Tag Archive: professional growth and development

Sep 02


The Write@UNG is a new multifaceted faculty development program that stretches across five campuses and enriches scholarly productivity through a focus on research and writing skills. Workshops are facilitated by Dr. Michael Rifenburg, Department of English, CTLL Faculty Fellow for Scholarly Writing and sponsored by the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Leadership.

Click on the image below to enlarge.


To register, please here to view all the upcoming Write@UNG workshops.

Oct 12

Space to Teach: The Teaching Professor Technology Conference

In 2013, the English Learning Support department at UNG was awarded a $100,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. As part of the “Adaptive Learning Market Acceleration Program” (ALMAP) grant, several learning support English professors – myself, Ashley Armour, Kelly Dahlin, Dr. Shannon Gilstrap, and Dr. Matthew Horton – took on the task of incorporating adaptive technologies into our courses. We decided to use the McGraw-Hill LearnSmart program, which uses an algorithm to constantly update each student’s learning challenges and successes in order to offer a so-called “personal learning plan.” For three semesters, we incorporated the technology into our pedagogy and into our assessments, and, for three semesters, we gathered data on the students. Were they successful in completing the “learning plan”? How did their work with the technology affect their success in the course? How did using the technology impact our teaching?

The answer, right now, is that the verdict is still out, at least empirically speaking. We do see some correlation between course completion rates and learning plan completion, but we’ll need to look a bit closer to determine whether it’s causative or simply correlative, as the plans were also a percentage of the course grade. We did decide, nearly unanimously, that the program gave us room; we had more space in our classroom lessons to address more holistic issues, such as paragraphing, organization, and critical thinking. We spent less time lecturing about grammar, and we spent more time teaching, and practicing, revision and editing strategies. In other words: we could workshop student papers. Students could collaborate in peer review sessions, feeling more confident about their foundational knowledge.

It was this pedagogical freedom that we focused on in our poster presentation at the Teachning Professor Technology Conference in New Orleans. Our eposter, “Space to Teach: Adaptive Technology in the Developmental English Classroom” (watch it here) drew a bit of attention, as we fancied it up with a Google Slides presentation. The most interesting conversation was with a faculty member from a large university. She was not only skeptical of the technology; she simply refused to believe that we had time to “workshop” and to “work with students” in a writing classroom. We insisted that, as long as the instructor scaffolds the lesson appropriately, with specific tasks and expectations, peer reviewing and student-teaching interaction can work quite well in our courses. Despite our clear experience with this format, the faculty member remained doubtful, and she walked away with a firm shake of her head and a dismissive comment, “I don’t believe that’s possible, what you’re saying. There’s no way to work with individual students to that degree.”

For us, her doubt was suprising, since our student-centered pedagogy has served us so well for so long. We weren’t, however, bothered overmuch by her disregard of our approach. In fact, the exchange reaffirmed the unique beauty of what we’ve been able to accomplish with a focus on teaching and learning at UNG. The adaptive technology, for us, simply allows us more space to do what we want: teach every student how to communicate effectively and confidently, in any context.


Further Reading

2015 Teaching Professor Technology Conference

news@UNG (Press Release) “Grant will expand project to support student success at UNG”

Space to Teach: Adaptive Technology in the Developmental English Classroom (ePoster Handout)

Space to Teach: Adaptive Technology in the Developmental English Classroom (ePoster Slides)


Feb 02

What it Means to be Connected

October was Connected Educator Month. Started by the U.S. Department of Education in 2012, CEM has gone global and in 2013 reached 14 million educators through twitter alone.

As a college writing teacher and dues-paying member of the National Council of Teaches of English, I was involved this October with CEM, specifically attending (live or remotely; via webcam or twitter) events connected to CEM and curating the conversations via twitter, blogs, Storify, or through other digital platforms.

As we head into the spring semester, I find myself reflecting on a webinar I attended held live in Norway. Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano, an educational consultant based in Brazil, provided the keynote address titled “The Globally Connected Educator.” In her presentation, she argued that if the desired outcome is globally connected students, teachers need to be connected globally connected first. This connection happens when teachers communicate, collaborate, and connect with experts and peers from around the world.

We work at a university which prides itself on establishing global connections. We have an active Center for Global Engagement. We have a strong relationship with Liaocheng University in China, as well as the Summer Language Institute’s inclusion of Chinese and Korean languages.

But here at the beginning of a new semester, I encourage us to consider individually and collectively how we can remain connected to educators in generalm, as well as our disciplines — and even subdisciplines. Connecting and remaining connected to our field improves the quality of instruction we offer our students.

Tolisano pushes digital connections via contributing to twitter conversations and webinars. Yet, these connections do not have to be reserved for the technologically savvy.

We connect through attending local, regional, and national conferences, sitting in on sessions or meeting people in the hallways (that is where the “real” conference happens, I believe, and it is blogged about here).

We connect through browsing recent journals in our field, scanning the table of contents and remembering author names and what she, he, they wrote about.

We connect through bringing in guest-speakers, and by being aware of who the president is of our leading professional organization.

As Tolisano said, our students need a connected teacher.

This connection does not have to occur during the weekly #whatisschool twitter chat, though it certainly could.

But this connection needs to happen for the betterment of our own professional development, but more importantly, for the betterment of our students.

Additional Resources

Connected Educator Month: Get Involved

Powerful Learning Practice: Professional Learning for Connected Educators


Dec 01

Pretending to Be A Student Reminds Me How to Teach


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.


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

Apr 18

Getting Involved in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

Like many others in higher education, I began my teaching career with no formal training in education. As a graduate student in Mathematics, I began teaching classes by trying to emulate the classes in which I had learned best myself. For me, that meant delivering detailed lectures over the course material and assessing with problems similar to those done in class. While that was somewhat successful, I saw two problems. First of all, no matter how much preparation I put into my lectures and explanations some students failed. Perhaps even worse, I observed that some of my “good” students could mimic procedures without understanding the underlying concepts. Desiring to become a better teacher, I pursued a PhD in mathematics education. In graduate school, I learned about theories of learning including constructivism, and I was introduced to alternative approaches to instruction including inquiry-based learning (IBL) in which students explore problems and concepts without first being taught through direct instruction. This has been a major theme in my own teaching and Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) research. For my dissertation, I explored ways to use technology to create collaborative online environments for problem solving in college algebra, and at North Georgia, I have worked with others to investigate the use of IBL practices in precalculus classes. My ongoing research question involves finding the right balance between student discovery and direct instruction in introductory college mathematics classes.

While pursuing a formal degree in education is not practical for everyone in higher education, I think everyone can learn and improve the experiences of his or her students through SoTL activities. Shulman (2000) argues that there are three reasons to pursue the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, which he calls professionalism, pragmatism, and policy. He argues that we belong to the profession of our chosen field (such as Mathematics) and the profession of higher education. As members of these professions, “we bear the responsibilities of scholars—to discover, to connect, to apply and to teach (p. 49).” Shulman also argues that SoTL research can affect policy by providing research based evidence about what does and does not work in the classroom. While these are important, my primary motivation in SoTL has always been what Shulman calls Pragmatism. I want to find ways to improve my own teaching and the learning experiences of my students. This is something that I think all higher education faculty members need to consider. It is easy to become comfortable with our teaching practices, especially if those practices mirror our own successful experiences as a student. I encourage faculty to seek out other SoTL and education resources in one’s own field. Professional organizations, conferences, and scholarly journals are a great source of inspiration. There is a growing list of resources devoted entirely to SoTL, including the following web sites:

The Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CASTL)

Vanderbilt University’s SoTL Scholars

The International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISSOTL)

Indiana University Bloomington’s SoTL Program

Georgia Southern University’s SoTL Commons

Here in Georgia, we do not even have to leave the state to attend the international SoTL Commons Conference hosted by Georgia Southern University. I have attended and presented at this conference twice, and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in connecting with a large network of SoTL researchers.

There is no doubt that faculty have busy schedules, and finding time to do systematic research on teaching and learning must compete with many other activities, including field specific research for many faculty members. One thing that I have found very helpful in balancing my research on teaching with my actual teaching and numerous other activities has been to collaborate with other faculty. I have taken part in teaching circles with faculty members from other departments, and I have collaborated with fellow math department faculty to acquire external funding to conduct SoTL research. Working with others is a great way to generate fresh ideas and to balance the work load. The externally funded projects that I have worked on would not have been possible without my colleagues, and I strongly encourage other faculty members to seek out collaborators. In my experience, the faculty at all UNG campuses are enthusiastic about teaching and eager to work together.

SHULMAN, L.S. (2000) From Minsk to Pinsk: why a scholarship of teaching and learning? Journal of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (JoSoTL), 1, pp. 48–52.

Feb 26

Mentoring New(er) Faculty at UNG

Mentoring New(er) Faculty at UNG

We’re well into the second semester of the year, and I’d like to encourage you to take a moment to reach out faculty colleagues, especially those who are in their first few years at our institution.  Many departments provide a formal mentor for new faculty, but effective mentoring is a communal enterprise.

Research suggests that mentoring networks are most effective to help new colleagues contribute successfully to our shared enterprise. Newer faculty members, whether new to the profession or new to our institution, look to their immediate colleagues for examples and advice in navigating the hallways and offices of their new environment. This means that they may not always turn to colleagues in their own field, but may, instead, turn to those in officesin proximity to their own.  Take a moment to drop by a younger faculty member’s office to offer an invitation to coffee.  You might talk about balancing your faculty responsibilities, suggest an exchange of classroom observations, or talk about your research agendas. In The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Vitae, Kerry Ann Rockquemore writes about the power of communal mentoring:  “When It Comes to Mentoring, the More the Merrier.” You might also look at the CTLL UNG page on Mentoring for more ideas.

Finally, Mary Dean Sorcinelli and Yun Jung compiled a 2007 literature review of the current (at the time) resources and studies in the changing perspective of the mentoring relationship. In their piece,  “From Mentor To Mentoring Networks: Mentoring In The New Academy,” the authors provide sources, models, and studies for the new concept of “communal” or “constellation” mentorship for the academy.  I encourage you to peruse at least their resources, especially if you’re interested in supporting your colleagues and institution in this fashion.

Further Reading:

Kennedy, Kit. “Mentoring: A network of gratitude.” Serials Review 1993: 5. Academic Search Complete. Web. 26 Feb. 2014. Permalink

Sorcinelli, Mary Deane, and Yun Jung. “From Mentor To Mentoring Networks: Mentoring In The New Academy.” Change 39.6 (2007): 58-61. Academic Search Complete. Web. 26 Feb. 2014. Permalink

Mentoring In the Academy: Harvard University Panel Discussion (video, 55 minutes)


Jan 21

Weekly Work Habits and a Successful Academic Career

We become what we do. Our lives are shaped, in part, by the small choices we make every day.

Thirty minutes a day adds up to two and a half per week (5 days a week).  Over 50 weeks, that’s 125 hours. A good article might be researched and drafted in 125 hours. One article every 12-18 months is good productivity for a state university professor. Imagine if you wrote the equivalent of an article or a book chapter each year. What might you accomplish in a decade?  What might you contribute to your field?

For inspiration and a discussion of how to thrive as a university professor, check out  Kerry Ann Rockquemore’s How to Thrive Amid Academic Chaos in the Vitae area of The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Take time to think about your weekly habits.  Are you incorporating time for steadily working toward a productive scholarly agenda? Who will you be in a decade?

Oct 29

Society for the Teaching of Psychology e-Conference: Teaching Competencies

Teaching Competencies

Society for the Teaching of Psychology e-Conference
Co-sponsored by the University of North Georgia’s Distance Education & Technology Integration
Friday, January 24, 2014
10:00 AM – 3:00 PM (Eastern Standard Time)

The Society for the Teaching of Psychology presents the 7th Annual Live e-Conference. The 2014 teaching conference will include topics such as (1) how do you know if you are a good teacher?; (2) how to elevate your teaching to standards of excellence; (3) a comprehensive operational definition of model teachers (4) evidence based practices for evaluating instructors; (5) student-centered syllabi design; (6) using and conducting SoTL in the classroom; and (7) how to align your teaching with APA guidelines.

Only Internet access is required to watch (and hear) the presenters; you will be able to test your connection before the conference. Registered participants will receive access instructions and passwords approximately one week prior to the broadcast. For additional information, contact Steven Lloyd (steven.lloyd@ung.edu) at 706-864-1445 or Enes Aganovic (enes.aganovic@ung.edu) at 706-867-3513.

e-Conference Program (all listed times are Eastern Standard Time)

9:30-9:45 am Logon to recheck your internet connection at your convenience
9:45-10:00 am Opening remarks: Welcome and Introductions

10:00-11:00 am Climbing the Teaching Hierarchy: Aspirational Benchmarks for Quality Teaching
Regan A. R. Gurung, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay

11:00-12:00 pm Beyond Competency: Striving For Mastery In Your Teaching
William Buskist, Auburn University

12:00-12:30 pm An Introduction to the Characteristics of Model Psychology Teachers
Guy Boysen, McKendree University

12:30-1:00 pm Evidence Based Practices for Evaluating Instructors
Jared Keeley, Mississippi State University

1:00-1:30 pm It Starts With the Syllabus: A Primer for Constructing Student-Centered Syllabi
Aaron Richmond, Metropolitan State University of Denver

1:30-2:00 pm SoTL Knowledge in the Classroom: Applying and Creating Research
Janie Wilson, Georgia Southern University

2:00-2:30 pm Strategies for Addressing the Revised APA Guidelines for the Psychology Major
Michael Stoloff, James Madison University

2:30-2:45 pm Closing remarks: Acknowledgements

Thank you to the University of North Georgia’s Division of Distance Education and Technology Integration for producing and broadcasting the e-Conference. If you have technology-related questions, please contact Enes Aganovic (enes.aganovic@ung.edu; 706.867.3513) or Steven Lloyd (steven.lloyd@ung.edu; 706.864.1445).

Registration Fees

  • Individual Registration: $20
  • Institutional Registration: $50 (unlimited access for all faculty at an institution)

Registration Process

Register and pay for the conference

If needed, you may mail a check or purchase order payable to the Society for the Teaching of Psychology, with a note specifying who the payment is for, to:

  • David Kreiner, STP Treasurer
    Department of Psychological Science, Lovinger 1111
    University of Central Missouri
    Warrensburg, MO 64093
    Email: kreiner@ucmo.edu

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