AdjunctNation.com » Blogs http://www.adjunctnation.com News, Opinion, Analysis and More For the Adjunct Faculty Nation Tue, 05 Jul 2016 19:48:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Unemployed Summer – Death of an Adjunct #1 http://www.adjunctnation.com/2016/05/13/unemployed-summer-death-of-an-adjunct-1/ http://www.adjunctnation.com/2016/05/13/unemployed-summer-death-of-an-adjunct-1/#comments Fri, 13 May 2016 16:13:58 +0000 http://www.adjunctnation.com/?p=7177 by Monica Paige DePaul

I have recently finished the last of my grading for the spring 2016 semester. The essays weren’t bad, all things considered, but I’m still drowning in anxiety for a different reason. Every summer term, I need to endure about eight weeks or so of having no income at all—hardly anyone signs up for freshman-level English courses during the first half of summer, so I am basically unemployed.

An immediate reaction might say, “Hey, you get all those weeks off! It’s like a vacation!” I suppose that’s true. Maybe I can go on a road trip or fly someplace exotic. Perhaps I should stay home, make myself comfortable, and work on my writing. Maybe I can even spend all these weeks doing nothing but play video games.

Oh, but wait, when last I checked, those in high-level career professions typically get paid vacation time so they can still survive while not at work. Despite my profession requiring at least a master’s degree, I am only paid on a course-by-course basis. If I do not or simply am unable to teach, I make no money. To make matters worse, since I’m on the books as an “adjunct” or “part-time” professor, I’m paid far, far less than a full-time professor, even without tenure, for the same work, amounting to a measly $2,250 per course for the whole semester. This past spring, I was only assigned one course. Essentially, I need to make that meager amount last from January until July.

Officially, I’m still an employee, just not one worth paying on a regular basis. Am I unemployed right now? I’m not sure, but I’m too proud to apply for unemployment. I’ve been conditioned to believe that handouts through unemployment benefits are just for those uneducated masses too lazy to work, who don’t bother going to college because they’re living the good life on welfare. Of course, that’s bullshit. Welfare is not enough to survive, and getting a good job usually requires a college education. Then again, even an advanced degree like mine yields nary more than a pittance with no benefits.

Therefore, what is the value of college? State governments cut funding while administrators raise tuition alongside their own pay, and those who provide the central function of academia are increasingly left questioning whether they can even afford to live. Each semester, I train another set of future professionals to improve their communication and interpretation skills so that they can survive in the real world, so they can thrive in their personal and professional pursuits, whatever those may be. However, here I am, unemployed yet again, right on schedule. If success is measured in steady employment and financial security after college, then I’m an ironic failure. My job is essentially to train my students to not be like me.

Will I have the usual two classes for the second half of summer? I have no idea. Adjuncts are usually in the precarious position of not knowing the nature of their employment until the week right before it happens. Even if I do, while making $4,500 in six-weeks is nice, the accelerated pace is inhuman. Last year, at the height of absolute stress from the never-ending flow of work—teaching for seven straight hours with just a 10-minute break on two days plus grading and planning for about 10 straight hours the other five—I actually contemplated suicide upon realizing that making a living, if it can be called that, in my dream profession (I love teaching college) was killing me.

You might say, “Just find a better job,” but since when was being a college professor not supposed to be a high-level, respectable job that pays a living? Furthermore, I have submitted plenty of employment applications over the past several months. I have not received a response from any. I’ve found that being a professor commands a high-level of respect outside of academia—so high, in fact, that I am overqualified for jobs that pay far more but require less education. As for getting a full-time job in higher education, even if I got a Ph.D, I would still be underqualified. Full-time positions are rare and are guaranteed to never be awarded to a mere 29-year-old adjunct when far more experienced professors are fighting to get in.

I submit my rent payment and I buy groceries, and I feel guilty. Should I really be spending any money on my own survival when I am incapable of earning it myself? Am I so worthless as an adult that I need my parents’ money to keep me alive, like a child? That’s what happens every summer, and even most of the rest of the year. I worked hard and I got an advanced education, but all the joy of summertime is gone knowing that my employer doesn’t value me enough to keep me alive.

This is the first of a series of short essays that I call “Death of an Adjunct.” This is not a suicide note—I have no intention of killing myself—but rather an examination of matters that are destroying a tremendous chunk of America’s intellectual population. When the most educated people have no voice and struggle to survive, when they are too busy wondering how to make their next rent payment that they can’t produce meaningful research or creative endeavors, the collective mind of humanity suffers. Great minds are dying just so bureaucrats can cut costs. This is my chronicle of the sins of higher education.

Find Monica’s blog at http://www.mpdepaul.com/ .

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Do This, and Your Students Will Never Miss Class Again http://www.adjunctnation.com/2016/05/09/do-this-and-your-students-will-never-miss-class-again/ http://www.adjunctnation.com/2016/05/09/do-this-and-your-students-will-never-miss-class-again/#comments Mon, 09 May 2016 21:16:49 +0000 http://www.adjunctnation.com/?p=7159 by Bridgett McGowen-Hawkins
Senior Digital Educator, Cengage Learning

Growing up, you heard the lectures from your parents. And then you went to school and heard even more lectures. And once you arrived in college, you were just about lectured-out. However, now you teach, and you do what you know best. You lecture! Okay, perhaps you don’t—but I know when I first stepped into the college classroom in 2002, lecture is what I did!

Regardless of whether lecturing is the focal point of your classes, remember these points to help you work toward achieving your course goals while inviting student participation during class. If you do so—if you try these tips—then your students will walk away tuned in and having actually learned, and you will leave class with a sense of accomplishment in having achieved new heights in student engagement!

Studies show that people are only fully engaged for the first 18 to 30 seconds someone is speaking to him/her before external thoughts start creeping in, such as dinner plans, errands to run, email messages that need responses, and so on. (And be honest, you are having external thoughts right this very moment! Come back to me!). At the start of your lecture, think about how you might help students become more metacognitive about their thinking and more engaged in what you have to share with them during your lecture.

Within the first five minutes of class, you must excite, engage, involve, and inform your students. Engage them by making connections between the lecture topic and them, and involve your students by getting their input. The “inform” part is easy; it’s the objective material you provide in your lectures. It is the “excitement” part that requires a little more effort. Excite them simply by telling them how their lives, success, and abilities will be exponentially enhanced with what you share in that class . . . that if they can learn X, Y, and Z, then A, B, and C can come their way.

Think back to the start of this blog entry and how I shared if you do ___, then ___ would happen. You were excited! You wanted (and did!) immediately dive into reading, right?

This is good, but you may ask, “Bridgett, how do I keep the momentum going beyond the first five minutes of class?” This is how:

Your course content is like a buffet. You have so much information you can provide students. At the same time, your students’ minds are similar to buffet plates. In 1956, George A. Miller formulated the “chunk concept” when he presented evidence that the working memory is limited in capacity. Miller stated that working memory could hold seven (plus or minus two) chunks of information at once. However, it is now thought that the number is closer to four or five bits of information. The takeaway is that if a learner’s working memory is full, the excess information will just drop out. It means that if you are explaining something complex and the learner must hold several factors in mind to understand it, you will need to chunk information into bite-sized pieces and present it in organized sections.

So, the final point is for you to ensure that you provide students with chunks of information—no more than twelve to fifteen minutes of content—then pause and let them digest that information. You might use a formative assessment or a classroom assessment technique for them to process information, then give them another chunk of information. You may have heard the lessons a hundred times and can regurgitate the material at the drop of a hat. However, students are hearing your content for the first time. They need time to think. Consider this: If I asked you what you had for dinner yesterday, you would have to stop and think. Similarly, give your students the time necessary to process complex content. You may find 12 minutes is too long; 12 minutes is not a hard and fast rule. You know your students best. If you see they are starting to check out, pause and give them time to fully comprehend what you have shared.

Want more tips and specific, easy-to-use activities? Check out the recording of Lecture Light Shine, a webinar on how to make your class sessions something your students never want to miss.

]]> http://www.adjunctnation.com/2016/05/09/do-this-and-your-students-will-never-miss-class-again/feed/ 0 Jokes and Kim Kardashian: Keeping Students Motivated http://www.adjunctnation.com/2016/05/04/jokes-and-kim-kardashian-keeping-students-motivated/ http://www.adjunctnation.com/2016/05/04/jokes-and-kim-kardashian-keeping-students-motivated/#comments Wed, 04 May 2016 16:01:49 +0000 http://www.adjunctnation.com/?p=3993 Ortizby Jenny Ortiz

A a Freeway Flyer, I’ve been given some tough time slots to teach. Currently I have a 7 in the morning business writing class at St. John’s and at at LaGuardia Community College a 6 in the evening writing class that ends at 10  (this is alongside my other courses for the semester) These two classes are very different but the same idea pops into my head: how do I keep these students motivated and interested.

Most students are sluggish and not responsive at 10 in the morning let alone 7. Most have a long day ahead of them;  these students go to work full-time and only go to class when it’s dark outside. For my students in this particular class, they come in with the idea that they’ll get some notes, memorize them during their lunch break and have time to grab a drink with friends after work only to go to sleep and start all over again.

As for my LaGuardia Community College students, they come to my class after a long day of work with the idea that four hours can be crammed in the first fifteen minutes of class. Their constant question is: will we get out early today? Although learning is important to them, the class is too long for them to stay upbeat the entire time.

Levels-of-Student-EngagementHow do I keep my students, especially in these particularly difficult time slots, motivated? I’ve come to learn that a student who isn’t engaged will have no problem sitting in class spaced out. For them, coming to the class should be reason enough to give them an A (one has to admit a dedication to attending early morning or late evening classes!)

With my morning class, which revolves around heavy note taking as well as lecture, I try to keep a steady flow of jokes and anecdotes going. I’m not very funny, but relating the lecture to things my students have seen on television, or about the hottest music artist seems to not only help their understanding of the material, but also keeps them alert. Many of the students have additional insights to the materials I give them. Current events allow the students to identify with material they normally wouldn’t encounter.

With my evening class, 4 hours is a lot of time to fill and keep my students engaged in their writing. I’ve found that straight lecture or long hours of writing cause my students to, one-by-one, disappear into the bathrooms or the hallways. Group work keeps my evening class engaged. I give them a visual, or reading an assignment and then break them up into groups. I leave it up to my students to initiate their learning process.

In order to successfully understand the material, it is up to them to discuss it amongst themselves. I move from one group to the next to help them stay focused and allow them to develop their ideas. Variety is the key to keeping students engaged during long classes.  By giving them group work and then time to write on their own, these students are self-motivating. I’ve found that my students can be more focused at 10 in the evening than they were when they first came to class.

Being a Freeway Flyer is about adaptation and learning to stay on one’s toes. Part of the allure of bouncing from one campus to the next is that I’m never bored and that my attention is always focused on the next task. Similarly, I’ve come to discover my students are the same way. They bounce from one class to the other and want to stay engaged. It’s my job to anticipate my students’ needs and remember if every class were taught the same, I’d be dying to leave too!

To keep my students motivated, I’ve played video clips of “True Blood,” listened to the Flobots, read about Taco Bell, explained how a cover letter is much like a first date and, which works every time, mentioned Kim Kardashian.  How does Kim relate to a writing course. I don’t know, but her name keeps them focused! What classroom techniques, do you all use to keep your students motivated in the classroom?

About the Freeway Flyer: Jenny Ortiz is a quite serious 23 year old New Yorker, except when unicorns (specifically chubby unicorns) are involved. When she isn’t pleading with Kurt Sutter via Twitter to be her mentor, she is teaching at St. John’s University, Adelphi University, and LaGuardia Community College (see, quite serious). When she isn’t teaching, she’s hanging out with her friends showing off  earth and water bending skills (not serious, but super fun).  When she is alone and it’s raining, she likes to read Haruki Murakami, or listen to the Broken Bells and daydream.  If you want to be a fan, you can read Jenny’s work on fictionatwork.com, Blink-ink.com, Jersey Devil Press, dogeatcrow.com, Eighty Percent Magazine, Breakwater Review and InkSpill Magazine…or you can follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/jnylynn.

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From Koala to Kangaroo—Getting Your Students Hopping With Active Learning http://www.adjunctnation.com/2016/04/26/from-koala-to-kangaroo-getting-your-students-hopping-with-active-learning/ http://www.adjunctnation.com/2016/04/26/from-koala-to-kangaroo-getting-your-students-hopping-with-active-learning/#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 19:06:43 +0000 http://www.adjunctnation.com/?p=7130 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 polleverywhere.com. 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 Plickers.com 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 Plickers.com. 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 http://www.nisod.org/cengage.

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EdTech: Engaging Students, Increasing Productivity, and Impacting Success http://www.adjunctnation.com/2016/04/14/edtech-engaging-students-increasing-productivity-and-impacting-success/ http://www.adjunctnation.com/2016/04/14/edtech-engaging-students-increasing-productivity-and-impacting-success/#comments Thu, 14 Apr 2016 20:21:03 +0000 http://www.adjunctnation.com/?p=7092 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. (https://www.techsmith.com/jing.html)

  • 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.com)

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! (padlet.com)

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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Bad News Bears: Breaking Bad News To Students http://www.adjunctnation.com/2016/03/21/bad-news-bears-breaking-bad-news-to-students/ http://www.adjunctnation.com/2016/03/21/bad-news-bears-breaking-bad-news-to-students/#comments Mon, 21 Mar 2016 19:16:56 +0000 http://www.adjunctnation.com/?p=3993 Ortizby Jenny Ortiz

When it comes  giving a negative message, Gerald Alred cites Francis Weeks in saying, “to be completely direct and forthright, striking to the heart of the matter immediately, is also to be blunt and perhaps offensive. To be direct is to be polite and considerate” then again she writes, “to be direct is to be efficient and to be indirect is to waste time.”

In the business world, the direct versus the indirect message is essential as a company’s livelihood is dependent on the way  people conduct themselves; however,  negative messages are an issue that adjuncts face as well. The difference is that adjuncts aren’t trained to tell a student you have to repeat a class or this paper is getting an F.

At LaGuardia Community College, an exit meeting with students is a mandatory activity that all faculty must partake in. However, I was so impressed with these final conferences that I decided to make it mandatory for every class I teach. I find it beneficial to the students as well as myself. After going over the final grade with the student as well as giving them time to appeal, there is usually never a problem once I submit my grades to registrar.

When the student has done well or understands the grade they earned, the conferences run smoothly. Many students stay a little longer and we chat about their academic plans for the next semester, or we go in depth on a subject we discussed in class but were unable to fully unravel.

These exit conferences become unsettling when I have to be the bearer of bad news. Instructing ENG 099, a course at LaGuardia designed to prepare students for the CATW exam, I’ve had to tell students that although they worked hard in my class, or even though this is the third time they’ve taken 099, they have to repeat the course because the they failed the exam. Needless to say after my students take the CATW, I’m a nervous wreck. For two weeks, I wait for the scores hoping that all my students passed and that I don’t have to tell anyone they won’t be moving on in their academic careers.

However, no matter how much I help them, it is up to them to focus and do well on the day of the exam. Sometimes, test jitters get the best of them or they simply blank out. Regardless, they don’t do well. Though it’s a city exam, the city isn’t the one who tells them if they passed or failed; no, the job goes to me.

How do I go about telling a student they haven’t passed? Students, understandably, will all take bad news in a different way. So  what do I use to always run my exit conference smoothly? Should I be indirect or indirect?

Most students help me along, by asking me to be direct; they don’t want me to waste their time with niceties when they failed the exam. Though, I find that many of these students who ask for a blunt response sit in my office for a while trying to grasp what I’ve told them, which is when I have to bring out the niceties. There have been other times where I’ve been indirect with the message, but it only leads to the student begging me to change the grade when I can’t. I’ve gotten waves of anger, tears, and the vacant look on a student’s face when they don’t understand how they’ve failed. Given that I schedule only ten minutes with each student, I usually have an excuse as to why they need them to compose themselves and I can move on to my next student.

One would think that giving the news via email would be easier, but in fact a written negative message usually gets the messenger shot. I try to be as polite but firm in my e-mail interactions with students, especially if the message is negative. However, this way of conducting my exit conferences always leads to students making rude remarks, or a week of back and forth e-mails before the student fully understands that the grade is final. Rather than having ten minutes of discussion over the negative news, I have found myself sending a number of emails in explanation when I should be on Spring Break.

Sigh. I’ve never been trained to give bad messages; perhaps, this is a skill that should be taught around the time we learn multiplication. While there are always more good news meetings than bad ones, a good teacher will always feel anxious and upset over the students who didn’t pass, regardless of the circumstances.  I want every one of my students to do well, which is why I agonize over the dilemma of how to talk to them during our last meeting. So my question for all of you is which is better the direct or the indirect method of giving bad news?  As Freeway Flyers, we experience a variety of student personalities, so we’ve all seen the different ways students take bad news. How do you go about breaking bad news to your students?

About the Freeway Flyer: Jenny Ortiz is a quite serious 24-year-old New Yorker, except when unicorns (specifically chubby unicorns) are involved. When she isn’t pleading with Kurt Sutter via Twitter to be her mentor, she is teaching at St. John’s University, Adelphi University, and LaGuardia Community College (see, quite serious). When she isn’t teaching, she’s hanging out with her friends showing off  earth and water bending skills (not serious, but super fun).  When she is alone and it’s raining, she likes to read Haruki Murakami, or listen to the Broken Bells and daydream.  If you want to be a fan, you can read Jenny’s work on fictionatwork.com, Blink-ink.com, Jersey Devil Press, dogeatcrow.com, Eighty Percent Magazine and InkSpill Magazine…or you can follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/jnylynn.

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Great Apps to Create Meaningful Connections Inside (and Outside) the Classroom http://www.adjunctnation.com/2016/02/12/great-apps-to-create-meaningful-connections-inside-and-outside-the-classroom/ http://www.adjunctnation.com/2016/02/12/great-apps-to-create-meaningful-connections-inside-and-outside-the-classroom/#comments Fri, 12 Feb 2016 15:41:46 +0000 http://www.adjunctnation.com/?p=6626 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 www.plickers.com 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) atwww.getkahoot.com. Students go to Kahoot.it 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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The Mentor Is In: Teaching and Supporting Students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) http://www.adjunctnation.com/2016/01/28/the-mentor-is-in-teaching-and-supporting-students-with-an-autism-spectrum-disorder-asd/ http://www.adjunctnation.com/2016/01/28/the-mentor-is-in-teaching-and-supporting-students-with-an-autism-spectrum-disorder-asd/#comments Thu, 28 Jan 2016 16:14:05 +0000 http://www.adjunctnation.com/?p=6567 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

ribbon

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.

Resources

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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An Adjunct Professor Confesses… http://www.adjunctnation.com/2016/01/25/an-adjunct-professor-confesses/ http://www.adjunctnation.com/2016/01/25/an-adjunct-professor-confesses/#comments Mon, 25 Jan 2016 20:43:00 +0000 http://www.adjunctnation.com/?p=6559 by John Brown

[Imaginary dialogue based on Catholic confessions I willingly endured during my Catholic adolescence in the 1960s; doubtless the format/questions/vocabulary have much changed since that epoch.]

Georgetown adjunct professor [GAP, yours truly]: Bless me Father, for I have sinned.

Priest:

I bless you, my son. What sins do you confess?

GAP: I have been teaching courses, with much gratitude to Georgetown University, on American foreign policy, off and on for over a decade.

Priest:

So what is your sin? After all, teaching is not a sin, if practiced in the right way.

GAP:

Father, excuse my materialist concerns, I just don’t think my students are getting their money’s worth.

Priest:

My son: Money is only part of the moral universe.

graphicGAP: Thank you for your kindness, Father. But Father, although I was honored to receive a Ph.D from Princeton University, and then went on to be a Senior Foreign Service officer in the United States Foreign Service with many awards, and have many publications (some actually quite “scholarly”) I am not a tenured professor. I recently was asked to be on a Georgetown University dissertation committee, dear Father, which allowed me to judge on the scholarly value of academe’s “true,” professional entrance into serious scholarship.

Priest: So why should all these qualifications of yours bother you, my son?

GAP: Because my students are enduring extravagant costs for a college “higher” education, expecting, I assume, the best and the brightest academic pedagogues, who — as they fully deserve — get a full salary. And by the “best professors,” I mean those who have tenure and are respected by their professional academic colleagues. I am not in their league/”lane,” Father, as has been made somewhat clear (by whom I don’t really know) for over a decade at a Jesuit institution of higher earning (please forgive my spelling sin, Father, I meant “learning).”

And yet students are paying high prices, to be taught by non-tenured academic hired-hands (hacks?), such as I, “instructing” them. Should not the “real” professors teach students more than the academic hired-hands do, instead of high-priced universities relying on “second-rate” instructors/adjuncts supposedly enlightening the young (and not so young)? I feel guilty, Father, and seek your absolution.

Priest:

My son — How much are you getting remunerated for teaching your course (s), now over a decade?

GAP: A couple of thousand dollars per course, Father, without insurance or any assurance of permanent employment.

Priest:

Do you feel exploited?

GAP: Father, with all due respect: My consolation is Christ on the crucifix.

Priest: Say three Hail Marys and go back to the books before you pretend to be a “professor” you, so-called “Dr.” Brown. Roma locuta est; causa finita est.

***

Full disclosure: I was reprimanded (excommunicated?) by a Georgetown dean for distributing photocopied materials in one of my classes, which included non-copyrighted speeches by American presidents (Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman). … Yep, somehow it has something to do with copyright laws.

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Why Every Adjunct Should Be Watching Friedrichs v. the California Teaching Association http://www.adjunctnation.com/2016/01/23/why-every-adjunct-should-be-watching-friedrichs-v-the-california-teaching-association/ http://www.adjunctnation.com/2016/01/23/why-every-adjunct-should-be-watching-friedrichs-v-the-california-teaching-association/#comments Sat, 23 Jan 2016 22:38:42 +0000 http://www.adjunctnation.com/?p=6545 by P.D. Lesko

Agency fees, or as education union officials refer to them, “fair share fees,” are paid to faculty unions by individuals who either choose not to belong to a union, are barred from belonging to the union, or who once were members but for whatever reason decided to opt out of membership. Unionists recognize that agency fees create a strong incentive for those who must pay them to become full members of a union.

Now a case awaits hearing by the U.S. Supreme Court that could dramatically change this picture. In These Times calls Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association one “that could decimate American public sector unionism.” Perhaps that’s simply an ideological overstatement. Nonetheless, the case, if decided for the plaintiffs, could end the practice of “agency” fees—money paid to the union by nonmembers in exchange for collective bargaining services. Unions assert that their elimination would create a class of free riders, workers who would pay nothing while still enjoying the higher salaries and other benefits negotiated by unions.

Over at the blog “The Adjunct Crisis,” writer Geoff Johnson is of the opinion that the case, if decided for the plaintiffs, will hurt adjuncts. Johnson writes:

As for the claim that teachers unions often represent the specific interests of a few, there is some truth to this. Unions by and large represent its most active members, and particularly those who vote on the leadership, fill out negotiating surveys, come to meetings, participate in larger union activities, and vote on whether to ratify a contract or not. For the most part, because full-time employees usually work at one campus and are therefore more engaged with their on-site union than an adjunct teaching at multiple campuses and represented by multiple unions, they are more likely to have their interests and concerns heard by the one union they’re involved with. Ironically, on most, if not nearly all campuses where “wall-to-wall” unions exist, adjuncts represent the majority of members, but vote and participate in such small numbers that they do not effectively lead policy.

To address this problem, adjuncts simply need to vote and participate more, which takes needed time and energy, and will at times lead to frustration when others don’t see your way of thinking at first (welcome to being in a union).

In truth, agency fees are imposed on tens of thousands of faculty nationwide, many of them adjuncts. A look at the AAUP’s 2014 LM-2 financial report filed with the U.S. Department of Labor shows that 11,106 of the group’s 49,444 members are agency fee payers. Only 4,637 of the AAUP’s total members are part-time faculty. In 2010, the AAUP had 48,694 members 4,103 of whom were part-time and 7,977 of whom were agency fee payers.

What this shows is clear: the largest growth segment of membership for the AAUP between 2010 and 2014 did not come through the addition of either newly-organized full-time or part-time faculty, but rather through the addition of agency fee payers.

photo

Lesa Curtis of Westchester, N.Y., right, who is pro agency fees and a former president of her union, rallies outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, as the court heard arguments in the ‘Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association’ case. The justices were to hear arguments in a case that challenges the right of public-employee unions to collect fees from teachers, firefighters and other state and local government workers who choose not to become members. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

American Federation of Teachers’ headquarters in Washington, D.C., reported no agency fee payers on its 2014 LM-2, stating on its financial disclosure that agency fee payers are not considered members of the union. However, in 2014 multiple state AFT chapters took forced fees. New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), the largest AFT affiliate, took agency fees from 23,365 nonmembers. AdjunctNation has written repeatedly about NYSUT and its leaders’ penchant for negotiating so-called equal percentage raises. Such negotiating tactics rob adjunct union members and agency fee payers and shift exponentially more in compensation to full-time union members. AFT affiliate California Federation of Teachers reported 12,212 agency fee payers and 55,647 willing union members. California AFT affiliates engaged in similar thievery.

NYSUT’s chicanery to funnel the lion’s share of compensation to its full-time faculty is not unique. In California, union officials cooked up scams used to take money allocated by the California Legislature to raise the pay of part-time faculty and gave the money to full-time faculty, instead.

In “The Equity Pay Scam in California,” published in 2003, I wrote: “During negotiations in certain districts, union and district officials have been exploring ways to allocate the funds to full-time faculty, as well. Part-time faculty activist Margaret Quan, who teaches in the Contra Costa district, attended a BayFac (colleges in the Bay area) meeting last October 29th. ‘The main topic for discussion was not whether or not, but how full-time faculty could benefit by this augmentation. Parts of the discussion I found distressing…the union in [one of these] districts has decided that they would take the COLA [cost of living adjustment] entirely for full-time faculty, while giving the part-time faculty in their district a raise from the augmentation money.’”

AFT union leaders in Washington State used the same scams to funnel money legislators in that state had earmarked for equity pay increases for the state’s 10,000 part-time faculty.

Higher education union leaders have been doing the “pay equity” song and dance since 2009 and this epic failure to equally represent all union members has hurt non-tenured faculty badly. Per course pay averages $3,000 for part-timers thanks, in part, to equal percentage raises over the past two decades and policies crafted by unions that undermined the idea that adjuncts must earn equal pay for equal work. The current political push on the part of unionists and their allies to pay adjuncts $5,000 per course is equally misguided, and the equivalent of poverty wages as opposed to pro rata pay.

Is it any wonder, then, that agency fee payers, including adjunct faculty, would like to opt out of paying the six-figure salaries of the union officials who, for the past three decades, have worked diligently against their own members’ best interests? Union contracts negotiated on behalf of adjunct faculty union members have for decades capped, among other things, numbers of adjunct faculty, adjunct faculty hours, pay, benefits, denied due process and professional development opportunities.

While Geoff Johnson writes that union officials have perpetrated these actions against their own adjunct faculty members because adjuncts themselves participate in such small numbers in union life and leadership roles, I would gently and kindly reply thusly: Hell to the NO! That argument, quite simply, blames the victim. Perhaps adjuncts shouldn’t wear short skirts and perfume so their union leaders won’t screw them? Perhaps Friedrichs vs. the California Teaching Association will be just the cattle prod needed to jolt education union leaders at local, state and national levels into finally offering all members equal representation. Perhaps union leaders will uniformly begin to negotiate contracts that provide equal benefits and pay to all union members.

SCOTUS blog will have all the details when the Supreme Court’s decision is released. Until then, I’m of the opinion that Friedrichs vs. the California Teaching Association will be a game-changer within higher education. Education union leaders have, for 30 years, looked on the adjunct members from whom they’ve accepted union dues and agency fees to represent much like Scrooge looked on the poor, as so much surplus population that, if lost, would not be missed.

Geoff Johnson writes, “Chances are likely that the agency fee will fall, but that doesn’t mean you can’t join the union. What it does mean is that now, more than ever, you need to join the teacher’s union at your place of work. If you don’t have one, then you should contact a local teacher’s union about starting one. You know the old cliché, ‘united we stand, divided we fall.’ The fact of the matter is, it’s true. It’s time to unify and unionize good adjuncts.”

I agree, wholeheartedly with his sentiment but unionization in locals whose leaders, through the use of dues and agency fees, finance shoddy and unequal representation harm their adjunct members both professionally and financially.

If the U.S. Supreme Court can put an end to that decades-long travesty, the sooner the better.

 

 

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