Faculty Conversations: 2016-2017

Spring 2017

Tuesday, April 25. Joint Forces in Faculty Development: Opportunities through the ACM
Chris Welna, President of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM); Eric Egge and Laura Chihara, Math and Stats, Carleton, FaCE grant recipients; Sian Muir, Management Studies, St. Olaf, SAIL grant recipient
Time is a precious commodity for faculty, perhaps even more so for new faculty members. Why would faculty members who juggle teaching, research, governance and work-life balance volunteer time for faculty development? What faculty development opportunities are available through the ACM (which was created by Carleton, St Olaf, and their sister schools in the association as a vehicle to collaborate), and how might these opportunities help busy, new faculty? What kinds of collaborative faculty development can participants imagine for the future?

Hosted by the Perlman Center for Learning and Teaching.

Wednesday, April 19. Fake news, dubious claims, and “truthiness”: How do we teach our students to read digital texts and media critically?

Chris Chapp, Political Science; Chuck Huff, Psychology; Becca Richards, English, Media Studies; Kasia Gonnerman, Head of Research & Instruction, St. Olaf Libraries
How do our students navigate the perilous terrain of digital information at a time when “post-truth” features as the Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year for 2016? If our students resemble the general higher education population in the U.S., the answer is, “poorly.” A growing body of research indicates that students struggle with evaluating information found online.
How can we, as educators, equip our students with a critical apparatus to help them detect false, fabricated, exaggerated, or slanted information? What strategies can we use to help students motivate themselves to find authoritative sources and ask relevant questions about the context of their production and dissemination? In what ways can we discuss the idea that information has value, including as a means to influence?
Kasia Gonnerman and other Research and Instruction Librarians will lead discussion of recent research and present practical strategies to help students develop these skills, and faculty members will share classroom experiences from different disciplines.

Suggested readings:
Najmabadi, Shannon. “How Can Students Be Taught to Detect Fake News and Dubious Claims?” Chronicle of Higher Education, 12 Dec. 2016.
Sveningsson, Malin.  “‘It’s Only a Pastime, Really’: Young People’s Experiences of Social Media as a Source of News about Public Affairs.” Social Media + Society, vol. 1, no. 2, 2015, pp. 1-11.
Najmabadi, Shannon. “Information Literacy: It’s Become a Priority in an Era of Fake News.” Chronicle of Higher Education, 26 Feb. 2017.

Wednesday, April 12. Having meaningful discussions of race and racism in the classroom: A faculty workshop

Mike Fitzgerald, History; Bruce King, President’s Office; Susie Smalling, Social Work and Family Studies; Tom Williamson, Sociology and Anthropology
Facilitator: Jeremy Loebach, Psychology
The Student Life Committee is joining with CILA to host a workshop for faculty who wish to have meaningful discussions of race and racism in their classes. Over the past 2 years, the Student Life Committee has received repeated requests from students to have expanded discussions of race and racism in the classroom. Faculty have also expressed interest in engaging in these discussions; however, many have expressed a need for workshops and training on how to have such conversations effectively. This was the goal of having Rhonda Fitzgerald from the Sustained Dialogue group give a brief workshop on the topic at the February faculty meeting.

​To follow up on that, we have assembled a panel of faculty and staff who routinely engage in discussions of race and racism with students. Each will take 5 minutes to describe some of the techniques they have used to have meaningful discussions of race and racism in their classes​ and to give advice on how to go about engaging in such discussions​. We will then have an open discussion period where audience members can ask questions about fostering meaningful conversations in their classes, and express their concerns about doing so. We will end with some ​time for ​group work focusing on how participants could see themselves working such discussions into their classes, and what resources they may need to do so effectively.

Tuesday, April 4. Video Pen Pals: Using Skype and Google Hangout to Connect Students with Peers and Experts

Ashley Hodgson, Economics
A pilot project in Econ 245: Health Care Economics connected St. Olaf students with students at Germany’s Universität Duisburg-Essen and at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS). Students in each of the three countries were studying the health care system of that country, and were able to teach each other about what they had learned. In small groups of 2-3 St. Olaf students and 2-3 students abroad, they carried on virtual conversations on topics related to course concepts common to the two courses. Students became “mini experts” on a topic as they taught what they had learned, gained personal exposure to different cultures, and heard anecdotal stories of different health care systems. Additionally, the students conducted video-conferencing conversations with alumni to learn more about the breadth of health economics fields open to them.

This CILA lunch will include discussion among faculty of the use of video-conferencing to connect students to both peers and experts elsewhere. What are the advantages? What are the pitfalls? What practices make the use of video-conferencing more successful? How do you teach facilitation of discussion and an agenda when there are cultural barriers? In what types of courses and topics would a video-pen-pals project work well? Which might work less well?

Tuesday, March 14. Let's Talk About Writing: Content, Transfer, and the Question of General Education

Diane LeBlanc, Interdisciplinary Studies and Director of the Writing Program
When liberal arts colleges introduced writing across the curriculum (WAC) over forty years ago, the new model of teaching writing felt radical, even risky. Now, this widely-accepted practice of teaching and learning faces new challenges. Colleges face pressure to ensure return on investment, many students arrive at college seeking clear career paths, and faculty grapple with questions of how to balance content knowledge with demands formeasurable “practical skills.” These realities impact when and how we teach writing.

So now seems like a good time to reflect on St. Olaf’s writing curriculum. Where have we been, where are we now, and where are we going? To stimulate conversation, we’ll sip from the history of our general education writing curriculum (FYW & WRI), exchange our understanding of current practice, and ask what we can learn from two competing models: skills-centered courses and vertical writing curriculum. We’ll consider how questions of course-to-course transfer, which these two models highlight, might shape future discussion about how we teach and how students develop as writers.

Article: (On-campus access via ProQuest) “If Skills are The New Canon, Are Colleges Teaching Them?” The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 3, 2016

Tuesday, March 7. Why be an Academic Leader?

Mary Cisar, Romance Languages; Alison Feldt, Music; Jim May, Classics; Matt Richey, MSCS
Compared to many organizations, leadership in academia is somewhat unusual in the set of opportunities and challenges it presents. But this important aspect of faculty life is rarely publicly discussed. How do you become an academic leader? What are some of the issues encountered when leading in academia? Join our panelists who will share some of their experiences, successes, and challenges in leading as a former Dean and Provost, Associate Dean, Registrar, and Department Chair at St. Olaf.

Tuesday, February 21. Autism and Academic Performance

Dr. Elizabeth Reeve, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, HealthPartners Medical Group
Students with autism spectrum disorder are among the different learners at St. Olaf College. This session will address the characteristics and neurological differences associated with autism that impact academic performance, and discuss techniques to help faculty interact with and support students with autism in their classes. Neuropsychological deficits in attention span and processing speed can significantly impair academic performance. Lack of social reciprocity and anxiety impair a student’s ability to ask questions, seek help and interact with teachers and peers in the classroom setting. Impaired ability to manage time, maintain sleep schedules and stay organized further hampers students with autism. Nevertheless, these students have been successful in high school and can be successful in the college setting as well.

Co-sponsors: Disability and Access (Academic Support Center), Dean of Students

Dr. Reeve is a child and adolescent psychiatrist with HealthPartners Medical Group where she has worked for the past 25 years. She has held a variety of positions with HealthPartners, including Residency Training director, director of Behavioral Health Research, and Behavioral Health outpatient medical director. She currently works clinically with patients who are developmentally disabled and teaches residents and medical students. Dr. Reeve is the parent of an adult with autism who lives at home.

Slides from presentation here.

Wednesday, February 15. Going inside the black box: Getting useful, actionable information to improve your classroom and program

Laura Maki, Educational Research and Assessment, IR&E; Bridget Draxler, Writing Program and Writing Desk; Ryan Sheppard, Sociology and Anthropology
How can we better understand student learning and success in our classrooms and programs? Are students achieving the goals we set for them? How do we know? You are invited to join your colleagues in a conversation about assessment practices and strategies. The co-facilitators will begin the discussion by providing examples from their assessment projects. Participants will then break into smaller groups to discuss their experiences and generate ideas for classroom- and program-level assessment projects that produce useful, actionable information. The large group will then discuss strategies for maintaining best practices in assessment that meet the needs of faculty, students, and the College.


Fall 2016

Tuesday, November 29. Using the New 'Active Learning Platform' to Integrate Video in your Teaching

Ben Gottfried, Doug Hamilton, St. Olaf iTech
While the benefits of using video in teaching and learning may be numerous, the barriers have often involved cumbersome technology. For this reason, the college has recently adopted YuJa, an Active Learning Platform that streamlines the process for faculty and students to create and share video content.

Ben Gottfried and Doug Hamilton from the St. Olaf iTech team will provide an overview of YuJa, discuss its many applications, and share examples from faculty who have already begun to take advantage of this tool. Attendees will also learn how they can gain access to YuJa for their own use and experimentation.

Wednesday, November 16. The Election is Over: What now?

Chris Chapp, Political Science; Kathy Tegtmeyer Pak, Asian Studies and Politicial Science
This election has been one of the most divisive seen in recent times. Now that it is over, what happens next? Join Chris Chapp and Kathy Tegtmeyer Pak in Political Science for a conversation about how we got here and what this election outcome might mean for us and our students in our classrooms, for this week, and the weeks ahead.

Suggested resource:
Returning to the Classroom after the Election resources from the Center for Research on Teaching and Learning at the University of Michigan

Wednesday, November 9. Popcorn Pedagogy 2: Sharing Ideas in Teaching (Back by popular demand!)

The first “Popcorn Pedagogy” session on a Tuesday in September was a lively sharing of ideas, innovations, and questions about teaching from faculty in Music, Chemistry, Spanish, Psychology, Religion, Theater, and Asian Studies, among others. By request, this second session is on a Wednesday, to extend the opportunity to participate.

As faculty committed to excellent teaching, we are constantly engaged in thinking about how we can best educate our students in meaningful and creative ways. but do not often have the opportunity to share the interesting things we are doing in our courses with other faculty, even within our departments.This CILA Lunch provides a time and space for faculty to share experiences from the semester and engage in conversation around teaching ideas and practices.

There will be no formal presentation. Instead, please come ready to share in under 5 minutes one thing you have been doing, or will be doing, in your teaching this semester, or something you have tried previously that worked (or didn’t) – for example, a particular assignment, a classroom technique, a way to manage a discussion, or something else that has enhanced the student learning experience – or even just the kernel of an idea that you are excited about trying in the future, and we can all learn from the lively conversation that “pops” up as a result.

Tuesday, November 1. Perspectives on Posse and College Access

Rosalyn Eaton-Neeb, Dean of Students, Posse liaison/Posse advisory group; Diane Angell, Biology, Posse3 mentor; Justin Fleming, Associate Dean of Students; Eric Fure-Slocum, History, Posse1 mentor; Brian Greening, Director, TRIO Student Support Services (SSS)
St. Olaf College recently joined with the Posse Foundation, a college access and youth leadership development program. Now in the beginning of its third year here, the program recruits multicultural teams of students from Chicago high schools. Posse students are selected because they exhibit strong leadership traits and academic potential, but also are students who likely would have been overlooked in the traditional college selection process. During their first two years on campus, students receive intensive mentoring and meet weekly as a group, with the aim of supporting one another through graduation. The Posse program aims to diversify campuses and to provide under-served students with better educational opportunities. At the same time, Posse seeks to make campuses more welcoming for students of all backgrounds.

During this CILA lunch, we look closely at the role Posse plays and might play at St. Olaf, while also engaging broader questions about the challenges and purposes of college access.


Posse Foundation https://www.possefoundation.org/

Lani Guinier, The Tyranny of the Meritocracy: Democratizing Higher Education (2015), intro and chapter 5.

Wednesday, October 19. Mind the gap: Interdisciplinarity by design

Jeremy Loebach, Jess Petok, Psychology and Neuroscience
In theory, liberal arts students embody interdisciplinarity: poets by morning and biologists by night, they study plasma in spacecraft propulsion while tackling ancient Greek philosophy. Yet such interdisciplinarity occurs by circumstance more often than by design because the faculty who teach poetry, biology, physics, and philosophy often lack the resources to link inquiry between their respective disciplines.

We tried to improve interdisciplinary teaching and research at St. Olaf through a summer incubator focusing on the research methods of an inherently interdisciplinary field, cognitive science, broadly defined as the study of the mind and its processes. Our incubator had three main goals: (1) to introduce faculty from diverse disciplines to cognitive science literature; (2) to foster collaboration on interdisciplinary teaching modules or new courses grounded in cognitive science; and (3) to establish a working model for further faculty development through interdisciplinary work informed by cognitive science. Through a series of meetings during the summer of 2016, faculty discussed readings and developed resources to support future interdisciplinary work around cognitive science.

Tuesday, October 4. Breaking Bad: Dealing with Cultural, Ethnic, and Gender Stereotypes

More than ill-informed biases and ignorant assumptions about others, “stereotype” reveals the complex interrelationships among identity, language, society, and culture. When adopting a stereotype, a person categorizes others who are “different” in some aspect, be it race, gender, religion, sexuality, or social/economic class, in overly simplistic ways based merely on perceived group membership, fixed patterns, or limited past experiences. Although stereotypes are not necessarily negative or incorrect, seldom do they seem completely right. The ambivalent nature of stereotype, both as a general concept and a cultural practice, must be viewed from multiple perspectives. To break the “bad” mode of stereotype, a “good” conversation is the best starting point. Join us for a discussion facilitated by Ka Wong about students’ experiences with stereotypes in and out of the classroom.

Wednesday, September 28. How does teaching in the classroom link to how St. Olaf, as an identity, is perceived?

Katie Warren, Chief Marketing Officer,
Katie Warren will lead a discussion about the St. Olaf student academic experience and how that contributes to marketing and communications for the college. Authenticity has become crucial in communicating a brand. According to a Boston Consulting Group study among 2,500 American consumers, it’s one of the top attributes people are looking for in a brand they choose. This need for authenticity is amplified by word-of-mouth through social media. The new reality means that instead of one-way communications we need to engage our audience in a conversation.

Tuesday, September 20. Popcorn Pedagogy for a New Semester: A Time for Sharing Ideas in Teaching

Welcome to a new semester! As faculty committed to excellent teaching, we are constantly engaged in thinking about how we can best educate our students in meaningful and creative ways. Unfortunately, we do not often have the opportunity to share the interesting things we are doing in our courses with other faculty, even within our departments.This CILA Lunch will provide a time and space for faculty to share experiences and engage in conversation around teaching ideas and practices as we begin a new semester together.

There will be no formal presentation. Instead, please come ready to share in under 5 minutes one thing you have been doing, or will be doing this semester, or something you have tried previously in your teaching that worked (or didn’t work) – for example, a particular assignment, a classroom technique, a way to manage a discussion, or something else that has enhanced the student learning experience – or even just the kernel of an idea that you are excited about, and we can all learn from the lively conversation that “pops” up as a result.