Let’s hear it!

Contributed by Humanities and English Faculty, Amy Young

First of all, I am so very grateful for my fantastic colleagues and the college system.  It is truly impressive how everyone has come together to make things work in these surreal circumstances, and I am likewise grateful for the unprecedented outpouring of reassurance, collaboration, and support I’ve seen and received over the past few weeks. Still, while I was finding comfort in the warm, fuzzy security of capability there, I started to wonder what, in addition to their concerns and questions, the students in my classes might want to share. Might they want an opportunity to be problem solvers too?

I had this in mind when I attended a webinar wherein faculty shared resources and ideas for assisting students and each other with the transition to online learning.  I was curious how faculty had been communicating with their students and what they had been hearing from them, and what was interesting was that students were not only sharing their hardships and fears, but they were also sharing their ideas.

Yes, now is the time to be compassionate and flexible, and we should absolutely check-in to assuage student doubts, but there are also a good number of students who are ready to get to work, who want to problem solve, and who (like us) have an urge to help and who are ready to engage.  For instance, after receiving suggestions from a number of students via email,  I sent a Doodle poll to all of the students in my classes surveying them about their engagement preferences as we transition to online. Within two days, I had over 50 responses, all of them either eager to have virtual meetings or willing to attend when their schedules permitted (now, three days later, I have still only had one student decline to meet online).

Of course, we will continue to look out for those students (and colleagues) who are struggling with the stress and uncertainty of these times; this situation is not ideal for any of us, and we are incredibly fortunate to have so many people around us ready to help. But perhaps it’s just as important to give students an opportunity to problem solve, to get creative, to feel like they’re contributing, and to have a positive voice, too.

A Note from Professional Development:

Want to make your own Doodle poll? Here is the Doodle website.

The volume of information that is being sent and received can be overwhelming.  Please refer to the Resources Page for more information.  While your transitioned course may not be perfect, your students need a quality, flexible course.  The greater message from LSC to all students is: “As we move closer to opening campus and resuming all classes April 13, we are going to be supportive and understanding in all that you’re dealing with. We’re here for you.”

Ask any questions you may have!

A sincere note from faculty to faculty

Contributed by Developmental English Faculty, Paula Khalaf

Everyone’s life is chaotic right now. I just want to briefly share one student’s story—hopefully to create some empathy for all students and instructors as they plan the remainder of the semester.

Emily has two young children, one of whom has special needs. She is home with both of them 24/7. Besides taking care of their basic needs of food and shelter, she has had to arrange speech therapy online for her daughter which requires using the only computer they have in the household. She also has to make sure both children keep up with their lessons—which requires the one computer they have. Emily stays up late at night while her children sleep—and don’t need access to the computer—to keep up with her math class that has moved from in-person to online. She says her instructor asked her to be online for a WebEx at a specific time next week. Emily’s concern: “I don’t even know what a WebEx is.”

My point is—everyone’s life is different right now. I am sure we have instructors experiencing many challenges that my student Emily is facing. I struggle to keep my head above water with cooking, cleaning, getting groceries to my parents, and trying to work from home-and I don’t have young children. This unprecedented situation requires instructors to rethink how to meet the course learning outcomes. That may mean that some assignments are completely transformed into something else—or even some that are just left in the dust. I am starting with—what is the minimum I need my students to do in order to master the course learning outcomes? How best can I communicate with them—phone, Zoom, WebEx? I can’t teach myself all of the technology quickly, nor can my students master it in addition to everything else going on in their lives right now.

Thank you for listening!


A Note from Professional Development:

Check out this article on one faculty member’s perspective on the situation that we are in today.

The volume of information that is being sent and received can be overwhelming.  Please refer to the Resources Page for more information.  While your transitioned course may not be perfect, your students need a quality, flexible course.  The greater message from LSC to all students is: “As we move closer to opening campus and resuming all classes April 13, we are going to be supportive and understanding in all that you’re dealing with. We’re here for you.”

Ask any questions you may have!

What is pedagogy?

Kristie Boston, MA – Faculty Fellow for Professional Development

One challenge for faculty in higher education is understanding pedagogy. Unlike most K-12 educators, higher ed faculty may not engage in education courses that cover topics such as pedagogy, teaching philosophies, student engagement, classroom management, and lesson planning. Often, we enter the classroom arena armed with our content expertise, passion for life-long learning, and the belief that students enrolled in college are there to learn.

Entering the classroom, we attempt our first lesson, maybe our second. Sometimes they are highly successful, other times they are not. Even on the same day, different classes will engage with the material with more or less enthusiasm. When we speak about this in the hallways with our colleagues, conversations often center around “why.” Why did these students absorb the material but not these? Why did this lesson work but not the other one?

When students aren't listening in my class: Are you not entertained?

Often the answers can be found within the discipline of pedagogy. Pedagogy is the study of the method and practice of teaching and covers teaching styles, teaching theory and philosophy, and feedback and assessment. Essentially pedagogy refers to the ways in which instructors provide curriculum to students. This is informed primarily by an instructor’s personal experience, beliefs, and the context and institution in which they teach.

As an introduction to thinking about pedagogy and education, and in line with our culture of innovation at University Park, watch the following presentation “What makes pedagogy radical?” by Harriet Harriss.

As you consider your approach to teaching, i.e., your pedagogy, remember there is a wide spectrum of teaching philosophies that range all the way back to Aristotle. These frameworks move from teacher-centered or “authoritarian” to student-centered or “permissive.” While the examples below are not even close to representing the full list of educational philosophies, they are ones that contain bodies of research and represent a swath of contemporary conversations on best practices and student success.

Teaching philosophies range from teacher-centered, such as essentialism and perennialism, to student-centered, such as progressivism, social reconstruction, and existentialism.
Spectrum of Teaching Philosophies

Important Disclaimer: You do not have to be wholly one philosophy! There is no box to place yourself in and often instructors will adapt the philosophies into a hybrid that suits the needs of the students and purpose of the content on any given day. No philosophy is “good” or “bad” – but it is important to recognize and understand your own pedagogical preferences and how they align with your content, student success, and institutional expectations.

Are you curious about where you fall in this spectrum? I was too! And of course, I wanted to know more about the five pedagogical approaches listed in this spectrum. (I promise that’s coming soon!)

So, here is a short “What is your Philosophy?” Part 1 questionnaire: What is Your Philosophy of Education

When you finish this, hold onto it! The second part, where you will actually interpret your scores, is coming soon to a blog post near you.

Stay tuned for what your scores mean and more details about the different teaching philosophies.

Faculty Qualities of Excellence

Kristie Boston, MA – Faculty Fellow for Professional Development with contributions from Ericka Landry, Ed.D. – Director of Faculty Development

While you may have heard the phrase “Faculty Qualities of Excellence” (FQEs), it is time to clarify and reflect on these qualities as we move into 2020. First, and most importantly, these qualities were determined by faculty for faculty. They were driven by dedicated faculty with insight into best practices and passionate instruction. They connect closely with the tenets of integrity, student-focused education, and pedagogically based foundations of instruction. They exemplify the Lone Star College expectations for faculty.

There are five parts of the FQEs: a preamble and the four qualities. Each part is important and represents a facet of excellence demonstrated by faculty at LSC.

PDF link available by selecting image

The Faculty Senate Presidents (shout out to Dave Gaer!) have created a video to discuss the FQEs and it is worth watching!

FQEs with the Faculty Senate Presidents

Moving forward, UP faculty professional development opportunities will highlight each of the FQEs. Each session offered will indicate the FQEs that are emphasized, the Innovation Conversations will tag the appropriate FQEs, and additional opportunities to explore and develop these qualities in your own practices will be available.

We welcome your comments and questions, but especially your indication of which of the FQEs you’d like additional assistance in exploring and understanding in the upcoming semesters.



First day nuggets

Amanda Griffin, M.Ed – Trainer, Professional Development with contributions from Dr. Pamela Auburn – Faculty, Chemistry

Welcome back to our returning UP family members, and welcome home to newcomers like me! As we begin the semester, I am sharing nuggets of wisdom on how to start strong on the first day from our very own Dr. Pamela Auburn, Professor of Chemistry and Lead Faculty.

“By learning you will teach, by teaching you will learn.” ―Latin Proverb

The first day of class is a one-time opportunity to build community in your classroom and set the stage for active learning. You can give students a taste of the engaging intellectual journey they will undertake in the coming semester by sending them an email before the first day welcoming them to class, introducing yourself, and providing a copy of your syllabus.

Create an agenda. This will show students you are prepared. Have a slide with the agenda or post it on the whiteboard.  Incorporate tasks to peak student curiosity and build community.

Welcome students. Data indicates that students learn better when you know their names. Of course this will not happen on day one, but you can start by welcoming students as they walk through the door. Allow students an opportunity to introduce themselves during class. An icebreaker activity wherein students pair off and introduce each other can help foster community (be sure to offer some structured questions to guide the introductions).

The syllabus. It is critical for students to understand your class structure and assignments, but reading through the syllabus word-for-word only puts everyone involved to sleep. Instead, consider a syllabus investigation activity. First, have students mark what they think are the five most important items on your syllabus. Then, have them form groups of 3-4 to share and compare. Lastly, have a spokesperson from each group ask questions about the syllabus.  Be sure to explain how the course activities are connected to learning outcomes.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ―Maya Angelou

Build Community. You want to set the stage for two-way communication in your class. You might consider a reciprocal interview: allowing students to ask you questions pertaining to your expectations, course content, and goals for the class, then asking them similar questions. I always find it informative to ask students what excites them or frightens them about the class or what questions they hope to get answered. By asking these types of questions, you show students you value their input, and the answers to these questions can help you build relevant content applications.

In online courses, you may wish to create a discussion forum that allows students to introduce themselves (this could even be your first graded activity for ODR purposes!). While none of this is required, these prompts may help you to get started:

  • In this class, I would like to learn more about _____.
  • As a member of an online group, I would like other to know _____.
  • In the future I plan to _____.
  • My biggest challenge is _____.
  • My secret indulgence is _____.
  • I am most proud of _____.

You may also suggest that students post an appropriate photo as either a .jpg or .png attachment. This dual-purpose discussion helps to build community in the online classroom while teaching the instructor a lot about their students. It is possible to use this information to better connect and incorporate relevant content. To get the conversation started, post about yourself first!

A Few Pointers:

  • ​If you have the opportunity, visit your classroom before day one. Look at the setup and consider what activities might work best there.
  • Check out the technology – make sure it is working and you know how to use it (it is always good to have a low-tech back up plan).
  • Post your syllabus on D2L.
  • For the first day you cannot overdress but you can underdress. Set a professional tone early; you can ease up a bit later.

Great power comes in small packages – actually, in six words…

Amanda Griffin, M.Ed. – Trainer, Professional Development

According to the book Not What I Was Planning: Six Word Memoirs by Authors Famous and Obscure, Ernest Hemingway was challenged to write a story using only six words.  He wrote, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” The unspoken heaviness of this “short story” provoked a flood of personal reflections and emotions as I pondered the magnitude of what seemed so small.

The six-word global phenomenon began in November 2006 by Larry Smith, founder of SMITH Magazine. He launched Six-Word Memoirs as an online challenge asking: “Can you tell your life story in six words?” Sixwordmemoirs.com features over 1 million life stories and counting. Some are bittersweet: “Cursed with cancer, blessed with friends.” Others are piercing: “I still make coffee for two.” Some are celebratory: “From migrant worker to NASA astronaut,” and some are simply hilarious: “Married by Elvis, divorced by Friday.” Smith has since taken his six-word model into boardrooms, classrooms, staff retreats, and conferences.

So, you ask…what does this have to do with me?

At LSC-University Park, we have our own six-word story that perfectly sums up GradUP: “You commit. We commit. You graduate.”

Our story aligns with our Cultural Beliefs and Faculty Qualities of Excellence to exhibit our dedication to student achievement. As part of the UP family, we challenge you to create your own six-word story related to student success. Think about why you do what you do. How are you part of the big picture of graduating 50% of our first-time in college students? For example, my story is “Every student graduates – whatever it takes!”  In six words Mary Harmon reminds us, “Struggles today develop strength for tomorrow.”  Your six-word story should reflect your commitment to student success and remind you of your why.

Six words can help you gain a wealth of knowledge about your students and build a community of lifelong learners. You can use your six-word story to introduce your mission to the students you encounter and have students create their own. Six-word memoirs give students a safe way to share a small piece of who they are and what matters to them.  Start by sharing yours.