Thursday, November 15, 2018

Proud moments: Grad students shine at SWECJMC

I'm super proud of our graduate students who presented at SWECJMC in Denver. You'd never know it was their first presentations as academics. Here's the university's news article. It's always fun to catch up with colleagues at SWECJMC. Think about joining us in New Orleans next year!

SWECJMC picture
Tarleton State Grad Students on the MSU-Denver campus
while presenting at SWECJMC. Photo by Dr. Shearon Roberts. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Follow-up: Encouraging Students to Jump In

Great news! Two of our Tarleton graduate students who "jumped in" and submitted papers to the Southwest Education Council for Journalism and Mass Communication were accepted! It's nice to see their hard work acknowledged and the opportunity before them to learn from colleagues at other institutions and network at their first academic conference this November.

Congrats to Devynn Case for her ethics case study titled, "The tribe has spoken OUT: Survivor, transgender issues, and the Ubuntu approach," and to Logan Case for his research project titled, " Gender differences in student descriptions of professors."

Program screenshot

Program screenshot

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Conference season: Encouraging students to jump in

Lately, I've been spending energy encouraging our graduate students to submit their work to academic conferences. Simply saying, "It's good for you and your career" is not a persuasive sell when students have so many other responsibilities vying for their attention and travel can be a financial strain.

Here is a list of reasons attending a conference as a graduate student (or undergraduate!!!) is a good idea. Please feel free to add:
  1. Scope - You will see your academic field as a larger entity. We get used to our bubbles on campus. Your department is your world right now, but go to a conference and you will see how small that viewpoint can be.
  2. Standings - Many times, I have very humble students who don't think they qualify or can compete on a larger stage. I am always so proud when they try, and realize, yes, I am as good (or better) than that student from a Research I institution. I've had undergraduate students rock presentations where they were the only undergrads at the conference. I've had master's students presenting at conferences surprised to meet doctoral students from top universities who reported being too nervous to attempt a presentation. 
  3. Energy and Excitement - You will be surrounded by people passionate about your field. It's hard not to let that enthusiasm motivate you to something bigger. One student was so excited by all of the research he heard, that he exclaimed, "Dr. Maben, research is fun!" I wish he had come to that observation during my class...but it *is* fun to see what others are researching. Sometimes, the reboot is exactly what you needed during the semester.
  4. Real People - I laugh when students tell me that Dr. So-in-so is actually a funny person when you go to conferences with her/him. I myself still fan-girl a bit when I see a researcher I have quoted in publications. Researchers and professors are REAL people. You can meet that citation you've been writing over and over, or get to know your own institution's professors better.
  5. Extra Mileage  - You've gone to a LOT of work to write that paper or conduct that research. Get the most mileage out of it by presenting at a conference and then use the feedback to fine-tune the project for possible publication. In my master's program, I didn't think my work was good enough to present. Dirty secret: Yes, much of your work is presentable. Work with your professors to take a project from class-ready to conference-ready. This is another great way to get individualized help from your professors. Just think, down the road, you might be conducting research together as peers.
  6. Ambassadors - By presenting at conferences, you are showing off your program and school. This is a commodity in the academic world. 
So, now you're interested in going. Let your professors know. They can help identify student-friendly conferences and how to submit a quality product. Your university will likely have money to help send you to conference (see no. 6). I have yet to hear students say that going to a conference was a mistake.

What selling point has worked best in your efforts to encourage (or cajole) students to attend conferences?

Monday, April 23, 2018

Mini-conference: Easy class transformation

Transforming your classroom into a mini-conference takes a bit of planning, but it's well worth the effort. For my graduate ethics course, I have been slowly adding more conference-like attributes each semester. You could do this for almost any level of course, with any student presentations. Students can get an introduction to conferences in a low stakes environment.

Our conference was Ethics beyond Utilitarianism: 2018 Case Study Conference, where panels of four students presented their cases in 5-8 minutes, with about 15 minutes left for Q&A.

Transforming Class into a Conference Experience
Explain conference-style - Students may have no point of reference for "conference-style" so you will need to educate them about expectations for your field. Beforehand, I shared videos (through our learning management system) from our national conference to help set the stage. This is where you can share valuable tips like using your phone's timer to monitor your own time while presenting, checking the room's technology before your session, and having your presentation loaded on the presentation computer before the panel begins.

Room organization - If you're lucky enough to be in a room where furniture moves, organize your tables for a panel presentation in the front with audience-style seating for attendees.

Program - Ask students for the names/topics of their papers or presentations ahead of time. Work those into a program with three or four students on a panel. Print hard copies of the programs to hand out as students enter the conference.

Roles - Seek volunteers for moderators and discussants — or assign these conference duties to students interested in attending other conferences. Add their names/roles to the program. Remember to give students a short primer about these roles and expectations. Explain the role of the audience to ask questions, and when and how to do that.

Publicity -  Advertise your mini-conference to your department head, colleagues and other classes meeting at the same time. Outside attendees can make it feel more like a conference, and students can share their findings with a larger audience.

Debrief - Be sure to explain the conference experience after each panel finishes. You are essentially using your class as a conference simulation. We talked about how to facilitate networking following your presentation, adding your social handles to your presentation or nametag, how to handle wonky questions from the audience, and the awkwardness of being in front of the crowd while the other panelists present.

Individual feedback - After the conference, I emailed individual feedback to each panelist.

In the future, I want to incorporate live video feeds and answering questions from virtual attendees. My hope is that more students will consider submitting their work to a conference because they have had a small taste of the experience.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

What to do when the magic isn't there

Have you ever had a class that just wasn't clicking? I started this post in a different semester and waited to hit publish. For some reason, something was amiss. Instead of writing it off, I decided there is always time for a turnaround.

Before the semester spirals away, here are suggestions:
  1. Don't panic. All is not lost. So many factors are at play in our courses. Not every course in every semester will be magical.
  2. Talk to a colleague, preferably a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL) fan. Your campus center for instructional innovation or teaching excellence likely has resources or mentors you could tap for inspiration. We mistakenly think of teaching as a solo mission. Others have been there and done that. Reach out and ask.
  3. Survey your students. Surprise! Your students may be feeling the disconnect, too. I use a three question anonymous online survey. Q1: What do you like about our class. Q2: What would you change? Q3: What else would you like to add? My students have thanked me for even thinking to ask them.
  4. Make notes so you don't end up in the same situation again. A colleague marks up the syllabus with ideas for the next semester. I love this idea! Do yourself a favor and keep a record. You'll thank yourself as you plan for future semesters.
  5. Take a look at yourself. Brace yourself for might not just be the students. It could be something going on with you. Or maybe your class radar is a bit off. Are you getting burned out on that particular course? Is it time to infuse new techniques or learn something yourself? Professional development opportunities abound.
  6. Make changes. I don't think it's ever too late in the semester for interventions.
How did my class turnout? After surveying my students, I found that my perceptions of the course tanking were not as dire as I thought. See No. 5. Student perceptions were that the course was rocking along, with only a few small changes mentioned. With that panic behind me (see No. 1), I worked to incorporate student suggestions from the survey into our course design.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Celebrate Teaching Week

This week is Celebrate Teaching Week on my campus, with guest speakers, a teaching conference and even a fun run. In addition to the external celebration, I think it's also a call for an internal review of our own teaching efforts and innovations. Here are just some musings on ways to reflect on your teaching this week:
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Your Teaching Goals
Use this free online survey to measure goals specific to teaching one class (Angelo & Cross, 1993). Check how essential you believe certain skills are, and how they prioritize with your teaching structures.

Your Dominant Teaching Style
Grasha-Reichmann have a survey for assigning your dominant and secondary teaching styles. A free online version will give you feedback on if you're more of a facilitator, delegator, expert, formal authority, or personal model.

Your Teaching Brand
Like a great company, you have a brand. These might be the words your students and colleagues use to describe you or the words you use to describe your teaching. Can you boil it down to a catchy tagline? Or try pasting student evaluations into a word cloud generator for a visual representation.

Your Teaching Philosophy
What do you believe is "teaching" and what is "learning"? Whose responsibility are these concepts? How do you share in this teaching and learning adventure with your students? You may have written a statement while on the academic job search, but when is the last time you looked at it? Give it a review and possibly an update. Or create one. Your Center for Instructional Innovation will likely have a repository of examples. This document has a variety of examples that begin on page 160.

Your Teaching Conversations
Open a dialog about teaching with a campus colleague, maybe even one from a different department or college. Ask about interesting classroom techniques and projects. Our colleagues have so much to share as far as ideas you will want to replicate in your own course. These conversations could be the start of creative collaborations between two classes.

How do you celebrate teaching? What strategies do you use for reflecting on your teaching?