Pew FTLC: Late July 2023
Pew FTLC: Late July 2023
Grand Valley State University
Pew Faculty Teaching & Learning Center
July 24, 2023

Director's Note

Structure and fluidity. I have been thinking lately about how best to balance these two approaches to teaching this fall. On one hand, it is important for us to be intentional about how we are designing our courses so that students are clear about the expectations, how the class will work, and how they can get support when needed. I have shared before about the Transparency in Teaching and Learning movement. Part of the structure equation is setting the rhythm for the semester right from the beginning. We have some excellent strategies on our First Days of Class resource page. How do we know if students are with us and understand our intentions? Consider having students annotate the syllabus during the first week of class (in small groups, if possible, to help build community) and/or build in weekly check-ins. Do students see the connections of course objectives to “real life” outside of the classroom? And is the flow of formative and summative assessments clear? We don’t know unless we ask. Consider also planning ahead for an end-of-semester syllabus review. Another element of structure to think about before the first weeks of class falls into the category of social engineering. Depending on your course format, content, and enrollment, how can you foster social connections among students? Think: assigned seating, groups assigned either randomly or by common interests, collective quizzes, small group discussions with oral or written reporting out, accountability partners, etc. 

In terms of fluidity, I suggest that we are going to need to be intentionally flexible and plan time to get to know our students. When asked about engaging students this coming fall, Lindsay Masland of Appalachian State University said something that resonated with me: our needs around supporting engagement are outpacing the research right now. She advocated leaning into well-established approaches including active learning, keeping track of attendance and then following up with stragglers/strugglers, and connecting in-class activities to points or other clear signals of value. I know there are winces out there, but I wouldn’t be suggesting such approaches if I didn’t truly believe they can make a difference. Particularly in the first weeks of the semester, we need to send loud and clear signals that class is worth attending. My colleagues across the country have also experienced attendance and engagement challenges this past year, reporting that students don’t automatically assume that they have to come to class. We need to adopt an experimental mindset. While what works in your courses and contexts is sure to be unique, my message here is to be open to trying new things, talking honestly with students, being prepared to adjust, and working together to address issues as they arise. Last month, I shared several student engagement resources. Looking for a deeper dive? Check out one of my all-time favorite books on teaching and learning. The 2nd edition is now out, but the link here will take you to the full text of the solid 1st edition.

Christine Rener

Strong Start Teaching Institute
August 16 & 17, 2023
9am–12pm     •     DCIH 210

How can we ensure students begin their GVSU career with a strong start? The Strong Start Teaching Institute focuses faculty attention on best practices for engaging students in first-year undergraduate courses. Together, we will explore resources and examples around four themes:
  • Clarity of academic expectations
  • Fostering a sense of belonging (at GV and in our classrooms)
  • Familiarity with available student resources
  • Active learning strategies that promote student engagement, motivation, and achievement
Whether you are teaching a course for the first time or are looking to strengthen a course to best engage students, we invite you to participate. The in-person and asynchronous components of this Institute will apply to a range of instructor experience levels and disciplines. The Pew FTLC is partnering with colleagues from Student Affairs and eLearning to provide a robust, hands-on learning experience with content directly applicable to our upcoming courses. The Institute is a renewal of the Strong Start Initiative launched originally in 2015 and has been shaped by the Academic Affairs Rapid Response Team, whose May 2023 report provided data analysis and recommendations for first-year student success.
This two-day institute begins with a modest amount of pre-work, including an interactive learning module and several short readings (~2hr commitment). The in-seat time will be spent in large-group discussions and small-group exercises, modeling learning activities to apply to your classrooms. Following the August session, participants will have the opportunity for a follow-up individual consultation to review syllabi, course materials, and/or Blackboard sites.
Participants are eligible for a $500 stipend upon completion of the August 1617 program and another $500 for completion of the post-Institute course materials review consultation.
The Institute is intended primarily for instructors teaching courses with high first-year student enrollment. Preference will be given to non-tenure-track instructors: affiliates, visitors, adjuncts, and those new or relatively new to university teaching. The Institute is limited to 40 participants so register soon!
Complete a brief online application that will ask you to identify a particular course (or courses) that you will be teaching in Fall 2023 or Winter 2024 that enrolls a high number of first-year students. You will also be asked to identify a challenge or opportunity with this course that you are interested in exploring more through the Institute. Applications will be accepted up until, Friday, August 11, 2023.
Register for the Strong Start Teaching Institute

Teaching in an Active Learning Classroom Workshop
August 14 from 1—4pm
Eberhard Center, Room 411

Mobile furniture. Generous whiteboard space. Dynamic activity possibilities. These hallmark features of an active learning classroom have significant impact on the ways an instructor plans and utilizes the learning space. Are you currently scheduled to teach in such a classroom? Or would you like to plan ahead? 
In this hands-on workshop, we will explore an active learning classroom and experiment with a variety of in-class activities. We will draw from educational research around principles of learning and student engagement. Whether you already use collaborative or guided inquiry activities in your courses or are still in exploratory mode, this workshop will also introduce you to helpful course design frameworks and models for making the most of new and redesigned learning spaces. 
Register for Teaching in an Active Learning Classroom Today!

Reminder to Save-the-Date!
Fall Conference on Teaching and Learning
Keynote Address by Dr. James M. Lang
August 23, 2023 from 8:30am–2pm

Mark your calendars! Join us on August 23, 2023 for the 29th Annual Fall Conference on Teaching and Learning featuring a Keynote presentation by Dr. James M. Lang, author of six books, the most recent of which are Distracted: Why Students Can't Focus and What You Can Do About It, Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning, and Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty (Harvard University Press, 2013) and former Professor of English and Director of the D'Amour Center for Teaching Excellence at Assumption University.
Teaching Distracted Minds: Old Challenges, New Contexts, the keynote presentation by Dr. Lang, will address the frequently expressed concerns of faculty regarding the distractions and distractibility of our students. Drawing upon scholarship from history, neuroscience, and education in order to argue that distractions are endemic to the human condition and can't be walled out of the physical classroom or online course, Dr. Lang will challenge us to focus on creating educational experiences that cultivate and sustain attention.
Registration for this wonderful annual event will open soon—in early August! Be on the lookout for a special mailing from our Center with links to register in the next few weeks!
Visit our Fall Conference Webpage for the most up-to-date information.

Fall 2023 Personnel Portfolio
October 6—November 3, 2023
Online/Virtual with Zoom

Are you preparing for a personnel review in 2023-2024: pre-tenure, tenure, or promotion? If so, we've got the workshop for you!
The Personnel Portfolio Workshop is designed to support faculty going up for any personnel review in 2023-24. Working with an assigned faculty mentor, participants will compose their Personal/Reflective statement and, as time permits, prepare other supporting materials for their portfolio in accordance with their college and unit personnel policies.
To learn more about this exciting program, visit our Upcoming Events webpage.
Workshop availability is limited, so please register early in Sprout.
Register for the Fall 2023 Personnel Portfolio Workshop

Fall 2023 Faculty Learning Communities are OPEN!

Looking for a way to connect with faculty this year? Searching for a community of colleagues to learn with and feel both restored and energized by? Consider joining a Fall 2023 Faculty Learning Community!
Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs) bring faculty together for a 1-2 semester-long conversation on a topic of mutual interest and encourage an application of the knowledge gained. Past participants report this experience to be supportive, fun, and restorative! New Fall FLCs are being added daily, but check out the list below of those that are already accepting members.
Apply online via our Grants System today!
Have a different topic you are passionate about and/or want to explore? Consider LEADING an FLC this Fall! Submit an online letter of intent (proposal) for an FLC and we'll do the rest! Need inspiration? Check out some of the Past FLCs that have run.
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