Some Tips To Start 2019

Happy New Year, and welcome to the start of another great year of programming at PACE.

Over the holiday break I had an opportunity to catch up on some reading, in particular this article that was shared with me by one of our instructors:

https://www.fastcompany.com/44276/attention-class-16-ways-be-smarter-teacher

It has some great tips and reminders for instructors at all levels of experience. In particular, three stood out for me:

  1. Teach from the heart
  2. Practice vulnerability without sacrificing credibility
  3. Avoid using the same approach for everyone

Teaching from the heart, teaching with passion, how ever you phrase it, is often cited by students as a reason why they enjoy particular courses.  Having an enthusiasm for the topic and the group helps keep students engaged, which helps with learning.

Admitting vulnerability is about not being perfect.  We are all human, and we don’t know everything.  It’s okay to tell the class, on occasion, that you don’t know the answer to something, or that you’ve misspoken – but find the right answer after!

Varying your approach is a key part of teaching.  Not everyone is going to learn the same way, have a variety of teaching methods in your day.  Use different examples.  Try to incorporate something for everyone (visual, auditory, tactile, note taking, etc.)

Check out the article for more tips and examples of how to make your teaching more impactful.

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Teaching Within Programs

Many of us have either worked in or read about the dangers of working in a silo.  Businesses work to break down the mentality that has people focused on only their piece within the organization.  At PACE programs and courses are much the same, with the danger that people can be focused too narrowly on only their single course.

It’s important to remember that, with only a few exceptions, all PACE courses are delivered within programs, programs that include courses which build on one another to equip students with the knowledge and skills to be successful and competent in the workplace. Within a full-time program, it is advantageous to be aware of  the other courses that are delivered to the class.  Look at commonalities, and tie in concepts in materials so that students see the full picture of how the pieces come together, and not just within a silo.

Every diploma from PACE includes courses which focus on developing written and oral communication skills, as well as courses such as organizational behavior, and business fundamentals.  Each program has a variation on the topic of strategic planning and leadership.  Tying concepts from these courses into your specific course can provide students with more comprehensive and concrete understanding of  work related topics and organizations.

The integration of concepts from across a program, by referring back to concepts already taught or foreshadowing courses to come, helps with the overall student learning experience.

Changes to Course Operations

Change is a constant process everywhere and PACE is no exception.  Starting in January, we are making two changes to our courses that will directly impact instructors.   After conducting surveys of instructors and engaging in focus group discussion both in house and with instructor groups, we are making changes to attendance tracking, and late assignment penalties.

Attendance

Effective January, 2018, attendance is no longer required for any PACE course.  (With the exception of seminars)

Instructors may want to continue to track attendance for their own purposes, particularly as it relates to participation grades, but there is no requirement to submit this information to PACE.  It is essential that instructors still notify PACE administration of any concerns regarding student attendance (late arrivals or not attending classes) on an ongoing basis to allow for timely intervention for any issues.

Late Assignment Penalties

For all courses starting after January 4, 2018, in all programs, there is no longer a late penalty for assignments.

Instead, students who are late without a valid, pre-approved reason, receive a 0.  This change is being introduced to better reflect the workplace; when a supervisor asked for work to be completed, it must be done on time or explained why it is late.  It is also designed to prevent an issue that occurred this past year with students manipulating the due dates of assignments in such a way as it impacted their eligibility for graduation and instructor workload.

This change is not intended to punish students that have a valid reason.  Instructors should act in that role of a supervisor and if there is a valid reason for an extension, such as a medical issue or death in a family, make adjustments to the due date – with best practice saying that this should be communicated in writing so as to have a paper trail!

The new late policy is included in the student handbook, January, 2018, edition, which can be viewed on the PACE website.  Students who cannot meet a deadline must contact the instructor no less than 24 hours in advance of the deadline to ask for an extension, providing a legitimate reason.

Instructor feedback has been helpful in helping to grow and improve our programs and we will communicate some additional changes for the Spring term in the coming months.  We are currently reviewing feedback from instructors about participation grading, grammar and spelling, and other assignment components with a view to improving expectations across all programs over  the coming year.

Your help in improving our systems, and in delivering our courses, has been invaluable in 2017.  Thank you for being a part of the PACE team, best wishes for the New Year.

Copyright & Nexus

Last week we had our third copyright information session for PACE instructors.  Thank you to all who’ve attended over the past month, and a special thank you to our Copyright office, an invaluable resource for all of us!

If you weren’t able to attend, there are three short tips to consider as you put your material on Nexus:

  • Instead of posting content, share a link!

A link is not copyrighted.  This is the safest and best way to share content with our students.

  • Link to the U of W library if you can

The library has a large amount of electronic content, including journals and articles.  It can be access through the U of W’s main website, and allows for linking to content using your, and student’s, U of W email address.

  • Last resort, relying on copyright exceptions

While posting a link is always the best answer, not all material is available on the Internet.  If you are going to add content, ensure you are doing so in a manner that respects the copyright laws.

The U of W’s Copyright Office has their own website that goes into much greater depth:

https://copyright.uwinnipeg.ca/

As we move forward with the audit of PACE’s materials on Nexus, if you have any concerns or want to have content removed, reach out to me or ‘instructorsupport’ and we will work with you.

Reminder: Attendance Tracking

Please remember that for programs that stared in the Fall of 2017, instructors are to use Nexus to track attendance.  We appreciate if the attendance is updated weekly.  This allows for both students and administration to track attendance at a glance and identify any issues.

For some students, attendance tracking is a part of their funding, and we are required to provide accurate and timely information on attendance.

For all students, attendance is a requirement for internship.  Setting expectations around attendance and arriving late to the classroom set up students for success in the workplace.  As instructors, we contribute to those expectations and help the students to model the behavior they need in the workplace.

A video is available on the Nexus Instructor Communication Portal as a guide to entering attendance using the online system.

Hindering or helping: the issue of supplying material from textbooks

When some students don’t buy textbooks, instructors may feel pressure to help the students out by posting additional information to nexus to compensate for not purchasing the textbook. Often instructors feel as though they are stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one end, they want the student to succeed in the course, on the other, instructors recognize that it is unfair to provide this material as other students may have purchased the textbook in advance. There is no right or wrong answer to how to do deal with this, but there are some points to consider:

-what about students who purchased the book?

By supplying pages from the book, you are devaluing the work, preparation and cost to those students that have purchased the book for class.

-what about the impact on other courses?

Because our courses come through as a cohort, students learn about instructor behaviours both from each other and from previous classes. Students see teachers supply pages from the book in one course, teaching them that they don’t need to buy books in other courses.  This translates into subsequent programs and pressure on other instructors to follow suit.

-what about the impact on instructor resources?

Many publishers supply slides, case studies, and other resources. If the text books are not used in a course, these resources are not available.  Lowering the number of textbooks purchased, or eliminating it, removes that resource.

On the other side though is the frustration of running a class with students unable to participate or prepare for an assignment. At our core, every instructor wants our students to succeed, supplying materials to help in class is a part of that. Supplying those pages from a required textbook though, comes at a cost.

If you are experiencing issues in your class about textbooks:

-Let administration know about the textbook issues in your course

-If students are pressuring you to post additional course material to Nexus, discuss copyright rules and regulations that limit the amount of information you can post

-Discuss the issue of fairness to other students, and suggest students pair up to purchase a textbook or e-book

-Suggest students look into purchasing used textbooks, e-books, or look into the public or university library for copies

-Hold students accountable, try not to give into the pressure of an individual student or a class

Academic Integrity: Setting Expectations

A part of addressing academic integrity is setting expectations with the class.  Having a conversation about expectations around collaboration and resources lets students know what is okay / not okay for your class and your assignments.

The nature of our programs at PACE has the students together every day, from 9 till 4, five days a week.  They are going to talk about assignments and how they worked on them.  But how far does that go for your assignments? Can students share answers, essays, research with each other?  Or can they talk about it but not read each others papers?

Many of our students are new to Canada, and are used to working collectively on assignments.  They put their own names on the paper, but the effort to put it together was a group effort.  Is that acceptable?  My own experience has found a number of papers that sound almost the same because the students read and then paraphrased each other.  I’ve taken to being explicit in my instructions that you can talk about the assignment, but not read each other’s paper.

Similarly, what about resources?  Many publisher’s case studies are now posted online, along with the answer key.  Is it acceptable for students to find and then quote the answer key?  Be up front with students about your expectations and set limits.

Speaking to the class about your expectations for the assignment, it’s purpose, and what is allowed will help students to follow the academic integrity rules and stay in your good books.

Academic Integrity: Resources for Students

Continuing with the theme of November as academic integrity month, students have been given a reminder about the resources they have available to them.  As instructors, it’s important to remember that, just like our students, we are not alone in this.

Certainly instructors are a resource for students when it comes to ethical writing, and writing in general.  Giving feedback, guidance, answering questions, these are a part of our role as instructors.  Not that we do the work, but that we help students to do the work required in the proper fashion.  Part of that role will involve answering questions and setting expectations.

A part can also be reminding students of the resources available, and perhaps working them through their use.  For example, all PACE programs have an Effective Written Communication Course.  The textbook for that course is not just for a few weeks and then to be cast aside.  It can be used over and over again throughout our programming as a tool to help students write better.

Nexus contains an APA tutorial.  It is under the program “Content” page.  Both instructors and students can refer to it at any time.

Additionally, full time students have the ability to book and appointment with the Academic Advisor and get assistance.

Sometimes students need a reminder about the resources that are available.  As instructors, we too need to remember that we are not in this alone.

Let’s play a game!

Imagine sitting in class from 9 till 4, five days, with a lecture each day. Sound like fun?  I agree, it doesn’t.  Breaking up the day with an activity can help wake students up, engage them in the learning, and in general, add a little fun to the class.  One way to do that is by including the occasional game.

Using games in the classroom is not a new idea; I can remember playing games in high school and elementary school. At the higher education level, they seem to be rare, but there is nothing wrong with including a game, when it’s added for the right reason.

Games, like any activity, should be connected to the day’s lesson, either to teach it or reinforce the learning. It’s a good idea to think of what the expected learning outcome of the game is, just like including any activity in the classroom.  Does the game reinforce the teaching?  Does the game teach?  If it is teaching the lesson, how is it doing that?  Is there any room for error or misconception? What learning outcomes are covered?

I’ve made use of games in the classroom for reviews. I use a PowerPoint version of Jeopardy to do a review of the course material.  There are a number of free versions for download that are easily set up with questions and answers; divide the class into teams and game on!  The first time I used it was an eye opener though, many of our international students had never seen the show; adding a small introductory piece is good to makes sure everyone is on the same page.

The second game review I’ve introduced is using the online trivia game maker at Kahoot.com. Stevi had highlighted Kahoot in her professional development session earlier this year, and acting on her suggestion I use it for chapter reviews.  There are some limits to the questions you can build: number of characters, options for answers, etc., but with some practice I’ve been able to put together a quick chapter review at the end of each session in my course.  Kahoot lets you save the game results, so I track the students and give a prize at the end of the course as an incentive.

Other game shows like Family Feud, Wheel of Fortune, and even Survivor have been adapted into games for the university and college level.

Next time you are planning your course, shake things up, try a game to break up the day and wake up your class!