As an instructor, it might be tempting to measure the success of student visits by how quickly you can provide a correct answer—but excelling at this particular metric might come at the cost of a student building their own ability to answer similar questions in the future. The 5G framework1 for student consultations not only offers a structure for answering a variety of student questions, but is a tool that can be used to build a student’s future success as well as providing a way to measure the outcomes of consultations. It consists of the five following steps:
The 5G framework draws its inspiration from a framework outlined on page 53 in Nyquist, J. D., & Wulff, D. H. (1996). Working effectively with graduate assistants. Thousands Oaks: Sage Publications. It was my colleague, Dr. Natasha Kenny, who made me aware of Nyquist & Wulff’s work, so a tip-of-the-hat to her as well. [↩]
Thinking about critical reflection has been “front of mind” over the past few days, primarily because Natasha and I are presenting a workshop at this year’s Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) annual conference focused on just that. More specifically, the workshop focuses on a “disorienting dilemma” we’ve faced as course instructors for UNIV*6800, the graduate course at the University of Guelph that focuses on University Teaching.
1. Whatever approach you’re going to take in your classroom, model it.
If you plan to use discussions, case studies or experimental work, model some component of it on your first day. You want students to understand that these approaches are important to their success in the course while also letting them know that they’ll be expected to participate in this particular way.
2. Make a commitment to learn student names. State it in the first class. Hold yourself accountable.
Learning student names is a key (and simple) component to engaging students; research suggests the more positive a relationship a student has with an instructor, the higher the student’s final grade (Micari & Pazos, 2012).
3. Bring extras.
This can include: extra course syllabi; details of your office hours & contact information; extra chalk / white board markers; pencils; scrap paper; and lab instructions. Students are bound to forget any and all of these. Plus, looking prepared is a good way to set a tone of your own professionalism.
4. Write the course name, number and tutorial / lab section on the board.
Allows students to check right away if they’re in the correct room; saves the “walk of shame” when they realize they’re not.
5. Start creating a safe space for learning.
This means different things in different classrooms: in a chemistry lab, it might mean highlighting proper procedures; in a humanities seminar, it might mean talking about the kind of environments that encourage appropriate conversation.
Micari, M., & Pazos, P. (2012). Connecting to the Professor: Impact of the Student-Faculty Relationship in a Highly Challenging Course. College Teaching, 60(2), 41-47. doi: 10.1080/87567555.2011.627576
With apologies to Dickens, in preparation for the upcoming Graduate Student University Teaching Conference, I’ve been editing the TA survival guide that we provide all conference participants. One specific section that I’ve updated is based on the most recent data collected from 2011 incoming undergraduate students.
Twitter—more than just broadcasting—is about engagement.
If you agree with this premise, then take a moment to visit the University of Guelph’s Twitter account. Notice anything? A stream of tweets linking to the University’s communications and public affairs news releases and At Guelph articles. No conversations, no re-tweets. How many people are following @UofG? A little over 8700 (as of July 2012). How many accounts does the University follow back? 35.
How about a quick visit to the Library’s main account? Looks to be a feed of truncated re-posts from the Library’s news service. A lone-wolf, it follows no one.
Now have a look at the University’s Guelph Gryphons account. Admirably, there is the odd re-tweet, but again we see that the majority of time, it’s a tweet with a link to a news release on the Gryphon’s site. Not a single conversation in sight.
Perhaps it’s okay to be a nameless, faceless institutional account and go on sending out 140-character links to press releases, but what about the public faces of the University?
None would be more visible than President Alastair Summerlee. Dr. Summerlee’s tweeting tempo has improved recently and though abrupt, I don’t mind his staccato style but there isn’t a re-tweet or conversation in sight. The Associate VP Student Affairs is on Twitter too. But the trend continues, and Brenda Whiteside‘s stream is infrequently updated and (broken record time, sorry) without any evidence of conversations.
But why should @UofG, @LibraryUofG, @Guelph_Gryphons, @UoG_President or @WhitesideBrenda care about my observations here? Because people who are active users of Twitter are expecting engagement. And the best brands know this and already are engaging with their broad community of followers. And while brand could mean American Airlines, I actually mean fellow institutions of higher education here in Ontario. For examples of how other Universities are “getting” how to use Twitter, see the University of Waterloo‘s institutional account or Queen’s University Principal Dr. Daniel Woolf’s account: conversations, information, re-tweets. They’re all there. And personally as an alumni, staff member and active Twitter user on-campus, I can’t help but want better for our image, perception and institution.
It’s not all dire on-campus. The University’s Alumni account is exact antithesis of my criticisms above. But it does leave me with more questions about Twitter and Higher Ed: What are institutional accounts for? Is lower activity and no engagement better than no account at all? And can we improve how we “do” Twitter here @UofG?
Edit (4:31 pm, July 24): Ensuing conversation on Twitter that suggests other U of G accounts that are engaging, enjoyable and, in one case, a cannon:
It’s not that needing to take cover due to a severe thunderstorm is humorous (far from it), it’s the fact that all tweets from this account have some form of all-caps. All-caps, the Internet version of YELLING, struck me as strangely appropriate for an account that warns people of impending danger.
Then I thought, “Boy, this is a great idea.” But do I really need to know it’s thunder-storming in Kenora when I’m in Guelph? The noise to signal ratio, especially given the all-caps is pretty low. How to make the account more relevant?
This is where If this then that (or IFTTT) has come to the rescue. It’s a web service that lets a whole bunch of other web services (like Twitter, Evernote and even the non-web SMS) talk & do things to each other. The genius is how easily you can create recipes to do these useful things. For example, right now I use a recipe that archives all my tweets into a single Evernote note. With this, all my tweets are archived and easily searchable. Magic! Useful!
OK, back to OMG! ONTARIO WARNINGS! I’ve created an IFTTT recipe that searches @OntarioWarning’s twitter stream for mentions of Wellington County or the city of Guelph. It then sends me an SMS message to my cell phone with the text of the tweet. I do have IFTTT to thank for help figuring this out:
So for the collective benefit of humanity (or, at least those living within Ontario) here’s the recipe for your use.
If you live in Guelph or Wellington County, then you don’t need to change a thing. If you live elsewhere in the province, you’ll need to update the search “guelph OR wellington from:ontariowarnings” to “x or y from:ontariowarnings” where x is the city you live in and y is your county. Obviously, you can add or remove search terms to expand or narrow just when you get pinged about an EMERGENCY!
Lonán, you and I have been together almost every day for the past five months. As you probably know, Mum went back to her graduate work and I took parental leave to be with you from eight months to just past your first birthday.
Today you’re just two days past that first birthday and I’m getting ready to go back to work. I wanted to write this note to you to share with you some of my reflections about our time together.
I’m a little hot under the collar this morning. The University of Guelph Professional Staff Association (PSA) has just negotiated a new compact with the University. We’ve been without an agreement since May 1, 2010. A meeting, to share and then ratify the agreement, is scheduled for January 17th at 11am. I am, however, on parental leave. And, from an email I received earlier today, there are no accommodations for those PSA members who can’t, for whatever reason, make the meeting:
You will need to attend the meeting to hear the major points of the new Compact and to vote. Unfortunately there will be no proxy voting.
So now, to have the opportunity to hear about the new compact and vote on it, I’ll first have to decide that I want to take the time to come to the University while the primary care-giver to my son. I’m not the only other PSA member on parental leave and, if true, this is a somewhat surprising lack of accommodation for those PSA members who are off on leave.
That being said, the PSA constitution and by-laws does list (Article IV, rule #6) that “there shall be no voting by proxy at either General or Annual Meetings of the PSA”. Since this is the case, I’m left wondering how the PSA will support me being able to come to the meeting to vote. Given the by-law on meetings, I would expect that there are plans and support in place to allow as many members to take part in the ratification vote as possible.