Thursday, November 30, 2017

Student Motivation

Contributed by: Marc Pollack

When we consider the factors that affect a student’s motivation to participate and excel in a course, basic motivators are usually the first to come to mind. These usually focus on extrinsic methods like grading, as well as intrinsic factors like student interest, though the number of ways to engage students goes well beyond that. The value of both extrinsic and intrinsic factors seems intimately linked, particularly as they relate to building on a student’s stimulation and personal control within the classroom, both of which are necessary to draw in students that aren’t immediately interested with the material. Appealing to students with a given lesson can take a variety of forms, including showcasing novelty, utility, applicability, anticipation, and challenge. Motivating factors for engaging students both inside and outside the classroom generally require more effort on the part of the teaching staff, though the clarity and support provided by this effort makes a significant difference in student engagement. There will always be challenges to motivating students in the classroom, especially among students who care little about their grades, but a bit of extra effort to make teachers appear more approachable and challenge failure mentalities builds tremendously on a good lesson plan.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Supporting Multilingual and International Students

Contributed by: Stacy Wittstock, PhD Student, School of Education

UC Davis is a linguistically diverse campus, with much of its student population being bi or multilingual.
  • According to UC Davis Admissions, of the undergraduate students admitted in 2016-2017, about 41% spoke only English at home, 27% spoke English and another language, and 33% spoke only another language at home.
  • Additionally, in the 2016-2017 academic year, about 14% of the total enrollment at UC Davis were international students (Budget and Institutional Analysis, 2017), with the university accepting over 60% of its international applicants for 2017-2018 (UC Institutional Research and Academic Planning, 2017).
While supporting multilingual and international students has always been an important part of teaching at UC Davis, the University’s increase in recruitment abroad has increased the urgency for developing classroom teaching strategies and campus-wide support structures for multilingual students.

Quick Note on Terms
Largely due to differences in theoretical approaches and critical perspectives between the various fields that work with and/or study multilingual students, there are a lot of different terms used in the literature for these students.
  • ESL—English as a Second Language Student
  • EFL—English as a Foreign Language Student (when taught outside the US)
  • ELL—English Language Learner
  • Non-Native Speakers
  • Bilingual and/or multilingual
  • Emergent bilinguals/multilinguals

Who are Multilingual College Students?
Multilingual students come from a variety of backgrounds in terms of language, culture, immigration or visa status, and time spent in the US. These differences in background often translate to vast differences in their English language abilities.
  • International Students:
    • Most are bi or multilingual, with some having taken English classes throughout their schooling, while others attended international high schools where English was the primary language.
  • Refugee students (or those with similar backgrounds):
    • May have fled political violence, social upheaval, economic deprivation, or other similar situations.
    • May have limited or interrupted literacy development in both their home languages and English (Menken, 2013).
  • Generation 1.5:
    • Long-term permanent residents and the children of immigrants who arrived when they were young children.
    • These students primarily grew up learning English in the US school system (Menken, 2013).

Challenges Multilingual Students May Face
  • May be proficient in some modalities of English, but not others
  • May experience a high amount of cognitive load
  • May overestimate their level of preparation, both academically and linguistically
  • May have difficulties completing or understanding course readings
  • May feel uncomfortable participating in class discussions or activities
  • May submit writing with consistent grammar or syntax errors, or lack knowledge of US writing conventions
  • May experience cultural, racial, religious, and/or linguistic discrimination
  • May also be first-generation, transfer, low-income, underrepresented minority, academically underprepared, or other intersectional identities and experiences

Other Challenges Facing International Students Specifically
  • May experience culture shock, or have difficulties with cultural adjustment
  • May have difficulties understanding culture-specific references
  • May experience social isolation and/or a lack of meaningful relationships with their peers
  • May experience homesickness, depression, or other issues related to mental health

Broad Teaching Suggestions
These are strategies that work for all students, not just multilingual and/or international students. Also, check out CEE’s Just-in-Time-Teaching resources on Multilingual and International Students for more specific teaching strategies.
  • Take some time to understand your students’ backgrounds, and the knowledge, experiences, and skills they bring to your classroom
  • Provide regular opportunities for students to interact with their peers and with you
  • Provide frequent, timely feedback on writing and other work in class
  • Be strategic in your feedback, and focus on what relates most closely to your course objectives
  • Build in opportunities for student self-reflection and formative assessment
  • Provide numerous opportunities for students to ask questions
  • Intervene when you notice a student is struggling

Additional Resources and Services on Campus

Center for Teaching Excellence [CTE]. (n.d.). Strategies for Teaching International Students. Retrieved from students/

Freedman, L. (n.d.). Teaching multilingual students. Retrieved from

Gareis, E. (2012). Intercultural friendship: Effects of home and host region. Journal of International and Intercultural Communication, 5(4), 309-328.

Glass, C. R. (2012). Educational experiences associated with international students’ learning, development, and positive perceptions of campus climate. Journal of Studies in International Education, 16(3), 228-251.

Menken, K. (2013). Emergent bilingual students in secondary school: Along the academic language and literacy continuum. Language Teaching, 46(4), 438-476.

Shi, X. (2011). Negotiating Power and Access to Second Language Resources: A Study on Short-Term Chinese MBA Students in America. The Modern Language Journal, 95(4), 575-588.

Purdue Libraries. (n.d.). Global Learning Guide: Best Practices & Teaching Tips. Retrieved from

Sato, E. (2015). Six Insights for Teaching Multilingual Learners [Research]. Retrieved from

Sweller, J. (2017). Cognitive load theory and teaching English as a second language to adult learners. CONTACT Magazine: TESL Ontario, May 2017. 5-10. Retrieved from

UC Davis Budget & Institutional Analysis [BIA]. (2017). Data visualization. Retrieved from level-dashboard.html

UC Institutional Research and Academic Planning [UCIRAP]. (2017). UC student/workforce data. Retrieved from

Wu, H. P., Garza, E., & Guzman, N. (2015). International student’s challenge and adjustment to college. Education Research International, 2015, 1-9.

Yan, K. & Berliner, D. C. (2013). Chinese International Students' Personal and Sociocultural Stressors in the United States. Journal of College Student Development, 54(1), 62-84.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Transfer Students

Contributed by: Gabe LaHue

            In keeping with our theme of “Equitable Access to Education: Supporting Students from Diverse Backgrounds”, this week we chose to focus on transfer students, and students that transferred from community colleges in particular. UC Davis admitted 39,306 students in 2016, of which 9,587 were transfer students from California community colleges1. Transfer students from California community colleges therefore represented 92.8 percent of all transfer students and 24.4 percent of all new students. Given this sizeable presence (and the importance of teaching to benefit all types of students), it is essential that we understand the unique challenges that transfer students face and the strengths that set them apart.

In our discussion, we first focused on brainstorming why students might choose to attend community college in the first place. Our list included financial reasons, staying close to family, uncertainty about their career path, improving academic performance, the flexibility of class times (especially for students with careers), and the flexibility of enrollment. We also came up with some potential strengths of transfer students (previous college experience, greater time for maturation, a possibly greater sense of purpose and personal responsibility, and coursework at an institution that focuses on teaching) and some potential challenges (more working hours, a lack of familiarity with the campus and community, less support for academically-challenged students than they might be used to, credit-transfer problems, etc.).

After our initial brainstorms focusing on who transfer students are, we shifted to looking at how we can best serve transfer students by analyzing two research articles about community college transfer student persistence and degree attainment at 4-year institutions2,3. Although the studies differed in their rigor and some notable results (like the importance of gender, ethnicity, working hours, and participation in social clubs), there were several factors found to be important in both studies. The socioeconomic status of the students, their parents’ highest degree level, and the student’s degree goal were all deemed to be important. One of the studies found that whether a student’s high school curriculum was vocational or academic in nature affected degree attainment. The other study found that interaction with academic advisors was an important positive factor. Interestingly (and in line with current thinking at universities), remediation in math was found to be negatively correlated with persistence or degree attainment. At the end of the day, many of these factors are beyond our control as teaching assistants or instructors. However, I was struck by the importance of high ambition (as evidenced by the degree goal and to a lesser degree by the negative correlation with remediation). In addition to sound teaching techniques that benefit all students, we can encourage our students to set ambitious goals and help connect students to resources and organizations around the campus.

1.     Easley, J.A., 2016. “UC Davis admits more than 39,300.” UC Davis. Internet Resource. Available from:

2.     Wang, X. 2009. Baccalaureate attainment and college persistence of community college transfer students at four-year institutions. Research in Higher Education. 50:570-588.

3.     Lee, H., and Schneider, T. 2016. Does post-transfer involvement matter for persistence of community college transfer students? Community College Journal of Research and Practice. DOI: 10.1080/10668926.2016.1251351

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Supporting First-Generation College Students

Contributed By: Michelle Rossi

In the first of our meetings aimed at providing equitable access to education for all of our students, we explored promoting success for first-generation colleges students. Did you know that 42% of UC Davis undergraduate students identify as First-Gen (neither parent has earned a 4 year bachelor’s degree)? We all have First-Gen students in our classes, and research shows that instructional strategies designed to support these students really benefit ALL students.

Since this status is less visible than many ascribed statuses, we first discussed ways to recognize our first-generation students’ current, and perhaps unique, life experiences. Notably, there is much variation within this group as first-gen students are inclusive of all genders, all ethnicities, and all orientations. Often, these students have more challenges in terms of finances, meaning they may work many hours while enrolled or they may not understand how to navigate the financial aid system. They are, thus, often less connected to the university, while still needing to be culturally dexterous enough to switch between two worlds – one at the university and one at home.

In order to best support these students, we examined the following effective teaching strategies:
1. Explain your expectations
2. Apply principles of adult learning to your teaching
3. Make your assignments and exams more transparent and culturally inclusive
4. Promote social integration
5. Encourage students to seek help and feedback

These strategies are unpacked in a .pdf on the following website:

- Scholarly Articles
- Suggestions for Teaching First-Gen Students
- UC and National News
- Resources for First-Gen Students

In addition, the CEE website offers more in-depth resources:

Just In Time Teaching
- Supporting First Generation University Students (4 part series)

Monday, October 16, 2017

Welcome to the Fall 2017 Graduate Teaching Community!

This quarter we will focus on the theme of "Equitable Access to Education: Supporting Students from Diverse Backgrounds". Meetings will be in Surge III, Room 1352 from 11 am - 12 pm on Thursdays. Specific topics for each meeting date are listed below.

  • October 12th: Introduction and Logistics
  • October 19th: First-Generation Students
  • October 26th: Transfer Students
  • November 2nd: CEE Teaching Resources 
  • November 9th: Multilingual and International Students
  • November 16th: Active Learning Strategies for All Populations
  • November 23rd: Thanksgiving (No meeting)
  • November 30th: Strategies for Re-engaging Students
  • December 7th: Luncheon

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Research-intensive (R1) Universities

Contributed by: M. Rossi

Can we value teaching if we work at a research-intensive university?

In our final meeting for the quarter’s theme of “Teaching Beyond Graduate School,” two guest speakers and new professors at UC Davis shared their experiences, their passion for teaching and learning, and fielded our questions. Professor Mona Monfared is in her second year as a Lecturer with Potential for Security of Employment (LPSOE) in Molecular and Cellular Biology. This type of
position is a tenure track one, with its origins at UC San Diego and UC Irvine. These positions are “Professors of Teaching,” in contrast to “Professors of Research.” Still, she is responsible for both teaching and research; it is the workload ratios that vary. Dr. Monfared’s career trajectory included graduating from UC Davis in 2009, with her PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, a post-doctorate fellowship from 2009 to 2011, and multiple adjunct positions before accepting her current position. As a recently hired professor last year, she engaged in a community of practice with
other new faculty members, under the leadership of the Center for Educational Effectiveness (CEE).

Professor Con Diaz joined UC Davis from Yale and is teaching in his first year in the Science and Technology Studies program as an Assistant Professor. He shared that while a graduate student, he specifically sought out opportunities to grow as a teacher and invested in his own teacher training, well outside of his own department. He found the support for which he was searching in a department analogous to our Center for Educational Effectiveness. In this capacity, he engaged in individual consultations, peer observations, and small workshop facilitation. He shared with our group that he really values teaching and communicates this to his colleagues. He is appreciative of the freedom to experiment with his teaching practices during his first year and also of his peers who similarly value teaching. Dr. Diaz has also connected with personnel from CEE to continue to build his pedagogical repertoire.

Both speakers shared insights and recommendations with our graduate students. They encouraged graduates to apply for positions outside of their comfort zones. Each had either first- or second-hand experience with opportunities born out of the least expected. We were also encouraged to ask insightful questions during interviews, including, “How important is teaching to your department?” They further advised us to search for a good “fit.” Speakers also spent some time discussing the value of student evaluations. The consensus was for us to look for patterns in the evaluations, not the outliers. Focusing on the trends, versus the isolated points of dissatisfaction, presents opportunities for growth and individual reflection of their own practice. They parted with one last tip: subscribe to a weekly newsletter published at Stanford, “Tomorrow’s Professor”.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Teaching-intensive (R2) Universities

Contributed by: Gabe LaHue

Our attention turned this week from adjunct positions and the associated labor issues to the benefits and challenges of being a full-time professor at a teaching-intensive university. We were lucky to host Tialitha Macklin, an Assistant Professor in English from California State University, Sacramento, who spoke to us about her experiences and advice.

Dr. Macklin's position is 60% teaching, 30% administration, and 10% research. This translates to teaching three courses each semester the first year and four courses each semester thereafter (commonly referred to as 3/3 and 4/4). It is clear that Dr. Macklin is extremely passionate about teaching and she advised us to avoid taking on too much of an administrative workload (to the degree possible), especially when first hired. Her research expectations are to publish a peer-reviewed article about once per year, and these publications can revolve around the work that one is doing in the classroom. She is a major professor for 5 - 10 graduate students and professors in her department serve on the thesis committees for all students since it is such a small department.

After giving us an idea of what her position entails, Dr. Macklin shared some advice about the job application and interview process for aspiring professors. First, she encouraged us to send out more applications, since it is frequently the applications that one doesn't expect to hear back from that pay off. Suggested questions to ask when interviewing included:
  • What is their favorite thing about the school? (Hint: It should be the students)
  • What percent of newly hired professors get tenure?
  • How many people are in the department?
  • Is there an opportunity to create new courses?
  • What is the work-life balance like at the institution?

This last question was particularly stressed, as maintaining an adequate work-life balance appeared to be one of the most challenging parts of working at a teaching-intensive university. However, for those that can maintain that balance or cope with a very demanding workload, working at this type of university can be very rewarding.

Special thanks to GTC member Stacy Wittstock for inviting our speaker for this week.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Adjuncts and Academic Labor

Contributed by: Stacy Wittstock, PhD Student, School of Education

Adjuncts and other contingent faculty have increasingly been bearing the important burden of teaching in colleges and universities across the US. As the availability of tenure track positions shrinks, only to be replaced by more non-tenure track contingent faculty, short-term contracts and part-time positions have gradually become the norm in higher education. Faculty in these positions face low-pay, job insecurity, poor working conditions, lack of support from departments and institutions, and little or no benefits normally available to their colleagues in full-time or tenure track positions. Ultimately, this trend presents serious concerns for both non-tenure track and tenure track faculty, university administrators, and most importantly, students.

What are Adjuncts?
·      Contingent faculty—full- and part-time non-tenure track instructional staff
·      Adjunct—part-time instructors for primarily entry-level courses (depending on the school)
·      According to the American Association of University Professors:
o   More than 50% of all faculty appointments are part-time
§  This can include “positions that may be classified by the institution as adjuncts, part-time lecturers, or graduate assistantships.”
o   More than 70% of all instructional staff positions in American higher education are non-tenure track
·      Some statistics:
o   A 2012 report from the Center for the Future of Higher Education found that:
§  77% of respondents teach in part-time, contingent positions
§  54% teach in more than one institution
§  29% teach in two institutions
§  11% teach in three institutions
§  6% teach in four institutions
§  52% teach in four year institutions
§  14% teach in both two and four year institutions
§  59% teach in at least one position governed by a collective bargaining agreement
o   Additionally, the National Center for Education Statistics found that in 2013, that the majority of non-tenure track instructors and lecturers are women (see Figure 1 below).
o   Finally, trends in employment in higher education in the last 50 years have demonstrated that full-time faculty (non-tenure and tenure track) positions have decreased, corresponding with an increase in part-time positions (see Figure 2 below).

Adjunct Wages
       The median per-class wage for a semester-long course for adjuncts in $2,700
       In 2013, NPR found that adjuncts’ average annual pay is between $20,000 and $25,000
       In a survey of 500 adjuncts, Pacific Standard found in 2015 that the majority of participants earned less than $20,000 per year
       A 2015 report from UC Berkeley found that 25% of adjuncts receive public assistance like Medicaid or food stamps
       Because they are part-time, adjuncts typically are not eligible for health insurance, or other benefits (e.g., retirement, life insurance, etc.)

Working Conditions
       “Freeway Flyers”: Many adjuncts work at multiple institutions (AAUP; CFHEP, 2012)
       Some adjuncts teach between 18-24 contact hours, or 6-8 classes at various institutions
       Most do not have offices, access to computer support, or even copying services
       They lack the job security, with contracts that run term-to-term and can be ”non-renewed” at any time
       ”Just-in-Time” employment: most are not informed of employment until shortly before the term starts, making finding other employment difficult
       Adjuncts are typically not allowed to be involved in any sort of departmental or institutional governance
       Many cannot attend departmental faculty meetings, serve on departmental or institutional committees or serve as advisors
       This is bad for both NTT and TT faculty, as this leaves an often incredible workload for TT faculty

So, What Happened?
       The myth is that the adjunct crisis was caused by the Great Recession and subsequent cuts to higher education funding
       However, according to the AAUP,  “the turn towards cheaper contingent labor is largely a matter of priorities rather than economic necessity.”
       “While many institutions are currently suffering budget cuts, the greatest growth in contingent appointments occurred during times of economic prosperity.”
       “Many institutions have invested heavily in facilities and technology while cutting instructional spending.”
       “Though incoming students may find finer facilities, they are also likely to find fewer full-time faculty with adequate time, professional support, and resources available for their instruction.”

The Effects on Students
       Because of the excessive demands on their time, and the likelihood that they are working at multiple institutions (AAUP; CFHEP, 2012):
       Adjuncts have less time to support students outside of the classroom and may lack spaces in which to do so
       Adjuncts often have less time to plan lessons, and even courses themselves
       There is often far less scrutiny on the hiring of adjuncts than on full-time NTT or TT faculty
       According to the AAUP,  “The high turnover among contingent faculty members mean that some students may never have the same teacher twice, or may be unable to find an instructor who knows them well enough to write a letter of recommendation.”

The Effects on Faculty
       Less full-time NTT and TT faculty means:
       The integrity of work in the department as a whole is lowered when so many levels of faculty are responsible for teaching
       All departmental responsibilities are saddled on TT faculty (i.e., advising students, setting departmental curriculum, programmatic assessment and research, serving on college-wide and departmental committees)
       Academic freedom itself is jeopardized when only TT faculty have access to protections
       Contingent faculty are less likely to take risks in the classroom
       Many may not receive any evaluations of their teaching or work

Chronicle Data. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Smith, J. (2015, Feb.). National adjunct walkout and awareness day (Public accessible presentation). Retrieved from

Background Facts on Contingent Faculty. (n.d.). Retrieved from

McKenna, L. (2015, May). The cost of an adjunct. Retrieved from

National Center for Education Statistics. (2016). Fast facts: Race/ethnicity of college faculty. Retrieved from

Curtis, J. & Thornton, S. (2013). Here’s the news: The annual report on the economic status of the profession, 2012-2013. American Association of University Professors. Retrieved from

Center for the Future of Higher Education. (2012). Policy report #2: Who is Professor “Staff,” and how can this person teach so many classes? Center for the Future of Higher Education. Retrieved from 

Figure 1: Percentage distribution of full-time instructional faculty in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by academic rank, selected race/ethnicity, and sex: Fall 2013

Figure 2: Trends in Instructional Staff Employment Status, 1975-2011