Monthly Archives: September 2017

Examining the Helicopter Professor Label

Margaret ImberAssociate Dean of the Faculty
Associate Professor of
Classical & Medieval Studies
Bates College
Lewiston, ME 04240
mimber

“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless she persisted.”

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From: “Faculty Focus” <no-reply>
Date: September 27, 2017 at 8:57:58 AM EDT
To: mimber
Subject: Examining the Helicopter Professor Label
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Examining the Helicopter Professor Label Are you hovering too close or from a proper distance?

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Faculty Focus
September 27, 2017
Examining the Helicopter Professor Label
By Maryellen Weimer, PhD

Here’s a comment that’s got me thinking.

Kristie McAllum writes in Communication Education, “We have created a system that simply replaces helicopter parents with helicopter professors. . . . Through our constant availability to clarify criteria, explain instructions, provide micro-level feedback, and offer words of encouragement, we nourish millennials’ craving for continuous external affirmations of success and reduce their resilience in the face of challenges or failure.”

There’s no question that teachers can do too much for students. We can take already dependent learners and make them more so. And there’s also no question that teachers can fail to do enough for students. We can withhold the guidance and support that makes learning experiences positive and constructive. The more interesting question is how we know whether we are doing too much or not enough. It’s a question that applies to individual courses, the programs to which they belong, and within our institutions.

Unfortunately, we can’t be sure about the accuracy of student feedback when they tell us what they need. If they tend to be dependent learners, as many of our students are, they will happily encourage us to make all the decisions about learning, thereby excusing them from making any decisions. And if we aren’t providing enough guidance, they probably won’t divulge that half the time spent working on an assignment was devoted to trying to figure out what we wanted.

Are there other benchmarks we could use to determine if we’re doing too much or too little? Could we look at individual policies and practices? Does extra credit coddle students? What about dropping the lowest score? What if teacher feedback is only provided on the final version of the term paper? Should we call on students who very obviously don’t want to participate? Or, must individual policies and practices be considered in light of course content and who’s enrolled in the course? Do students need more support when the content is especially challenging or requires sophisticated skills they have yet to develop? Does it matter whether the course is one taken by beginning students, majors, students fulfilling a general education requirement, first-generation students, or seniors in a capstone? Are there good reasons to do more for beginning students and less for seniors?

And what about individual differences? Our tendency to broadly categorize students by generation (Generation X, millennials) makes me nervous. This tendency allows for convenient groupings, but it also makes stereotyping an easy next step. Not all students fit in any group and to assume that all millennials act entitled and only want praise can result in approaches to teaching that don’t work for some or even most of the students in any given class.

Student Entitlement: Truth, Fiction, or Some of Both? Join Maryellen Weimer for a frank discussion about student entitlement, where it comes from, and what you can do about it. Learn More

Most of the characteristics attributed to millennial students are not positive, perhaps deservedly, although it’s hard to believe they don’t have at least a couple commendable features. But whatever we believe about them—they need support and praise, or they need rules and accountability—ends up influencing how we approach them, the policies we adopt, and the strategies we use. We need to be clear in our thinking about who belongs in that group and what best serves the learning of those who do and don’t display the group’s typical characteristics.

I don’t think there’s much chance of reaching consensus in a conversation about how closely teachers, programs, and institutions should hover around students. It’s easy to see the error of the extremes, but where’s the middle? We need a place between the two and a balance of both, but where that place is or how that balance is determined—now that’s what we need to be talking about, even if we end up disagreeing.

Currently, being labeled a helicopter parent or professor is not an accolade. But as we consider our relationships with students and their learning needs, we need to remember that hovering is what makes helicopters unique and useful. They just need to do it at a safe distance and that’s the distance we need to discover.

Reference: Kristie McAllum, (2016) Managing imposter syndrome among the “Trophy Kids”: Creating teaching practices that develop independence in millennial students. Communication Education, 65 (3), 363-365.

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Student Entitlement: Truth, Fiction, or Some of Both?
Date: Wednesday, October 18
Presenter:
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Cost:
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Let’s face it—you’ve probably run into situations where a student expects a better grade than they deserve or demands unnecessary special accommodations.

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Inclusion by Design: Tool Helps Faculty Examine Their Teaching Practices

Margaret ImberAssociate Dean of the Faculty
Associate Professor of
Classical & Medieval Studies
Bates College
Lewiston, ME 04240
mimber

“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless she persisted.”

Begin forwarded message:

From: Faculty Focus <no-reply>
Date: September 18, 2017 at 9:02:16 AM EDT
To: mimber
Subject: Inclusion by Design: Tool Helps Faculty Examine Their Teaching Practices
Reply-To: no-reply

Inclusion by Design: Tool Helps Faculty Examine Their Teaching Practices Are there barriers to inclusion lurking in your courses?

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Faculty Focus
September 18, 2017
Inclusion by Design: Tool Helps Faculty Examine Their Teaching Practices
By Carl S. Moore, PhD, Edward Brantmeir, PhD, and Andreas Brocheild, PhD

Are there barriers to inclusion lurking in your courses?

After meeting at a diversity and inclusion session of the 2013 Professional and Organization Development Network (POD Network) Conference in Pittsburgh, the three of us set out to develop a tool to help faculty examine their courses through a diversity lens. We were driven by a lack of available resources that provide a practical approach to digging deep into the nuances of one’s course.

So how does one examine course diversity, given there are so many points of entry into the conversation yet varying degrees of faculty interest and commitment? We decided the best place to start is the syllabus. After all, it’s customary for those who teach in college settings to develop and/or at the very least use a syllabus to guide their courses. That makes the syllabus the perfect focal point for faculty to explore difficult conversations and contradictions about inclusion, exclusion, diversity, privilege, power, and possibilities for transformative change in the barrier-laden structure of college classroom.

We spent a few years of designing and wrestling with what to call our creation (tool, audit, survey?) and eventually decided that it simply was a ‘tool’ to explore inclusion in one’s syllabus and course design. In our ongoing research, deliberations, and presentations of this tool at national conferences, three areas of intentional exploration emerged: inclusion and course context; text; and subtext. The complete tool is rather lengthy and exhaustive, rooted in theory and research on inclusion, multicultural education, universal design, implicit/unconscious bias, and the hidden curriculum (a full version can be found by visiting http://bit.ly/inclusionbydesign). For the purposes of this publication we therefore present a brief snapshot of the overarching categories that highlight how the tool can help instructors examine the text, context and subtext of any course.

Inclusion and Course Context: A guiding question to explore the context of a course is, how does the context of the course support inclusive learning? We ask educators to reflect on the following:

  • What are the situational factors surrounding your course?
  • Who are the people that will be in your class? Who will not be there?
  • What is the course content? Whose voice is heard? What perspective dominates? What is omitted?
  • How is the content relevant in the “real” world and for the learners in your class? How can it be made relevant for those who may not recognize its relevance?
  • What is the common pedagogy in your class – the philosophy and practice behind your instructional choices?

Inclusion and “Text”: As educational developers who have depth and experience in course design, we clearly recognize that the transformation of one syllabus is not enough to address the range of inclusion issues present in any course. In fact, we argue that a transformation of how one thinks about learning and course design is the greater aim. In this respect, we follow the guiding question, How do learning outcomes, assessment, and content support inclusion for all? We ask faculty to examine the tone of their syllabi – is it inviting? Staying true to our training in backwards design and deep learning, we ask faculty to examine the types of learning outcomes (cognitive, behavioral, affective), the variety of assessment, and the teaching and learning activities they will use to achieve learning outcomes: Do they use culturally responsive teaching approaches, flexible or fixed assessments, shared teaching, or co-learning approaches in their classroom? This section is best used with faculty who have experienced course design principles or who have had more lengthy course re/design experiences.

Inclusion and Subtext: In this section of the tool we ask the following questions to encourage instructors to dig deep into the subtext of their course and make the learning process more inclusive and visible for students:

  • What are the implicit rules and messages of your course and are they stated in your syllabus?
  • What are the hidden/implicit/unconscious biases and stereotypes?
  • Have you, the instructor, made your philosophy of teaching and learning explicit, or does it remain hidden?
  • Is the tone of your syllabus contractual, inviting, learner centered, authoritarian, or energizing?

Paths Forward: Although the tool is comprehensive, it is by no way complete. The nature of its aims and the complexity of the topic will continue to make it a work in progress. Practicing what we preach, we feel such a tool on inclusion should be inclusive and integrate vantage points of a broad network of educators to grow its effectiveness. Therefore, we are in a continuous state of seeking feedback from faculty on the quality and use of our work. Beyond refining the tool, we aim to nourish deeper conversations about inclusion and diversity in hopes of transforming college classrooms by working with professors on their own approaches to course design.

Dr. Carl S. Moore is the Director of the Research Academy for Integrated Learning at the University of the District of Columbia, he also serves as Certificate Faculty for the Teaching in Higher Education Program at Temple University.

Dr. Edward J. Brantmeier is the Assistant Director for Scholarship Programs of the Center for Faculty Innovation and Associate Professor in the Learning, Technology, and Leadership Education Department at James Madison University.

Dr. Andreas Broscheid is the Assistant Director for Career Planning at the Center for Faculty Innovation and a professor of political science at James Madison University.

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What Graduates Need to Succeed

Where once a college degree was considered the ticket to a good job, the pathway from campus to career is no longer as straightforward or as certain as it was for previous generations. The world and the job market are changing dramatically, and parents, students, institutions, and employers are all deeply concerned with the question of whether college is preparing graduates for careers—a question that is itself intertwined with the larger question of the ultimate purpose of a college degree. Tuition is an investment—of time as well as money, often a lot of money—and informed consumers want to know that they’re going to see a return on that investment, usually in the form of a good-paying job that leads to a satisfying and lucrative career. Hiring and training new employees is also an investment, and companies want assurances that they are bringing on competent, capable staff with the smarts to succeed and become an asset. But in a global, information-based economy, it’s no longer enough to have a college degree in hand. Graduates must be prepared for an employment market that is ever evolving, one that demands flexibility and adaptability just to keep up, let alone thrive. For their part, colleges and universities are expected to provide students with the knowledge and skills that will get them that critical first job, ideally in their field of study, with potential for growth. Employers want to hire job candidates who come to them armed not only with a degree but also an impressive array of both “hard” and “soft” skills, including relevant technical skills, the ability to analyze and problem-solve a situation, and the capacity to communicate well with supervisors and colleagues. To find out what skills employers are looking for, whether their new college hires arrive equipped with those skills, the value each sector places on a degree and on the reputation of the degree-granting institution, and how institutions are changing to meet the demands of employers, The Chronicle of Higher Education and Maguire Associates conducted a survey of college leaders and employers in May 2017. This report reflects the impressions of employers in a variety of industries and those of college and university administrators from private and public, two-year and four-year institutions.

Projected Job Growth, by Occupation, 2014-2024

POSTED BY MARTIN KICH This chart is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: The list is surprising in the following ways: Of the 30 occupations on the list, 22 are what are traditionally considered “blue-collar” occupations. Of those 22 “blue-collar” occupations, all have been major sources of employment for decades: 7 are in general business areas and sales, 6 are related to health care, 3 to the restaurant industry, 3 are in cleaning and maintenance, and 3 are in the fields most conventionally cited as important to “middle-class” prosperity—construction, the trades, truck driving.

Source: Projected Job Growth, by Occupation, 2014-2024