Faculty Matter Teaching Tip #24: Before You Wrap Up for the Semester, Leave a Trail of bBreadcrumbs

With exams nearly done and summer beckoning, this is a time when faculty can feel particularly pressed for time and ready to move on from the tasks of the academic year. In the spirit of the “A stitch in time saves nine” adage, we offer this last Faculty Matter Teaching Tip for the semester.

Before you wrap up for the semester, leave a trail of breadcrumbs to help you reconstruct how you’d like to modify your courses before you teach them next.

Many of us tend to shove all of our teaching materials aside as soon as we are done submitting students’ grades. The essence of this final Faculty Matter Tip for the semester is that it might be productive to take some time to review the courses we have just wrapped up, and make some notes before moving on to other commitments and activities. Next time you teach the class, what might you want to add, what might you want to delete, what might you want to tweak a little bit, what might you want to change significantly, and what might you want to leave exactly as is because it went really, really well?

As you review your course materials, consider the following:

  • Were there topics that didn’t grab students’ attention as much as you had hoped or expected?
  • Were there concepts that students struggled with more that you had envisioned they might?
  • Were there activities or techniques that required more of your time than warranted, given the student gains you can attribute to them?
  • Did you come across resources that you didn’t have time to draw upon this semester?Have you gotten ideas about things to try next time you teach the class?
  • Were there topics or activities or teaching techniques that really engaged your students or helped them master the material?

We encourage you to make some notes while these observations are still fresh in your mind.  Without this “trail of breadcrumbs” to jog your memory, as you sit down weeks or months from now to “refresh” the course, you may find it frustrating to try to reconstruct what changes you had thought might be fruitful. We also invite you to participate in any of the upcoming CFD or eCampus sessions or workshops, or to sit down one-on-one with CFD or eCampus staff, to flesh out your ideas about the changes you would like to make to your courses.

You can view the entire Faculty Matter Teaching Tip series on the Center for Faculty Development web-site. Please add your own strategies using the comment link below.

Faculty Matter Teaching Tip #23: Summer Send-off for Students

In earlier tips, we provided suggestions for messages you might send to students before the formal start of the semester.  This tip will serve as something of the “other bookend” – suggesting things you might do to sustain students’ engagement with the course beyond its official end. In this way, you may provide opportunities for students:

  • to deepen their knowledge or appreciation of themes and issues you touched on during the course
  • to remain excited about and engaged in their academic pursuits
  • to find connections between the material you covered during the course and their “summer world” beyond SJSU
  • to share their interest in these topics with the people they spend time with outside of school
  • to be(come) life-long-learners.

“Books for the beach.” Bring to your students’ attention to a selection of books, periodicals, blogs, podcasts and the like that they could take up over the summer, wherever they are and whatever they are doing (at the beach or otherwise).

  • You might begin with sources you used as you constructed your course, as these will give students the chance to delve deeper into issues you covered in class.
  • Alternatively, you might suggest materials that will provide food for thought and help prepare them for other courses in your department that they are likely to take next year.
  • Or you might suggest materials you have found worthwhile for any of a number of reasons not necessarily connected to your course or your department’s offerings.

You could certainly add layers to this, by creating online discussion boards or others ways to check in throughout the summer.  Or you could just keep it simple, and provide the list of items you recommend and let your students take it from there.

You can view the entire Faculty Matter Teaching Tip series on the Center for Faculty Development website. Please add your own strategies using the comment link below.

 

May 2017 Newsletter: ITS Creates Altamont Center to Engage Student Interns

15SJSU students intern with the campus’ Information Technology Services team to support student success.By Barry Zepel

Classroom-based learning provides the foundation for earning a degree; learning in a hands-on, real-life setting sharpens skills to prepare a student for a career.

That is just one part of the strategy behind the creation of the Altamont Center in Information Technology Services (ITS) at San Jose State University, where 16 students majoring in a variety of disciplines are completing internships that help them develop the marketable skills desired by corporations and other organizations in Silicon Valley. Interns work on projects involving data science, business intelligence, technical writing, software testing, software development and project management. Of the students, seven are undergraduates and nine are completing graduate degrees.

The students – who are in disciplines ranging from management information systems (MIS) to computer science to engineering to statistics – work closely with ITS staff on projects that move forward the goals of the department. The strategy is in line with SJSU’s Four Pillars of Student Success plan, with initiatives that support student engagement as a key pillar. Dana Nehoran, who serves as both a faculty member in the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business and a staff member in ITS, proposed the idea a year ago as a way to engage students through internships.

“The center employs students who are able to work on technical tasks related to their areas of study, while they also help achieve important goals and make a lasting impact on the campus community,” Nehoran explained. “Our student interns take part in essential projects that help SJSU provide more effective services for the entire student body.”

The students are mentored and supervised by full-time ITS staff members. The team Nehoran moves SJSU’s Four Pillars plan forward by identifying obstacles to student success, such as financial hardships, advising processes or inability to register for needed classes. The university can then focus resources on the areas that will have the most impact on improving graduation and retention rates. The interns are compiling and analyzing data, and ITS will distribute reports to help campus administrators make decisions about student success initiatives.

Together, the Altamont interns are providing San Jose State with predictive analytics. Nehoran describes it as “a discipline that attempts to make useful predictions about the future based on statistical analysis of historical data.”

“From the ITS point of view, we have this wealth of knowledge and capacity in these students,” said Bob Wrenn, SJSU’s interim chief information officer who oversees the department. “We have a lot of work to do here and we have a finite amount of resources to get it done. I can get students here who are highly trained and highly available; they’re on site and help complete the work we need done.”

The interns play an important role in the department, according to Wrenn.

“They are delivering real-life value working side-by-side with my permanent, full-time staff, who serve as their mentors and supervisors,” he noted.

Nehoran said the interns’ use of predictive analytics could have a positive impact for thousands of their fellow SJSU students, of whom 14 percent graduate in four years with the university focused on increasing that to 35 percent by 2025. The interns are analyzing historical information to find patterns that help identify students at risk of not completing a degree in a timely manner with the objective of enabling the appropriate campus services to provide proactive intervention.

While the interns realize that the “real-life experience” they’re getting will help them when seeking their first jobs after graduation, that isn’t all that is inspiring and exciting them.

“What we do here is going to add value to the campus community,” said Ryan Quigley, a second-year graduate student majoring in statistics. “We’re working under the umbrella of predictive analytics, which is using the data that the university has, to make predictions that are going to be beneficial to students’ lives.”

“Our main goal as Altamont Center interns is to make sure that the university’s resources are allocated efficiently. We don’t want (administrators) opening up class sections that are going to be empty, and we don’t want them closing sections that are going to be in high demand,” noted Quigley, who has already been offered a full-time position with a San Francisco-based financial institution as a result of his Altamont Center experience.

The internship program has had a profound impact on Nazia Khan, who like Quigley is a second-year master’s student and statistics major.

“I am totally a different person since I started (at the Altamont Center),” said Khan, who spent two years as a teacher in her native India after completing her undergraduate studies there. “I have more experience and confidence that I can survive in industry because of Dana Nehoran and the Altamont Center. I’m working on something that I am passionate and excited about because I am helping students to acquire their degrees and complete their education while helping to prevent them from dropping out because of emotional or financial reasons. We are able to help them by providing data to the professionals on campus responsible for directly helping those students.”

Additional information about the Altamont Center internships in the ITS Department is available by contacting Nehoran at dana.nehoran@sjsu.edu.

May 2017 Newsletter: Provost Update – Four Pillars Success is Measured through Student Stories

As we end another academic year, I am pleased to share the progress we have made on one of our top priorities – student success. This spring, Vice President for Student Affairs Reggie Blaylock and I updated SJSU’s Four Pillars of Student Success: College Readiness, Advising, Student Engagement and Clearing Bottlenecks, a plan informed by many campus stakeholders who helped us to identify initiatives that will move us toward improving graduation rates, retention, student experience, and preparing our graduates to pursue advanced degrees or to thrive in their careers.

Our 2016 graduation rates, reported in the fall, show that we are steadily moving toward our 2025 graduation goals. We improved our first-time freshmen graduation rate from 10 percent to 14 percent; our six-year graduation rates improved from 57 percent to 62 percent; and we decreased the achievement gap between our underrepresented minority students and their peers from 17 percent to 11 percent.

Other indicators show that we continue to make progress in shortening the time to degree for students. For spring 2017, 36 percent of our undergraduate students enrolled in 15 units or more, up from 25 percent in fall 2015. We have offered additional courses to clear bottlenecks and hired more advisors while increasing awareness that students need to complete 15 units each semester to stay on track to graduate on time. The Office of Student and Faculty Success launched their #FinishinFour and #TakeTwo campaigns during orientation sessions last summer and worked hard to inform students that to graduate in four years for first-time freshmen or two years for transfer students, they need to take 15 units a semester. These communication efforts doubled the number of first-time students taking 15 units. Our efforts are showing returns and undergraduate average unit load is already trending upward.

We still have much work ahead to meet the ambitious goals of eliminating our achievement gap entirely and graduating 35 percent of our first-time freshmen in four years by 2025. I have confidence that as we continue many of the initiatives launched this year, we will meet these goals (see monthly updates online).

In addition to supporting students once they enroll, we are also looking at ways to partner with K-12 and community colleges to prepare students for university coursework. Reggie and I co-hosted two student success summits with Assemblymembers Evan Low and Ash Kalra that brought together partners from community colleges, K-12 and nonprofits to discuss the ways we can work together to ensure students are prepared for college-level math and English when they arrive at CSU campuses. We have created working groups around three key areas in which SJSU faculty, staff and administrators will partner with local high schools: summer initiatives for high school students; teacher professional development; and college readiness presentations for school boards. I look forward to reporting more in the fall after we launch pilot programs in each area.

While we are measuring much of our progress in numbers, students’ personal stories are also marks of our success. I am pleased to share with you some of the ways our Four Pillars plan is supporting students – from ITS’s internship for students who are using predictive analytics to improve advising processes to the African-American Student Success Task Force’s alternative spring break and Chicanx/Latinx posole study breaks to the record number of students who were recognized for high achievement at this year’s Honors Convocation on April 28 – these student experiences are the reasons we remain dedicated to our plan.

Faculty Matter Teaching Tip #22: Helping Students Assume Responsibility

Classes are almost over for the semester, and you have done your part: You’ve introduced material to your students and sought ways to help them understand and find meaning in it. You’ve created opportunities for them to explore and learn. You’ve supported and encouraged them and provided constructive feedback along the way.  With final exams and project due-dates around the corner, it is time for OUR STUDENTS to step up to the plate, to consolidate what they need to pull together, and demonstrate what they are taking away from your class.

Many of us struggle with what our roles should be during this final period of the semester. Should we be “on call” 24/7, available to answer students’ questions? Should we read last-minute drafts of their work before they turn them in for grading? Should we meet with them to fill in missing class notes? Should we provide individualized attention as they come to us in a panic because they missed too many classes?  Although we should take care to be in step with the policies and practices and of our own departments, for the most part, this is an individual decision.  Here, in the spirit of the idea of TEACHING students to fish rather than GIVING them a fish, are a few suggestions you might find helpful:

  • Make sure that instructions – including details about assignment expectations and due dates and procedures for turning things in – are clear, and posted somewhere students know to look for important course information.
  • Make sure students know the details about your availability for consultation:  where, when, what kind of assistance you are able to offer, turn-around times, and the like.
  • Remind students to prepare for the end-of-semester crunch, including confirming the dates and times of their exams, creating a sensible calendar and timeline for the next two weeks, stocking up on necessary supplies (paper, printer ink, etc..), and anticipating any special arrangements they need to make at work or at home.
  • Urge THEM to be as resourceful and self-sufficient as possible.  Some faculty have rules such as “3 then me – ask three people, or check three sources, and if you still can’t figure out the answer, I’ll be happy to help.”

Then step back, and let them take responsibility…

You can view the entire Faculty Matter Teaching Tip series on the Center for Faculty Development website. Please add your own strategies using the comment link below.