Category Archive: Awards

Mar 02

The EASE Project: Bridging the Gap between the Classroom and Academic Support Services

Anyone who has ever made an honest effort at writing in college knows that the process can be tough. It involves plenty of reading, researching, critical thinking, writing, rewriting, editing (and typically you also get to enjoy the process in reverse before you’re done, too). But we emphasize writing because it is so vitally important. Written communication is one of those developments that distinguishes humans as unique and that makes increasingly rich, vibrant, and complex society possible. One can rightly expect a technology as powerful as writing to be necessarily difficult.

Given the complexity of composition, we all struggle with it at times, and people confront an array of challenges in first-year composition courses. For some time now in academia, we’ve categorized a number of those students facing such challenges under the somewhat vague umbrella terms of underprepared or at-risk. How students end up in these categories is a different essay altogether (or, really, a very, very long and ongoing argument that stretches within and beyond the bounds of the University). So, this post isn’t about how we got here; it’s about what we’re going to do now.

This post is about how the University of North Georgia is working to transform remediation to accomplish our strategic goal of preparing students for the workforce ahead–for a job market that, by the year 2020, will require some form of postsecondary certification or degree for over 60% of all jobs in Georgia. We don’t want to pretend to be the only ones addressing this issue, but at UNG, we are trying out one particular new initiative: the EASE project.

The EASE project, or more properly, the Embedded Academic Support Experience, is a pilot program on the Oconee Campus that integrates writing tutoring into coursework for an ENGL 1101 class. Students enrolled in this course visit the Oconee Campus Writing Center in pairs to receive two-on-one tutoring sessions on a bi-weekly basis, and a writing tutor also visits the classroom on a monthly basis to provide assistance in that setting, as well. The aim of this project is to incorporate tutoring support services into coursework in such a way as to provide individualized and student-focused instruction and feedback that enhances student performance, engagement, self-efficacy, retention, and progression.

Sounds intense, right? The basic idea is that underprepared students will learn about writing by receiving a lot of instruction on writing, by working often with writing tutors both in and out of the classroom setting, and by generally just writing a lot.

In the past, we’ve tried other models, such as splitting students into READ 0099 or ENGL 0099 depending on their particular needs. More recently, we’ve shifted to a course that synthesizes those reading and writing needs; that course is called ACAE 0099. Certainly, there is still a place for these sorts of courses and efforts to assist our students; however, EASE attempts to do things a bit differently.

By embedding writing tutoring into the coursework of ENGL 1101, we’re providing our at-risk students with more support from the outset. We’re taking a highly proactive approach to providing these students with academic support that will greatly assist them in ENGL 1101 and beyond. So, in a way, EASE is an outreach program that brings tutoring to our students very early in their academic careers. By reaching out to the students, we help them discover how impactful our campus resources and services can be, and they learn to be proactive about seeking out such support now and in the future.

Some other added benefits of EASE are a direct result of the collaborative process that characterizes writing center practice and pedagogy. The small group setting of the regular tutoring sessions helps build and strengthen writing communities, and the members of these communities invariably approach writing topics from the vantage point of their diverse backgrounds and fields of study. This collaborative context immerses students in the thick of the ongoing conversation that is good, academic writing, and through participation, students learn to appreciate the cross-disciplinary nature of academic writing and to subsequently comprehend their worlds more complexly.

So, yes, this will be an intense course, but it will also accelerate the speed at which underprepared college students fulfill Learning Support requirements, it will provide the support those students need throughout their academic careers, it will teach them the importance and impact of collaboration, and it will instill proactive habits of success. The EASE project will combine rigorous expectations and standards with ample feedback and support, and for those students enrolled in EASE, the program will yield dividends throughout their collegiate and professional careers.

Dec 01

Pretending to Be A Student Reminds Me How to Teach

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Every summer, the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas presents the Intensive Institute on the Study of Science Fiction, a two week seminar covering a list of either 25 novels or a selection of short stories, all deemed “important” to the genre. The seminar begins with the early works, the classics, and moves through the Science Fiction Golden Age, all the way through our contemporary era. The instructor, Chris McKitterick, is a published novelist, has studied astronomy, and has also worked as a technical writer for the gaming and tech industries . He knows his technology and his literature, and was, therefore, the perfect person to take over for the founder and former director, SF guru James Gunn. (I will freely admit that I was pretty starstruck when I met Gunn, my intellectual and academic hero, at a casual lunch with some of the students. To my credit, I did not squeal. Not out loud, anyway).

So it was that, in June of 2014, I spent two weeks studying the classics. From War of the Worlds to Consider Phlebas, a group of seven students deconstructed history, debated politics, conducted thought experiments, and examined imaginary (potential) technologies. For over four hours a day, every day, we talked about books. Books we’d loved for years; books we finished reading only on principle; books we’d heard of and had planned to read anyway; books that shattered everything we thought we knew about narrative/philosophy/genre/[fill-in-the-blank]. In a word, it was good.

In another word, it was nostalgic. Remember those grad school classes where everyone showed up, energized by the readings and ready for lively discussion? It was like that. We see it happen in our own classrooms: those days that we talk about later with our colleagues, friends, partners, those in-class activities we hope to remember to repeat to similar success in a future semester. Those days when we remember that the symbiosis of teaching and learning can be exhilarating, that it can feel like truth, that it can change lives…including our own. That’s what I felt during this course, and that’s what I want my students to feel as often as possible.

I had been eyeing this program for several years, but the expense of the travel, particularly the lodging and airfare, put it out of reach. Until I received the second reminder from CTLL about the Presidential Faculty Professional Engagement Award (PFPE). According to the award information, “Funding is designed to support professional development activities for faculty to remain state-of-the-art in their disciplines.” I could argue that teaching SF is “state-of-the-art,” especially when dealing with the so-called “millennials.” Maybe, just maybe, I could do this.

Perhaps you’re not daunted by the application process for faculty or staff awards. Perhaps you don’t suffer from “imposter syndrome,” the symptoms of which usually reach a peak in graduate school, but often linger for years after one has obtained a good position in higher ed. Perhaps you’re that person: self-assured, always successful, never nervous.

I, however, am not.

When I learned of the PFPE, I resisted applying right away. I had all of usual my wimpy excuses at the ready:

  • I’m still the new kid. (I’ve been here since 2006.)
  • I don’t have time to prepare a proposal. (Who does?)
  • Who would write a recommendation for me? (Just ask someone.)
  • Other faculty deserve it more than I do. (Shouldn’t that be the judges’ decision?)

This time, however, my desire to attend an academic geek-fest a professional development seminar managed to out-shout the self-defeating voices in my head, and I gave it a whirl. If I didn’t succeed, I reasoned, I could always consider the process an important learning experience for my career. I was right, too: I’m nearly certain that, if I hadn’t applied this time, future opportunities would grow less appealing, and the reminder emails from CTLL would more quickly vanish into my deleted items folder. I learned to prepare a (small) budget, found the words to articulate my professional goals, and challenged myself to plan for future collaboration and presentation to my colleagues.

Plus: I got to spend nearly two weeks with some very smart SF scholar / teacher talking philosophy, science, religion, and literature. Definitely worth every moment of anxiety and increased workload.

So, my advice is this: if you see an opportunity to reignite your passion for your calling, whether that calling is teaching, like me, or scholarly activity, take it. Not profound or surprising advice, but, sometimes, we all need a little kick in the pants to do what, in the end, we really want to do.

On a final, more practical note: UNG faculty & staff should also attend this presentation: Writing a Successful Faculty Scholar Award Proposal on December 3. It’s easy to be passionate; it’s less easy to find the funds to follow that passion.  (Presented by CTLL)  Be sure to RSVP.

Resources

CTLL Faculty Awards: http://ung.edu/center-teaching-learning-leadership/awards/index.php

Academic Affairs Faculty Awards: http://ung.edu/academic-affairs/faculty-awards/index.php#UNG%20Faculty%20Awards%20&%20Ceremonies

Sep 19

Faculty Scholar Brown Bag Seminars 2013

Faculty Scholar Brown Bag Seminars

Winners of spring 2013’s faculty scholar awards will be presenting their research at three seminars. Dr. Cosgrove will lead these sessions and offer insights into the criteria for these awards.

Faculty Scholar Brown Bag Seminar
Friday, September 27, 2013
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Facilitators:
Maryellen Cosgrove, Associate Provost for Academic Affairs
Yong Wei, Associate Professor of Computer Science
Locations:
Cumming Campus – University Center, Room 262
Dahlonega Campus – Library Technology Center, Room 163
Gainesville Campus – Dunlap Mathis, Room 137
Oconee Campus – Student Resource Center, Room 564

Faculty Scholar Brown Bag Seminar
Friday, October 25, 2013 
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Facilitators:
Maryellen Cosgrove, Associate Provost
Sara Mason, Assistant Professor of Sociology
Natalie Hyslop, Assistant Professors of Biology
Jeanelle Morgan, Assistant Professors of Biology
Locations:
Cumming Campus – University Center, Room 262
Dahlonega Campus – Library Technology Center, Room 163
Gainesville Campus – Dunlap Mathis, Room 137
Oconee Campus – Student Resource Center, Room 564

Faculty Scholar Brown Bag Seminar
Friday, November 22, 2013
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Facilitators:
Maryellen Cosgrove, Associate Provost
Tony Zschau, Assistant Professor of Sociology
Daniel Hatch, Associate Professor of Psychological Science
Locations:
Cumming Campus – University Center, Room 262
Dahlonega Campus – Library Technology Center, Room 163
Gainesville Campus – Dunlap Mathis, Room 137
Oconee Campus – Student Resource Center, Room 564