February 2021

 The page features CELT Notes sent to Luther faculty members during the academic year 2020 - 2021.


22. February 2021


Happy warmth!


We've been quiet over here in the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching for the past couple of weeks. The faculty development calendar looks a bit different than the teaching calendar and I've spent the last three weeks at various conferences, workshops, and other training meetings and we start planning our programming for summer and fall 2021.


The big questions on every faculty developers' mind will probably not surprise you:

What will fall 2021 look like? How do we prepare ourselves and our faculty for whatever that "normal" is?


As our Covid case numbers remain low and our community vaccination rates continue to rise, albeit slowly, I'm getting more and more optimistic that fall 2021 might look a bit more "normal". But then again, that might just be the sunshine talking.


We're taking baby steps toward normalcy in CELT this spring. We've restocked our snacks and our hot and cold beverages. Feel free to pop buy and grab a treat to get you through your day. Next week we are going to slowly start up some regular programming, including conversations about the classroom and cancel culture, how to administer mid-semester course evaluations, burn-out, and how to continue our work towards equity in our classrooms.


After the March 5th rest day, we'll evaluate whether the community feels safe enough to gather for afternoon conversations occasionally in person, outside. We will, however, continue to offer the majority of our programming via Zoom for access and equity.

This week we are revamping our webpage and building out programming for the remainder of the spring semester. Please send any requests or suggestions my way!


Now that we've established a routine, nudge selected students

The biggest theme of our development programming this year has centered around keeping connection alive in an online or physically distanced classroom. Today and tomorrow, at the start of week four, is a great time to nudge selected students. This advice comes from the incomparable Flower Darby, who presented at the AAC&U meeting two weeks ago. Darby was talking about high-impact, low-lift ways to make sure every student feels supported and seen in your classroom. She suggests picking 2 or 3 students every week to give a bit of extra time to. You might start with those that are struggling. Send them a positive email, checking in, inviting them to office hours, etc. Next week pick a few more -- maybe send them a link to a video related to a comment they made in class, maybe thank them for getting the discussion rolling in class that day. Rotate until you've made the rounds on your roster.


Quarantined Students 

Decreasing the required quarantine time by three full days is a huge deal for our students trying to manage the stress of isolation and the demands of their course load. Hopefully the slower pace of the semester, as well as the low number of students IN quarantine has lessened the stress on faculty too. To repeat advice from last fall -- here are some low-tech solutions to keeping the quarantined students up in your classes.

  • Ask the student to keep up with the assigned reading and to meet with you during a virtual office hour to answer questions about the reading.
  • Encourage the student to ask a classmate to share their notes electronically and then ask the student to meet with you during one of your already scheduled virtual office hours to answer questions.
  • In a discussion course, record any “lecture” material, and ask the student to watch the recording and then to meet with you during a virtual office hour to have an abbreviated version of the discussion that you facilitated in class. If more than one student is absent, invite them to discuss as a small group.
  • Try collaborative note-taking. This involves students rotating note-taking on a Google doc that is accessible to the entire class.
  • Use your already scheduled virtual office hours for small group tutorials.
  • Create pre-recorded materials (such as VoiceThreads, videos, or narrated PowerPoints) that are specifically for students who are ill, quarantined, or isolating. This is an especially good idea of if you have these materials from spring 2020!
  • Build asynchronous material into the class for all students, thereby reducing the need to create material specifically for students who are ill, quarantined, or isolating.


Organic Online Discussions 

I know a lot of you are using discussion boards to stimulate student engagement this semester. I found this article about subtly changing the way we set up discussion forums to save you time AND give the students more agency. The TL:DR is that with this format - professors set up a number of open-ended questions on a different Katie Forums. The students can reply to whichever they would like and take the conversations wherever they would like to go -- more closely mimicking natural conversation. 


Anti-Racist Education

The ACM is hosting the second of two webinars on Culturally Responsive Faculty Mentorship this Thursday, February 25. Register here

Please email Kate if you would like to see the recording of the first part of this series.


Description: Essential for faculty success is a work environment that is supportive and responsive to a multitude of concerns around teaching, research, and institutional service. Providing guidance for faculty of color may mean using different points of connection and mentorship techniques to build trust with new colleagues. This workshop focuses on techniques and strategies to build productive and healthy mentor relationships with faculty of color.

That's it for now. I must say that the hardest thing for me about this 11th month of the pandemic is the sameness of it all. But today's weather is reminding me that the seasons change, longer days are ahead, and before we know it we'll be complaining about how hot it is. I can't wait.




2. February 2021

How is it Tuesday already? Yikes.

Last bit of pre-semester notes today. We have an open calendar for appointments on Wednesday and Thursday. Email us to set up a consultation!


Google Assignment drop in TODAY at 2:30

If you use Katie and you use Google Drive to organize student work, you might want to check out our new Katie integration. Here is more info. Today at 2:30 CELT is hosting a drop-in work session with Holly White. Register here for the Zoom link!. 


Last call on the Spring CELT programming survey

Thanks to all of you who have completed the spring programming survey. I would love to hear from a few more people, so if you can carve out five minutes, we'd appreciate your feedback. Here is the link to the survey for your convenience. 


Another take on intake surveys

If you have 5 minutes, skim this article about the effects of intake surveys on building more inclusive classrooms. Lafayette College's CTL, with Tracie Addy at the helm, developed a tool that allows students to anonymously let their professors know who really is in the classroom. The survey asks questions such as "first-generation status, access to technology, "obligations students have outside of college, disability considerations and other demographic information." The key point here is that this kind of survey needs to be both voluntary and anonymous. In other words, knowing that one student is working a full time job in addition to a full course load is important information in and of itself. We don't need to know which student it is necessarily. But she might feel emboldened to reach out for help later in the semester if things begin to feel unmanageable. As one professor said, "I got the feeling that just by implementing this questionnaire my students knew that I cared about them as people, recognized that each was different and valuable to the class, and took my job of working with them to support their learning as important." If you choose to develop your own survey -- feel free to reach out to discuss possible questions or to work through the results. 


On Silver Linings and Lessons Learned

I've been on the fence about using the phrase "silver linings", for some of us this year has been marked by such deep loss, finding anything redeemable can feel tone deaf. But, for others of us, there have been lessons learned and skills that we've acquired that will stay with us, even if we someday return to normal. 


This perspective is shared by Patrick D. Culbert in his Chronicle piece

"When this is Over Keep Recording Your Lectures". Culbert offers a couple of questions that he is asking himself as he thinks about teaching in a more normal semester. They may be helpful for you too. There is no right or wrong answer -- these are questions to consider. 

  • Will you make increased use of discussion boards (or the chat during online meetings) to let introverted students engage without speaking in front of the whole class?
  • Will you have an informal place on your Katie page for students to meet virtually to study, or just to share memes and pictures of their pets?
  • Will you revise your assessments to de-emphasize high-stakes exams?
  • Will you continue to hold virtual office hours (next year, even when they AREN'T required to be virtual?)
  • Will you continue to use learning groups? 
  • Will you excuse absences and grant extensions without asking for documentation?
  • Will you encourage your students to stay home when they're sick?
  • Will you keep recording your lectures?

I liked the perspective of this op ed piece from The Chronicle in which a senior professor muses on some of the lessons he took from the 2020 teaching pivot. I especially appreciated his last words, where he expressed his appreciation for how much his students were capable of learning in this pandemic.


If you do nothing else -- I would try to find 10 minutes of peace and quiet and really reflect on how Q1 and Q2 went. Was there any place in the breakneck pace of the semester where you found some deep satisfaction and joy of teaching? Can you do more of that? What was causing you the most stress and concern? Is that something you can let go of or do differently? Sometimes just talking it out helps, so feel free to send me an email and we can talk more!

More next week, but for now -- good luck on final grades and final prep!