Thursday, October 29, 2015

When Assessing and Correcting Personal Bias, Slow and Steady Wins

The first step in eliminating bias is acknowledging that a bias exist. However, few faculty members, or any other profession, are willing to acknowledge their own biases in the classroom. Although progress can come from large-scale change that trickles down into individual lives and everyday interaction, equally beneficial change can work from the bottom-up. Taking small steps on a manageable time scale to reduce our own biases can make all the difference.

Here are a few tips to becoming a little more equitable everyday.
1) Faculty are often tempted to grade students based on personal characteristics and their work, rather than solely on the quality of the work. Like many other mental shortcuts used for judgement and decision-making, making assumptions about another person saves massive amounts of time and are often accurate enough. Faculty may begin reading an assignment, stop and think, "So-and-so usually does great work," and, thus, skim the rest of the assignment with their mind already made up on what type of grade to give. However, when it comes to grading, using our first impression of a person is genuinely unfair. Students benefit when faculty take the time to thoroughly assess work for the work itself.

2) Whereas a faculty member may not be consciously biased, every human is biased on an unconscious level. If you don't believe that, follow this link and take the Race Implicit Attitude Test (IAT), Age IAT, or other available IAT. It's likely that you have no desire to act on your biases, whether unconscious or conscious, and simply becoming aware that you may be accidentally adjusting student performance evaluations or classroom experiences allows you to correct for biases.

3) Follow-up with yourself to continually evaluate how you are working to reduce your own bias.

4) Listen actively and empathetically to each individual with whom you speak. This allows you to look past surface-level characteristics and focus on content, substance, and quality.

5) Seek progress, not perfection. In other words, don't expect to ever fully eliminate bias, whether that's based on gender, race, age, or education level, because it is impossible to do so. But it's worth attempting to reduce as much as possible. By doing so, you are making a more fair and inclusive environment for your students.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Advancing Gender Equity in STEM Fields

Although great strides in gender equity have been made in recent years, STEM fields are among the areas where women still lag behind men. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) has long been a boy's-club of sorts. The nature of these STEM fields in no way deters female participation by definition; women should be no less effective in these areas than men. However, STEM is intimidating for women because relatively few women are present in STEM fields. To close the gap, it would take a strong push to successfully initiate more women into these fields. A recent publication of the American Association of Colleges and Universities' Peer Review offers insight into this issue and how women can become more prominent in STEM. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Mentoring: One Way to Remedy Disadvantages Experienced by Minority Faculty

A recent interview has shed light on how being a part of a minority group can negatively impact faculty and what can be done about it. While assistance for minority students is discussed often in university settings, it is often assumed that faculty are on an equal playing field regardless of race, which is sometimes simply untrue.

Professor Olympia Duhart, J.D. (pictured) is the President of the Society of American Law Teachers and had several important points regarding the current state of minority faculty in large university environments. Minority faculty seem to benefit more than non-minority faculty from mentoring and guidance from other, more established faculty members, regardless of the race of their mentor. Mentorship helps to decrease the isolation and pressure to be more qualified than their non-minority peers that minority faculty often feel, by offering support, guidance, camaraderie, and validation. This relationship, as well as other forms of faculty community, can serve as a buffer to the negative effects of subtle, institutional racism and other forms of prejudice and help all faculty members thrive in their academic community.

The Commission on Diversity and Inclusion at UNF has established a mentoring network for minority faculty called "Noodles and Networking." Check out the list of upcoming events.

Noodles & Networking Event on Being a Proactive Mentee

Being a Proactive Mentee
Presenter: Radha Pyati, Chair/Professor, Chemistry
Monday, October 26, 2015, 3:00-4:15 p.m.,
President's Conference Room, JJ Daniel Hall, Building 1, Room 2800

Noodles and Networking: A Minority Faculty Learning Community is a pilot faculty community building initiative for tenure-earning underrepresented and ethnic minority faculty led by tenured minority faculty. The goal of this initiative is to create a network that supports the smooth transition of minority faculty at UNF and serve as an outlet for social, professional and community interactions. The President’s Office and Academic Affairs’ Office of Faculty Enhancement are sponsoring this initiative.

At this Noodles and Networking event, Radha Pyati, Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemistry will address how being a proactive mentee helps faculty get the most out of  mentoring relationships. Come and join the conversation.

Being a Proactive Mentee
Monday, October 26, 2015, 3:00-4:15 p.m.,
President's Conference Room, JJ Daniel Hall, Building 1, Room 2800
Please RSVP to, or contact Dedra Harris in the President’s Office at 620-2500

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Florida Faculty Development Fall 2015 Conference

The Florida Faculty Development Consortium (FFDC) is celebrating its 10th year of supporting faculty at Florida colleges and universities.

The Fall 2015 meeting will be held on Thursday, November 12th at the University of North Florida; the topic is 
Reflect on the past, look into the future

Registration is open to anyone interested in faculty professional development in higher education. There is no cost for attending. 
If you plan on attending, please register at

For travel information and to see the preliminary meeting agenda, please go to the FFDC website at

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Post-graduate Well-being, Engagement, More Impacted by College Experiences than by College Type

"College is what you make of it" they say. Recent data from Gallup suggests that the qualities of universities where students enroll, such as whether they are public or private, large or small, very selective or less selective, have less impact on students' lives after graduation than is often thought. In fact, what seem to have the greatest impact on students' post-graduate levels of well-being and engagement in their work are six elements of the college experience in particular.

The quality of interaction between faculty and students was important for life after college, with the following experiences being the most highly related to positive long-term outcomes: graduates feeling supported by professors who cared about them, having professors that made them excited for learning course material, and having professors who encouraged their goals and dreams. Other impactful experiences seem to center more on translating knowledge learned in the classroom to practical settings, such as working on a long-term (at least one semester) project, having an internship or job that allowed them to apply what they had learned, and being actively involved in extra-curricular activities. Unfortunately, only 3% of graduates polled claimed to strongly agree that they had had all six of the most impactful experiences during their time at college.

Given this data, it seems that many collegiate measurements traditionally associated with well-being and work engagement of graduates, like rejection rates or student/faculty ratios, may be missing what can make college effective in preparing students for happy and productive lives post-graduation. Beneficial long-term outcomes stem from richness and depth in areas of the college experience like support and connection with faculty and hands-on opportunities that bridge the gap between classroom learning and practical application.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

For STEM Instructors, Impartial Observation May Bring Needed Perspective

In any professional pursuit, it is often very difficult to improve performance without some form of assessment from an impartial observer. Receiving feedback from a colleague who is knowledgeable, yet not so deeply entrenched in the everyday context or style of a practice is essential to genuinely assessing strengths and weaknesses.

Instructors of STEM courses can benefit from this practice as well. In fact, third party observation may be especially important for STEM professors. STEM material is notoriously difficult to learn, and because of the difficulty of the material, the difference between effective and ineffective teaching may be more noticeable and result in greater changes in performance compared to other fields. Asking a colleague to provide perspective by sitting in on a class and observing your teaching methods, without necessarily even providing evaluation, may be eye-opening for some instructors. Using a set of classroom observation protocols for undergraduate STEM courses is a step that can help instructors breathe fresh life into their communication of STEM material and provide students with a better learning experience. When instructors discover what beneficial or detrimental habits that they were previously unaware of, they can begin to take action and adjust their teaching style for the better.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Exam Cramming Common, But Ineffective

Free College Pathology Student Sleeping Creative Commons (6961676525).jpg
Photo: D. Sharon Pruitt 
When it comes to undergraduates' plans for preparing for exams,
the strategy is often to ignore the "problem" of studying until the test is imminent. Students then study as much as possible in the span of one or two days to "learn" the material in time for the exam. The problem with this practice, called cramming, is that it does not work very well. This is especially true for students who are inconsistent with class attendance, as they really are left to learn all the covered material in the day or two prior to assessment.

Compared to the strategy of incremental learning, where students study recently covered material in a smaller amount every night or several times a week, cramming simply does not produce preferable short-term nor long-term results. The larger differences between incremental learning and cramming are found in performance is in long-term retention. When students cram, they are not adequately elaborating on the material they want to learn. Rather, they are only doing what is necessary to keep the material fresh in their minds for a short time. Once they have finished their exam, that information is no longer elaborated on with any additional repetition and, thus, disappears from memory fairly quickly. Incremental learning is done with more manageable amounts of information  across many repetitions, and on a much larger time scale, allowing for elaboration and consolidation that makes information much more likely to be assimilated into long-term memory.

Students will always be drawn to cramming, as it often get results that are "good enough." Students may benefit from instructors encouraging students to abandon cramming so that the students remember material from their course after final exams are turned in.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Faculty Development Teaching Grant Panel

Applications for Summer 2016 funding for Faculty Development Teaching Grants are due on October 16, 2015.  To assist faculty in preparing grant applications, the Faculty Enhancement Committee and the Office of Faculty Enhancement will host a Teaching Grant Panel to answer questions regarding the review process and evaluation criteria for the program. Faculty interested in submitting a Faculty Development Teaching Grant are encouraged to attend. For more information on faculty development grants , visit the website below.
Tuesday, October 13, 2015, 3:30-4:30 p.m.
OFE Conference Room, Building 16, Room 3108

Monday, October 5, 2015

Frankly Friday Event - Gender Gap in Promotion and Tenure

Is there a gender gap in gaining tenure?
Friday, October 9th, 2015
9:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.

The Promotion and Tenure process at UNF is designed in a way to reduce bias and provide a fair chance for any qualified professor to receive tenure. A recent Stanford University study on the promotion and tenure process revealed that, given comparable research productivity, women assistant professors were in some cases 50% less likely to receive positive tenure decisions than their male counterparts. At UNF, the differences are much smaller, with 90% of men and 88% of women receiving tenure. As part of a recent Campus Climate survey at UNF, when faculty and staff were asked whether there were discriminatory practices involved in the promotion and tenure process, 18% indicated some bias whereas 82% indicated no bias.

We invite you to join the discussion. How should UNF address concerns over the gender gap in the P&T process?
OFE will provide the coffee and pastries.

Frankly Friday: Is there a gender gap in gaining tenure?Friday, October 9th, 2015
9:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.

Testing Critical Thinking using Multiple Choice Questions

Teaching and assessing critical thinking in student work is a priority for many faculty. Faculty typically assess critical thinking through essay test questions and lengthy assignments, both of which are time consuming to grade. Multiple choice questions are quick to grade but typically are constructed to test recall and comprehension. This workshop will provide guidance and practice in crafting multiple-choice test items that assess higher-order and critical thinking skills of analysis and evaluation. 
Testing Critical Thinking using Multiple Choice Questions
Friday, October 30th, 2015, 1:00-2:00 p.m.
Biology Building 59, Room 2701

This event will be especially helpful to those teaching General Education courses that satisfy the Critical Thinking requirement. 
Participants are asked to post (up to 5) example critical thinking multiple choice questions prior to joining the workshop. Contact Dan Richard for details.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Liberal Education, Integrative Learning Best Preparation for Uncertain Post-Grad Future

Are higher education graduates equipped to address the challenges that face an ever-changing modern Liberal Education and America's Promise (LEAP) Challenge encourages higher-education institutions to design their curricula in ways that help graduates develop the empirical reasoning, communication skills, and critical thinking skills that will prepare them to solve complex, real-world problems.
world? The Association of American Colleges and Universities' (AAC&U)

LEAP has begun the Signature Work initiative which asks student to pursue a long-term project in which they incorporate the knowledge they have learned in courses into their own motivations to produce tangible results. Such projects last at least one semester and could be in the form of research, community service, or other forms of experiential learning. Signature Work projects force students to make connections between different fields of study and their application.

This Signature Work helps to seal in the benefits of a liberal education and prepare college students for a future which will undoubtedly be unpredictable, complex, and varied in terms of its events, experiences, and opportunities. Preparing students to react to unforeseen changes by allowing them to experience how their own knowledge can be engaged in a practical format brings meaning to their time spent in the classroom. Being able to understand the world from multiple view-points is arguably the essence of a liberal education.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

CCPH Conference Call for Proposals

Community-Campus Partnerships for Health is accepting proposals for their 14th annual International . The theme for this year's conference is
Journey to Justice: Creating Change Through Partnerships.
Conference to be held in New Orleans, LA, May 11th-14th, 2016.

The deadline for proposal submission is October 15th, 2015

Here is a message from the conference organizers: 
Submit your ideas for workshops, roundtable discussions, posters and other creative story telling sessions by October 15, 2015. We will highlight partnerships and research collaborations of all shapes and sizes at this inclusive and vibrant gathering. Share your knowledge, wisdom and experiences! Visit the CCPH conference website for more information and follow the CCPH Twitter feed for the latest conference news! Join the conversation using the conference hashtags #CCPH16 and #JourneytoJustice.