December 2021

7. December 2021


Happy snowy afternoon!


I just finished loading the last homework assignments on my fall course Katie page, which always feels like the first of the lasts of the semester. Tomorrow will be our last lecture and on Friday we'll gather in the CFA to hang our final projects before the big Ultra Mega Mega showcase Friday night.


In CELT, however, we've been thinking ahead for a couple of weeks now. We're working hard on J-term and Spring programming and we are curating a series of resources (videos, handouts, and editable documents) to help you prepare for both j-term and spring semester. I don't think anyone is really ready for that yet though, so stay tuned for more from our office next week.


Below are more reflections on Provost Szymanski's words this morning, some just-in-time tips for finishing the semester with inclusive pedagogy in mind, an announcement of upcoming CELT events, including our new J-term Conversation Groups, and announcements about upcoming campus events that promote inclusion and belonging.


Who has your back? "Have we Gotten Student Success Backwards?"


This morning in our full faculty meeting, Provost Szymanski discussed Aaron Basko's recent article, "Have We Gotten Student Success Backwards?". I know that Claude will be sending it along, but I have also attached it for your reference.


It's a good article for all the reasons that Lynda outlined this morning. What stood out to me was the idea that in terms of student retention and success, we in Higher Ed have been  "throwing a lot of spaghetti at the wall, and very little of it is sticking."


I don't think that is necessarily all true here at Luther. We've got a lot of very good spaghetti that is sticking to the wall, but his comments struck a chord with me as I've been thinking a lot about our collective bandwidth and our need to balance the needs of our students, our curriculums, and ourselves. At times, adding one more thing may feel impossible to us.


Sometimes the answer is to double down on what you know works and what I know you are already doing.


If we all asked our students the questions that Basko offers: Who is your mentor? Who has your back?


And we made sure that every single student could answer those questions without hesitation, I think we could make some very real progress for all the reasons Provost Szymanski outlined this morning.


Here's the freeing thing for me. As a faculty member, you don't need to BE that single person for every student. We just need to make sure that every student HAS that person.


And, not to redirect too much from this student success discussion,  but I would love it if each of us could answer those questions without hesitation too. If you don't have a ready answer, please come see me. I'll help you answer it.


Inclusive Teaching Tip for the Last Days of Class


Studies show that building in intentional opportunities for metacognition -- thinking about thinking -- not only help students process and retain their learning, but also helps increase student engagement in their own learning process that extends past the close of the semester. In short, "Students that are aware of their strengths and weakness as learners...will be more likely to actively monitor their learning strategies and resources and assess their readiness for particular tasks and performances" (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, p. 67). This is a strategy that helps all students, but those who come from minoritized communities benefit disproportionately as it impacts student motivation, resilience, and reminds students that we are actually interested in them and their learning.


Here are some activities to promote metacognitive reflection at the close of the semester:


Hold a last day discussion or writing activity that asks students to reflect on their semester's learning. Prompts might include:

  • What did you expect to learn in this course? Did you learn it? Why or why not?
  • What is the most important thing you will take away from this course?
  • What was one thing that you were surprised to learn this semester (about the content, yourself, or others)?  

Give a retrospective post-assessment. These are similar to the "test wrappers" we introduced a few weeks back. Retrospective Post-Assessments push students to recognize conceptual change. It is often difficult to recognize how much growth students have achieved over the course of the semester. 

  • Think about assigning a last-day writing assignment or even an essay on the final exam that asks students to reflect on their growth. The prompt could be something as simple as,  "Before this course I thought evolution was...Now I think that evolution is...." 
  • Hand back their first exams or writing assignments. Have students read their work over and reflect on how their knowledge base or their writing has grown over the last 15 weeks.
  • Have students think back on their first year at Luther or their last year of high school. How has their approach to learning changed? What have they learned about how they study best? What have they learned that doesn't work? (note: this is an activity that my students say is "cringe" but they have a blast with it) 
  • Revisit your intake surveys -- did students offer any insights that you can raise up individually?


Just a note for our overworked brains. You don't need to collect, respond, or grade any of these prompts - the idea is to make space for metacognition to happen.


J-term Conversation Groups


We're piloting a new program this J-term  - January Term Conversation Groups. These informal, topic based conversations groups are designed to allow interested faculty to do a deeper dive on pedagogical topics of their choosing. Topics include:

  • Universal Design for Learning (UDL) 
  • Active Learning in the Classroom
  • Infusing Writing in Your Class
  • Helping Foster Critical Reading Skills
  • Handling Difficult Topics in the Classroom
  • Supporting Student Mental Health in the Classroom

We'll meet one or twice a week as schedules allow. Please sign up for whatever topic you are interested in. If you have time, you are welcome to sign up for more than one. The sign up for can be found here. 


Upcoming CELT Events


Sugar Rush Grade-In - CELT (Valders 240 and 242). Wednesday, December 15 (10 to 4) 

It's back! CELT is hosting a sugar and caffeine fueled grading party all day on the Wednesday of finals. Come finish up those term papers, crunch those final exam grades, or pop by for a cup of tea to get you through. Holly White will be with us all day for all of your Katie Gradebook questions. 

We'll have snacks, but feel free to bring your favorite holiday treat to share!


Upcoming Campus Events


Kwanzaa Celebration Chapel on Friday, December 10 at 10:30, CFL 

Squeeze in a moment of celebration and reflection and join other faculty, staff, and students as we light candles and reflect on the seven Kwanzaa principles.


Community Social Hour - Pulpit Rock Brewing Company, Friday, December 4 to 6 pm

Sponsored by Campus Ministries and Campus Programming

Celebrate the end of fall semester classes with your friends and colleagues down the hill at Pulpit Rock Brewing. Snacks, non-alcoholic beverages will be available. Cash bar with your first drink on Campus Ministries and Campus Programming! Please spread the word among your staff colleagues - everyone is invited to this community social hour event!


A personal request from me, although they may feel overly formal, wearing your name tag is a great way for people to feel included. You may not have met some of our newer colleagues face to face. Help ease the awkwardness of asking for a re(introduction) to someone who you feel like you should know!



Well, so much for brevity. If you've made it this far, I thank you. As always, please reach out if you have any questions or concerns.