Silent on Twitter about my job search

I use Twitter. A lot. It’s my daily, hourly,…, continuous source of information, professional development, and support, and a place where I can give back to the communities that support me when I need it.

I advocate

I describe projects I’m working on

I post my itineraries when I travel

I share the everyday things that interest me

Each of these is also an invitation for people to reply and share their recommendations, ideas, positions,…

Twitter silenced

(Illustration by Peter Newbury. Duct tape via pixabay public domain)

My latest big adventure — starting in July, I’ll be the Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at UBC Okanagan — was more challenging because I chose to suspend this “networked practice,” as Bonnie Stewart @bonstewart calls it. I didn’t share my job search with my Twitter community.

I didn’t describe how I integrated my teaching statement (which they didn’t ask for) into my CV (which they did).

I didn’t post my interview itinerary.

I didn’t share the interesting things I saw and learned along the way.

Not being able to ask for help and getting feedback was difficult. But what hurt the most was I felt I’d betrayed my community: I was having an amazing adventure, one I wanted to share and believed others could learn from, and I had to keep it a secret.

Why all the secrecy, anyway?

I didn’t share my job search with my community for personal reasons. I didn’t want to tell anyone in case I didn’t get it. Now that I have a fantastic position to go to, I’ll admit it’s not the first job I’ve pursued since joining UC San Diego 4 years ago. Those failed job applications are now water under the bridge (and I’m very grateful to my current Director who encouraged me to apply and learn from the experiences, regardless of the outcome.)

I didn’t share my searches with my community for professional reasons, too. “Why is he leaving? What’s wrong with his current job? Is it him or the people there? If he’s unhappy, can he still do his job?” I don’t need people asking those questions.

The moment of relief

After months of secrecy, there was an unforgettable moment of relief when I could finally reveal my news to my community:

The anxiety was washed away by the flood of replies – I’m so grateful to my communities.

Why now?

It turns out, some colleagues have gone through the same thing recently.

[I’ll add some examples here when I get their permission]

Perhaps this “suspending your networked practice” is a thing, a new thing we wouldn’t have imagined 10 years ago. It’s uncomfortable and anxiety-inducing. Just like every other part of the job search! That feeling that you’re betraying your community? It’s silly. Ignore it. You have enough on your mind already. And no one that matters to you in your community would want you to waste any energy on it. We’ll be there when you have news to share. And we’ll be there if you don’t have news to share.

What about you? Did you share your job search process or wait until you had news? How did you feel when you finally let your community know?

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Flip or flip not, there is no try to read Chapter 3 before class please pretty please

Every learner needs to build new concepts into their own pre-existing knowledge. That’s the constructivist model for teaching and learning and ultimately, I believe, the rationale and justification for active learning. Like I said on Twitter a few weeks ago,

So what goes into that “prep” to support every students? Here’s my train of thought:

A guide for preparing students

For now, I want to focus on these steps:

To manufacture time for active learning and to create the guide for students, the instructor should look at the topics, section, ideas, learning outcomes — whatever unit of knowledge they’re using to plan the course — and decide which of these are easy enough the students can learn on their own, and which are challenging and need to be explored together in class. There should be clear distinctions between what students are responsible for, what will be covered together in class, and what won’t be covered. My friend, Robert Talbert, gives a nice description of using Bloom’s Taxonomy to classify his learning objectives and picking a cutoff between what students can do on their own and what they need to do together.

Here’s how I picture it, with students responsible for the blue topics, leaving the orange topics for class:

Students are responsible for learning lower level (blue) topics before class, leaving the higher level (orange) topics for class. (Graphic: Peter Newbury CC-BY)

I have privilege of teaching a large group of UC San Diego graduate students and postdocs about teaching and learning. At the end of the course, each student backward-designs a 50- or 80-minute lesson with learning outcomes, assessment, and instructional strategies. They also select readings and other pre-class activities, including guidance for their students about how to prepare for class.

They’ve all done a great job recognizing students don’t need to read all of Chapter 3 and 4 in order to prepare for tomorrow’s class. But many wrote guidance like, “Read Chapter 3, paying attention to the notation and the differences between the 3 theories presented by the author.” Full disclosure: that’s how I suggested they write the guidance and and that’s how they did it. Only after listening to my own faulty advice 50 times did I realize there’s a problem:

To me, that kind of guidance looks like this:

Students are asked to learn a little about everything before class. In class, the instructor goes over everything in more detail. (Graphic: Peter Newbury CC-BY)

To prepare for class, the students learn a little about everything. Then in class, the instructor goes over each topic, expanding on what the student started to learn. And that can lead to problems:

  • students don’t know how much they have to learn about each topic – there is no definition of mastery — and so they don’t know if they’re ready for class
  • the instructor is probably asking students to learn conceptually-challenging concepts they’re not capable of learning on their own — that’s why they come to class!
  • if a student doesn’t do the pre-class readings, that’s okay, the instructor will go over most of it in class. In other words, why bother reading next time?
  • a student who does the pre-class readings may not see the value of that effort because the instructor went over it anyway. Again, why bother reading next time?
  • there’s a risk in the “clear distinction” version of guiding the students, too: if a student doesn’t do the pre-class reading, they will struggle in class because the instructor is assuming they have the required background knowledge.

How to you get them to do it?

If you’re going to ask your students to invest a considerable amount of work in the class, they need to know why. “Because I said so” isn’t sufficient. Here are two ways to get buy-in:

  1. Show them it’s valuable by letting them use their new knowledge and skills in class. If a student prepares for class and gets to, or better yet, has to, contribute to their and their classmates’ learning, they’ll do it again next time. And similarly, if they didn’t need to prepare,  because the content wasn’t used or because the instructor went over it anyway, they’ll think twice about preparing for the next class.
  2. Along with the pre-class guidance, instructors should plan for a pre-class reading quiz. The quiz questions assess students’ mastery of the (blue) topics they’re responsible for learning. A student who follows the guidance should have no trouble getting 100% on the quiz and a few percentage points toward their grade. Bonus: the instructor can check the students’ success on the reading quiz to ensure they’re prepared for class (or plan to cover a topic that was shown to be too difficult for students to learn on their own.)

Guided Practice and Preparation

Robert Talbert wrote an excellent description of the guided practice he gives his students before each class. I’ll leave the last word about supporting in-class, active learning to my friend, Beth Simon. She’s infectiously enthusiastic about flipping her class in order to create an engaging and rich learning experience when she and her students meet face-to-face.

(Graphic courtesy of Beth Simon, UC San Diego)

(Graphic courtesy of Beth Simon, UC San Diego)

 

Posted in How People Learn, teaching | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

There and back again.

I’m thrilled to announce that in July, I’ll be starting a new job as Director of the Centre for Teaching and Learning and Senior Advisor for Learning Initiatives in the Office of the Provost and Vice-Principal Academic at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan.

polarisdotcanadaFor me, this is a return to Canada, to British Columbia, and to the University of British Columbia community, though in Kelowna, rather than Vancouver where I went to graduate school, taught, and was part of the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative.

My 4 years at the Center for Teaching Development, now part of the Teaching + Learning Commons, at UC San Diego gave me the incredible chance to run a Center and then witness and contribute to the growth of a campus-wide teaching and learning network. For the opportunity to try, fail, get feedback, and try again (h/t Ken Bain) I thank my colleagues Beth Simon, Gabriele Wienhausen, Kim Barrett, Martha Stacklin, Steve Cassedy, the many faculty and staff I’ve worked with, and the hundreds of graduate students and postdocs who voluntarily participated in my teaching and learning course, The College Classroom. Their enthusiasm and dedication is inspiring.

I’m also incredibly grateful for the chance to learn with, and learn from, my colleagues in the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL) Network. I couldn’t help myself from observing how Bob Mathieu, Kitch Barnicle, Robin Greenler, and Jeff Engler lead a diverse group of colleagues, making sure voices are heard, making timely, informed decisions, and communicating those decisions in ways welcome collaboration and growth. These are all skills I will need in my new job.

I’m very much looking forward to conversations and projects with new (and old) colleagues Cynthia Mathieson, Simon Bates, Michelle Lamberson, Heather Hurren, Greg duManoir, Heather Berringer, and many, many others.

I feel this is the job I’ve been preparing for throughout my teaching and learning career. Perhaps I can finally get rid of the impostor syndrome that’s been hanging around ever since I left the math classroom nearly 20 years ago.

There and back again :)

[Update 2/18/2016] Fixed a typo: It’s the Centre, not Center, for Teaching and Learning. Finally, after 4 years at UC San Diego, my fingers and typing muscle memory have become Americanized. Center. Color. Counselor. Language, too: I’m going to have to re-train myself to talk about marking and marks instead of grading and grades,  about Terms instead of Quarters, and most importantly, about KD instead of mac-n-cheese.

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