Friday, October 21, 2011

"Proud of" redux

I learned that our Alum that received a very impressive award did his/her award winning work before enrolling here. Pride goeth before the fall.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Can't compartmentalize from Facebook

Writing a recc letter for professional school for a student who did OK in my classes. He/she made Facebook friends with me and constantly posts about how glad he/she is to be out of classes, is tired of school, is doing something fun instead of studying. After several years of frequent posts on this theme, I'm afraid that I'm having trouble thinking of him/her without the impression left by Facebook and writing a letter based solely on his/her performance in my class. I'm very close to writing the "is not reaching full potential" sentence, but can't distinguish whether I have that impression from Facebook posts or from his/her above average but not stellar grades. Your thoughts?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Meet 'em where they are at this year?

I was hired to be a rigorous teacher. My predecessor was not granted tenure because of lack of rigor in his/her courses. Since the students I teach eventually take standardized exams (professional licensure, MCATs, you name it), I expect a lot and support a lot.

In a large (for us) course I teach every single year, I almost always get a 74-78 average on the exams, exactly what I'm shooting for. This year, with nearly the exact same material and very, very similar exams, my first two exam averages have been nearly 10 points lower.

Other colleagues have complained about the quality of the incoming students this year. When I interact with them, my impression is that they are just like previous classes. But they are bombing my exams!

The first exam came back very low, and I re-examined the test thinking perhaps there were some "stinker" questions on it. I will even admit that I wrote the second exam easier than usual just to encourage them. And they bombed that one too. For example, the second test had 15 fewer questions. The questions were all multiple choice. I even had one question of 4 possibilities in which two were obvious throw-aways, and yet nearly 1/3 of the class missed this 50-50 shot for material that I thought was very clear in lecture.

Either my ability to be sensitive as to what they are "getting" or not is suddenly wrecked or this class is a really bad one. Do I make the course easier and easier until they start passing? Maybe just for this year so I don't flunk half my class (and receive the kind of evaluations that go with that)? Or do hold my standards, according to my mandate and let the chips fall where they may?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Um, could you make that a decaf?

From an e- mail this morning;

Got stress? Join us for free coffee, cookies and min-cinnamon rolls on certain time, certain place to meet the peer mentors from certain office and learn about coping with anxiety and stress!!

Something to be proud of

One of our alums just won a very, very big award for work that our institution trained this person for.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My Tenure Application is in!

I turned in my tenure dossier. It had the following components;

  • A cover letter- mine was relatively brief, with a table of contents-like format.
  • A section on novel material for this review
    • a self-evaluation from in which I had to place myself  on a scale from complete dodo to ubermench and justify why. I put myself at the second-to-highest ratings for all three areas, teaching, service and research. This form was long and included things like:

      I receive comments on my evaluations such as

      ·         “Thank you, Prof! You set the bar high and then do everything you can to make sure we reach it”
      ·         “Prof is probably the single most competent professor I have encountered at U. She really knows her stuff!”
      ·         “Great simulations and demonstrations to go along with challenging concepts”
      ·         “all of the different teaching methods used to help us understand the material-good!”
      ·         “I think Prof is an extremely challenging professor, but she is also the most willing to help you. I greatly appreciate that because it helps and makes her a great professor.”
      ·         “connecting what we were learning with real life examples”
      ·         “that Prof did not just allow us to memorize definitions but she actually made us learn the material. I personally struggled in the class not because Prof was a bad teacher but because she was an excellent teacher that challenges her students”
      ·         “I learned a lot from her style of teaching, esp w/ her sense of humor”
      ·         “demonstrative  activities that allowed us to go a little deeper than the PowerPoints in class”
      ·         “This text was the first textbook I’ve read cover to cover. Your scientific knowledge combined with the text and subject matter make this class very interesting and thought provoking”

      Comments such as these are evidence that I am reaching my goals to create a learning environment which is simultaneously challenging and supportive.  I use many demonstrations and analogies relevant to students’ lives to explain complex concepts, and the students seem to appreciate it.

      I also included my "how I integrate faith in the classroom" paper here. It was 5 pages long with 7 citations including heavy reference from David I Smith (Calvin College) and Nancey Murphy (Fuller Theological Seminary) 
      The theme was embodiment. 

      More soon.