Tips for Preventing Academic Dishonesty

Tips for Reducing Academic DishonestyStudents report cheating in many ways. And technology is making it easier and easier to do so. The Open Education Data Base (http://oedb.org/ilibrarian/8-astonishing-stats-on-academic-cheating/) cited a survey that included 30,000 students; 60% reported cheating while in college. It was also reported that cheaters have higher grade point averages than peers who do not cheat. Popular paper mill websites report receiving about 8,000 hits per day. Roughly 75-98% of students who are cheating in college were also cheating in high school. 85% of students reported that cheating is essential to their academic success.

This information as well as some experiences we had in our classes last year, lead to a discussion with colleagues about academic dishonesty. We questioned ways in which we could work to reduce this problem. Additionally, what more could and should we be doing if students are reporting cheating is essential to academic success?

What are we talking about?

When we are talking about academic dishonesty, we are focusing mainly on plagiarism and cheating on assessments, exams and quizzes, in the traditional classroom setting as well as in the online learning environment.

Do students know they are cheating?

As part of the discussion, we questioned, “do student always know they are cheating?”. This specifically applies to plagiarism. For example, when they are writing papers, do they know that they have plagiarized when they present a summary of an article, and they do not cite the source in-text. It is not simply just copying and pasting something that someone else wrote, which is what many students believe. Perhaps, being more intentional about not only teaching students what plagiarism is, but also exactly what they can do to avoid it is necessary.

How do we know?

So…how would we know if a student is cheating? For example, how do we know if a student bought a paper from an online site, especially if they are in an online setting. How can we be sure that they are buying a paper and not receiving help from the tutoring center at the school? Building relationships is one way to help to identify cheating. The more interactions we have with students in the discussion forums and through face to face conversations or conversations by phone, the better equip we are to determine if the work being submitted is similar to other interactions we are having with the student.

Technology and Cheating

Wearables have become more popular and prevalent in recent years. They are another tool that students are using to cheating. This came to our attention at the end of the semester when a student was caught using a wearable to access study material during an exam. It appeared that a resource that was given in class was on a student’s wearable and that it was being used during an assessment. After addressing the student regarding the situation, it was clear that bans on wearables would now also need to be addressed in course policies. Prior to this incident, things like cell phones, other technology, and resources were banned, but we had not specifically included wearables.

PoliciesReducing Academic Dishonesty

In some academic institutions, academic policies have not been updated in a decade or more. Therefore, there are not bans put into place or consequences written to address academic dishonesty that can occur using technology, such as wearables. As academics, we are responsible to ensure that documents that are relevant to our classes are updated regularly. If new technological advances have not been considered and included in Course Policies, we would like to encourage you to meet wth your colleagues as you prepare for the semester and revise the policies used.

Consequences 

Academics also report that they do not feel the consequences for academic dishonesty always fit the offense. Academics need to ensure that they are involved in writing policies that are put into place to reduce academic dishonesty and address it when it occurs. If students know that they will only receiving a warning, they are not as worried about cheating than if they hear they will receive a 0, get kicked out of class, or get kicked out of school. While we are not saying that kicking students out of school is the best answer, it is important that students understand the severity of cheating and that consequences deter students from participating.

Additionally, students do not feel the consequences for academic dishonesty are harsh enough. Students get really upset when they are aware that a classmate is cheating without consequence. Students, who are working hard to earn their grades, find this to be unfair, unethical, and want the peer who is cheating to be punished. They look to the professor to address the behavior and report it.

Reporting

Is the process for reporting academic dishonesty at your institution easy to access and use? Faculty may feel that reporting cheating is too tedious and too time consuming. In addition speculation is often not enough to report a situation. If they instructor does not have “hard evidence”, they may be unable to report the situation that took place. Therefore, the incident goes unreported and the student may be cheating in multiple classes without consequence.

Students are becoming more creative in the methods they use to cheat in classes. Therefore, we must also become more creative in the ways in which we work to maintain the integrity of the course content and materials used to assess students. They must learn the material in our courses as they will be our colleagues in the field one day.

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Check out our Facebook live session as we discuss Academic Dishonesty.

Making College Move-In Easy

College Students….Parents of College Students…..have you considered shipping items from the merchant directly to campus. This could be your college move-in lifesaver!

 

Making College Move-In Stress FreeTHIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATED LINKS. BY CLICKING AND PURCHASING FROM THE PROVIDED LINKS, THE PRACTICAL PROFESSORS EARN A SMALL COMMISSION AT NO ADDITIONAL COST TO THE BUYER.

As we prepare for the fall semester, students are also preparing……preparing to come to campus, move into dorms and apartments and begin a new semester. While moving to campus and beginning new semester is extremely exciting, it can also be a bit stressful and overwhelming. Students often question what items to bring with them. Some will be simply moving across town. Returning home to pick up forgotten items will be easy. However, others will be traveling by car or plane long distances to campuses where they will be living for several months before returning home. Packing items in suitcases may limit items they are able to pack. Forgetting essential items or not having room to pack necessary items can also lead to discomfort and distress. However, there is a simple solution – AMAZON! Amazon offers students and parents and easy and quick way have necessities delivered to campus. Amazon offers a convenient way to order school supplies, backpacks, books, and electronics such as computers, calculators, and flashdrives as well as so much more!

Student Discounts

As a student, you can sign up for a free trial and discounts through merchants to receive benefits such as free sign up or a free trial period as well as reduced rates (ex. half off for a year membership). The benefits you receive will vary but include free shipping or extra discounts on items you wish to purchase. Most merchants will simply request that you provide an email address ending in .edu to verify that you are, in fact, a student.

Dorm Room Items

Decorating your dorm room is so much fun; however, it can be tricky to determine how to get all of the items to campus. You may also arrive and realize that you and your roommate have failed to bring an essential item that you need for your room. Things like small appliances, storage and organization items, shelves, electronics, and furniture that may make dorm room or apartment living a bit more comfortable can be ordered and delivered.

Items like….

  • refrigerators
  • 3 in 1 multifunction breakfast center
  • microwaves
  • coffee pots
  • desk lamps
  • desk chairs
  • book shelves
  • bedding and towels
  • mattress topper
  • pillows
  • hangers
  • laundry baskets
  • mirrors
  • shower caddies
  • vacuum
  • waste baskets
  • picture frames
  • poster putty
  • extension cords
  • plates, cups, bowls, water bottles, utensils
  • bed risers

…can be ordered and delivered to students on campus. Most items will be delivered to a central location like a mail center unless you are living in an apartment, so make sure you are familiar with mail delivery policies on your campus. Tracking your package and checking delivery status is also important.

Tip for Parents: Is your student traveling far away from home? It is tough to pack large items when students are traveling to school by plane or even large distances by car. Shipping dorm room essentials like bedding, refrigerators and other small appliances, decorations, storage bins, and cleaning supplies can ensure that they have what they need away from home. You can do a quick search for “college essentials” and find everything your student will need (as well as items you did not realize he/she needed but now after reviewing them, know he/she must have)!

Grocery Shopping

In addition to dorm room essentials, you may also need groceries. Snacks in your dorm room are a must. Or perhaps, you are living in an apartment and have access to a kitchen. Stocking your refrigerator and pantry with some healthy food is essential. Did you know that there are many grocery stores and retailers that allow customers to order groceries and have them delivered. A quick Internet search including the keywords “grocery shopping and delivery” or “grocery delivery service” will reveal stores in your area that provide this service. In addition, there are several merchants online who offer a large variety of grocery and home items, which can be conveniently ordered and delivered. You can order food, drinks, healthy snacks, and toiletries such as toothpaste, tooth brushes, shampoos, etc, laundry detergent, household items like toilet paper or paper towels. The list is endless. This type of service is great for college students who do not have access to a car or transportation that allows for convenient grocery shopping. Rather than carrying bags of groceries long distances from the grocery store back to your room, you can order groceries and have them delivered.

Tip for Parents: This is a great way to support your college student. Send them groceries periodically throughout the semester. This ensures that they are eating and that your money is being used on food and not other things that your student deems more important. In addition, your student can create wish lists through many of these merchants that you can see. This makes shopping easy. You can order directly from their lists, only getting things that they need and will use.

Parents – Ship It Today

Did your student forget an important item? You can order it directly from a merchant and have it shipped to campus TODAY.

Tip for Parents: Nothing is worse than when your child is sick and you are too far away to help. Now you can! Order cold medicine, aspirin, cough drops, tissues, chicken noodle soup, crackers, ginger ale, Vicks VapoRub, a humidifier. Have the items delivered to campus with ease! Items will arrive and your student will be on the road to recovery.

Regardless, of your plan, make move-in a bit easier by using some of the services that are available. This helps to ensure a stress-free, easy move-in so that you can enjoy meeting new friends and getting ready for classes to begin.

Related Articles: 5 Practical Tips for College Students

THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATED LINKS. THE LINKS PROVIDED ALLOW READERS TO ACCESS RESOURCES WE UTILIZE IN OUR CLASSES OR FOR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT. PLEASE DO YOUR OWN DUE DILIGENCE AND RESEARCH BEFORE PURCHASING PRODUCTS RECOMMENDED. WE ALSO HAVE FINANCIAL RELATIONSHIPS WITH MERCHANTS MENTIONED IN VARIOUS CONTENT POSTS AND MAY BE COMPENSATED IF CONSUMERS UTILIZE THE LINKS IN POSTS; HOWEVER, THERE IS NO ADDITIONAL COST TO THE CONSUMER. YOU ARE NOT OBLIGATED TO USE THE LINKS PROVIDED, AND THERE IS NO OBLIGATION TO BUY ANY PRODUCTS THAT WE RECOMMEND. 

Creating and Using Grading Rubrics

Semester Preparation_ Creating Grading RubricsHave you ever received a grade on an assignment and wondered how the score was assigned? Did you question if the instructor even read your paper? Did you wonder how you could improve your next paper due to lack of feedback provided? When grading assignments, how will you ensure that students do not have the same questions? As you prepare for the semester, not only should you create assignments but also tools you will use to grade them.

The Purpose of Rubrics

Rubrics are tools used to assess students learning. A rubric should guide the evaluator’s attention to important elements that need to be assessed in papers, project, or presentations. A well developed grading rubric helps to guide the type of work students produce. In addition, it allows instructors to provide feedback when grading that is clear and directed toward assignment goals and expectations. Rubrics also ensure consistency and fairness by clearly communicating your expectations. A grading rubric should clearly state:

  • The assignment purpose
  • Objectives being measured
  • Point DistributionPractical professors-6

Creating Rubrics or Scoring Guides

Depending upon the purpose of the assignment and the assignment directions, expectations and requirements on the grading rubric/scoring guide will vary for each assignment. By creating a template with some common components, you can modify it for each assignment. Thus, when you are creating a rubric or scoring guide consider including the following categories:

  • Content
  • Thesis Statement
  • Organization (sentence and paragraph development)
  • Mechanics
  • References – Support from the Research
  • Formatting

Transparency

Provide the grading rubric or scoring guide to students when you assign the work to be completed. It should accompany the assignment directions. This transparency provides the students with the information that they need to successfully complete the assignment.

Rubrics and scoring guides help to keep faculty and teaching assistants objective. Further, it helps students to evaluate their own performance on an assignment. Clearly communicating your expectations and how an assignment will be graded can lead to higher quality work, because it provides students with the necessary knowledge to rise to the challenge before them and meet expectations of the assignment.

Finally, my favorite reason for using a rubric or scoring guide is the reduction in grading time! The rubric helps to focus your attention on the key elements identified as important. This allows you to focus on these elements as you read and provide comments on the paper or project.

Related Blog Posts:

Practical Advice for First Year Faculty

Practical Tips For Semester Preparation

Do you use student feedback when you prepare for the semester?

Online Teaching Tips

Grade Contest: Negotiating a Grade Appeal

5 Practical Tips for Completing Your Dissertation

5 Practical Tips for Completing Your DissertationIn 2007, I made a rather quick decision to enroll in a PhD program. This had been something I had been thinking about for some time, but one day, I just decided to DO IT. Rather than thinking about it, I enrolled! The one thing that continued to hold me back….keep me from enrolling….was the fear of writing a dissertation. I remember my mother telling me that due to her fear of writing a dissertation, she never pursued her PhD. Rather than allowing my fear to continue to prevent me from pursuing my PhD, I decided to use it as motivation. I knew that I was capable, and I could do it.  In September 2007, I started my course work.  Although, I was still worried about writing a dissertation, I believed that doors would open, as I needed them to, which would provide access to the tools and resources that I needed to be successful and complete my program. I would take one step at a time, until all the pieces came together, and I had a finished product. And that is exactly what I did!

So….today, I want to share some advice and personal experiences about my experience in  hopes of encouraging or helping someone else who is somewhere in the process of earning a doctoral degree.

5 Tips for Completing Your Dissertation

1. Schedule Time. By the time I completed my dissertation, I had two children who were under the age of 5 and a elementary school aged child at home. I gave birth to two of the three while completing my course work and the dissertation – some would say I like a challenge, others would say I was completely crazy – there is a little bit of truth in both of those statements.

I would often find myself sitting amongst the chaos in my house thinking how in the world am I going to meet my next deadline. I need to find a quiet space to read and write. This is definitely not the place! My house was far from quiet. I’m the type of learner that requires complete silence in order to really digest what I’m reading in research articles and other resources. I would go into the garage and sit in my car with the dome light on to read. It often took a half an hour or more before my family would realize it and come looking for me. This was one of my many hiding places.

My husband was great about allowing me to go into my office, shut the door, and work for 5 -7 hours without being interrupted. Every interruption costs you time, 23 minutes and 15 seconds to be exact. For this reason, he would take the kids out of the house or would entertain them in another part of the house and they would leave me alone; however, when the time that I set aside to work that day was up, I stopped. I closed up shop, and I did not go back to work on it until the next day. I had to balance the time I spent working and the time I spent with my family. We were all making sacrifices, I could not ask them to make any more!

2. sanah-suvarna-161883Get up early or go to bed later. Unfortunately, I found that sleep was something that had to often be sacrificed in order to find time to work. I am not a night owl; therefore, I would get up early, before the rest of my house. When my kids were really young, this was easy. I would wake up in the wee hours of the morning to feed and change them, and then I would settle them back into bed. Then, I would make a pot of coffee and head in to my office to work. The early morning hours were the most productive for me. Perhaps, the coffee should get the credit for that!

3. FullSizeRender.jpgMarathon Not a Sprint. Tenacity, persistence, endurance, grit, stamina, perseverance – these are all words that you need to embrace through this process. When people tell you that a dissertation is a marathon, not a spring, they are not lying. Get ready to WAIT. You will rush through edits and submit them only to wait for weeks before you receive feedback from your chair or committee members with additional edits you need to make. During the period of time, while you are waiting, consider what else you can be working on. It is important to develop a routine and schedule and stick to it. If you stop working for 10 days while you await feedback, it is often hard to reestablish the routine of writing. You should be writing, revising, editing, etc. daily if your schedule permits. Great advice that I was given was to touch your dissertation every day. Even if it is only for a few minutes. Get into the habit of working on it daily.

4. Be prepared! Idle time was wasted time. Every spare minute that I had during the day, I tried to prepare for and take full advantage of. I printed out journal article and tucked them into my purse with a stash of pencils and highlighters. While I waited in the car pick-up line at my son’s school or sitting in the waiting room at a doctor’s office (I was pregnant twice during this process), I spent the time waiting reading my articles and taking notes. Once I move further along in the process, I would print out pages or chapters of my dissertation and take them with me so that I could edit my work. I always had something with me to work on. Journal articles, highlighters, and pencils became like a security blanket. I would have a bit of anxiety if I left the house and did not have them with me.IMG_5233 Preparation also includes organization. Often times, it seemed like the same advice that was being given in a previous revision was now being taken away in a current revision. I was being asked to remove information, and then in the next revision, I was being asked to put the information back in. I learned to save all of my revisions. I actually kept a file for all of my deletions and used this file as I  wrote the final chapter of my dissertation.

5. Plan for Setbacks. I am a planner. I NEED to plan ahead. I would make checklists and timelines and set goals. However, I did not plan for the setbacks that inevitably occur in life. I wish someone would have told me to plan for setbacks. You will hurry up and make requested changes and edits only to have to wait for feedback. (There is a lot of hurry up and then wait that occurs.) There will also be unexpected and unforeseen circumstances that happen. Life will continue, and there are times when you will have to turn your focus to your health, your family, your friends, or other responsibilities and temporarily away from your dissertation. Expect these setbacks! This will help you to set appropriate, realistic expectations and roll with the punches.

Practical Advice for First Year Faculty

Practical Tips for First Year Faculty-3
Let us begin by saying congratulations! You got the job, and we are really happy for you! The first year at a new job can be difficult regardless of industry, but higher education can be tricky, because of hidden norms and high expectations. Regardless of whether you are coming straight from graduation or you have been applying for higher education jobs for several months or years or whether you found a job in town or made the decision to relocate to a new city or state, you have one goal – to succeed! So we’ve put together a list that will help you make the most of your first year!

Find a Mentor

Earlier this year, we wrote a blog about how important it is to have a mentor. In your first year of teaching, a mentor is your greatest asset! Choose someone from the institution that can help guide you through your first year by helping you understand where the institution has been and what the goals are for the future.  The person you choose may be your department chair, a kind seasoned faculty member in the department, someone from another discipline, or a staff member.

Learn Your Job, Do Your Job

As you progressed through the hiring process; hopefully, a clear set of expectations were laid out for you. However, sometimes, additional expectations are communicated after the hiring process is complete. If you were not given a copy of the faculty handbook, this is a good time to locate one. Read through it. If you have questions, ask your mentor, talk to the department chair, the dean in your college, or someone in the Human Resources department for clarification. It is very important that you understand the expectations and that you meet them. Once you know what you need to do, DO IT! Prepare for classes you are assigned to teach. Attend meetings you are required to attend. Participate on committees you are assigned to participate on. If you are expected to research, write, and publish, then ensure you are doing what is necessary to publish the required number of articles each year. Once the expectations have been made clear, be sure to located necessary resources and manage your time appropriately so that you have time to meet them. If you have time and energy left, then you can take on extra projects, but this is something we recommend waiting to do until your second year. Use the first year to get grounded and learn the ropes.

Build a Support System

Everyone needs a tribe! So, spend your first year building yours. Look for opportunities to make connections with people at your college or university. Invite colleagues to lunch or to attend a sporting event or theater production on campus. This allows both of you to be part of the campus community as you get to know one another better. Go to happy hour or social gatherings. If you moved to a new city or state, it is also important to make some connections with others off campus too. Join a church or a gym. Sign up for a class. Consider things you like to do and seek them out. This provides a great opportunity to meet new people.

Find a System That Works and Commit to it! 

Spend the first year establishing a routine. Preparing for classes, grading assignments, and researching and writing can all be time consuming tasks. In your first year of teaching, you may find that you are spending countless hours preparing for courses that you were assigned to teach. There is a lot that goes into preparing to teach a course for the first time. Writing a syllabus, selecting a textbook, and creating assignments is just the beginning. After the initial preparing is complete, you will need to find time to build interactive and dynamic lectures and grade assignments that students submit. If you joined an institution where publishing is a part of your job and you need to publish to make tenure, then find a spot where you can focus and write. If you cannot focus in your house, then find a place that will work for you. The campus library, your office, or a local coffee shop may be better places to buckle down and write.

Stay HealthyPractical Tips for First Year Faculty-2

My first year I worked like a dog! I established new student clubs, taught extra classes, redesigned the program of study in my department, and served on several committees. I rarely took breaks. I would skip meals.  I worked long hours grading and preparing lectures. The work I did was rewarding, but it took a toll on my health and my relationships. While working hard and establishing your routine, ensure you are not neglecting self-care. Schedule time to eat, exercise, and spend time with your family and friends.

You are  qualified and capable of doing the job. Believe in yourself. Locate resources and utilize them. Work smarter not harder. Establish a routine that works and stick to it. And have an amazing first year!

Practical Tips For Semester Preparation

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Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

As a new adjunct working at a local community college ten years ago, I remember thinking “where in the world do I begin?”. I was luckier than most. My faculty mentor handed me a textbook and a copy of her syllabus to help me get started.

But too often, new faculty or adjunct faculty are assigned to classes without any further instruction. It appears that if you are a professional in your chosen field, if you hold a degree or work in the field, then you are equipped to teach in higher education. However, anyone who has taught a class knows this is far from the truth. Teaching requires preparation and planning…endless planning.

If you are teaching a class for the first time, there are some things that you can begin to do now to prepare for the upcoming semester. Here are four things to begin to focus on:

Syllabus

The course syllabus is the “road map” for the course. This important document communicates expectations to students. The more detailed your syllabus is, the less room there is for confusion. The syllabus should include:

  • Instructor Contact Information/Office Hours
  • Textbook Information/Additional Readings
  • Topics
  • Objectives
  • Assignments
  • Course/Classroom Policies

Objectives

Course objectives should be measurable or observable statements that can answer the question “Are the students learning?”. You may be given the course objectives…..you may not. Either way, an understanding of the importance of objectives is essential as an educator. This first step to planning your semester is determining what they students need to know, when they leave your class.

This requires considering several things….

What class did students take previously? What are you building upon? What information have they already gained?

What class will they be taking after your class? What do you need to prepare them for?
What are the most important concepts/topics in your class you are teaching? How will you measure if students are learning these concepts?

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Photo by Angelina Litvin on Unsplash

Once you determine what students need to learn, you can begin writing objectives. Bloom’s Taxonomy uses action words to describe cognitive processes that student will encounter as the interact with the course material.  The action words provided by Bloom’s Taxonomy can be used to write measurable objectives. By writing measurable objectives at an appropriate level for the students you are teaching, you can now determine the type of assessments you will use. These become your assignments/assessments.

This does not have to be complicated but it does need to be carefully considered. Because your objectives should drive the course. They will lead you to create lectures, select a textbook, write assignment descriptions, and create assessments.

If you are not sure if objectives are included, ask another faculty member at the school. Ask a department chair, the dean, or someone in your department who can help to guide you. If you are aware of other instructors are teaching the same class you are teaching, you may wish to collaborate on writing the course objectives – or see if they have some objectives that you can review and incorporate or work from – modify or add to.

Just remember – each objective must be assessed – in a tangible way.

Assignments

How will you measure student learning?
Quizzes/Exams
Papers
Projects
Presentations
Discussions Questions

Each assignment or assessment must align to a course objective. Assignments and assessments should not be randomly selected. By aligning assignments and assessments to course objectives, students can identify the reason or purpose for each assignment or assessment.

Book Selection

IMG_1671Select a book that complements the course objectives that you identified. The book should provide information on topics that you will cover. However, the textbook should not drive the content of the course. Rather than selecting a textbook and then building your class around the textbook, develop your course and select a book that complements the topics and objectives you have identified. Keep in mind that a textbook can be supplemented with journal articles and other readings or materials.

Contact various academic publishers and request desk copies of books that are relevant to your course content. Some publishers I have reviewed and used include Cengage Learning,  McGraw Hill, Pearson, and W. W. Norton & Company. Publishers will have websites that you can explore. Locate textbooks that may be useful and contact the publisher to request copies. Explain to the publisher that you are searching for a textbook for the course you are teaching. Most publishers will offer desk copies (free instructor copies) for you to review.

It may also be helpful to talk to other instructors who teach similar content to find out what books they use in their classes.

We will continue to work to provide guidance on semester preparation as the new academic year draws near. We also encourage you to review previous blogs such as:

Practical Planning Tips: Creating a Semester Schedule

Tips for Preparing to Teach a New Class

5 Tips for Preparing for Next Semester

Blended Learning

Stay tuned for future blogs on preparing and planning balanced lessons, implementing active learning strategies, and preparing powerpoint presentations.

5 Tips for Healthy Living for Educators

img_9034.jpgWe often say, “Teaching is a lifestyle”. Most people who work in higher education know the toll that this type of lifestyle can take on your health. Schedules during the academic year can be extremely hectic. Teaching classes, planning for classes, grading, attending meetings, holding office hours, researching, publishing research, working with graduate assistants….and the list goes on and on. It often seems that there are not enough hours in the day to get it all done. Therefore, personal health often gets placed on the back burner, because there is not enough time to meal prep, eat well, exercise, or sleep. These are things that tend to be forgotten until the semester ends. By the end of the semester, many professionals in this field are exhausted, physically, mentally, and emotionally. The break that one has is often spent recovering from illness due to lack of self-care.

Self-care is essential to remain healthy in and out of the classroom. It allows us to perform at an optimal level and feel good. It also demonstrates that we respected our bodies, minds, and souls, which is not only important for self preservation, but also sets a positive example for the students who we influence through our words and actions daily.

Most people believe that if they are not sick, then they are healthy. But being healthy does not just mean the absence of illness. It also means that your body and mind are operating at their best.

So…why are academics unhealthy?

IMG_8549As academics, we often sit for long periods of time while grading, researching, returning emails, or driving to and from work or between campuses. In some cases, this can lead to mindless eating or unhealthy snacking. In fact, sometimes, we only have time to grab lunch out of a vending machine or from a fast food restaurant. Or maybe, we skip lunch altogether, because we are rushing between classes and campuses. In addition, each semester schedule changes make it difficult to establish long-term routines and healthy habits.

We feel a responsibility to our students, fellow colleagues, and administration; therefore, pushing through until the work is done, regardless of the cost. For this reason, we do whatever it takes to complete the tasks at hand. Spending time with family, spending time doing things for pleasure, or spending time focused on self-care often do not take precedence until the work is done. Many faculty will skip a meal or a workout, in order to meet with a struggling student or meet a research deadline. Some will forfeit a weekend, family getaway to grade student work. Being consumed with the work that we do does not always allow for time to rest, relax, and recharge.

So …the hard truth! If you are not taking care of yourself, you cannot be of any help to anyone else. Eventually, your body will shut down. You will become sick, you will burn out, you will lose mental focus. You will not be able to do your job to the best of your ability or care for your students, family, and friends. This is why it is so very important to take time to take care of yourself.

5 Tips for Healthy Living

1. Meal Prep: Laura is the one who encouraged me to start meal prepping, and it really changed my life! On the weekend, we spend time grocery shopping and meal prepping for the upcoming week. Not only can you prep breakfast and lunch, but you can also store snacks like raw vegetables, almonds, and fruit in sandwich bags. Use containers and sandwich bags that make it easy to grab and go in the mornings as you head out the door to begin your day.IMG_5005

Through trial and error, we have found a system that works for both of us. We encourage you to do the same thing. Perhaps, you will meal prep on Sundays, like we do. Or maybe, you find it easier to make a little extra every night and pack the leftovers for your lunch the following day. Find a system that works for you.

2. Everything in Moderation! Look, I love Cheese-Its, beer, wine, and pasta! I still eat all of these things. But rather than have them as my meal after a long day, I eat them in moderation, as a treat. I have also found ways to enjoy these things in different forms. For example, instead of eating white flour pasta, I eat veggie, rice, or quinoa pasta. I have also tried spaghetti squash, which is a great pasta substitute. What we put in our bodies is important, so fuel your body with healthy foods. But also enjoy a beer and a good slice of pizza with friends now and then!

3. Exercise: IMG_9776
A body in motion remains in motion. I love to sweat! I love to push my body and feel like I’m getting stronger. Recently, I decided to start training for a triathlon. However, you don’t have to commit to training for a  triathlon, marathon or CrossFit contest to be healthy. In fact, you can commit to walking in the mornings or afternoons in your neighborhood, hiking on the weekends, riding bikes with your family, or signing up for a yoga or spin class. You can start by committing to three days a week; two week days and one day during the weekend. You can add a day or two as time permits. Try to select an activity that you enjoy. This will ensure that you stick to it. Many people quit workout programs, because they are not realistic in the amount of time that needs to be committed, they are not convenient, or the type of exercise is not enjoyable. Find something you enjoy doing and invite friends or family to join you. Accountability can also help to remain committed.

4. Mental Breaks: We spend a lot of time every day presenting, analyzing, and assessing complex theories, models, and concepts. This requires careful consideration so that material can be adapted and presented for the intended audience. Taking some time recharge and ensuring proper amounts of sleep prepares you to think clearly and consider different ways to present information to your students.

Additionally, it is important to take mental breaks when you are grading, researching, or writing. Often, higher education professionals will spend hours grading assignments, sifting through research, or writing. It is important to take short breaks during these long periods. This helps to prevent mental fatigue.

5. Seek Peace, Offer Forgiveness, & Make Necessary Changes:  I am a firm believer that things happen to us for a reason – good and bad. Either way, they are all part of our journey and who we are becoming. With that said, we have to take care of our soul or inner being.  This may mean having a healthy conflict, limiting the access that someone toxic has to you, or making time good, positive people in your life.  Socrates said, “that the unexamined life is not worth living”. Take the time to examine your life. Are you growing personally and professionally? Are you where you want to be? Are you achieving goals? If you keep hitting a wall and you need help, talk with a family member, friend, or seek professional guidance. The insights that others provide may be the enlightenment you need to continue to grow and move forward.

IMG_4029When we are healthy, we feel strong and empowered, genuinely capable of taking on new challenges. Consider the many different aspects of health that were discussed above. Begin by making one small change at a time. Select one category above to focus on. Consider ways to maximize your time. Involve family and friends in healthy meal planning and physical activities. Not only are you positively influencing them to live a more healthy life, but you are also spending time with them. Strong relationships keep us healthy, so foster them.

Why wait? Get started today! Continue to consider ways to incorporate healthy habits into your daily routines, because health does not mean the absence of illness.

Back to School Prep: Building Essentials Kits

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Teaching can lead to long days with little time in between classes for self-care. So, building a car kit or devoting an office drawer to essentials can make all the difference in how you feel (and look) by the end of the day! As faculty, we often dash from here to there; classes, meetings, office hours, working lunches not to mention doctors appointments, kids practices, happy hour with friends, or rushing home to our loved ones. Our “on the go” lifestyle leaves  little time to freshen up or sit down to eat a meal, which is why preparing and having essentials at your fingertips is…well….essential!

IMG_4952Creating kits that can easily be stored in your office or car and carried in a bag that you use to take supplies to classes can assist with preparation, professionally and personally. Teaching kits that include supplies needed to successfully teach your class can be packed and stored in a teaching bag. A personal kit can also help to ensure classes run smoothly providing comfort; when you feel and look your best teaching is a bit easier. Creating an “Essentials” kit is relatively cheap and easy. In fact, most of the items below can easily be picked up from the Dollar Store, the travel size section at Target, or a local drug store. Several items in the personal kit cost a dollar or less. The lists below will serve as a guide as you build your kit.

Teaching “Essentials Kit” Items:

  • Expo markers
  • Pens/Pencils
  • Notecards
  • Clicker
  • Stapler/Staples
  • Batteries
  • Flashdrive

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Personal “Essentials Kit” Items:

  • Deodorant
  • Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Floss
  • Tampons
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Tissues
  • Wet Wipes/Baby Wipes
  • Gum
  • First Aid Kit
  • Medicine (ibuprofen, anti-allergy)
  • Chapstick
  • Lotion
  • Hair brush/Hair Tie/Hair Spray
  • Contact Lens Kit
  • Nail clippers/file
  • Jacket/Sweater
  • Phone Charger
  • Snacks
    • Protein Bars (e.g. Larabars, Cliff bars)
    • Trail mix
    • Almonds or other nuts
    • Pretzels
    • Cup of Soup or Microwavable Soup
    • Bottled water or a reusable water bottle

IMG_4939It was not until after an emergency that we realized some of these items needed to be carried in our kits. For example, one day I had back-to-back classes and was having trouble with my one of my contacts. I was miserable! By the time I had a chance to go to the store and buy the items I needed, my eye was bright red, watering, and I had a terrible headache. Now, I keep a contact kit in my office that holds a case, bottles for contact solution, and a small mirror. A small bottle of ibuprofen and Tylenol is also in my  desk drawer for unexpected headaches.

It is also important to consider fueling your body with nutritious food and staying hydrated throughout the day. Carry a reusable water bottle that can be filled at water fountains between classes. Carry non-perishable snacks in your bag or store them in your desk drawer or car. There are days when we have taught six hours in a row, gone to a meeting, and met with students to finish the day realizing we have not eaten since breakfast. Sometimes, sitting down for a meal during a hectic day is impossible. But that does not mean you cannot or should not eat. Pack smalls meals or nutritious snacks that you can carry in your bag. Carry a piece of fresh fruit or a bag of raw vegetables that you can eat while walking between classes. If you have access to a refrigerator or you carry an insulated lunch box, you can pack a wrap, string cheese, or yogurt. These are all easy to eat while on the run.

If you are keeping the essentials in your car (back seat or trunk), we highly recommend a small plastic tub, egg crate, box, or bag designated for storage of the items. This will help with organization and access. Keeping the items together in one place also allows easy removal if you need space in your car on the weekends.IMG_4950Some of the items above you may use and need to replenish every week, while others you may not need all semester or year. We recommend being conscious of what you use and being sure to replenish as needed. Some of the items may be damaged by temperatures in the car; therefore, consider what can be stored there and what will be damaged. In addition, check items that are not used regularly from time to time to ensure they are still in good condition.

As we prepare for back to school, we will continue to post pictures of different kits that we create and use on social media. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter for more ideas. Share ideas for essential items. What is an essential item in your kit? Post your comments below.

THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATED LINKS. THE LINKS PROVIDED ALLOW READERS TO ACCESS RESOURCES WE UTILIZE IN OUR CLASSES OR FOR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT. PLEASE DO YOUR OWN DUE DILIGENCE AND RESEARCH BEFORE PURCHASING PRODUCTS RECOMMENDED. WE ALSO HAVE FINANCIAL RELATIONSHIPS WITH MERCHANTS MENTIONED IN VARIOUS CONTENT POSTS AND MAY BE COMPENSATED IF CONSUMERS UTILIZE THE LINKS IN POSTS; HOWEVER, THERE IS NO ADDITIONAL COST TO THE CONSUMER. YOU ARE NOT OBLIGATED TO USE THE LINKS PROVIDED, AND THERE IS NO OBLIGATION TO BUY ANY PRODUCTS THAT WE RECOMMEND. 

Do you use student feedback when you prepare for the semester?

michal-grosicki-226082As the fall semester draws near, many educators will begin to prepare and plan. Perhaps, lecture and powerpoint presentations need to be updated. Maybe, you are revising your syllabus or assignments. As you prepare, do you consider feedback you gained from students at the end of the semester?

Sometimes reading feedback that students give regarding your teaching performance or effectiveness in the classroom is painful. It’s personal; a negative evaluation! You think to yourself, “did a student really write that?”. You begin to consider who could have said such a hurtful thing. It feels like a punch in the gut.

When I started teaching, I was devastated by negative comments on my end of course evaluations. In fact, I would completely ignore all of the positive things that students  said and just focus on the on negative comments. There were even times when those comments would haunt me as I moved into the next semester. Now, I read my end of course surveys more critically! I focus in on the specific behaviors that students liked or disliked and consider the following:
Is this something I want to address or change?
Is this something I can address or change?
For example, some students don’t like that I spend the beginning of class on student announcements, but I also get overwhelming feedback that supports that students like building a classroom community, which is enhanced by this activity. Therefore, I choose to continue to begin class with announcements.

Student Feedback

zara-walker-76971There are many ways to collect feedback from students. Sometimes, I ask just by a show of hands. Sometimes, I create a quick survey (paper/pencil or electronic). Online tools can be very effective for collecting data. Survey monkey is an online tool you can use to create surveys to gather feedback from students. This tool allows you to collect data from students anonymously. Additionally, some universities survey students at the end of each class; however, some institutions only do this annually. This anonymous method for collecting feedback can also be very useful. If this data is collected, inquire about how you can gain access to it if it is not share with you. This will help as you prepare for future semesters.

Constructive Feedback

So, after the initial blow that comes from reading comments that you may consider hurtful, stop and reflect. Is there anything constructive in the feedback? Are there areas where improvement is necessary? Can I take something away, learn something, or change anything to make my next class better? Can I improve the learning environment and experiences offered to future students?

hanny-naibaho-308083I have learned to look for value in the feedback I receive. I work hard to remind myself that not every student in my class has to like me; however, they do need to learn from me. Do their comments provide feedback regarding my pedagogy? Should I consider adjusting strategies that I use to enhance their learning? I work hard to feel less offended and more empowered, because I have the power to make changes. I have the ability to select feedback that could make the course better. I have learned to read through the comments and identify nuggets of information that I can use to improve my teaching.

Helpful Feedback

Dr. XYZ was probably one of the best Professors I’ve had at UUU. I had her at 825am and it really was an engaging experience to have her lecture. She also let us print out/ use a note card on the tests/quizzes which was great since I would basically print out the whole study guide on both sides of it. Making those helped me memorize + understand.”

“Professor XYZ was great. She made the classroom environment extremely comfortable. She’s fun and encouraged everyone to join in, but still kept the course professional. What started out as being a required course I dreaded ended up being my favorite class of the semester.”

What makes this feedback helpful? It points to specific eliminates of lecture, the classroom experience or interaction between faculty and students that can be cultivated or eliminated.  Further, it explains what materials were helpful and what students expectations are of required courses.

Unhelpful Feedback 

“She is my fave prof. of all GCU. She is so nice and compassionate towards all of her students. Even if xxxxx isn’t your major, you will learn a lot from and enjoy her class. Its not an easy A or a hard A kind of class. You have to put in some work but overall not hard to pass at all. I’ve never met a UUU student who didn’t absolutely LOVE Prof. XYZ.”

“She was so fun! She is personable with the students and she keeps us all interested in the class. The class itself was super easy! I would definitely take a class by from her again!”

While this feedback is flattering and it makes you feel good to get it, everyone…including us…wants to hear they are loved! But this feedback won’t make you a better teacher. There are no behaviors to cultivate, there’s no mention of activities, lectures, assignment or study materials and let’s face it! There is always room for improvement.

 

Teach Students How to Provide Feedback

Ask students for feedback. And ask them frequently! I learned that rather than fearing what they may say, I could learn from them. What did they like about a lecture, activity, or assignment? What didn’t they like? I often ask my students “Should I do this activity again next semester?”.

We also discuss effective feedback. For examples, we discuss the difference between not liking the method of delivery and not learning. Just because they didn’t like the delivery method doesn’t mean that the teaching or experience was ineffective. Teach your students to recognize the difference. This helps them to self-reflect. It also helps them to provide more constructive feedback. nick-de-partee-97063
Learn from every class and every evaluation! You are a brilliant critical thinker, one bad lecture and one poor evaluation shouldn’t keep you down. Let it go! Channel your energy into making the next class even better.

A look inside my “Summer Off”

IMG_3469I love when people say to me “it must be nice to be a teacher and have your summers off”.  I don’t know about you, but time off is something that is scarce in my life. While my summer schedule definitely looks different than the schedule I follow during the academic calendar year, I would not classify it as time off. I have different tasks to complete in the summers that help to make my job a bit easier and smoother when school resumes in the fall. Preparation, during the summer, helps to make me feel relaxed at the beginning of the semester when I am not only preparing myself for the beginning of the semester but also getting my kids in ‘back to school’ mode and helping them get use to a new routine.

Write and Revise Curriculum

In the summer, there are a lot of things that I do to prepare for the upcoming school year. I update my lectures and powerpoints and find new resources such as articles, videos, and activities to incorporate into my classes. In the summer, I have more time to review resources such as textbook and research articles to incorporate into the classes I teach. I have reviewed several resources such as new textbooks and was even able to work with a publisher on a custom textbook for a course I teach.  I also explore the university library for recently published research articles that could be incorporated into classes. This allows me to stay abreast of the new developments in my field of study.

New Technologies

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I can also experiment and consider using different technologies in classes. This summer, I have been researching Loom. This is a free program that allows you to create short videos to provide feedback and comments (rather than typing them out). This seems to be a less time consuming and a bit more personal way to provide feedback. I am considering this for providing feedback to students on written assignments as well as for collaborating with colleagues on research projects.

If any readers have used this program, please feel free to share your experience below. Your feedback is appreciated!

Research and Presentations

The summer provides a great opportunity to work on research projects. I find it hard to write during the fall and spring semesters due to other responsibilities that often take precedence. Finding some time to research and write up findings is easier for me in the summer months. A colleague and I have been editing and revising an article we wrote, so that it can be submitted for publication.

I have also been working with two colleagues to prepare a study that can be conducted in the upcoming academic school year. We will be submitting our proposal through IRB and will collect data during the academic year in hopes of having the data available next summer so we can spend sometime analyzing it and writing up the findings.

I have also been preparing a conference presentation with a colleague. We will be presenting at a conference in October and have been taking advantage of the down time that we have in the summer to discuss and prepare our presentation.

Teaching Online

In addition, I have been teaching online classes this summer. I do this for several reasons. It also allows me the opportunity to teach graduate level classes. It provides the opportunity to teach classes that I would normally not teach during the regular semester and give some additional time to prep material for these classes. I enjoy teaching graduate level students. It is a nice and sometimes needed change. IMG_5519

It is also a nice way to supplement my income. This allows me to pay for vacations for my family. It also allows for some extra income to pay bills, student loans, and to make needed home improvements.

Online teaching can be time consuming; however, I can arrange my days and weeks to fit my summer schedule completing work early in the mornings or in different settings (like in my car while driving to CA for my family vacation – thank goodness for Hot Spot!).

Flexible Office Space and Hours

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 10.08.16 AMMy office space looks a little bit different in the summer. It is mobile. I may take my laptop to the pool and work while my kids participate in swim practice. I may wake up early and work at the kitchen table for a few hours before my little humans begin to stir. Sometimes, I head to the local library with my kids in tow and while they check out books and read or participate in one of the library activities, I get a little bit of work done. I am a mother as well as an instructor, and teaching is not my only responsibility. This also makes the term “time off” extremely humorous. Moms….do we ever really get ‘time off’?

So, while I definitely appreciate the change in pace that the summer months offer, I do not consider my summers “time off”. I never completely disconnect from my identity as an educator. I am constantly considering ways to improve my teaching practice, serve my students, and grow as a professional. I am sure some of you can relate. So…what have you been doing this summer to prepare?