» Columns News, Opinion, Analysis and More For the Adjunct Faculty Nation Tue, 05 Jul 2016 19:48:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Why Not Every Student (or Prof) Deserves a Letter of Recommendation Fri, 20 May 2016 19:11:06 +0000 Jackie Jones is an associate professor and chair of the Department of Multimedia Journalism at Morgan State University’s School of Global Journalism. In her essay for the Morgan Global Journalism Review, Jones tackles the subject of letters of recommendation. She writes, “My decision about whether to write a recommendation is also guided by the four principles of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Code of Ethics: Seek Truth and Report It, Minimize Harm, Act Independently, Be Accountable and Transparent.” In addition, Jones discusses why not all students who ask should be given letters of recommendation.

I am very particular about writing letters of recommendation. I must know the student and his/her performance well and I will not write letters for students whose performance and reputations are wanting.  I am polite, but I don’t hold back and will explain why I am refusing to submit a recommendation.

I once warned a student even before he asked not to approach me because I could not in good conscience say anything positive on his behalf.

This doesn’t happen only with journalism students. Get together with a bunch of professors from a wide variety of disciplines and the war stories flow like whisky at an open bar. Faculty can’t tell whether it’s a sense of entitlement, status-seeking or just plain cluelessness on the part of students.


Jones’s comprehensive list of tips, aimed at students, are applicable to anyone—faculty included—who seek letters of recommendation.

AdjunctNation Freeway Flyer blogger Jenny Ortiz writes that adjuncts who write letters of recommendation can face open discrimination. Ortiz writes in her blog entry When Letters of Recommendation Written by Freeway Flyers Are Discounted: 

Letters of recommendation aren’t things I write on the fly (Freeway humor!); I took my time and showcased the student’s talents. I also explained my qualifications in order to show why my opinion on the matter could be trusted. It was a great letter, if I do say so myself. However, a few days after I sent it to the people in charge of the Writing Center (my former bosses), the student was to solicit a recommendation from a full-time writing professor.

Ortiz goes on to ask: “So, how do we change this perspective? It’s a well known that at most institutions, the faculty students interact with the most are adjuncts and a high percentage are Freeway Flyers.”

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From Koala to Kangaroo—Getting Your Students Hopping With Active Learning Tue, 26 Apr 2016 19:06:43 +0000 by Shawn Orr, Digital Educator

 You’ve probably seen this chart or another many times over the course of your teaching. Basically, it’s saying that we remember very little of what somebody talks to us about. We remember more if we can see it. We remember much more if we can actually practice it and experience it. Dottie Walters and her book Speak and Grow Rich and William Glasser and his Choice Theory both say that our students will learn and retain 90-95% of what they teach each other and what they are actually involved in the creation process. Who doesn’t want their students to know 90-95% of the course content? It’s not about earning the A, right? We don’t use grades to prove learning; that proves content mastery.

What can I do so that my students are actively involved, so they are learning and retaining? I look at the classes that I taught 22 years ago and I thought “Man, if I can pair my knowledge of the subject today, 22 years later, to what I knew then—I can’t believe how much more I know.” Certainly, that should be the way it is. Not only is new information coming in, but I’m teaching it. I’m learning and retaining and coming up with new ways to apply it every day. That is ultimately the goal. That’s what we’re looking at.

We’re going to look at 7 Icebreakers and 11 Active Learning Strategies to really engage your students in the classroom. My goal for you is that you walk away with one or two. Don’t feel overwhelmed if you see the things that I’m doing and I’m using, just pick one or two that will really resonate with your students and would really make a difference. Or pick one lecture that you’re saying “I know this is the lecture that my students really struggle with or it causes them boredom” and find one activity that you can use in there.

Icebreakers are any tool that we use to facilitate interaction, stimulate creative thinking and introduce new concepts and material. Usually when we think of icebreakers, we think of them as social ways to build connection. But, icebreakers are so much more than that. They also can be educational and topical. A way that we can introduce new content, we can help make ideas relevant, and help students think in the way that we need to that day. If I know I need my students to think creatively, I might start out my course with an icebreaker where they have to engage in a lot of creative thinking. Even something as easy as a Sudoku puzzle up on the Smartboard when they walk in. They start to think creatively and critically as we move into the content.

Active learning is any activity that gets students involved in the learning process with the goal of them constructing meaning. When they construct meaning, when they draw conclusions, when they collaborate with their peers, they will learn and retain the information.

Icebreaker #1: Create a “Name Card”

I do this in all my courses, and mine might be smaller than what some of you are. They range from 12-25 students, my largest class in 45. I have the goal that I will know every single student’s name by the end of the first week. If I want to increase retention, my students have to feel like they’re a part of a community and part of group that cares about them.

I have them do nametags. The nametags are obviously for me, but I bring in markers and poster board. It’s amazing how your tactile learners immediately are drawn to doing this project and start to talk to each other. Rather than having them just put their name, I have them put something on their card that’s relevant or interesting to them.

I always make myself a cheerleader because I’m always making fun of myself and my students will laugh with me because I always say “I am your biggest cheerleader. I will be so excited and there will be tears of joy that day you walk across that stage and graduate—I can hardly wait for that day. Know that I am in your corner. You’re responsible for your learning, but I am your biggest supporter.” My students will put everything. They’ll put guitars, pictures of computers, pictures of their kids, and their animals. All of a sudden, we are having a conversation about what is meaningful and important to them.

Now, I don’t have my students introduce them this way, but when I call on someone, I’ll ask “What is that on your card? I can’t make that out. You are the worst drawer I have ever seen. Explain that to me.” Then they’ll laugh and suddenly they are talking about something that’s relevant to them and pretty soon we’ve formed that sense of community. This is purely a social icebreaker.

Icebreaker #2: The Five Finger Introduction

This is my favorite icebreaker to do on the second day of classes called “The Five Finger Introduction.” I always tell my students it’s not the one finger introduction I get on the highway all the time because I’m a very slow driver, but this is the Five Finger Introduction. I poorly draw a hand on the board and then I say “You’re going to get with the person next to you and introduce these 5 Things:

  • Pointer finger: Tell them about yourself, your major, and what’s a one-word description of you as a student. Maybe they might say motivated or energetic or nervous.
  • Middle finger: Who is someone you look up to? Who is a mentor or somebody that you admire? Or, who is someone that you want to emulate you career after? And for many of my students, that’s the first time that think “What do I want my career to look like and who would be a great mentor?”
  • Ring finger: Who is someone you love? Somebody that’s going to be in your corner and really love and support you.
  • Pinky finger: Something you need to be a little more of or a little less of. Like, I could be a little more patient or I could be a little less of a procrastinator.
  • Thumb: What’s “thumb-thing” you would really love to discuss or learn? On the first day of class, I might make this about the topic in general. What is something you’re really excited to learn about Business? What is something that you really think is going to relevant to make you more marketable in this course? What are you excited about?

I’ve also done this activity halfway through the semester and just changed up some of these things. Like, what is something you need to do a little bit more in this class? Or, what is something you need me to do a little more in this class? What’s a learning style that you really hope I continue to do. There’s lots of ways you can change this up. This is also a great one to do online because it’s very visual.

Icebreaker #3: Teaching a blended or online class?

I’ve used this activity several times for my all-online courses. At Adrian College, we use Blackboard. I’ll post an image in the discussion forum and say “Introduce yourself to us, tell me why you’re taking this course, and then I want you to put a digital image that tells us something about who you are or what’s important to you.”

This is a picture that I might put up and I might say that I live on a farm, I’m passionate about horses, and this is my best friend and share a little bit about myself. Here is the reason this is a great an effective strategy in an online course: I like to frontload my courses in my blended courses. That means that anything that I’m going to have my students using over the term, I want them to try out in the first week. So if I want them to upload a paper, I want them to do it in a very low stakes assignment during the first part of the first couple weeks of class. If they’re going to be using the discussion board, if they’re going to be working in UCU on a group project, I want them to get in a try it out.


This right away tells me something about my students. If they cannot figure out how to attach a digital image, it tells me something about their computer skills, it gives me the opportunity to intervene early — before the first big paper is due, when they can’t figure out how to get it uploaded, and that frustration overwhelms them. It tells me a lot about their skills, plus it gives me a chance to really engage with them right away and talk about their pictures and share.

Icebreaker #4: Commonality

Commonality is not just a social icebreaker, but also an educational icebreaker. This could be a great way to start your course out or a great way to start a specific lesson out. I actually found this one on a science website and my students love this. I download these pictures from Google and click the boxes that are free to use, even commercially, and I pass them out as students walk in.

I always greet my students at the door when they walk in to help create that connection. They then have to get together, I’ll say in groups of four, and they have to figure out who their groups are. The group on the right-hand side is the Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie, which I do have to tell you, most of my students don’t know what Little House on the Prairie is. I grew up with that show and they don’t even know who Paul Ingalls is. It’s a very very sad state of society right now. But if I put the Simpsons up there or something like that, they might right away know who they were. You can put it in groups and then you can have them introduce each other in groups and you can also ask relevant questions.

Let’s say it’s the first day of a nursing class or a medical assisting class. Maybe I would use those pictures on the bottom. If we were able to chat and I could ask you who those were, I’m sure you’d be able to identify those right away as historically famous nurses. Florence Nightingale, who wrote books on nursing and still shapes the industry of nursing today; Mary Mahoney, the first African American Registered Nurse; Mary Breckinridge, who was part of the frontier nursing service and rode a horse to do her nursing. Sometimes if they don’t know who they are, but they also notice the have nursing caps, they’ll get together for nursing hats and ask for a hint. And then I’ll have them look up the history of these important people. You can do this in so many different ways. You can put four terms that go together. So maybe I would put “Planning,” “Organizing,” “Leading,” and “Controlling,” and the students that have those would have to figure out that those are the Four Functions of Management. There are lots of ways that you can make this relevant to your content area. The neat thing is, is that students tend to congregate in groups and teams of who they know. I want my students to know everyone in the classroom. I want them to feel like they have somebody to side beside somebody that they have to connect with. This is a great activity for that.

Another one that plays off this is that when I put my students into groups or teams, I use playing cards. When they walk in the classroom, they pull a playing card off the deck from the table. All my Kings go together, all my Aces go together, and that way they’re in a different group and a different team every time. It’s a really terrific way to get different students together.

I can also tell you sometimes I stack the groups the way I want them. I use MindTap, so I’m able to go in and look at how engaged my students are in a course. Not just how well they’re doing, but how much time they’re spending in their reading and how much time they’re spending in their activities. I can take my students that are highly engaged and pair them with my students that aren’t quite as engaged and might be struggling with some of the concepts. It’s a terrific way to create formative groups to help my students be successful. 

Icebreaker #5: Candy

I’m sure you’ve probably given little bags of M&Ms and for every one M&M you ate, you have to tell us one thing about yourself. That’s a social icebreaker. Let me tell you how to make it educational or topical. I’ll bring in the bags of M&Ms, but then I’ll say “For however many green M&Ms you have, that’s how many times you have to participate in class today.” If you have 3 M&Ms, 1 M&M, 4M&Ms, that’s how many of my questions you have to answer, that’s how many of my activities you have to participate in.

Until everyone has participated their number of times, that’s when we’ll be done for the day. Or, if everyone can participate their number of times before the halfway point, we’ll have an extra five minutes during the break. Students feel a sense of obligation to participate and can gauge when they’re being called out. They hold each other accountable for it.

Another cool way to do this, is to say “You have to share three things from this week’s lectures, or three facts from last week’s lectures, based on how many M&Ms you have, and tell us why they are important.”

This is a neat way to take this social icebreaker and make it so that’s it relevant to the content area.

Icebreaker #6: How many items can you remember?

I want everyone to grab a piece of scrap paper or something that’s sitting right there. What we’re going to do right now is we’re going to do an icebreaker. I had a colleague tell me, “Oh Shawn, I love your idea of doing icebreakers in class to engage your students, but I’m teaching PC repair. This isn’t really a great course to be able to do an icebreaker in.” I said, you know, what, I bet I could, I bet I could design an icebreaker that you could use in your class this coming week. This is the icebreaker I designed for him and it was wildly successful. It actually turned into the entire lecture for the class.

I’m going to show you something on the screen, and I’m going to just show it to you for a few seconds. Then I’m going to take it off and I want you to see how many of the items you can remember. Write them down, but don’t write anything down until I take the picture off the screen. Alright, here we go. Write down as many of those items as you can remember from what was on the screen. Here’s a hint: there are eight items.

So let me go ahead, show you what the items are then, and see how many you were actually able to remember. So obviously, there’s a flashlight. There’s a pair of tweezers. There’s a screwdriver, a jump drive. The band with the yellow on it is an anti-static band, and anti-shock band. There’s compressed air. That’s what that thing is supposed to be at the bottom. There is cable ties, an outlet. I asked my students, “How many can you remember?” We had a competition and I gave out a candy bar for whoever remembered the most. I asked, “What do all these items have in common?” One student raised their hand they said, “Well, that’s what this chapter was about. It was about all the items you should have available for you in your PC repair kit if somebody calls you to say there’s a problem with their computer, and they don’t believe it’s a software problem.” I’m like, brilliant. Let’s talk about each of these items then. What kind of screwdrivers and what does the textbook say? How many types did you have? What is the anti-static band for? It’s so you don’t shock yourself. And they’re like, “Oh Professor Orr, you’re so silly. It’s not for you. It’s so you don’t shock the computer. So that if you have static in you, it doesn’t shock the computer and ruin the data.” I’m like, oh that’s so brilliant.

Well who’s doing the teaching, right? Who’s doing the pushups? They’re teaching me what each of these tools are for and why you might need them. They look and go cable ties. Why in the heck would we need cable ties? All of a sudden they’re flipping through the pages of their book, looking it up and saying why do the experts say I need to have that in my tool kit. They’re doing the teaching. While this is a great icebreaker, a way to start out, it’s also a terrific way to lead right into the lecture and teach.

Think of the ways that you could adapt this. You could, if you were teaching a medical course, you could have a picture of a tray of everything you need to have for a specific blood draw. If you were teaching a business course, you could have all of the elements you have to have together if you want to do a flow chart. There’s a lot of different ways that you could do this. Obviously, it works better for classes that are very tactile and hands-on, but once again, just another really neat icebreaker.

Icebreaker #7: Reflection

Finally, my last icebreaker I want to share is an assessment icebreaker. I do a lot of informative and summative assessments and I really like Cross and Angelo’s Classroom Assessment Techniques. It’s one of the leading industry standards on really doing great classroom assessment, both formative and summative. It’s one of my coveted, cherished books that I use all the time as I look at how my students are doing within each class and what I can change to help them learn more effectively. Then summative assessment: How can I summarize how my students did at the end of a unit?

I love this reflections icebreaker. I do this one at the end of class. I’ll put these statements up: I liked this unit… It got me thinking about… Something that surprised me today…. Sometimes I’ll do PNI: what was one positive thing that happened today, one negative thing that happened, and something interesting that you learned. I usually have my students do these on note cards and then turn them in as they’re leaving. They hand them to me and there’s several ways that I use these. Sometimes I use them as formative assessments. So if I had a lot of students that say, I’m concerned about the steps to put together a title page. Or, I still don’t completely understand which side of the t-cell a debit goes on and which side a credit goes on. That informs my teaching. I know right away where to start my next class. Sometimes I use those as discussion board questions. So several students say I learned this interesting thing or I was surprised by this. I can put a great discussion board question up to get all of the students talking about that concept or that idea. So there’s lots of different ways. You can start your class off with this saying based on the reading or based on the homework, and have them do this and then flip through them during the break. I love doing these and I love doing this at the end.

Let me tell you one other quick way that I like to modify this. I give my students sticky notes, and on each side of the white board I’ll say write one thing that you really enjoyed in this first half of the course, one thing that you’re really clear on, and one thing you’re going to use. On the other side of the board, I want you to write down one thing that you’re concerned about and one question you wish I would answer in the second half of the class. Then when they go on break, I can flip through those post-it notes. If I have six questions, or six students all ask the same question, I know exactly where to start my learning. They’re engaged, they’re doing something, and they’re providing feedback.

Alright, those are seven icebreaker activities. I hope that you picked out one of those that you might be able to use in your course.

Let’s go ahead and jump forward, and look at what additional things we could do during our class time to really get my students active and engaged, really get them involved in the learning process. I found this interesting statistic about kangaroos. Much like T-Rexes, from Jurassic Park, kangaroos have really good eyesight, but they only respond to objects that are moving. So if I want my students to see the importance of the course content, I’ve got to get them moving. I’ve got to get them doing something with that content. If they’re just sitting back and taking it in, I don’t know if they’re really getting it until I do an assessment. If that midterm assessment they get a D on, it doesn’t mean they can’t still be successful, but it means we’ve got a long way to go versus getting them active and involved every single day in every single course.

Let me give you 11 more great activities and strategies that I’m using in my course. And before I jump into these, Britany, are there any specific questions that somebody needs addressed right now before we jump into active learning strategies?

>> Jackie asked earlier when you were first talking about your class, do you have a lot of first generation college students in your courses? Can you give us a little bit more about the demographics of your courses?

>> I taught at a small private college, a technical school for 19 years in Toledo. It was predominantly first generation college students. I had a lot of students that did not have role models for college that weren’t raised around the ideology of the importance of education. One of the things that I really tried to stress with them is that education is a great equalizer. It is the only thing that is really ever going to change someone’s socioeconomic status. If they’re hoping for the lottery to do that, it’s not going to happen. Education is the thing that’s going to make a difference in their lives and their children’s lives. Right now, I teach at Adrian College. We don’t have a lot of first generation college students. Adrian College is a private college in Adrian, Michigan. We have around 3,000 students. A bit of a different demographic there, but yes, I definitely have taught to a very wide variety of students. I also taught at Bowling Green State University as well for two years when I was a graduate assistant and then after I graduated.

Active Learning Strategy #1: Identify the “Gold Nuggets”

So lecturing. Do I lecture in my classes? I absolutely lecture. I think students need direct instruction. They need to know what’s important in the content. If they could just take the chapter and read it and understand the key points, they probably wouldn’t need me. However, I will tell you there’s several things that I do. One of the things that I do for my students. I use MindTap e-books, so I’m actually able to annotate the chapters for my students. I’m able to go in and highlight the first chapter and leave them post-it notes, and then it pushes right into their electronic book, the e-book. When the students get their e-book, the first chapters highlighted for them list post-it notes I’ve left them throughout. This is why this concept is important. This is how this is going to be relevant. We’re going to be talking about this in class. Remember when Matt made a comment in class about this? Here it is.

When I lecture, I lecture on what I like to consider the “gold nuggets”—the few key concepts that every single student in my course must know in order to be successful. Then, we do a lot of active learning strategies and activities. In a 75-minute course, I’m going to lecture at the most 15 to 20 minutes. The key most important points. Then we’re going to take the gold nuggets and then the silver nuggets, the five or six additional pieces of information that students should know, and we’re going to do active learning strategies. We’re going to do activities. We’re going to do application. We’re going to do case studies. We’re going to do all these kinds of 11 activities that I’m getting ready to share with you in class. And then those bronze nuggets, the things that the students could know, those extras, those things that our A students are going to be able to pick out and are going to know as well, those are the things that are going to also be part of the homework for after. We’re really extending the line. The gold nuggets and lecture, then the gold and silver nuggets and activity and practice, and then the gold, silver and bronze nuggets in their homework.

As we look at some of these active learning, I think we should lecture, but it needs to be limited. This is a whole other webinar series, but I really, really love teaching a flipped classroom where my students watch their lectures outside of the class. I record 15-minute lectures with something that they have to deal with the first time I get a flipped class. I didn’t have my students do anything. I just sent them an electronic version of the lecture, and almost nobody watched it. My students don’t really do optional. I don’t either, right. If my grades are due Wednesday at noon, I’m probably still working on them Wednesday morning. We’re busy, and our students are busy. If I send a lecture out, there’s also a worksheet that goes with it. There’s the discussion posts they have to answer based on the lecture. There’s a quiz that accompanies it. I’m not saying don’t lecture, but we just want to limit what we’re actually lecturing on.

Active Learning Strategy #2: Plickers

Alright, here’s a really cool new active learning strategy. I actually heard about this from one of my peers and it’s called Plickers. Now probably many of you use polling in your classroom. My favorite site for polling is I love Poll Everywhere. Students can use their cell phones. I ask poll questions. They use their cell phones to put responses in. It can be an A, B, C, D. I can have them text in their response, and what answer did you get to number seven and everybody text in their answers.

However, inevitably I get a student that says, “Oh, I don’t have a phone,” or, “The internet’s so slow I can’t get it to work.” So one of my colleagues introduced me to this. It’s called Plickers. You go to and you download these free squares. They look kind of like QR codes and each side of the square has a letter on it, A, B, C and D. So I ask a question like, “Joe is writing a new job description. Which level of management is he engaging in? If you think it’s planning, say A. If you think it’s leading, say B. If you think it’s controlling, say D.” Then the student holds up their Plicker, their paper Plicker for whichever side they think is correct. If they think it’s A, they hold the side up that says A and nobody can see which side they’re holding up. I take my device, my phone or my iPad, and I scan the room with it. All of the data pops up on the board for them to see. It’s live polling, but the only person that has to have an electronic device is me the teacher. You could actually also take attendance this way because each of those cards also has a number on it. Number one can be Mary, number two can be Joe, and number three can be Sally. I can scan the room and take attendance. I can scan the room again after the break and see who came back on time. I can scan the room again at the end to make sure everybody’s still there.

There’s lots of fun ways you can do this. I have a mixture of students. I find that some of my older students often have really, really strong critical thinking skills and my younger students are really comfortable with technology. Often when I use these, I put them in groups and teams and I’ll ask questions and give them a chance to work together on the answer. Then I’ll have the hold up their answers as a group.

Here’s the best thing. This formative assessment, if everyone in my group gets the correct answer or 90% of the class answers it correctly, I know, “Move on in the lecture Shawn. They’ve got it.” If half my class gets it wrong, it’s a red flag for me. Stop, reengage, let’s talk about this concept. Let’s give them a new example, and then let’s ask another question and try again. So very, very easy to use. You go to You type in your questions. You print out these free sheets. You can actually buy them if you want as well. They come laminated and all that. And then you just pass them out in class and use them just like Plickers. Very, very cool tool. I hope somebody can use those in your class.

There are lots of neat ways that you can use that active learning strategy, but once again, instead of my students just sitting back and one or two students answering all the questions, everybody is contributing. Because their answers are anonymous, nobody knows if you’re the one that said A and everybody else say D.

Active Learning Strategy #3: Flyswatter Trivia (low-tech clickers)

If you don’t like Poll Everywhere where your students have devices and you don’t like Plickers where you have the device, here’s another one. This is called Flyswatter Trivia. My students love this. I never let them out of class early, not even ten minutes. You know, I’m trying to teach them work ethic, right, and marketability. So if we even have 10 or 15 minutes, they beg me to get out the Flyswatters. They get in teams, usually based on playing cards, and I ask them a question from the chapter. If I can do a 20 minute lecture, we have time to play and use activities and have them use this. They’re not all easy. It’s not like lowest level knowledge thinking. I might ask a case study question: What would be the best leadership style to use if somebody fell down the stairs? They have to know what the leadership styles are and they have to be able to apply it. They slap their flyswatter down and whoever’s on the bottom, closest to the X taped to the table, get to answer first. If they say, “Oh, the best leadership style would be participatory.” I’m like shoot, I’m sorry. That was a great guess. You’re right, there is a place for that, but we’ll talk about that in a second. Who is the next color? The next color will get a chance to answer.

Now if nobody on the team gets it right, the question goes back to their team. While they’re trying to answer, everyone else in the room is furiously scrolling through their e-book or flipping through their book or their notes trying to find the answers. They’re active. They’re engaged. I’m not up there saying, “In a crisis, don’t ever use the participatory.” You definitely need to use the leadership style where you make a decision and you come right in and do it. My students are doing the pushups here.

There’s 100 different ways that you can use this. I have learned that with active learning, you’ve got to learn to embrace a little chaos. My boys will sometimes beat each other with those flyswatters and we have fun with it.

I’ve learned to embrace chaos, because if my students are talking, especially about the content and engaging and flipping through pages, they’re doing the pushups, and they’re learning.

Active Learning Strategy #4: Treasure Hunting Definitions (Card Split)

Here’s another one: Treasure hunt. I told you I always greet my students when they come in the door. Sometimes I make up flashcards, and my books come with fabulous flashcards. We can make custom flashcards. I can add flashcards and send them out and I can print the flashcards out. What I’ll do is I’ll print them out, cut them out, and as they come in, I give them. So one person gets operational planning, the next person gets strategic planning, and then other people get definitions. They have to go and pair up, much like that commonality where they had to find if they were part of the Ingalls family. They have to find who has the definition to their word or who has the term to their definition. Then, they sit together in class forming connections.

There’s two ways that I’ve used this. I either do my lecture and when I get to operational planning I say “Who has that card?” Those two stand up and give us the definition. Or, I just say “Today, there’s 20 key definitions that we need to go through and when it comes to your definition you’re going to stand up and give us a definition. You’re going to explain it, and you’re going to give us a relevant example.” They would stand up and say, “Oh, operational planning. It’s the day-to-day operations. I work at Chipotle, and when my manager is doing operational planning she’s making a schedule for the week.” All of a sudden they’re standing up and making it relevant to them. They’re teaching each other. They’re giving a lecture. I’m providing the lecture and the guidance, but they’re the ones that are creating a lecture.

Active Learning Strategy #5: Text Your Thoughts

On days that I allow my students to use technology, I really love these two free texting apps. What students do is they download one of these two free texting apps, Text Now or Text Plus, and it gives them a generic telephone number. Now, they don’t have to download the free app. If they want to give out their telephone number, they can. Then, they pick somebody’s telephone number, and I’ll ask a question, and I’ll say text your answer.

If it was a college success course, and I was teaching note taking, I might ask the question, “What would happen if you use the Cornell notetaking method and you had an instructor that talked really fast? What’s likely to happen. Predict.” That is a very high level of thinking. So they text their answer to somebody. I always tell them to use an emoji. If you’re sure your answer is right, give it a thumbs up. If you have no idea if you’re right, give it a thumbs down. Let them know how sure you are. Then, I’ll have some people share their answers. It’s safe to share because it wasn’t their answer. They didn’t say if the person’s wrong, that’s on them, not them, and they don’t know who the person is. Because they have a generic number.

There’s lots of ways you can use it. What answer did you get to number seven on the homework? Kind of like the phone a friend for Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Why should you put important information in the beginning of a memo? Oh, because often the only part of a memo people read. So all of a sudden I have my students engage with the content. They’re texting each other. They’re talking.

Now, I love technology. I embrace and I use it. I will let you know I kind of went into the technology generation kicking and screaming a little bit. Now, I’ve realized if we’re not talking about technology for the sake of the bells and whistles, if we’re really talking about it for how we can engage our students, there are amazing technologies that we can use to engage students. I love texting. I also have my technology-free Tuesdays where we don’t use any technology in class. That’s a day where we really focus on interpersonal skills and talking things out and doing case studies. However, on a day that we’re using technology, my students love doing this. Do I know that they’re not texting their boyfriend or checking on their kids? No, probably not, but I’m always walking around. If they are the person that didn’t get a text answer back, you know they’re holding up their phone going, “Hey, my person didn’t text me yet. I don’t have an answer to share.” And you could also put them in small groups.

To learn more (and to hear about Shawn’s icebreakers and active learning strategies), access the webinar recording, part of the Striving for Excellence* series.

*The Striving for Excellence Series a collaboration between Cengage Learning and the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD), a membership organization committed to promoting and celebrating excellence in teaching, learning, and leadership at community and technical colleges. Recognizing the growing need for adjunct support, Cengage Learning and NISOD are partnering to co-host a series of webinars, podcasts, and blog posts covering professional development topics for adjunct faculty and administrators. To learn more about this partnership, visit

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EdTech: Engaging Students, Increasing Productivity, and Impacting Success Thu, 14 Apr 2016 20:21:03 +0000 by Greg Rivera, Senior Digital Educator

We can’t deny that technology is here to stay. However, that is definitely not a bad thing! In fact, using educational technology can help engage students, improve retention, and help students succeed. There are several educational technologies, including free or almost-free ones, that can help you with these endeavors.

Think about our contemporary (millennial) students and some of their characteristics when it comes to technology. First of all, they embrace technology. That doesn’t mean they’re good at all technologies, but they’ve grown up with them. So, technology has always been a part of their lives. Face it, our students have probably never popped popcorn except in a microwave, never changed the channel on a TV without a remote control, and probably never ridden in a car without a seat belt. Second, they expect immediacy. They want it and they want it now. That includes answers to homework activities and an immediate answer to an email about an issue they may be having. Third, you the professor are not the only expert, and students deem all sources of information as equally valid (i.e., Wikipedia, YouTube, and even what their friends tell them).

Technology has changed how we communicate with students, how we share information in class, how students read and use textbooks, how students find and process information, and how they do class work and homework. If you’re over 40 years old, think about how you had to plan when writing a research paper. First, you had to check the hours at the library, plan that trip, go to the card catalog, and go to the book stacks or the dreaded microfiche. Then you had to photocopy your materials and inevitably forget to write down a resource and have to go back the next day! Today our students can wake up the morning—I mean wake up the afternoon that the paper is due—and write it from the comfort of their homes!

One of the things that technology has done is taken us from a culture of standardization to a culture of customization, and I don’t think we can argue that that is a bad thing. Not every student is created equal and not every student prefers to learn the same way. Technology has helped us shake this up. It is not fair for us to think that our students are going to be engaged and learn the same way that we did!

Research overwhelmingly concludes that educational technology can impact learning in the following ways:

  1. Engage students
  2. Enhance student success
  3. Improve efficiency and save time
  4. Create a student-centered classroom
  5. Provide opportunities for creative and critical thinking
  6. Provide convenience
  7. Increase productivity
  8. Provide individual and total class assessment data
  9. Enhance flexibility

Who doesn’t want to achieve all of the above outcomes?

So, you do not have to be tech-savvy to incorporate technology into your course! I always tell people to start with baby steps. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel. The best start is using publisher-created content like interactive multimedia e-books and learning solutions like MindTap. You can always customize the content to include the content/materials that are important to you and you can always hide/delete unneeded content.

If you want to go a step further or if you want to create your own edtech presentations or activities, I recommend the following:

1. Jing allows you to capture a screen shot or record a video of your screen to help you communicate with more clarity and have a greater impact than you can with written words alone. (

  • Record procedures or tutorials and answer frequently asked questions.
  • Give students audiovisual feedback, the next best thing to a one-on-one conversation.
  • Record lessons that students can access anytime, anywhere.
  • Make a video to help a guest teacher or students if you have to miss class.

2. GoAnimate allows users to quickly and easily make videos consisting of animated characters. It features easy-to-use drag and drop tools and libraries filled with a variety of characters, props, backgrounds, and music. (

GoAnimate can be used to:

  • Explain or review a concept and make it more memorable.
  • Summarize a reading.
  • Provide remediation.
  • Give directions or instructions sessions.
  • Practice language skills (writing and listening).
  • Allow students to express creativity.
  • Flip your classroom.

3. Padlet is a web space where you can add files, links, videos, and more and then share the content publicly or privately. Imagine having students go up to a wall and sticking stuff to it. Well, that’s Padlet, only virtual! (

Use Padlet to:

  • Create a KWL chart, which tracks what a student knows (K), wants to know (W), and has learned (L) about a topic.
  • Have students collaborate group work or group research.
  • Post content for students in flipped classrooms.
  • Brainstorm ideas.
  • Assess student knowledge.
  • Showcase students’ work.

If you need some one-on-one help, there are several groups within Cengage Learning that can help you. In fact, they’d LOVE to help you! On a local level, we have Implementation Technology Specialists who visit your campus and train instructors on Cengage Learning technologies in groups or one-on-one. We also have Digital Solutions Coordinators who work at a desk, are just a quick phone call or email away, and who can usually help you that same day! And finally, my group, the Digital Educators (DE), go a step further. Not only do DEs know how to use technologies, but since we are all educators in this group, we always frame technology from a pedagogical standpoint. In other words, along with showing you how to use the technology, we will also give you best practices from a first-hand perspective. Your first step should be to call one of us here at Cengage Learning. We are eager to help you learn and succeed!

Read more on EdTech here.

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Just as Union Contract Set to Expire, GW Prez Announces Push to Cut PTers’ Jobs Mon, 07 Mar 2016 20:18:39 +0000 by Janna Paramore

It took seven years for the over 1,000 adjunct faculty at George Washington University to force the college’s president to recognize their SEIU-affiliated local. Adjuncts at GW unionized in 2007 against a groundswell of administrative opposition, including a legal battle. Since then, they have negotiated three contracts to raise adjunct salaries by more than $1,300 per course.

According to the Contract Highlights posted to SEIU local 500’s website: “Part-time faculty at GW ratified their first union contract in January 2008, their second agreement in the summer of 2010, and their third in the summer of 2012. Along with the gains made below, part-time professors (adjuncts) at GW now enjoy a productive, collaborative relationship with the GW administration….”

The union’s present contract expires in June of 2016. The administration has been cutting down on some part-time faculty positions in favor of hiring full-time, tenure-track faculty members, University President Steven Knapp said. Faculty say while tenured faculty with top job security may be the most committed to GW, departments have also lost long-term adjunct faculty members through the shift.

Phd_work_for_foodThe adjunct faculty members’ most recent contract permits part-timers’ courses to be taken away from them by, “Creation of a full time position that absorbs existing courses taught by part time faculty, or any other circumstance in which the course will be taught by a full-time faculty member, but the impact shall be limited to the relevant course(s) taught by the Faculty member.”

The contract goes on to state: “In the circumstances set forth in subparagraphs 1, 2, 3, 4, and 7, the Department Chair/Program Director shall reasonably consider appointing the impacted faculty member to an available scheduled course that the Faculty member is qualified to teach.”

Since GW administrators have openly stated that they are eliminating part-time faculty and their jobs, it’s unclear whether Department Chairs and Program Directors are finding other courses for part-time faculty whose employment is impacted by the administrative push to hire more full-time faculty.

Knapp said moving toward hiring more tenured faculty members and fewer adjuncts is a goal of the University’s decade-long strategic plan. He said the move toward the long-term faculty members would improve programs and give professors and researchers a chance to permanently establish their careers at GW.

“We are trying to strengthen academic programs by bringing in faculty who are ready to further their careers here,” Knapp said in an interview last month.

He added that the shift from part-time to full-time faculty is happening within the schools, not from the administrative level.

Knapp said most peer institutions are replacing full-time faculty with part-time faculty to save money, while GW made the choice to invest in more tenured faculty. This decision, which comes with an expensive investment to bring the professors to the University, can pay off over time as those faculty bring more research money into the schools.

Dianne Martin, the vice provost for faculty affairs, said more than 170 of the 400 faculty who have been hired since 2008 are in full-time, tenure-track positions. She said some of those full-time positions have replaced part-time positions in certain schools or departments.

“In some cases, as we bring new full-time faculty into our community, these newly created positions have led to less reliance on part-time faculty in some departments,” Martin said in an email.

Martin added that the number of part-time faculty members fluctuates depending on whether or not they are brought to GW to teach courses, sometimes for one semester at a time.

The women’s studies and creative writing departments have both lost adjunct faculty members this year due to budget restrictions, though Knapp said the decision to focus on full-time faculty now is not budget-related. Ben Vinson, the dean of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, said the creative writing and women’s studies positions would all be replaced with full-time, tenure-track positions.

Clay Warren, the chair of the organizational sciences and communication department, said cutting positions can improve how a department functions, but sometimes takes away from students’ experiences because of the unique positions those adjuncts have held.

“The problem with cutting part-time faculty is who gets cut and for what reason,” Warren said in an email. “Many departments could not operate without vigorous use of part-time faculty, including ours.”

He added that departments have not been consulted on eliminating part-time positions, and the decisions have been “more announcement than conversation.”

David Guthrie, an associate professor of higher education at Pennsylvania State University, said the part-time versus full-time debate “isn’t as simple as saying part-time is bad and full-time is good.”

“Among part-timers, there are some fabulous teachers and mentors. Among full-time faculty, there are probably some lousy teachers,” Guthrie said.

Guthrie added that GW’s shift to hiring more full-time faculty is “pretty unique” because peer universities have been clearly shifting to part-time faculty over the past decade as a cost-cutting method. Adjuncts can be paid on a contract basis and aren’t required to be hired for more than a semester at a time. A tenured faculty member will earn about $2 million over the course of their career at GW.

Todd Ramlow, an adjunct professor of women’s studies, said he was informed late last semester that his contract would end at the end of this academic year.

Ramlow said the loss of his position doesn’t seem to justify the University’s new policy of promoting full-time faculty because the women’s studies department will actually be understaffed after his and fellow women’s studies professor Bonnie Morris’s positions are cut.

“It’s unclear how exactly full-time faculty are actually taking over,” Ramlow said, adding that two full-time, tenure-track positions in the women’s studies department have become vacant within the past year.

Ramlow, who has been at GW for more than 10 years, taught five classes at GW for the women’s studies program, as did Morris. He said that without them, the program will lose some of its course offerings because other department members are responsible for teaching courses in multiple CCAS departments.

“Those courses seem to be left up in the air,” Ramlow said.

Ramlow added that he hasn’t heard of the University making attempts to find replacement professors or announced which full-time faculty will begin teaching these courses.

Robert Donaldson, the chair of the biology department, said his department has not seen any overt cuts in adjunct faculty positions, but part-timers’ roles have been reduced or shifted.

Donaldson said some adjunct professors in his department have been “displaced, not exactly replaced,” with some part-time faculty’s classes and duties shifting without them actually losing their jobs.

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Great Apps to Create Meaningful Connections Inside (and Outside) the Classroom Fri, 12 Feb 2016 15:41:46 +0000 by Shawn Orr

I love technology! I guess if I’m being completely honest, what I really love is the engagement, excitement, and interactivity that technology brings to my college classroom. I’m not talking about the bells and whistles (although that’s fun, too), but the true engagement that happens when I use technology that really resonates with my digitally native students, that connects them to each other, and (most importantly) helps them master course content. So, whether you are new to using technology in the classroom or a seasoned technology pro, here are five of my favorite applications (apps) to engage students and help them create meaningful connections.

  1. Plickers
    If you’ve ever had a student tell you they don’t have an electronic device so they can’t participate in polling questions, this is the app for you! This free app allows instructors to print paper “clickers” in order to conduct polling, collect formative and summative assessment data, and keep their students engaged and on track in class. Download the Plickers app on your device, and then go to to create quizzes. You can also link each piece of paper to individual students, so taking attendance and grading in-class quizzes is a breeze!
  2. Kahoot
    This is my favorite technology for gaming in the classroom. Instructors create quizzes (or discussion questions and surveys) Students go to on their device browser and enter the quiz code, then play against each other. They earn points based on the speed and accuracy of their answers, plus a leader board enhances engagement and keeps the competitive spirit alive. One of my favorite things about Kahoot is that students see only four colored squares that correspond to the question on their device screens. This keeps students from getting lost in their devices and helps them focus on the content and each other.
  3. Aurasma
    This augmented reality app has changed my syllabus. Instructors go to Aurasma Studio where they upload and link audio and video files with pictures. They then put those pictures on their syllabi (or other document) next to the corresponding content. Students download the free Aurasma app on their mobile device and “follow” their instructor. Whenever a student needs more help on a concept listed on the syllabus, they simply hold their phone over the picture and up pops a video of their instructor talking them through the concept. Talk about providing real-time information—whenever and wherever the student needs it!
  4. MindTap
    This great mobile app allows students to study anytime and anywhere for any class that is using MindTap. Students download the free app, choose the class they want to work on, and can then review pre-built and custom-created flashcards, create and take chapter quizzes (think gaming), set reminders for important project due dates (with alarms), and receive up-to-the-minute notes and messages that instructors can post in their MindTap course. I love this app because it reaches students where they are…on their cell phones!
  5. Eyejot
    The Eyejot app allows instructors to send video email messages to their students. (The app is free on the computer, but there is a small fee to download it to a mobile device.) When I contact a student via Eyejot, the connection is so much more personal, and they don’t even need a webcam to reply back to me. Plus, I think it’s a lot harder to delete my face than one of my email messages.
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USC Provost Promises Adjuncts Better Working Conditions; SEIU Files Complaint Wed, 10 Feb 2016 20:28:32 +0000 by James Song

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that union officials alleged on Feb. 9 that USC officials interfered with attempts to organize non-tenure-track faculty by promising them better working conditions and implying that employees would lose rights if they unionized.

Faculty at Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, the oldest school at USC, voted against joining the Service Employees International Union Local 721 last week, with 113 educators casting ballots in favor of organizing and 127 voting against.

But the objection alleges that the Dornsife election was “infected by widely disseminated threats” and “promises and grants of benefits” that “affected the outcome of the election.”

If National Labor Relations Board officials find the union’s complaint is true, they could call for another election at Dornsife.

Provost Michael Quick promised adjuncts better working conditions.

Provost Michael Quick promised adjuncts better working conditions.

The objection also alleged that USC Provost Michael Quick repeatedly told faculty members that if they formed a union they could not participate in the university’s governance.

USC officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In letters to USC employees, Quick said that he was not in favor of unionization but also noted that he could not make promises of future treatment during organizing campaigns.

USC faculty at two small schools, the Roski School of Art and Design and the USC International Academy, voted to unionize last week. Fewer than 100 faculty voted in those contests.

Quick said the university plans to appeal the Roski vote because USC administrators believe that some faculty members are managers who cannot be unionized.

USC will not contest the vote at the International Academy, Quick said.

Some faculty members said they were interested in joining a union because they had concerns about pay and working conditions.

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The Mentor Is In: Teaching and Supporting Students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Thu, 28 Jan 2016 16:14:05 +0000 by Steven Volk

Planning a route, getting gas and changing a flat tire don’t sound challenging to most young adults, but for students on the autism spectrum at the University of West Florida in Pensacola, FL, it was one of the greatest tests of their independence. Autism Spectrum Disorder is a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Last year a group of students successfully drove by themselves from Pensacola to a conference in New Orleans after guidance from the university’s Autism Inclusion Program. And West Florida isn’t the only school integrating these students.

Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have always been on college campuses, but with the lack of screening technologies just a few years ago, they struggled through schooling virtually invisible. Today, however, the number of children on the spectrum has risen from 1 in 150 to 1 in 88 in less than ten years, and colleges are beginning to acknowledge that these young adults are eager to receive their college degrees.

The Harvard Review of Psychiatry recently released summaries of the latest findings in ASD research and highlighted that there is a significant upsurge of people with ASD arriving on college campuses.  It is difficult to pinpoint just how great this increase is, however, because many students choose not reveal this disorder according to Jane Brown Thierfeld, Ed.D, co-Director of College Autism Spectrum, an organization of professionals who assist students with ASD and their families and author of “The Parent’s Guide to College for Students on the Autism Spectrum.” For every student receiving special services, there are 1-2 on that same campus who have not identified themselves to anyone, she says. According to Stephanie Pinder-Amaker, lead author of the review, we are only seeing the tip of the ice berg in terms of the number of these students seeking to access higher education.


What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

The National Institute of Mental Health writes that Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by:

  • Persistent deficits* in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts;
  • Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities;
  • Symptoms must be present in the early developmental period (typically recognized in the first two years of life); and,
  • Symptoms cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of current functioning.

ASD is referred to as a “spectrum” because it refers to the wide range of symptoms, skills, and levels of impairment or disability that individuals can have, with some being mildly affected by their symptoms, while others are severely disabled.

Teaching and Supporting Students with an ASD

A large and growing literature offers advice on how college teachers can best support students with an ASD. I found one article, “Academic Supports for College Students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder: An Overview,” by Marci Wheeler, to be particularly useful. She is part of the Indiana Resource Center for Autism, Indiana Institute on Disability and Community at Indiana University-Bloomington. Her article, which originally was posted in 2011, was generated by input from the Students on the Spectrum Club at Indiana University – Bloomington. I have included most of it below.

“Academic Supports for College Students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder: An Overview,” by Marci Wheeler


Autism awareness ribbon.

There is a wide range of functioning and abilities seen across individuals diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Generalities are hard to make except to say that communication and social skills deficits are present. There are also neurological differences that affect everyone on the autism spectrum. However, each person is affected in different ways. The sensory perceptions, motor skills, learning styles and coping strategies are often affected and may cause “hidden” challenges that are not understood by those supporting these students. As a result of these challenges the observable behaviors of students on the autism spectrum may make them appear inattentive, bored, rude, defiant or possibly even on drugs. Ritualistic or repetitive behaviors, an attachment to incongruous objects and additional unusual communication and social skills (especially under stress) can make some of these students seem odd and bring unwanted attention to them.

Some students on the autism spectrum may experience sensory overload and/or be distressed by the social and communication demands of a class. They may have learned “acceptable” strategies to cope and have the ability to stay focused on their intellectual pursuits such that they can navigate through their classes (at least the classes in their chosen major) and pass as “normal”. Some students expend a lot of energy, at all costs, to blend in and not be detected. Unfortunately, for some, this may result in them leaving the university without finishing a degree as the stress is too great. Also, on any college campus be assured that there are students who have not been formally diagnosed or students that are not diagnosed until their college years.

Professors and other instructors need to be aware of possible supports that a student on the autism spectrum might find necessary to participate in class and complete classwork. The following six sections briefly state a common concern for most students and list some possible issues and accommodations. Each student on the autism spectrum has unique needs and should work closely with instructors and other college staff to design an individualized plan of proactive support and response to challenges if they arise.

Communication Skills

By definition (following diagnostic criteria) all students with an autism spectrum disorder have some problems which may interfere with receptive or expressive communication. Some of these differences are very subtle and can lead to misunderstandings that are misinterpreted as volitional acts on the part of the student. Students with an autism spectrum disorder may be very articulate and have a large vocabulary which may “hide” their communication challenges. Those supporting students on the autism spectrum should become aware of each individual students weaknesses in this area. Some of these are listed below along with possible accommodations.

Receptive difficulties often experienced by students on the autism spectrum include processing verbal exchanges more slowly, misunderstanding sarcasm, idioms and jokes, very literal interpretation of words, and misunderstanding gestures and body language.

The expressive difficulties of individuals on the autism spectrum may include problems initiating communication; even for those students who at first glance may seem very articulate and even very talkative. Those on the autism spectrum may have trouble staying on topic, turn taking and following conversational “protocol”. Some may be slower to organize thoughts and speak, and/or their voice tone and volume may be unusual. Idiosyncratic use of words and phrases may be present.

Accommodations for a college student with an autism spectrum disorder might include providing the instructor’s lecture notes or a note taker to help key in on important information, providing study guides for tests, allowing a longer verbal response time from the student and allowing for important exchanges of information to be done in written form. It would also help for instructors to be clear, concise, concrete and logical when communicating as well as asking for clarification; don’t make assumptions about what students truly understand.

Social Skills

Social skills (also included in diagnostic criteria) might not seem important in a class setting, but, in fact social difficulties can and do impact the classwork of many students on the autism spectrum. Many college courses require class participation and group work as part of earning a grade. Just going to class with peers necessitates the use of social skills. Some social difficulties and possible accommodations are discussed below.

The social challenges for a student on the autism spectrum include problems understanding others perspectives, sharing space and making eye contact. Many high functioning individuals with an autism spectrum disorder have extreme social anxiety and have difficulty negotiating with others, and interacting and working in pairs or groups. These students likely will not understand the “unwritten” classroom etiquette and will often misinterpret facial expressions and other non-verbal cues. Possible accommodations for students on the autism spectrum include allowing for short breaks to leave class and/or allowing the student to have a “social buffering” object which might include a computer, book or other object that initially might seem distracting or “out of place”. Honoring the student’s chosen level of eye contact w/o judgment can be helpful. If there is group work assigned for class the instructor might assist in the formation and monitoring of pairs or groups of students to assure the proper inclusion of the student with an autism spectrum diagnosis. Also providing written rules for asking questions and other classroom logistics (as needed) may support students with an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis.

Sensory Differences

When the DSM-5 was released in May 2013, reactivity to sensory input was added as part of the diagnostic criteria for an autism spectrum disorder.  Sensory processing issues seem to affect the majority of these individuals. Some on the autism spectrum have an extreme over sensitivity or under sensitivity to input, from the environment to the five senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. A significant number of persons experience synesthesia. Synesthesia may affect any of the senses. Synesthesia is phenomena in which the actual information of one sense is accompanied by a perception in another sense. Listed below are some common sensory differences and accommodations that may be important in a class setting.

Common visual and auditory sensory difficulties experienced by students on the autism spectrum include florescent lights that may appear to flicker and certain “bright” colors that may produce “overload”. Someone may see better from a “different” angle or may hear low level frequency sounds emitted by florescent lights. Also certain “typical” classroom sounds may be perceived as “painful” such as the movement and use of desks, people and other objects in the room. Often a person on the autism spectrum may not filter out extraneous sounds and/or may hear sounds in the next room.

Sensory issues related to the sense of touch and/or the sense of smell may occur. For example, certain textures may be “painful” and/or individuals may crave certain textures. Students on the autism spectrum may be disturbed by people accidentally bumping them or the feel of a particular desk or chair. They may wear “unusual” clothing, footwear or accessories because of sensory differences. Also students may be sensitive to certain odors and certain smells may cause “overload”. Some who are very sensitive may be affected by scents from certain perfumes, deodorants and soaps.

Possible accommodations to support a student with sensory differences include allowing hats, sunglasses and tinted lens glasses to be worn and allowing ear plugs or ear phones. Also allowing the student to choose their seat and helping to assure it is always available may be important. If requested by the student, an alternative writing instrument for tests and assignments and/or a computer for in class work, tests and assignments might also be an appropriate accommodation.

A student with an autism spectrum diagnosis may find that a small sensory item brings comfort in class. It is likely, if a student uses a sensory item, that it is inconspicuous but this may not always be the case. Be aware that a student may make a last minute request for a seating change and/or to leave abruptly due to sensory overload. Help devise an acceptable plan to address urgent sensory issues for the student.


Motor Skills

Both fine and gross motor skills may be affected in individuals with an autism spectrum disorder. In addition motor planning and poor awareness of body in space are two areas that often affect motor skills for these individuals. Often fine and gross motor skills as well as motor planning skills are very uneven. Listed below are possible problems in these areas along with possible accommodations.

Fine motor challenges for students on the autism spectrum might affect writing, drawing, turning pages, using utensils, playing an instrument, using locks and keys, and manipulating small objects. Gross motor challenges may affect walking (may have “odd” gait), running, sitting and balancing. Motor planning and the awareness of the placement of their body in space can affect the ways in which an individual moves their body and is able to navigate themselves to accomplish all motor tasks.

Possible accommodations for students on the autism spectrum with motor skills difficulties include allowing a computer for in class work, tests and assignments, providing a note taker, allowing work assignments done at a slower pace, providing models and step by step instruction, providing extra time to take tests and providing readers and scribes (or technology that reads and takes notes). Further accommodations might need to be considered for students taking physical education courses in which motor skills differences might provide further complications.

Learning Style

Students with an autism spectrum disorder often have a very uneven learning profile. They often excel creatively in a non-conventional way. Students on the autism spectrum tend to have excellent long term and rote memory abilities. Executive functioning deficits cause these students many problems. Many are thought to be right-brained thinkers. Most need to like and trust an instructor before they can perform in a class. Some common learning challenges, strengths and possible accommodations are listed below.

Executive function challenges experienced by students with an autism spectrum diagnosis include general organization and planning skills, problems with impulsivity and problem solving and the ability to monitor themselves in the completion of a goal.

Along with the executive functioning deficits, common learning barriers include poor sequential learning, easily bored with repetition once something is learned, attention problems, literal thinking, nebulous sense of time and as mentioned previously, perspective taking deficits. Other issues that impacts learning for students on the autism spectrum are the fact that they need to understand why something is important, relevant or meaningful to them and they may not realize they are having academic difficulty until it may be too late or too difficult for them to rectify on their own.

The strengths of students on the autism spectrum can sometimes help them compensate for their weaknesses. These students can do quite well academically, especially in their chosen field, and their strengths should be respected and used whenever possible. For example these students may have extremely good visual and visual-spatial skills. They often learn best from whole to part (complex to simple) and they can be very creative; out of the box thinkers. These students can also show an amazing knowledge on topics of interest which is most often their major field of study at the university.

Possible accommodations for students on the autism spectrum to support their learning style include providing review sheets, work checklists, and “sub” deadlines and/or intermittent “check-ins.” If possible provide hands on learning, models, demonstrations and other visuals. If possible, pair with peer mentors who might help with feedback and provide “proof-read” opportunities and ongoing structure to keeping on target with work assignments.

Instructors can help support students on the autism spectrum by providing reinforcement at every opportunity. Other accommodations that might be helpful for some students are allowing advanced negotiation of deadlines, extra time for tests, and/or a separate “quiet” place for tests.

Instructors and other college staff can also encourage the use of calendars (computer, traditional, phone w/alarms). Most likely the student has experience with using an organizational tool or tools, of choice, before coming to college. However, sometimes in a new environment the tools and skills used and learned to compensate for executive function deficits do not transfer easily to a new setting. Because the setting has changed, the student may need time “extra” transition time to begin the use of these tools and to maintain routines in the new environment.

Coping Skills

Individuals with an autism spectrum disorder frequently describe themselves as dealing with a lot of anxiety and stress. Sensory sensitivities, social and communication expectations as well as transitions and unexpected changes often trigger this anxiety and stress. It is during these times when these students may display behavior that can seem bewildering, rude or disruptive. Most often when a student displays these behaviors they are doing what they know to do to cope. In fact, these sometimes “confusing” behaviors are often experienced as calming. Included below are examples of coping behaviors in which students with an autism spectrum disorder may engage and possible accommodations.

When under stress, students on the autism spectrum may engage in stress relieving activities which look odd and may even make others feel uncomfortable. These activities may include body rocking, pacing, waving or flapping hands or fingers repetitively, chewing on their clothing or body, “lecturing” on a topic of interest or they may display the “opposite” emotion for the situation. They also may abruptly leave the situation with no explanation before or afterwards.

A possible accommodation in helping the student cope, in the moment, might be to discretely ask the student if something is overwhelming and/or ask if the student needs help or wants to leave. Do not discourage or interrupt behavior unless truly disruptive and understand that student does not intend to be disrespectful. Allow sensory items and/or other “comfort” objects. A student, who is having a hard time coping, might not realize when s/he is being disruptive and needs to leave. The instructor and student can agree on a cue that the instructor can give to signal to the student that it is okay/time to leave. They can also agree on a signal, to inform the instructor when the student is overwhelmed or confused.

Ideally, preparing young adults with an autism spectrum disorder for the demands of college has started years earlier. With a proper diagnosis, individualized early intervention and careful transition planning, college students with an autism spectrum diagnosis, will be better prepared to advocate for themselves. At the same time college professors and other staff at post-secondary colleges and universities need to be prepared for students on the spectrum who are seeking to be a part of these institutions in greater and greater numbers. These students must be given reasonable accommodations to provide an equal opportunity for pursuing a college education. Many great minds and opportunities for society could be lost if individuals on the autism spectrum are not supported in their post-secondary academic pursuits.

Check that Metaphor

Another useful article was Lee Burdette Williams’ nicely titled “Rethinking Everything…Literally,”which appeared in Inside Higher Ed (Dec. 12, 2014). Burdette works with in a residential and academic support program designed to help high-functioning autistic students or students with significant executive function challenges, succeed in college. These students, he writes, “can do many things: solve complex math problems, explain chemistry to anyone who will listen, remember dates of significant world historical events in a manner foreign to most college students who only want to memorize what will be on an exam. What they can’t do very well is understand my metaphors. They are, most of them, literal thinkers.”

So, when she cajoled a student not to “throw in the towel,” or advised another to not let his adversary “get his goat,” she was met with everything from alarm to blank stares. She realized that figurative language, which is so central to how we think, feel and act, had to be, well, rethought in his new teaching context. She concludes, “I find that I do recognize that bewildered expression more quickly these days, and so catch myself almost as soon as the maxim, proverb, aphorism or metaphor is out of my mouth, or I at least announce, ‘I’m going to make a comparison between two things’ (explaining a rule or predicting an action is often very helpful to students on the autism spectrum). I have come to recognize, too, that some of my students do not have this particular deficit, and that some of them are so quick to use a metaphor to describe something that I need a moment to catch up myself.” Most of us are not teaching in Williams’ circumstances, but “re-thinking” our teaching strategies in light of our changing classrooms is never a bad idea.


Very few of us have any expertise in this area, but we are fortunate that good information is available and that we can always seek the reasoned and informed advice of our Office of Disability Services as well as some of our colleagues such as Elizabeth Hamilton.

Here are a few sources that you might also find useful:

Kathy DeOrnellas, “Teaching College Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders,” Faculty Focus, April 17, 2015.

The College Program for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders at Marshall University

Abigail Sullivan Moore, “Students on the Spectrum,” New York Times (Nov. 5, 2006).

Chantal Sicile-Kira’s “Autism College” blog is also valuable. Sicile-Kira is an autism consultant specializing in adolescence and transition to adulthood who has authored a number of books on autism.  Her most recent book, A Full Life with Autism: From Learning to Forming Relationships to Achieving Independence (Macmillan, March 2012) was co-authored with her son, Jeremy, who was diagnosed as severely autistic when he was an infant. Her first book,Autism Spectrum Disorder, was recently updated by Penguin.

National Autism Center

Tony Attwood, The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome (Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers), 2007.

John Harpur, Maria Lawler, and Michael Fitzgerald, Succeeding in College with Asperger Syndrome: A Student Guide (Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers), 2004.

Dawn Prince-Hughes, Aquamarine Blue 5: Personal Stories of College Students with Autism (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2002).

Lorraine E. Wolf, Jane Tierfield Brown, and Ruth Bork, Students with Asperger Syndrome: A Guide for College Personnel (Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing Company), 2009.

Michael R. Dillon, “Creating Supports for College Students with Asperger Syndrome through Collaboration,” College Student Journal 41 (2007): 499–504.

Ann Palmer, Realizing the College Dream with Autism and Asperger Syndrome (Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley Publisher), 2006.

*A very good point has been raised as to whether a word other than “deficit,” with its connotations of something lacking (as opposed to something different) exists to discuss people with an autism spectrum disorder. The same term was often used to describe those who were learning English, whereas now the preferred term is an “emergent” bilingual. Suggestions? [Added April 20, 2015: 7:59 PM]

Originally posted to the website of Center for Teaching Innovation and Excellence at Oberlin College. Used here with permission.

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SEIU Wins Vote of Loyola’s 326 Adjunct Faculty—College Officials “Disappointed” Thu, 28 Jan 2016 15:47:33 +0000 by Linze Rice

Adjunct professors at Loyola University “overwhelmingly” voted in favor to unionize Wednesday at a meeting with the National Labor Relations Board.

Of 326 faculty members eligible to vote, 224 did — and 63 percent of those voters agreed to join Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73.

“Our victory today represents a win for our students, faculty and the entire Loyola University community. Now all faculty will have a say in our working conditions and I’m encouraged [by] the gains at other schools across the country,” said Alyson Paige Warren, a writing and literature instructor at Loyola. “Having a union will not only empower us, but our tenure-track colleagues, our students and the university as a whole.”

Loyola is the latest to join a growing list of private institutions unionizing.


Thomas Kelly, senior vice president for administrative services, said in the statement that he was “disappointed” that “44 percent of the voting group determined the outcome for so many others.”

In December, non-tenured faculty at the University of Chicago unionized, and similar efforts have been underway at places like DePaul and others.

There are more than 6,500 adjunct teachers represented in a union within private universities in Illinois, 500 of whom are represented by unions.

Loyola’s administration released its own statement on the vote. Thomas Kelly, senior vice president for administrative services, said in the statement that the school greatly values the contributions of its adjunct faculty, adding they were “vital to fulfilling our academic mission,” but said he was “disappointed” that “44 percent of the voting group determined the outcome for so many others.”

The administration recently received another petition from the labor board on behalf of SEIU Local 73, seeking to represent 12 English Language Learning Program teachers, Kelly said.

Kelly said the school is currently “working through the process” and will respond to the petition at a later date.

For faculty at Loyola who voted to unionize Wednesday, there was cause for a “victory celebration” in the late afternoon, organizers said in a statement.

They hope it will encourage others to organize as well.

“We always knew we weren’t just fighting for ourselves,” said Matt Williams, a full-time instructor of International Studies and Sociology at the school. “We fought for our students’ education and the future of higher education in this country.”

“We hope our win today will encourage other faculty in Chicago and other Jesuit schools to work together and take our movement to new heights.”


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How Bloom’s Toxonomy Can Make You a Better Teacher Tue, 19 Jan 2016 19:29:16 +0000 Used with permission from A Handbook for Adjunct/Part-Time Faculty and Teacher’s of Adults, 7th ed.

by Dr. Donald Grieve, Ed.D.


Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives

If there is a single paradigm that has stood the test of time in education it is Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (Bloom et al., 1956). Published more than half a century ago, this taxonomy describes the learning process as three factors or domains. They are the cognitive domain, affective domain, and psychomotor domain.

Essentially, cognitive learning is learning that emphasizes knowledge and information and incorporates analysis of that knowledge. Affective learning centers on values and value systems, receiving stimuli, ideas and to some degree, organization. Psychomotor learning addresses hand/eye coordination, normally referred to as physical coordination.

The importance of these three domains is not so much the overall consideration of the categories as it is the breakdown provided by Bloom. For example, Bloom’s cognitive domain is broken into several categories: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. The affective domain is broken into receiving, responding, valuing, organizing and characterization of value complex. A psychomotor domain essentially is that which provides for the development of physical skills.

The cognitive domain is usually emphasized in the classroom learning situation. However, when writing course objectives it is often expected that all three domains will be represented. This means that you should have objectives in the cognitive domain written not only at the knowledge level but also the evaluation, analysis, and synthesis levels. In the affective domain, you would have objectives covering responding, valuing and value complex. Many institutions require course objectives and activities in all three of the domains of Bloom’s Taxonomy. It should be noted from examination of the descriptions rendered here that these domains effectively cover all areas of the learning process.


Students are motivated for many reasons: individual improvement, intellectual curiosity, needed employment competencies, career change or advancement, employment requirement, or the completion of degree or certificate requirements. Although these motivational reasons are broad and varied, faculty must possess the skills to motivate students with a variety of activities including occasional risk-taking.

The following anecdote exemplifies such risk taking. After many years of teaching, I remember being faced with a class that would not respond or participate. Admittedly it was a Friday night class; however, you might expect that in such a class, highly motivated students would be enrolled. They were, however, very tired students and many of them were enrolled merely to pick up additional credits. After teaching the class about three weeks and experiencing very little student response, on the spur of the moment during the third evening, I simply stated, “We must start communicating.

I would like each of you at this time to turn to a person near you, introduce yourself and tell them that you are going to help them get through the course, no matter how difficult it is, that you will be there to help them whenever they become confused, and that the two of you (by helping each other) can be successful in this course.” This seemingly simple technique worked wonders. The students became acquainted with someone they hadn’t previously known, and in many cases, found someone who really could help them get through the course. For the remainder of the course, when it appeared that the class was experiencing difficulty, I simply needed to say “let’s take a few minutes and get together with our partner.”

When chalkboard work was given, two students would voluntarily go to the board together. Thus a previously unused “risk” activity proved successful—and was my first experience with collaborative learning and the partner system. This is an example of trying a basic technique of motivation. In this case it worked. It may not work every time, but it was not a technique that I had in my repertoire prior to that time. So, when motivating adult students, remember that you must occasionally try techniques not necessarily found in the literature; however, there are proven techniques that should be in the professional portfolio of all teachers, such as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

It is virtually impossible to incorporate all theories of motivation for your students. It is appropriate, therefore, that we find refuge in a time-honored theory of learning called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow’s hierarchy states that the basic needs of human beings fall into five categories:

PHYSIOLOGICAL—feeling good physically with appropriate food and shelter.

• SAFETY—the feeling of security in one’s environment.

• LOVE AND BELONGING OR THE SOCIAL NEED—fulfilling the basic family and social role.

• ESTEEM—the status and respect of a positive self-image.

• SELF-ACTUALIZATION—growth of the individual.

Physiological, Safety, Love and Belonging. The fact that Maslow’s needs are in hierarchy form is a major problem for teachers of adults. For example, attempting to address the needs of esteem and self-actualization in the classroom, when physiological, safety, and love and belonging needs have not been met, is a difficult task. In fact, the lack of fulfillment of the basic needs may interfere with the learning process. This interference may manifest itself in anti-social behavior.

The challenge becomes, how does one in a short period of time, teaching on a part-time basis to mostly part-time students, overcome these barriers? The fact is that one may not overcome all of these barriers. If instructors attempt to take the time to analyze each of the unmet needs of each of their students, they will have little time to work toward the goals and objectives of the course.

There is, however, an important factor to support the instructor. It is that the need to achieve appears to be a basic need in human beings. The need to succeed, an intrinsic motivator that usually overcomes most of the other distractions to learning, is the factor upon which successful teachers capitalize.

There is little that faculty can do to help students to meet the physiological, safety, and love and belonging needs. The need for esteem and self-actualization, which are essentially achievement, are areas in which teaching strategies can be implemented.

Esteem. Esteem is the status and respect with which human beings are regarded by their peers and activities faculty members incorporate that assist students in achieving status and self-respect will support fulfillment of the esteem need. This is accomplished by providing an environment in which students can experience success in their learning endeavors. Many learning theorists claim that success in itself is the solution to motivation and learning.

One of the great fallacies of teaching is often stated by students who have succeeded in classes where other students have dropped out. That observation is: “That prof. was tough, but he/she was really good.” Being tough has no relationship to being good. Often, some faculty believe rigidity is a substitute for good teaching. There is no evidence to suggest that “tough teachers” are better teachers. It is especially discouraging to marginal students who work hard, but find the chances for success negated by the instructor’s desire to be tough.

Building esteem through success is accomplished in many ways. The following are some classroom instruction suggestions to assist students in achieving success:

Make certain that students are aware of course requirements. Students should be provided with course objectives in written form that tell them what they are expected to accomplish.

Inform students precisely what is expected of them. This means not only the work or the skills necessary for them to complete the course content, but also the time commitment.

Give students nonverbal encouragement whenever possible. There are many ways this can be accomplished. Eye contact with students can very often elicit a positive response. Gestures are important. A smile, a nod of the head, just looking at students with the feeling that you find the classroom a pleasant environment is in itself effective nonverbal encouragement.

Give positive reinforcement at every opportunity. Simple techniques such as quizzes for which grades are not taken, quizzes designed so most or all students will succeed, as well as short tests as a supplement to grading are effective positive reinforcement strategies. Comments written on hand-in papers, tests, and projects are effective ways to provide positive feedback. Of course, the ideal form of positive reinforcement is provided through individual conferences and informal conversations with students at chance meetings.

Provide a structured situation in which the students feel comfortable. The laissez-faire classroom is generally a lazy classroom. Most educators agree that a structured setting with students participating in activities is much better than an unstructured approach.

Provide opportunity for student discussion of outside experiences. Some students in your class, who may not be particularly adept in the course content, may have significant contributions and accomplishments to share. One of the greatest builders of esteem is to allow students to share their success experiences with others.

Self-Actualization. Self-actualization, the highest of Maslow’s hierarchy, is the realization of individual growth. Such growth is realized through achievement and success. Course planning for enhancement of student self-actualization is the ultimate in successful teaching. The suggestions listed here can assist in the student growth process.

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10 Dreaded Mistakes College Teachers Make Tue, 19 Jan 2016 18:57:31 +0000 by Paul A. Hummel, Ed.D.

Confused about how to teach? The best thing you can do is avoid mistakes. There are 10 Terrible Mistakes College Teachers Make. Learn how to avoid teaching mistakes.

Most of the college instructors I have known don’t make these 10 terrible mistakes. The ones who do don’t last long. Here are 10 ways in which instructors, mainly new adjuncts, demonstrate an inability to teach, a lack of concern for their job as a teacher, and/or negative feelings toward students.

The “I Can’t Teach” Mistakes

Some adjuncts, those with little or no prior teaching experience, may not intuitively know how to teach. Based on my experience, the overriding problem is not this lack of knowledge and skill but the fact that these instructors don’t seem interested in learning.

There are two groups of adjuncts who make the following three mistakes. There are those teaching career and technical education (CTE) courses who lack the innate skills to be a teacher. Some of the best instructors I know teach CTE courses, but for whatever reason this group produces more than its share of failures. There are also instructors with advanced degrees, often doctorates, who cannot relate to their students. I have seen this several times with science instructors who had worked in industry for years.

There is so much that goes into teaching. I am not attempting to claim that only three knowledge or skill base mistakes may result. But what I list are three critical mistakes that students don’t like and which can lead to the demise of an instructor.

  1. Telling vs. Teaching – These instructors tell their students what they need to know. This is a type of lecturing void of examples and without student involvement. These instructors do not engage the class. They do nothing to make their students think.
  2. Reading – There are few things that annoy students more than reading to them out of the textbook, yet this is a complaint I hear. And this is one I recently witnessed during a classroom observation. If you want your students to think you are not prepared and that you don’t know.
  3. Rich Learning Experiences – Some instructors fail to use technology in the classroom to enrich the learning experience. For example, they don’t use PowerPoints and the don’t utilize relevant resources on the Web. Some don’t use it outside the classroom either. They pass up the opportunity to create a teaching presence using programs like Blackboard and Moodle. There are many other ways to create rich learning experiences such as films, role playing, field trips, group work, and much, much more. However, these instructor fail to employ them.

The “I Don’t Care” Mistakes

Most if not all instructors will tell you they care, but they don’t always back that up with their actions. Many of them are adjuncts with full-time jobs who want to teach for two reasons. They like talking about their area of expertise and they want some extra income. There are three mistakes these instructors make, and that is not counting the major, overriding faux pas. They should not have attempted to teach if they didn’t love teaching.

  1. Preparation – These instructors assume they can wing it and come to class without a lesson plan. They seem to think they can awe their students with their knowledge and experience. What awes their students is the instructor’s lack of preparation and resultant inability to help them learn. For more on this check out my article entitled Do Boy Scouts Make the Best Instructors?
  2. Efficiency – Some instructors don’t effectively use the entire class period, which means they don’t give their students what they paid for. They arrive late, use the first part of class for their own preparation time, waste time telling stories and chatting, grant long breaks, and dismiss class early. Pretty cushy job if you can get it. Some seem to think this was the job they signed on for, but sooner or later learn they were wrong.
  3. Quality – I first addressed this issue in an earlier article entitle The Perceived Quality of a College Instructor. These individuals have poor board skills. If they use slides the slides are poorly done. Their handouts look like copies of copies of copies. They may be blurred, canted at an angle, or off-centered so that some of the text cut off. These instructors don’t project a professional appearance. On a couple occasions, I have had to speak to an adjunct about his attire. Teachers wearing ragged cutoffs and flip-flops don’t cut it in my classrooms.

The “I Don’t Like You” Mistakes

The reality is that there will be students you don’t like. Under most circumstances, however, you should avoid displaying verbally or through body language that you do not care for such a student. Of course, when a student displays an offensive or threatening behavior, you must take decisive action. At these times don’t worry about displaying your disdain for the student. But don’t lower yourself to the student’s level.

Some instructors send signals to their students which the students interpret as he/she doesn’t like me. If your students like you, they will forgive a multitude of teaching sins. However, I can assure you that they won’t like you if you don’t like them. You cannot fake this. My belief is that when instructors display these last four behaviors they really don’t care for their students.

  1. Getting to Know Students – Granted, this is difficult if not impossible in a large lecture section. Once, about half way through a semester, I was invited to speak to a class of 10 to 12 students. I couldn’t believe it. The instructor asked a student, “What’s your name again?” Recently, five students came to me with a list of complaints about their instructor, one of which had to do with name tags. They were seven weeks into the semester and there were only eight students but the instructor was making them wear name tags.
  2. Answering Questions – The instructor’s job is to help students learn. A common complaint I hear from students is that their instructor wouldn’t answer their questions. This sends the message that the instructor doesn’t care enough to help students. Or, it may be that he or she doesn’t know the answer. But if that is so, the instructor has displayed disregard for students by not being prepared to answer their questions.
  3. Responding to Messages – Another complaint I hear from students is that their instructor does not respond in timely fashion to their emails or phone messages. I don’t require my adjuncts to check their email every day. I tell them to do so just often enough so their students won’t run to me and complain,
  4. Attitude – I am both saddened and angered when I hear about an instructor who criticizes and ridicules students. Yes, I have known instructors like this. I had two instructors last fall who admitted to getting into classroom arguments with students. Occasionally I hear complaints from students about sarcasm, something I witnessed it for the first time in a recent classroom observation. An admittedly difficult student challenged the instructor who immediately retaliated with a sarcastic put-down. Remember, the instructor sets the tone for the class, not the students.

How to Avoid the 10 Terrible Mistakes

Avoid the “I Can’t Teach” mistakes by learning how to teach. Okay, I have once again stated the obvious, but why isn’t it obvious to some adjuncts? Talk to the person who hired you and ask about resources your college may have. Ask someone to observe you. Ask other instructors for advice. And, if all else fails, read my blog. (You knew that was coming. 😉 )

Avoid the “I Don’t Care” mistakes by putting in the time and effort. There are no shortcuts. Wait, maybe there is one. You can avoid these mistakes by not teaching. And interestingly enough, not teaching is the only way to avoid the “I Don’t Like You” mistakes. Sorry, there is no way around this one.

Reprinted with permission from

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