Thursday, May 11, 2017

Teaching Support Structures at UC Davis

Contributed By: Gabriel LaHue

We took a slight detour from our quarter theme this week, and rather than looking at what teaching opportunities exist outside of UC Davis, we focused on structures to support teaching here on campus and the Center for Educational Effectiveness (CEE) in particular. Education Specialist Dr. Patricia Turner gave us an overview of CEE and the Associate Director of the CEE, Dr. Kem Saichaie, followed up by speaking in greater detail about specific CEE initiatives and where the CEE is headed. Broadly speaking, CEE covers three main areas: Learning and Teaching Support, Educational Analytics, and Instructional Research and Development. This latter area conducts research to improve teaching and learning, and the focus of educational analytics is on-campus data analysis to support instructional effectiveness. The first focal area of the CEE, Learning and Teaching Support, is the specialty of both Patricia and Kem and that is what we spent the most time discussing.

The Learning and Teaching Support focal area includes twelve programs designed to improve learning and teaching in UC Davis classrooms. Our very own Graduate Teaching Community, the Teaching Assistant Consultant Program, the Seminar on College Teaching, and TA Orientation are geared toward helping TAs and graduate students in general become more effective teachers, with varying levels of commitment required on the part of the graduate students. Faculty workshops, faculty consultations, Mid-quarter Inquiries (MQIs), classroom observations, and faculty learning communities are focused on aiding faculty in their quest to become better teachers. Lastly, the CEE also helps with online course development, sponsors grant programs, and conducts workshops for departments.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Teaching and Mentoring in Industry

Contributed by: Marc Pollack

As teachers, the skills we gain are invaluable for the classroom, but they can often seem tethered to it. Much as many of us enjoy teaching, finding a position for yourself as a professor and staying on long term is becoming less and less common. In an environment where new teacher attrition rates are steadily increasing, university professors are facing the harsh realities of a workplace that is demanding much of them without the requisite support. As we scope out other positions to turn to, teachers need to understand how their skills translate to professions outside of academia, and see the value in the wide variety of valuable, transferable skills they’ve gained through their efforts.

Positions ranging from marketing and sales to being a NASCAR pit crew member, despite being tremendously different, depend on a rather similar set of skills. Being rapidly adaptable, thinking on your feet, and managing a team are all traits that can apply to several jobs, and they’re all skills we learn as teachers. We develop our communication and interpersonal skills, learn to effectively plan and strategize for maximum learning potential, identify and address complex problems, and know how to monitor progress, all skills that are always in high demand in any number of industries. We have the means to move to places other than academia and thrive, and though many of us might choose to stay, we should always know that our experiences here are restricting our career options.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Alt-Academia and Beyond

Contributed by: Marisella Rodriguez

One of the most difficult challenges in graduate school – and there are many – is acknowledging the reality of our career opportunities: tenure-track faculty jobs are not only extremely competitive, but largely unavailable. Data from the University of California 2015 Accountability Report show a limited increase in hiring junior faculty tenure-track positions after suffering a fiscal shock in 2010. Graduate students are now facing a job market that is only beginning to recover from a nearly systematic hiring freeze. Where can graduate students turn to when we are trained for professorships that simply do not exist? I am writing to tell those graduate students (myself included) not to panic; there is an entire world of academic positions that involve many of the same skills we have already developed and nurtured. These positions encompass the “alt-ac” community.

Alternative academia describes full-time non-teaching and non-research positions within higher education (Bethman and Longstreet 2013). Although it is important to note that many of these positions include teaching and research components. For example, university staff and administrative positions are alt-ac, but so are off-campus positions like museum curators, professional writers, and consultants. For those that prioritize scholarly teaching and research, the educational development field is perhaps best suited for you. Educational development is a growing field that works to enhance teaching and learning communities (Felten, Kalish, Pingree, & Plank 2007). Such positions include faculty/graduate student development, instructional development, and organizational development ("What is Educational Development?"). Likely in response to the draining pool of tenured faculty positions, educational development positions have increased 160% over the past 15 years (Bartholomew 2016).

Graduate student persistence to the tenured-faculty image is motivated at two levels. First, most departments neglect to acknowledge the accomplishments of alumni who leave academia or enter into non-faculty positions. Kelly (2016) encourages departments to seek out and provide placement information on alumni in alt-ac positions in order to de-stigmatize and inform continuing graduate students of alternative career pathways. Second, graduate students worry that we are poorly trained for employment outside of the classroom or research lab. However, Rogers (2013) provides evidence to suggest that the skills we have gained in graduate school are in fact highly transferable to alt academia. Rogers (2013) surveyed employees and employers in alt-ac fields, finding that the “most important competencies” in alt-ac positions, such as writing, communication, and analytical skills, are commonly acquired in graduate school programs, regardless of discipline.

If you are interested in learning more or applying to alt-academic positions, head on over to the UC Davis Internship and Career Center website to find resources for career exploration and helpful steps to begin your job search. Additional resources can be found on the POD Network website, including information on how to register for the 2017 POD Network conference for New Faculty Developers. After you have successfully entered the alt-ac workforce, be sure to add your contact information to the growing alt-ac network administered by Katina Rogers.

Bartholomew, T. 2016. “Analysis of educational development position advertisements.” POD Network News.

Bethman, Brenda and C. Shaun Longstreet. May 22, 2013. “Defining Terms.” Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved April 24, 2017.

Felten, P., A. Kalish, A. Pingree, & K. M. Plank. 2007. “Toward a scholarship of teaching and learning in educational development.” In To Improve the Academy: Resources for Faculty, Instructional and Organizational Development, Vol. 25: pg. 93-108. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Kelly, Christine. July 7, 2016. “Stop Resisting Nonfaculty Careers.” Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved April 24, 2017.

Rogers, Katina. 2013. “Humanities Unbound: Supporting Careers and Scholarship Beyond the Tenure Track.” Retrieved April 24, 2017.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Teaching Beyond Graduate School: Community Colleges

Contributed by: Easton White

This quarter’s theme is “Teaching Beyond Grad School”. Our plan is to compare and contrast different jobs that involve teaching. Our first session focused on teaching in community colleges. We discussed the role of community colleges in the US, typical student demography, why a community college may be an attractive place to work, how to get a community college job, and what a typical day might entail for a faculty member at a community college.

First, a bit of background on community colleges in the US. There are around 1,200 community colleges today. There are regional differences with different names including: comprehensive community colleges, technical colleges, two-year branch colleges, and state colleges. Each of these may entail more or less emphasis on academic versus technical programs. Comprehensive community colleges are by far the most common. They offer both two year degrees, often emphasizing transfer to a university, and technical or professional programs.

Perhaps surprisingly, in Fall 2015 around 38% of all undergraduates in the US were attending community colleges [1]. Further, 46% of students who graduated from a four-year college had attended community college at some point [1]. Typically, community colleges allow open enrollment, meaning there are no admission requirements, although placement tests may be required. This factor, combined with the lower cost of community colleges, leads to a different student body than might be found at a four-year university.

For example, the cost (just tuition) of attending Woodland Community College is around $1,100 per year. The cost of attending the University of California, Davis is approximately $14,000 per year.

Students at community colleges tend to be non-traditional students compared to typical students at four-year institutions. Community college students are often older (28 on average compared to 24), more likely to be a first generation student, be from a minority group, attend part-time, and tend to work part-time or full-time jobs outside of school.

So, is a community college job a good choice for your career? Here are some important attributes of a community college professor.

1) You love teaching

Typically, community college professors are required to teach a 5/5 schedule, that is 5 classes in the fall and 5 in the spring. This can vary between institutions and 4/4, 5/4, or 3/3 schedules are also possible. Five courses implies 15 hours of time teaching in the classroom. Therefore, it may not be exactly five courses depending on the number of units per course. In addition to teaching a heavy load, there are typically no graders. However, class sizes are also usually limited to 20-50 students depending on the subject.

2) You like working with under-prepared students

There are many bright students at community college. Many bright enough to realize they could save money and attend an institution focused on teaching that provides small class sizes. However, the range (or variance) of students that attend community colleges can be larger than other institutions. This can create teaching challenges, and opportunities, with students that have such varied backgrounds.

3) You are fine with not conducting research

A professor at a community college is expected to teach, perform administrative duties, and attend professional development activities. Expectations of research do not exist. This does not mean research is not possible. In fact, it is possible to have a research career at a community college, but it will probably be on your own time. Your college will likely applaud you for the work, but will not be able to provide additional incentives. A research program with a team of undergraduates is also possible. This type of program involves a lot of guidance and mentoring, but it can be a great way to engage undergraduates. Further, this type of training can help prepare undergraduates for opportunities if they transfer to a four-year school.

If you agree with the above statements, a community college career might be appropriate for you. The next question is how do you land a job? The minimum qualifications are typically a master’s degree and 18 graduate-level credits in the field you wish to teach. However, a PhD is often common. Most importantly, you need teaching experience, a lot of teaching experience. It is especially important to move beyond only a teaching assistant role. Experience as an instructor on record or teaching a course as an adjunct can be particularly advantageous. Training in pedagogy, either formal classwork or informal workshops, can also be helpful.

Working at a community college certainly presents challenges. However, a community college job can be an extremely rewarding experience. Students really want to be there and are eager to learn. Here are a number of articles and blog posts on this topic:


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Our theme this spring is "Teaching Beyond Graduate School", designed to explore what a career in teaching can look like and how to incorporate teaching in non-academic careers. We hope you can join us!

Spring 2017 Calendar

· April 13 (in room 1353) – Introductions and planning

· April 20 (in room 1353) – Community Colleges

· April 27 (in room 1360) – Education Support and Administrative Positions

· May 4 (in room 1353) – Teaching and Mentorship in Industry

· May 11 (in room 1353) – Teaching Support Structures at UC Davis

· May 18 (in room 1360) – Adjunct Faculty and Labor Issues

· May 25 (in room 1353) – Teaching-focused (R2) Universities

· June 1 (in room 1353) – Research-focused (R1) Universities

· June 8 (in room 1353) – End-of-Quarter Luncheon

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Case study: A flipped classroom

Contributed by: Gabriel LaHue

We've been learning about a variety of ideas and techniques that we can use in the classroom, but actually putting them into practice is always a bit tricky. The Center for Educational Effectiveness helps guide professors and classes through this process and today we used a soil science class as a case study. Jess Chiartas, the class TA, sat down with us to discuss successes and challenges associated with their efforts to “flip the classroom”.

Flipping the classroom is the idea that homework-type activities and discussion are better uses for class time than lectures. Lectures are posted online and can be watched at any time. In this case, students were expected to watch the lectures at home, but did not have any required reading. Class time was reserved for “exam-lets” on Mondays, team-based activities on Wednesdays, and participation questions and discussion on Fridays.

One of the major successes of the course was that students seemed to develop a more connected conceptual understanding rather than just memorizing individual facts. In general it was observed that students seemed to enjoy the course structure (with the exception of some more traditional students), and they felt that the professor and the TA cared quite deeply about their learning. Another success was that students seemed to feel that class time was being used effectively, something that has challenged other flipped classrooms.

One challenge turned success was consistency and setting course expectations. The first year they tried flipping the classroom, they were unable to completely flip it since recording the video lectures takes a large amount of time. In addition, course expectations were fluid and a bit unclear throughout the quarter. The second year of the course however, they had all the lectures pre-recorded and had clearer expectations from the start, making things run much more smoothly.

Two other challenges have been developing assessments that actually measure what they want students to learn, a work in progress, and keeping attendance up on non-quiz days. It was also mentioned that updating lectures is hard since recording the videos takes so much time, to which it was suggested that instead of having one hour-long video it could be broken up into several shorter videos that would be easier to record. Despite some initial challenges, the course has had many successes and it's making improvements with each passing year. Hopefully these lessons can aid other efforts to flip the classroom or try new techniques. Thanks to Jess for bringing this case study to our meeting!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Crafting a Statement of Teaching Philosophy

Contributed by: Marisella Rodriguez and Stacy Wittstock

Writing a statement of teaching philosophy is a difficult, yet manageable, task. The difficulty largely lies in one question; do I even have a teaching philosophy? Even if the answer is a resounding yes, how do I communicate my entire philosophy in less than two pages? Despite these barriers, Montell (2003) offers several tips to completing this (oftentimes) necessary component of a job packet. In this week’s GTC meeting, we discussed three main points from Montell (2003) and outlined a statement of teaching philosophy as a group.

The first tip Montell (2003) provides readers with is how to get started. Montell suggests avoiding the big “what” question (what is my philosophy?!) and starting with smaller, more feasible questions, such as, what do you believe about teaching and learning? For further reflection, consider your experience as a student: what worked or did not work for your learning? Working with the components of your teaching philosophy will help you effectively communicate your experiences in the classroom.

The second tip we discussed in last week’s meeting is to research the institution beforehand. Montell (2003) encourages applicants to research the institution’s mission statement and community values in order to highlight specific teaching skills that are particularly valuable to your audience. For example, an applicant may want to highlight lesson plans or activities implementing universal design for learning if the institution prioritizes classroom inclusivity. Therefore “if you’re applying to various types of institutions – evangelical colleges, community colleges, liberal-arts colleges, and state universities – you may need to write several different statements” (Montell 2003, 3).

The last tip we discussed, offered by Cynthia Petrites at the University of Chicago, is to “present a picture of yourself in the classroom” (Montell 2003, 6). This piece of advice, we concluded at the meeting, is perhaps the most difficult to achieve because it demands specific examples of our experience in the classroom. Moreover, the experience must include a clear description of our behavior as well as the students’ behavior. Montell (2003) repeatedly reminds the reader that teaching is about the students; therefore our statements must also include descriptions regarding student development and student responses to our work in the classroom.

To encourage the GTC group to think about our own statements, we completed a statement of teaching philosophy worksheet as a group (see image below). The worksheet disaggregates the statement to five elements: overarching theme, classroom objectives, classroom activities, examples of assessments, and personal growth. The activity helped us reflect on how we implement our classroom values, as well as consider specific instances in our teaching careers of when we were successful (or unsuccessful) in meeting our classroom objectives.


Montell, Gabriela. 2003. “How to Write a Statement of Teaching Philosophy.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. 1-8.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The What, Why, and How of Academic Dishonesty

Contributed by: Johnny Campbell and Lisa Kresge

According to the Washington post, more than 75% of college students cheat in some way during their undergraduate careers. While this number may be surprising, there are important questions to ask regarding academic dishonesty, such as what exactly is it, why does it matter, and if anything, what should be done about it?

First, the general types of academic dishonesty include:
  • cheating on coursework, quizzes, or exams
  • fabrication and falsification,
  • coursework resubmission,
  • misuse of academic materials (sabotaging other students)
  • and complicity with others’ dishonesty.

Studies show that the causes and prevalence of academic dishonesty are vast. Several reasons for increased academic dishonesty are purported. To begin, the internet is known be linked to be widely linked to academic dishonesty. Some of the common online resource students use for cheating are:
  • Social networking and content sharing
  • Homework and academic support sites
  • News and other traditional media online
  • Paper mill and cheat sites
  • Online encyclopedias – i.e. Wikipedia

Although the internet is commonly used for cheating, many students do not actually know they are doing so.  In this regard, it is common that students do not have an awareness of what does constitute academic dishonesty. In addition to a lack of understanding, there are numerous student rationalizations, such as the fact that cheating is common and thus necessary to compete with other students. In addition, a sort of laissez-faire approach of professors, who do not consider it a problem or address it.

It is important to look at why students cheat. When asked why students cheat, some common responses include:
  • “The professor is too demanding and unreasonable; therefore, it is okay for me to make things easier on myself.
  • I have too many competing demands on myself, so I have to cut some corners in order to survive.
  • Everyone else is doing it, and I cannot let someone else gain advantage over me by having stricter standards of honesty.
  • No one would ever know, so what does it matter?”

If academic dishonesty is considered a problem, there are a number techniques that instructors and institutions may use, such as:
  • Deterrence - i.e. proctoring
  • Honor codes
  • Cheating detection – i.e.
  • Increasing clarity in what constitutes dishonesty.
  • “to convey reasons to students why they should not cheat…greater dialogue on campuses (including workshops) may reduce the level of cheating somewhat, and make honest performance not just a matter of avoiding deterrence but also of internalized values” (Reifman, 2012).

An important question discuss is ‘why does academic integrity matter?’ According to the UC Regents, academic integrity matters because:
  • “The esteem of others”
  • “Self-confidence”
  • “Better skills”
  • “A more accurate sense of where your strengths and deficiencies lie”
  • “A Diploma that has value in the marketplace”
  • “But what is most important is the self-respect that comes from knowing you’re doing your part to create the kind of world that you want to live in: a world where people are honest and the playing field is fair”

An important consideration in this discussion is what instructors can do to prevent academic dishonesty by supporting students, rather instilling fear of consequences of cheating. The follow are a few examples of how students can supported and thus hopefully not need to resort to dishonesty.
  • Make expectations clear for students so they are not overwhelmed or surprised by coursework.
  • Be available, accommodating and encouraging with regard to office hours
  • Inform students of where to find academic support such as study skills workshops and tutors
  • Make sure students know about the disability resources department on campus