm students
  3. Equitable Access to Content
    • The classroom should allow for and encourage all students to engage with the material by expressing their opinions and asking questions about the content
  4. Agency, Identity, and Authority
    • The students themselves, rather than the teacher should be the source of the ideas being discussed
  5. Use of Assessment
    •  The instructor should be aware of the students' level of understanding of content and adapt the lessons to meet the students where they are as opposed to where they should be based on a set timeline
According to Schoenfeld, these dimensions are not new, but rather a condensed version of the current state of the literature on teaching. The idea behind the framework is to focus on "how students experience [the lesson], not on what the teacher is doing." This is an important distinction in that the students themselves are given the space to generate ideas and discuss their problem-solving strategies with each other rather than strictly following the teacher's lead.

The research team has provided a number of publications and presentations on the project and their findings. The main recommendation from these findings is for teachers to look carefully at the learning experiences provided for students, whether these experiences encourage "deep" learning as opposed to surface skill-based practice and whether student-level assessment can support targeted support for student misconceptions. With the right framework, teachers can find the right balance between academic challenge and enriching, engaging student learning experiences.


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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Evidence for Teaching Excellence Webinar

Beyond the ISQ: Evidence for Teaching Excellence
Tuesday, May 24, 2016, 12:00 noon to 1:15 p.m.
Location: Online (webinar through BlueJeans technology)
Pre-registration is required: contact ofe@unf.edu

Each semester, students complete the Instructional Satisfaction Questionnaire (ISQ) regarding their experiences with the instructor and the course. Faculty frequently find additional information necessary to fully evaluate their teaching practice. Current conversations regarding annual evaluations as well as around promotion and tenure have resulted in a desire to provide evidence of teaching excellence that extends beyond these student satisfaction questionnaires. In the current webinar, Dan Richard, Director of the Office of Faculty Enhancement, and Krista Paulsen, Chair of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work, will discuss options for using alternate forms of evidence for teaching excellence and will provide some examples of how these alternative forms can be used in annual evaluations, promotion and tenure, and other aspects of continuous improvement.
Pre-registration for the webinar is required.
For instructions and connect codes, contact ofe@unf.edu.


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Saturday, April 9, 2016

How Can Profs Keep Students' Attention? Put Them in Charge


It's important for faculty to work their hardest to ensure their courses, especially when they are long or comprised of tedious or difficult subject matter, hold their students' attention and keep them engaged. Because it can be so easy for students to drift mentally in class (research purports that college students retain only 10% of material covered in lecture-based courses), it is critical that faculty employ new and creative ways to hold engagement high and get students involved and thinking critically.

Raymond Benton, Jr., a professor at Loyola University Chicago, has managed to put a new spin on an active-learning classic. In what is known as a "jigsaw classroom", students are divided into subgroups within the class, with each subgroup learning a specific topic that they then teach to the rest of the class. Each subgroup member becomes an expert in their allotted area, and the subgroups must educate each other in order to complete an overarching assignment that all groups must complete as a class.

In Benton's version, the "jigsaw classroom" puts students in control of more than learning and communicating information in a given course topic. In an example he provides, a small class of students are given three assigned readings, all of which teach student must read before class, and are randomly assigned to a reading group and a discussion group. In each reading group, the students discuss one of the three articles thoroughly, comparing their own conclusions and understandings of the article. They become experts in that one article, knowing that the other group members will ask questions about that article they will be responsible for answering. Next, they discuss what they did not fully understand about the other two articles and form a list of questions for the other groups. The students then move to discussion groups, in which article "experts" are represented equally, and ask and answer questions and engage in conversations about the articles. Students then reconvene in their original reading groups to compare the answers they received from other groups and share how they answered questions about their group's article. Finally, the professor regroups the entire class to have a class discussion debriefing what they learned about all the articles.

This method is rich with opportunities for active critical thinking and deep levels of processing that will allow students not only to pay attention, but also to engage with the course material in ways they would not remotely approach in a traditional lecture.

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