The Chronicle of Higher Education (6 Mar 2014) has published a set of charts reflecting "Backgrounds and Beliefs of College Freshmen" through the decades; it includes the most recent administration of UCLA's annual CIRP survey (for freshmen starting college in fall 2013). Well worth a look. Perhaps even worth asking your first-year students to discuss.
The Freshman Common Reading Selection Committee has voted and we have a winner: The Postmortal: A Novel by Drew Magary (365 pages; 2011). Nominated by Kimberly Embleton and written in the form of a blog, The Postmortal takes place in a not-too-distant future when the cure for aging has been discovered. The cure doesn’t confer immortality; it just stops the aging process. The book raises moral and ethical questions about overpopulation, mortality, the environment, families, birth, marriage, death, interpersonal relationships, income inequality, and the role of government in the lives of the governed.
Faculty/staff book groups: join other CSUN colleagues for a one-hour discussion of the book this spring. Get your own free copy (CSUN faculty and staff only) in exchange for talking about the book with one or more new CSUN freshmen next fall.
CSUN's Office of Institutional Research has posted the latest fall-to-fall retention figures for CSUN freshmen, now including those who entered in Fall 2012. The news is good, or at least, better: we retained 77.9 percent of those freshmen, a gain of more than 3 percentage points over the last few years. We last came close to this year's number with the entering freshman class of 2004, with a fall-to-fall retention rate of 77.3 percent. One-time fluke? Wishful thinking? Or are we trending upward at last? Visit the IR website (path: IR> CSUN by the Numbers> Undergraduate Retention Rates> Continuation Rates) and spin your own theory.
Eight CSUN stalwarts--Cynthia Desrochers (lead), Matthew d'Alessio, Rashawn Green, Sharon Klein, Daisy Lemus, Michael Neubauer, Mike Rivas, and Cheryl Spector--studied the book How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching (available from Oviatt, to CSUN users only, as an e-book) as part of a learning community from fall 2012 through most of 2013. With support from the Provost and the Michael D. Eisner College of Education, they have distilled those seven principles into five gears featured on a double-sided postcard, and two posters. (More information....)
Professor Jim Sefton, a CSUN history professor who has been teaching for over forty years, has some timeless advice for freshmen in the form of this two-page list of Academic Tactics for Freshmen (.docx, 18KB). Jim was the featured presenter for an October 2013 Faculty Development coffee: High Standards: Holding Students Accountable.
"I don’t know if the first day of class is the most important day of the course, but I don’t think many of us would disregard its significance. What we do and how we do it matters. There are lots of good first-day activities—we’ve shared some in this blog over the years. In this post I’d like to move our thinking in a different direction and suggest five first-day essentials that go beyond the activities. These are the goals for the first day that we can use the activities to accomplish." (read more...)
Academic Technology offers all kinds of classes to support teaching with technology: Moodle 2, tablets, and more. Now you can view all available classes at a glance on the Technology Training calendar-view page: http://www.csun.edu/it/workshop-calendar. Much easier to read than the page-by-page list. Did you know there were discussions on teaching with tablets almost every week this summer? And if you haven't yet checked out some of the really nice new features of Moodle 2, you have a lot to look forward to. Check it out!
Here's a practical and quite short article from Faculty Focus with five sensible opportunities for you to flip a portion of your classroom practice: "Looking for ‘Flippable’ Moments in Your Class" by Barbi Honeycutt (25 Mar 2013). Excerpt:
"[S]ome topics lend themselves more easily to flipped strategies than others, but every lesson plan has the opportunity for at least one 'flippable moment.' This is the moment during class when you stop talking at your students and “flip” the work to them instead. This is the moment when you allow your students to struggle, ask questions, solve problems, and do the 'heavy lifting' required to learn the material." (Read more....)
The 2013-2014 Freshman Common Reading is Garbology by Edward Humes. If you received a free copy, don't forget that you have agreed to speak to at least one new 2013-2014 CSUN freshman about the book during this academic year.
For more information about Garbology at CSUN, see: http://www.csun.edu/afye/Garbology-for-Faculty-and-Staff.html. Among the many possibilities for working with Garbology, consider these: a campus-wide White Elephant Exchange; ramped-up campus recycling; and curricular connections to CSUN departments and programs including Sustainability (the new minor), Business and Business Law, Environmental & Occupational Health, Political Science, Family and Consumer Sciences, Biology, Math, Economics, Music, Art, and (of course) freshman writing/Stretch Composition as well as University 100.
On a possibly related note, there will soon be a documentary about the "Landfill Harmonic": musicians who make musical instruments out of trash in Paraguay: see http://www.treehugger.com/culture/orchestra-paraguay-makes-beautiful-music-trash.html and also http://wosu.org/2012/classical101/paraguays-recycled-orchestra-turns-trash-into-musical-treasure/.
Of particular interest to us at CSUN: the book has a substantial local (SoCal) focus and is considered highly teachable by selection committee members, who also talked about how it changed their perspective on trash and how its engaging style and subject surprised them:
Find out more about teaching Garbology at http://www.csun.edu/afye/Garbology-for-Faculty-and-Staff.html. And don't miss this NPR story: "Following Garbage's Long Journey around the Earth" (http://www.npr.org/2012/04/26/150735732/following-garbages-long-journey-around-the-earth).
"The discussion forum, currently the holy grail of 'engagement' inside most online courses, is particularly problematic. Exchanges within forums are usually too strictly controlled and reduce honest interaction to busy-work scored by a rubric. These interactions rarely resemble the many and varied kinds of discussions possible in a classroom. And many teachers require things of online discussions that they would never demand in an on-ground classroom: one post of at least 250 words, properly cited, and exactly 2 responses to fellow students. Imagine trying to create a lively classroom discussion with these kinds of constraints."
Read more of Jesse Stomel's wonderfully disruptive blog post, "Online Learning: A User’s Guide to Forking Education," at http://www.hybridpedagogy.com/Journal/files/Forking_Education.html#unique-entry-id-89 (Hybrid Pedagogy: A Digital Journal of Teaching & Technology, 8 Jan 2013). Thanks to CSUN faculty colleague Jennifer Thompson (Jewish Studies) for sending me this link.
A recent issue of The Toolbox (10:3, Nov./Dec. 2011) features eight practical tips for making classroom discussion more successful. Ignore the title ("Value-Added Discussion Enhancers") and learn something new (for instance, why you might want to include background music during class discussion).
This recent short article by David Smit describes how (and why) faculty in all disciplines should teach writing in their classes. He offers specific strategies faculty can use, arguing that "we must recognize that students cannot get sufficient practice in writing if they only write in English classes." (See "Strategies to Improve Student Writing.")
"The Toolbox is an online professional development newsletter offering innovative learner-centered strategies for empowering college students to achieve greater success. The newsletter is published six times a year, and the online subscription is free."
Recent issues have included topics such as "Organizing Teaching to Promote Learning," "Web-Based Assignment Venues," "If You Are Here, Raise Your Hand: The Attendance Dilemma," and "Going Retro--Teaching Techless" (among others).
This very brief article (as Tomorrow's Professor explains) "is a report on a study that looks at reasons why many freshman engineering students switch majors or drop out of college entirely. It has implications for many other disciplines as well. The article is by Mica A. Hutchison-Green." Tomorrow's Professor is a mailing list that offers "Desk-Top Faculty Development, One Hundred Times A Year." It is sponsored by the Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning.