About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Monday, December 9, 2013

#adjunctchat November 10, 2013: Managing your commitments at the end of the semester

This is the time of year when the walls begin to close in. Not only might you be finishing the semester, getting semester grades in, preparing for the holidays, and in many cases juggling multiple workplaces. Perhaps you have a full time job which now requires an end of the year report, or you are responsible for a quarterly AND annual report for research funders. An added stress for the adjunct is IF you have a job next semester, what will you be teaching (is it new or do you need to dust off and update a course you've taught before).

On top of this, this is the time of year that there are stronger family pressures, either due to travel to be with family, attending children's performances (if you have children or other young relatives), etc...

This week we will be discussing strategies to manage the commitments so we can enjoy this time of year. Among the questions will be:

1) How do you prioritize work commitments?
2) Are there devises (including social media) which could make your work flow easier?
3) How do you balance work and personal time commitments?

Hope you can make it tomorrow (Tuesday, Dec. 10, at 4PM Eastern Standard Time) and we will keep it to 1/2 hr for all of us pressed for time!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving policies, technology, and higher education

This week is Thanksgiving in the US. In the past, Thanksgiving had a special place in the hearts of Americans, especially as we became a mobile nation. It was the day when people would go back to their hometowns, families, and communities. But last year, the envelope was pressed and Thanksgiving became a day when retail establishments decided they could force workers to report to work. This year there are even more. However, for college students, higher education policies over the last decade has slowly been disintegrating the importance of the holiday also.

Higher Education and Thanksgiving in the Past

Some might contend that there has been no change in the policy for attending classes the week of Thanksgiving. Yes, as an undergraduate, I had classes until Tuesday (although it was usually Tuesday at noon). But to understand the current issues, it is important to understand the changes to Higher Education since the 1980's.

During the 1990's two things changed in Higher Education: the merging of "continuing education" or "night school" with the traditional undergraduate schedule and the "nationalization" of higher education. The impact of allowing traditional students to take courses at night and soon the desolving of two different systems (one for "working" students and one for "full-time students" meant that now there were night classes ending at 10:00 PM. In the past "commuter" or local "continuing education" students would be available for Tuesday night classes while traditional students who may not be local would have travel time.

Another thing that impacted the educational system was the recruiting of students from outside of the local market. This happened in the 1990's when the demographics of college age students changed to a smaller population to draw from. In addition, US News and World Report changed the basis for assessing and categorizing colleges. Now smaller colleagues could gain status by drawing students from around the US and internationally, moving from "Regional" to "National" colleges. National colleges continue to have more status than regional. However, nationalizing your student population means that students need more time to get back home for holidays such as Thanksgiving. Many of these colleges, however, have not made adjustments to their policies or schedules that consider the new profile of their students.

Problems and Solutions

How did (does) this affect Thanksgiving? It used to be that classes ended in plenty of time for students to travel back to their home towns. However, when night classes were opened up to traditional students a number of problems resulted.

These problems can be resolved with some simple policy changes:

1. Problem: Tuesday classes that meet once a week. If students miss the class they miss a week's worth of instruction. There is a real problem with accreditors and even some students that want their money's worth.

Solution 1: Schedule classes to end for Thanksgiving on Monday. There are plenty of Monday holidays that this will not result in too many Monday classes if the school year is extended to add a Tuesday class at the end of the schedule.

Solution 2: Allow for alternative instruction. I usually have an online class the week before Thanksgiving. My students who are on a train (and soon on a plane) or waiting for transportation, many of them with G5 mobile phones with access anywhere, can participate live. Those who don't have access during class time can go to a library and participate before or after the class. I have a colleague that has one on one meetings with students during the week of Thanksgiving. If students need to leave earlier, they can make an appointment for that meeting the week BEFORE Thanksgiving during her office hours. There still is the same amount of contact hours, however, it is not in a classroom. These are very useful for her students because they discuss research work they are doing. In both of these cases, it is important that an instructor document (i.e. save online interactions, save sign up sheets for "tutoral") that the same time was spent on instruction.

2. Problem: Students who have to leave early due to travel will miss classes. Other students will take advantage of it and it means the professor is teaching to an empty classroom.

Solution 1: Allow for alternative instruction (see above). Online classes that are set up well can have just as much of an impact as face to face and requires the same effort by an instructor.

Solution 2: Institute a policy in which students CANNOT be penalized for missing class the week of Thanksgiving. This means no tests can be administered and credit cannot be taken away due to absence. My daughter had a letter grade taken away from her final grade because she had to be picked up early due to the storms this week. My son received a 0 on an oral test which he was not allowed to make up because the only ticket he could be home before dorms closed was during the class where the oral exam was being given. I have heard faculty brag that they had almost full attendance except for the students who lived in the snow belt of upstate New York. It was too bad that they missed the exams, but they made the decision to leave early (despite the closing of roads later that night)so would not be allowed to make it up.

Solution 3: School has a process to get clearance for travel during this week. Students that live far away which requires travel earlier in the week or road conditions that will be unfavorable will be cleared by an administrator.

Solution 4: Students can be rewarded for attending classes the week of Thanksgiving. I know of many teachers who will give the answers to exam questions on the day before Thanksgiving or students get extra credit for the assignments they do in class during the week of Thanksgiving. This puts the responsibility of attending on the student. While the student is not penalized for going home early, the student that stays is rewarded.

3. Problem: Students need to leave less than 24 hours after their last class. This is especially problematic for those who have night classes as they may need to travel during the night when driving difficult or they may not be able to get a ticket for mass transportation because of the demands during Thanksgiving.

Solution 1: My son goes to a Big 10 school (which like all Big 10 schools are in the middle of nowhere with limited transportation options) a 6 hour drive away from our home. He had a choice of leaving before his exam (which he was not allowed to make up) or leave the next day by 10:00 AM. The problem was that would not give us time to pick him up. He also would have to wait outside for 5 hours between the time his bus left and he had to be out of his dorm. Last year the policy changed because there was a football game scheduled. Students had until 5:00 the next day to leave their dorms. The solution then should be to either give students 24 hours after the last class has ended to get picked up or find a common area where students can wait/get food/go to the bathroom before they need to leave.

Solution 2: End classes on Monday or the Friday before Thanksgiving. This makes it possible for families to pick up children without taking time off from work and/or more options for traveling. Likewise, dorms should open on Saturday afternoon to allow for students coming from long distances to return in time for classes on Monday. Giving a small window to return means students may not be able to make it back to campus on time.

Impact on Change of Policy

The goal of these changes are to reconcile the needs of administrators, faculty, students, parents, and accreditors. Colleges and Universities need to stay current to the changes in their environment and demographic make up. Parents don't want to get involved, but they are a factor in many undergraduates' lives. Many help pay the bills, pick up students or make travel arrangements, and need to coordinate their own schedules with that of their children. Likewise, faculty and administrators need to deliver instruction being accountable to accrediting organizations, government, parents, and students. With some tweeking of policies, all stakeholders can be accommedated.

Finally, Thanksgiving, more than any other holiday, has a great impact on students. This is a time to reenergize, reconnect, and prepare for the transition back home for the Winter Break. For many students, it will be the only vacation they have as they will work or study during the 4-5 weeks of Winter Break. For the family, especially those who live a considerable distance from their children's colleges, this is the first time they will have been together as a family. While there are those who would like to minimize the importance of Thanksgiving to just the day before Black Friday, the majority of the country still values Thanksgiving as a day for family, however you define family.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Mobile Professor

One thing that #acwrimo has done is to remind me to blog my research ideas and insights as I'm developing them. With that in mind, I've decided to talk about some new research I am considering. Many of the ideas are still in the early stages, but the more I read and participate in online groups, the more I'm convinced this is research that needs to be done.

The Mobile Adjunct

Currently, I am involved in #adjunctchat, a community that meets on twitter at Tuesdays at 4:00 PM, New York time. This is open to anyone in the world who is interested in contingent faculty issues, either as a researcher, an administrator, faculty friend of contingent instructors, or (of course) an instructor that works in a temporary position, full-time or part-time, long-term contract or short-term contract, for one university or multiple, by choice or by necessity.

Recently, we had one of our followers suggest that we discuss online contingent faculty issues. We also have discussed controlling the adjunct's work environment. In many cases, adjuncts either share office space, don't have office space, or work in a virtual office, connecting with colleagues, administrators, or students online.

My own officemate teaches at two different universities, resulting in managing her resources, physical and virtual, between two distinct university cultures (one school is a large public research university with a high level of diversity, the other is a world renowned technical university with many international students, but little diversity). At times, there have been some comical mix ups as she has arrived at school with the wrong resources for the class she is about to teach. She is not as open to new technology, but she does rely on a netbook to access student records, courses resources, and student communication.

The Personal Communication Society

Yesterday, while reading an article I am writing for contribution to a book a colleague is working on, I came across Campbell and Park's (2008) idea of personal mobile communication. They point out that research indicates that people communicating using mobile devices in a public place, in fact don't necessarily perceive the conversation private (they are in a public place), but rather as personal.

This distinction is important because people become uncomfortable if they are forced to hear a personal conversation in a public place, trying not to ease drop or infringe on those who are in the middle of a personal conversation in a public place. In addition, Rettie's (2008) research suggests that there are different ways in which devises are used depending on the level of intimacy between people using mobile devises. The deeper level of intimacy, the more likely communication in a public space and time will be disguised.

In other words, communication perceived as deeply personal can still be conducted in public spaces, but some type of code will be used to allow for personal interaction (e.g. teens using texting and abbreviations when parents or other friends are in the room). There may also be signals given that an interaction should be conducted in private (i.e. change in location or devise) in which the interaction may not be personal. An example of this would be taking a business call in a restaurant.

By separating personal from private, I was able to understand a phenomenon my students and I noticed last year. My students interacted on facebook differently depending on what devise they used. While the privacy settings were the same for computer and mobile technology, they were more familiar (slang, communicated on topics in a way that was less socially acceptable, swearing)on mobile devises than when they communicated on a desk top computer.

It is possible that young adults perceive mobile technology, as Campbell and Park suggest, as more personal, resulting in a more intimate register. This would also explain the dichotomy between published incidences of sexting, uploading of socially unaccepted behavior on youtube, and cyberbullying against Pew's findings that American youth are concerned about their privacy. Pew pointed out this dichotomy in their report saying to teens managed their privacy while also sharing more personal information online.

While I have been looking for data (primary research reports and journal articles) on mobile technology use that supports Campbell and Park's theory, Rettie is the only one that I have found so far that begins to address this dichotomy. One reason is that it may be difficult to operationalize private and personal.

Researching the Mobile Professor

So, combining my interest in contingent and temporary employees, and my current interest in mobile technology, I have decided to create a research agenda looking at mobile devise use of adjuncts/contingent faculty. My first research will be on private, public, and personal in mobile communications. This is especially important for adjunct faculty who may have to use their own personal devises to communicate with students, and at the same time have federal laws that require their interactions be private. However, faculty that do not have private physical spaces to interact with students will need to carve out a public space that allows for personal interaction or personal interaction that needs to be conducted in private spaces such as a car or online space.

Part of the conditions that add (or negatively impact) an adjunct is his or her social network. Therefore, it would be interesting to understand what social networks adjuncts create and how they maintain them. For example, now with mobile technology, adjuncts can create more permanent relationships with their students without a close intimacy. Likewise, as an adjunct leaves a position for a semester, are they better able to maintain professional relationships with administrators? With the potential of mobile technology creating sociomental communities (Chayko, 2007), why aren't adjuncts better socialized within departments or the universities? Are adjuncts now being heard because they are creating sociomental communities because they are being forced to interact with mobile devices? Related to this would be determining how adjuncts find each other (which has been a problem with unionizing specific campuses).

By starting with these questions in looking at contingent faculty and mobile technology, I will be able to then extend this research into all types of temporary and/or contingent workers including consultants (private and government), emergency workers (including local government, hospital, utility, national guard, first responders), temporary or seasonal workers, and per diam workers (nurses, teachers, laborers).


Mary Chayko (2007). The portable community: envisioning and examining mobile social connectedness. International Journal of Web Based Communities, 3 (4), 373-385.

Scott W. Campbell and Jong Jin Park (2008). Social Implications of Mobile Telephony: The Rise of Personal Communication Society. Sociology Compass, 2 (2) 371-387.

Ruth Rettie (2008). Mobile Phones as Network Capital: Facilitating Connections. Mobilities, 3(2), 291-311.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tips on revision: The final edit

The final edits

These last suggestions are based on my experience as a peer reviewer for a journal and a writing teaching. I find that changing writing mode helps to pinpoint mistakes. I usually print out a hard copy to review. I ALWAYS find mistakes on print even if I have reviewed a paper digitally numerous times. The following are some of the more common mistakes I often see:

1) Make sure you review the style standards. This includes paragraphs, headings, and reference styles. Working across disciplines, I am familiar with the various styles you may be asked to use. if no style has been chosen, choose one style and stick with it. Often, though, there is a document you can model.

2) Make sure you paragraphs are not too long. I often read papers with page long paragraphs; this is too long. Review your document to see if you can break up overly long paragraphs.

3) Review, check, and recheck references in text and your reference list at the end of your writing. I usually do this with a partner to make sure I don't miss something. I will have them read out a citation which I check against my reference list, making notes on adjustments as I go.

4) Check figures, tables, and illustrations and their headings. Make sure they are close enough to the copy and/or there are references to them.

5) Check for orphaned lines/headings. One of my pet peeves is to have a heading end a page.

6) Write for scanning and search. Don't forget to include relevant key words. Also make sure a paper or report or even dissertation/thesis has enough sections and headings. Most people today don't have a lot of time. So the first thing they do is scan. This is where graphics, headings, subheadings, and short paragraphs help. If writing is too dense, you'll lose the reader from the very beginning.

7) Set a deadline. I mentioned this in my first post on revision tips and it is especially important as you end the revision process. Allow yourself only a short time to make revisions (i.e. 2 weeks). This will help prevent you from overthinking your revisions and trying to create the "perfect paper" which never gets published or presented to the appropriate audiences. You may need to make revisions a 2nd or 3rd time, but leave that decision up to the reviewers.

Monday, November 18, 2013

#Adjunctchat Nov. 19: Ways to change / control the work environment

Over the last few months there are number of things we have learned in #adjunctchat:

1) There are basically 5 different types of adjuncts based on the reason they adjunct. I like to refer to them as: traditional (augments full-time job), professional (they make their living adjuncting at numerous sites), transitional (hoping to transition into a full time job), TA (pays for their graduate education), and online (can be any of the others, but teaches exclusively online). Each one has different needs, work environments (i.e. professional often works out of car/mobile office, traditional may have office for their full time work on campus, online may not have any face to face interaction with work environment at all), and time management pressures.

2) There is a feeling of invisibility or lack of acceptance/input within a department. For some this is a problem, for others they prefer this because they don't have additional responsibilities.

3) There is a lack of permanence which makes adjuncts reluctant to speak up within a department. Likewise, most work is defined by the department and the relationship most adjuncts have are with their departments.

In an article by Gary Rhodes in Thought & Action, Fall 2013 (not yet available online), "Disruptive Innovations for Adjunct Faculty: Common Sense for the Common Good" he gives 3 suggestions for creating a collective adjunct voice, starting at the dept. level. Two of these suggestions we are doing with #adjunctchat: create virtual visibility. He also suggests creating a "hiring hall" in which adjuncts share knowledge about adjuncting. The more information we know, the more ideas we can generate to improve our working conditions.

So, what can we change and how should we go about it?

Here are some possibilities (some from the article, some from my own diverse background at different institutions):

1) Just in time hiring: Ask dept to put teachers names on courses, not "staff"
2) Have database/online source for syllabi that adjuncts can access
3) Have office space with full-time faculty (this has helped the "invisibility" factor).
4) Have faculty working lunch/dinner meetings that include adjuncts
5) Create "real world" partnerships between working adjuncts and faculty
6) Create hiring clusters so long term adjuncts can move across depts when needed
7) Create more virtual spaces for adjuncts, faculty, and researchers to "meet".
8) Advocate focus groups, research funding, travel funds, and administrative training opportunities for adjuncts.
9) Set work boundaries including "online office hours" to limit work to paid time.
10) Keep personnel files and faculty data sheets updated.
11) Have access to dept letterhead for formal work related correspondence
12) Have access to support services and resources

This is just a few and hopefully we can come up with some more.

So we will be discussing these questions tomorrow at 4:00 EST:

1) What are some things you'd like to change about your work environment?
2) What are some strategies you can use to make those changes?
3) Who can you enlist to help make those changes?
4) What resources will be needed to make those changes?
5) How will those changes affect the work you do?

Tips on revision: Troubleshooting sections Conclusion

The conclusion

The conclusion is perhaps one of the hardest things to write; revision is even more difficult. As I mentioned in the Abstract section, the conclusion is tied closely to the abstract. If you are having difficulty revising the conclusion, try writing the abstract first. Then go back to writing the conclusion. This is especially useful if you have to cut out words. By keeping your conclusion close to the abstract, you conclusion becomes more focused.

So let's just review the purpose of the conclusion. The conclusion is the last thing your readers will read. However, realize also that many readers will stop reading at the findings/discussion. So while it is important to have a conclusion, it is not important to put in too much. Also, the conclusion should reinforce your message/thesis that you established throughout the paper. If you have hypotheses, it should summarize what your research has found. Therefore, the conclusion should 1) match your introduction and body, 2)NOT have new information, and 3)be easy to skim for key ideas.

Anything that does not align with what you have written in the rest of the paper or ADDS information should be cut from the conclusion. It is especially important to see if your summary in the conclusion aligns with your stated goals for the piece you are writing set out in the introduction. If you have stated that your research is going to answer questions, have you done so? If so, what are the answers? If not, why not? (There are times when more questions come out of research than answers or failed research adds to lit but does not answer questions). If you state that you are going to present a theoretical framework, did you do so? Did you explain the relevance or use of that framework to the field? If you have hypotheses, have you summarized the results in one or two lines? If there are hypotheses you were unable to confirm, have you explained why?

The final two lines or so should let the reader know what you want them to do with your research. If you receive comments like "How is this relevant" or "Not sure this research is useful", you have not let the reader know what the relevance is for them. If you want them to use the framework, for example, to conduct further research, you need to state that. For proposals and reports, you need to tell the reader what you expect their next step will be and how the report or proposal is relevant (will support the reader's work). This will be the last thing they read and you want it to be fixed in their mind.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Tips on revision: Troubleshooting sections: Body of writing and visuals

Body of writing

Academic writing, whether it be papers, books, dissertations, reports, or even proposals, need to prove that research and data is relevant, reliable, and representative. The body is where an academic does this. So if there are questions about your research, you need to determine if 1) you have described your data, analysis, and methodology in a way that the reader/reviewer understands (easily rectified if you haven't) or 2)the reviewer/reader has problems with your data, analysis, methodology, or underlining theories (harder to rectify).

In the first case, one recommendation I had in revising my dissertation was to write as if I were giving the reader instructions on how to replicate my work if they wanted to do the research themselves. Often we assume readers understand the methodology we use when in fact they may not. I have often had to look up the methodology as outlined by a specific author when reviewing articles or reports. If you don't provide citations or definitions/assumptions that have informed your research, you leave interpretation of your methodology to your reader. A good example is "grounded theory". There are many interpretations of how grounded theory can be applied. As a reader, I'd want to know what process you used and what was the basis.

In the second case, you may need to analyze where a reader might be having a problem and decide if you are going to make changes. If you decide not to make changes, you need to justify your choices to support that your research is relevant, reliable, and representative. One article I wrote was consistently being rejected by one reviewer in particular. In the end, his basic theoretical beliefs were different than ours (I had a cowriter). Because of these differences in beliefs, he would never accept any of our published material/methodology. We were pushing a new view of an established theory. However, we did realize in the first and second revisions that we needed to address the need for a new perspective and method of analysis for the readers or many would have the same reaction. We had to demonstrate first that we understood the prevailing theory and then present an argument for looking at it from a different angle. This way, the audience would not evaluate our article as being uninformed, but rather a new perspective (which they still might have disagreed with). In the end, our revised justifications for our methodology and the basis for analysis convinced the editor to publish over the opinion of the reviewer. It also helped that the other two reviewers changed their opinions about the article so that by the 3rd revision, they were strong supporters for publishing the article.

Once you have written a description of your process(es), it is important to include analysis. New writers and researchers in particular, are adverse to presenting their own interpretations. As a result, the body of a report, dissertation, article, paper, or even book becomes a compilation of facts. It is difficult to realize that feedback may want more of your educated opinion based on your analysis rather than more facts. I see this often when reading articles written by practioners or graduate students where they may not have ever been encouraged to draw their own conclusions. Going back to communication/rhetorical theory, you need to make a claim in your writing. This can be a conclusion, observation, hypothesis, or theory/model. Without the claim, your writing only is descriptive or data. If the feedback you have received includes questions such as "what does this mean?" or "how is this relevant", you have not made a strong enough claim. Likewise, if you have been asked to cite one of your own claims, then you have not made it clear to the reader that this is your claim based on your analysis. Even seasoned writers have this difficulty and you need to take possession of your original ideas in your writing.

Another related problem is supporting your claims. While you may have good reasons for making your claims, most readers will need to be guided through your thought processes for a claim. It is not enough to make a claim and follower up with data in a table. Rather, you will need to point out relevant data and how that supports your claim. If you have feedback such as "Why is this relevant?" or "Can you support this?" (even though you have listed the data), you need to work on explaining how data supports your claim.

Another aspect of revisions of the body is choice of visuals to support your written analysis. I was reminded of the APA guidelines that visuals must be relevant and augment, not replace your writing.
As the Purdue OWL says:

Visual material such as tables and figures can be used quickly and efficiently to present a large amount of information to an audience, but visuals must be used to assist communication, not to use up space, or disguise marginally significant results behind a screen of complicated statistics. Ask yourself this question first: Is the table or figure necessary? For example, it is better to present simple descriptive statistics in the text, not in a table.

Don't assume reviewers won't look at your visuals and tables. Often they will ask you to reformat, add, or delete information that is not necessary. I had to simplify a model I had for my dissertation because it was too complex to follow. Instead, I broke the model up into smaller components which my readers found easier to follow. Of course, sometimes if you have word/space constraints, your first inclination is to put everything into one visual. It is better to simplify so there is a general visual and leave the details for your text when you can relate it to your analysis. Another possibility, if you want the data accessible, is to set the data on a website which you can give readers access to through a note. On the other hand, sometimes a visual will allow you to cull full sections. I just read a revised article that used a visual to explain the various variables used in the study and their relationship to each other. The original version had the explanation in the text which covered 6-7 pages. By the end of the section, I was confused as to how the complex research all related to each other. The one visual allowed the author(s) to cut this section down to 2 pages with a visual, which gave me a better understanding of both the complexity, relationships, and structure of the study.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Tips on Revision: Trouble shooting sections: Introduction and Background/Lit review

Introduction: What goes into the introduction may vary stylistically depending on length, discipline, and purpose. However, a good introduction will allow the reader to decide if they want to continue reading. When you have been asked to revise the introduction, the first thing you need to determine is was this the result of your writing not being focused or clear enough or is this the reviewer wanting you to change direction or refocus your paper? If it is your writing, you need to go back and reread your paper, especially findings/conclusions to make sure your introduction aligns with the rest of the paper.

It might help to do your introduction revisions last. This way you can frame your paper so the reader knows what to expect. This is contrary to your first draft where you frame your paper so you can write. Revisions usually move towards the reader's ability to understand what you write. So leaving introduction revisions to the end means you have a better idea of where you want your reader to end up.

Background/literature review

Often times, we have made claims or framed our paper based on previous theories, but then find that our research does not fit with those theories. This is the section where those that must cull words can do the most culling. This is also the section where you need to craft how your research is relevant.

1) If you are using hypotheses, make sure your develop how previous research supported the development of your hypotheses. This is where you explain you logic in developing the hypothesis, supporting it with research. You don't need to include all the research you have ever read (especially if there is a word limit or the piece is shorter; this is not necessarily true for a dissertation or thesis where breadth of literature is important) but only those pieces that had the most impact on your hypothesis development.

2) If you are using research questions (usually qualitative) to organize literature, use only the research that was relevant in creating the questions or will support the questions you asked.

3) If you have findings that you did not initially anticipate, you need to go back and revise your background information to explain your findings. During my dissertation, my focus was moved from collaborative writing to knowledge creation. As a result, I had to go back and see what the literature was on knowledge creation. I realized that in reframing my question (the question was the same, the answers were different than anticipated and a different discipline explained the answers better), there were no theoretical frameworks for the type of research I was working on. I ended up creating a framework based on the literature I collected AFTER my analysis. This is not an indication that you had a problem with your initial research but rather that you kept an open mind and did not change the data to match your assumptions. This is an attribute of good research.

4) Target any new literature searches to only those areas feedback has indicated as weak. Academic writers have the tendency to want to find new literature which might take them into new areas or give them new understanding of the topics. That is fine for the first draft. But the 2nd and 3rd drafts only need research that supports or frames their hypothesis/message/research questions. One thing I've found helpful is to save new ideas/literature for future articles by writing up memos I can revisit. This way, I don't feel as if I'm missing anything.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Tips on Revision: Trouble shooting sections: Abstract/Executive summary

Troubleshooting sections

If your style is more working section by section, here are some tips for each section.

Abstract/Executive Summary: ECPublishing had a great insight into the importance of your abstract:
Make sure your abstract and title truly reflect the content of your paper and are written well. You need to sell your paper and its significance. We can’t rewrite your abstract to make it more attractive to reviewers; you need to make it concise and full of impact.

Although this is the first thing read by most readers, it is often the last thing written. Many people are afraid to give the results/conclusions of the paper because they want others to read it. However, without results/conclusions, a reader will not know if the paper is relevant. In fact, I never download a paper where I'm not sure what the results are. I tie the abstract closely with the conclusion of a paper. It forces the conclusion to be focused and it makes the abstract relevant to your paper's message. Another way to think of it is: If someone were to ask you what your paper was about and what impact it has for researchers in 5 sentences, what would you say? This is why most people say to write the abstract last.

One of the main problems in revisions, however, is that your message/conclusions and how you word them may change. If you have a teacher/supervisor/editor who wants you to shift focus, you may rewrite your conclusion. Remember to revise your abstract also.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Tips on Revision: Major revisions

Major Revisions

The first thing you must determine when faced when major revisions (including total overhaul of organization, reformulating your research, cutting out large amounts of your document) is whether to start the writing process over or try starting over. The reason most people don't do this is because they feel they will have wasted time writing the first draft. However, sometimes the structural or content changes are so major it is better to start from scratch, using the ideas and insights you created while writing your first draft.

One suggestion in starting over is to answer the question: What are the three major things I want the reader to take away from this. This is the equivalent of the 3 minute pitch. This should help you to focus your writing on only the most important elements for this one particular piece of writing. Once you have these three major points, you can use them to write your introduction. If you have specific passages that support those three points, you can cut and paste them into your new structure, but only as they support your introduction. Anything else should be excluded and saved for later. I did this for my dissertation. While editing and revision was an interesting topic, it did not fit my introduction, nor did it really answer my research questions. As a result, I am now doing further research just on that topic for a journal article.

This last suggestion also works when you need to cut a lot out to fit a required word limit. By focusing on your research questions and introduction, you can cut out parts that are not directly relevant. You need to be ruthless in your cuts, however, keep the sections for further publications.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tips on revising: Overview

My original intent was to have one comprehensive post. But as I was putting the finishing touches on the post, I realized it was a lot of reading (especially for #acwrimo participants who may not have time to read it all in one sitting. So I have decided to divide this into a daily post over the next week. Hope it is helpful.

Making Revisions

All writing will need revisions. Hopefully in the previous two posts, you have identified when to get feedback and the tasks and roles in the editing process. Now you need to take the feedback and make revisions. This can be difficult. The first thing to do is to identify what you will change. You don't have to take all recommendations, but you do need to review and evaluate feedback.

Because the revision process can be emotional, you may need to take a few days between the time that you read over the feedback and when you actually make the revisions. This will allow you to evaluate the suggestions and address how you will approach revisions you need. You may also want clarification about the feedback also during this time. Finally, revision can be tedious and tiring. After all of the work, there still might be the feeling that you have not accomplished much. One of the suggestions on #acwrimo was to set a page goal (3 pages revised a day, for example). This will make you feel as if you have been productive.

Finally, set a deadline. Allow yourself only a short time to make revisions (i.e. 2 weeks). This will help prevent you from overthinking your revisions and trying to create the "perfect paper" which never gets published or presented to the appropriate audiences. You may need to make revisions a 2nd or 3rd time, but leave that decision up to the reviewers. Remember, now that you are revising, the focus will be on the reviewer/reader as much as your own ideas. Therefore, it is important to check back with them during the process if you have a question. But you do still have control over the process. Revision then becomes a balancing act of pleasing the reader and making the paper what you perceive as perfect. Let go of your concepts of perfection and give yourself over to negotiated expectations!

The series:
Major revisions
Abstract/Executive Summary
Introduction and Background/Lit review
Body of Writing and Visuals
Final Edits

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Roles and Tasks in Academic Editing #acwrimo

We are told repeatedly that feedback in an important part of the writing process. However, very little has actually been written/researched about writing feedback (other than that it should be done). My own research has indicated that there are seven different roles an editor/reviewer can play which will result in different types of feedback. These might help when you are submitting a paper (whether to an adviser/supervisor, an editor, an instructor, or a colleague).

1) Contributor: This person adds content to your writing. This is found in collaborative writing projects, but also in some academic writing. An instructor or reviewer may require that you add something verbatim into your written product. I think of grant applications or review board/ethics forms.

2) Owner: This is the person/entity that owns your product. This could be you (as the writer), a group, your instructor, your department (for which you are writing on their behalf), your institution (especially if writing is being used to evaluate), funders, publishers, or stakeholders (especially if you are doing participatory research). According to my research, sometimes it is easier to accept criticism if ownership is not the writer per se. However, this also means the writer needs to align their writer with that of the perceived owner of the document. So outside feedback from the owner becomes even more important.

3) Approver: This is the person that has the final say. This can be group members, an instructor/adviser/supervisor, a manager, a funder, participants. The approver will give you an okay or not okay, perhaps some reasons why, but not much feedback on how to change it. Papers/writing should not be submitted to Approvers until you are almost finished, although informal conversations may be needed to make sure writer(s) are on the right track.

4) Formatter: The formatter’s job is to make sure a paper is structurally, grammatically, stylistically appropriate. Many times the formatter is the writer. However, the formatter can also be a group member, editor, or consultant used to ensure writing aligns with stylistic/language/structure in which writing is situated. For example, an American writing for a British based journal will need to check for spelling conventions. This is the “mechanics” editing many of us learn in school.

5) Gatekeeper: This person has two major roles: a) make sure the writing process progresses through to completion, and b) make sure final product meets the expectation of the audience. This person can give verbal feedback throughout the process, maintain writing tasks and draft versions, and do targeted reviews at any time in the writing process. The gatekeeper is different from the approver in that he, she, or they do not have the final say. Rather they keep the process going.

6) Negotiator: The negotiator identifies when there is ambiguity in the writing. The negotiator does not change the writing like the owner or contributor would. Rather, they give feedback on their understanding of piece and identify areas needed for clarification. Through their feedback, they help the writer(s) to develop their message and supporting information. The negotiator plays the role of the audience so the writer can understand the impact of their writing on the reader.

7) Author: The author is public face of the writer. The name(s) that go(es) on the document is author. They are ultimately responsible for the final written piece. The author can be different than the contributor (in collaborative writing, for example, the writer may just put together contributions or may have someone else who formats). However, many times the author plays many of the roles outlined above, especially for academic papers for evaluation (such as dissertation or class paper).

In analyzing these roles, the types of editing/feedback/revision tasks can be divided into formative (developing a written document), technical mechanics (structure, style, grammar), authoritative (approval), and meaning making.

It is important when asking for feedback that you identify which of these tasks you are expecting the reading to do. It is useful if you are able to identify what role you perceive the reader to have. Not only will that help guide the reader in the type of feedback you want, it also helps you choose reviewers at different stages of the writing process.

For example, asking a teacher to review one of your papers at the beginning of the writing process may not get you the formative or meaning making feedback you need. Instead, their feedback might be authoritative without the type of feedback that you need to help develop your ideas. On the other hand, expecting a friend or colleague to understand the alignment a paper needs to have with academic standards or a journal (which approvers have) means that the approval they give a paper will lack the authoritative feedback you may need. It may be better to submit a draft for preapproval feedback before it is too late to make revisions.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

#adjunctchat Nov 4: Attending conferences

As adjuncts, we are not expected to contribute research to our profession. However, the reality is that long-term academic positions have changed over the last 20 years and there is an expectation of academic publishing or presentation at conferences. However, there is little funding available for research or conference participation. So adjuncts that want to continue on an academic route may not have the opportunity to participate in conferences.

In a recent post for Vitae (the chronicle of higher education job search function), Kelly Baker spoke of the love of research and writing, and her ability to publish which did not get her that tenure track job. So while some adjuncts feel this is the only way to get a tenure track job, research tells a different story.

So the first question is:

1) Are conferences worth the time and effort for an adjunct?

If you decide conferences are work the time and effort, then:

2) What are the benefits to participating in a conference?
3) What are the challenges to participating in a conference?
4) What are some strategies finding conferences and participating in them?
5) What are realistic expectations for participating in conferences and the impact it will have on your career?

Even if you have never and never want to participate in a conference, I hope you'll participate in the discussion.

Friday, November 1, 2013

When, how and who to ask for academic writing feedback #acwrimo

In honor of Academic Writing Month (#acwrimo), I have decided to write a weekly series on feedback/revision/editing. This is an often overlooked, yet important, aspect of academic writing.

So now you’ve written your piece or perhaps you’re in the planning stages. It’s your work, so you want to maintain ownership. However, you also know you’re going to have to have your piece reviewed. Who do you ask? What type of feedback should you get before you submit a piece? How do you get feedback so that you maintain ownership of your scholarship, yet still are able to produce a publishable piece?

First, recognize that there is a difference between writing you do as a student compared to writing you do as a professional academic or researcher. As a student, you are writing (for the most part) to be evaluated on your knowledge of a topic. Therefore, when you write, there is a piece of you that goes into your writing. If your writing is evaluated as lacking, it reflects on you, the student. It is important as a student that you demonstrate what you know to the evaluator (teacher, evaluator(s), dissertation committee).

Professional writing, on the other hand, is to provide information/a view point/research to a readership that may be interested. As a result, peer reviewers and editors want your writing to align with the expectations of the readers. They are not looking at WHO wrote the piece, but the written piece itself. If they reject or want you to change something about your written product, they are not rejecting you as a person (many times, especially in blind reviews, they don’t even know who you are), but your writing, ideas, or the appropriateness of the writing for the audience they represent.

When to ask for feedback

This depends on how you write. I like to ask for feedback in the planning stages. I know of colleagues that send ideas to publishers and editors to ensure it is viable or get suggestions on how to frame a piece of writing for a particular audience. This can save you a lot of editing in the long run. On the other hand, if you are someone prone to writer’s block, this type of feedback could build the wall up to reinforce the writer’s block.

Book writing is very different than article writing. Often you need to submit an outline which includes an audience and justification for publishing. This is when feedback from colleagues or others in your profession come in handy. Identify some experts to submit your outline to for feedback. If you are in a very competitive discipline send them the general concept (as opposed to a fully developed proposal). Their feedback can then become part of your proposal.

Before you submit a first draft, have someone unfamiliar with the topic review what you’ve written. They can assess the clarity of your writing without having to analyze your content. Then you may want an expert to review your piece for the content/theoretical basis. It helps to identify for your editor/reader what you want them to look for. If you don’t ask them to correct typos or grammatical errors, don’t expect that they will do so.

Finally, expect you will need to make revisions. Sometimes this helps take the pressure off to be perfect which can create writer block. If the draft you submit is not perfect, don’t worry. Even if you think it’s perfect, most likely the peer reviewers will have suggestions. Don’t take this feedback for publication personally as the reviewer is probably just trying to align your writing to reader expectations. Once you get suggestion back, review each piece of feedback. It is not necessary that you make changes for everything suggested by reviewers. Rather, think of what they are saying and keep those things that you feel are important to keep. If you have reviewers that are contradicting in their feedback, work with the editor to determine what he or she wants you to do. The editor has the final say.


So, 1) Don't be afraid to ask for feedback at any time during the writing process;
2) You don't have to accept everything a reviewer suggests, but you do need to consider his or her comments and be able to justify your choices;
3) Have at least one person who knows nothing about your topic review your writing for clarity;
4) During the formative writing process, tell your reviewers/readers what you want them to focus on in their feedback;
5) Don't take feedback personally, especially if you are writing for publication.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

#Adjunctchat 10/22: Dealing with demanding students and student demands

We've all been there. The student who takes over the class while others role their eyes; the student that wants feedback on every section of their project within the next 24 hours; the student that insists that you graded him or her unfairly; the student that wants just a little more time on their paper because they were busy over the weekend; the student that plagiarizes; the student who needs a letter of recommendation for grad school, a job, an internship, or study abroad program.

The problem is that as adjunct or contingent faculty, we may not have the time, space, or support to accommodate these students. Some adjuncts may not have office space in which to meet students; some adjuncts may only be able to discuss issues with students over the internet; some contingent faculty are evaluated for further courses solely on student evaluations; some instructors only work at night when support services are not available. However, unlike tenured faculty, our jobs may be dependent upon how we react to these situations. In today's chat we'll discuss some of the problems with working with demanding or problem students and some strategies to ensure we have time for the rest of the class, class prep, and our own work outside of class. We'll also discuss strategies with managing legitimate student demands such as letters of recommendations, receiving feedback on assignments in a timely manner, or make-up exams.

The questions will include:

Q1 How, where, and when do you interact with students outside of the scheduled class period?
Q2 What are some student demands you struggle with? How do you manage those demands?
Q3 How do you manage problem/demanding students? How might this be different than a tenure track or a tenured professor?
Q4 What support is available/should you ask for from the University in managing these demands?
Q5 How do you ensure a good reputation as an instructor while managing these demanding students/student demands?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The importance of multiple languages to understand communication

Lately, my son has decided he needs to learn more languages to get into graduate school for History. He studied Spanish from grade 2-12, then took Italian for a year and a half, and Latin for a half a year. After studying in Italy for a semester, he came home this summer ready to tackle French. The second summer semester in which he would study French 2 was cancelled, so he decided to get a copy of his university's syllabus, order the book, and with help from me (I received certification to teach French in the state of Vermont), he is tackling French 2 so he can study French 3, German, and Latin next year.

Now, while it sounds as if he is a gifted language learner, the fact is that after 12 years of Spanish, a third and fourth language became easier to learn. I went through the same process, first studying Spanish in High School, then French in College, then studying at the University of Fribourg where the majority of my courses were taught in French.

In watching the process from afar (from my son), I realized how important it is to learn multiple languages to understand the communication process and one's own language. It also is important to be immersed in another language to understand linguistics, semantics, non-verbal communication, expressive language/language choice, and symbolic representation of language (writing in its various formats).

Studies on bi-lingual speakers have confirmed that bilingualism helps to create cognitive flexibility. I see this with my own niece who is English/Slovakian bilingual. It has helped with her reading comprehension, expressive writing skills, and critical thinking.

It is not enough to learn a second language, however. Learning a third language helps to establish language patterns from which speakers can understand differences and similarities. We don't stop teaching math at just algebra or science at just biology. There are some universal truths in each discipline, but just as many differences that create a deeper understanding through disruption of patterns.

This is a reality that is very difficult to convey to the majority of American teachers (especially ELA) who are monolingual. I have had many discussions in education, writing, and communication classes, workshops, and/or conferences in which the monolingual teacher does not understand the cognitive process that happens in speaking a foreign language. It is hard to articulate the communication process in understanding others who language does not fit the boundaries of native speakers (although at other times, different accents and non-standard language does fit the boundaries). This is where socio- and anthrolinguistics comes in. But this is difficult to understand if someone has never experienced when cultural boundaries of language are tested.

So my recommendation is that all linguistics, ELA, Writing, communication, and reading teachers be exposed to multiple language learning (we would be taught in a non-familiar language such as Thai, Chinese, Portuguese, or Hindi for the introduction of each topic in my language acquisition class), if not required to study at least 2 foreign languages and study in a non-English speaking country or territory.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Organizational Creativity

A while back, I cowrote an article on the psychology of entrepreneurs. My role was to help update the paper that one of my colleagues had written a while before. I took a totally different approach as my background was in international management and communication. Our paper has been well received and still holds up. One reason it may still hold up is that we tried to identify the universals that came out of research regardless of discipline, culture, or methodology. These universals included a high locus of control, high tolerance of ambiguity, a risk taking personality, the ability to rebound after failure, and strong community/familiar support.

So how does that relate to organizational creativity? One of the concepts in the paper that I think was lacking was the creative mind of the entrepreneur. Part of the reason is that few people studied creativity among entrepreneurs is because we assume 1) entrepreneurs are already creative; 2) creativity is subjective and therefore difficult to measure or even observe; 3) business studies need to be “scientific” which means the “soft sciences” such as creativity, communication, innovation, and artistic sense do not have a place in business journals.

Recently, however, there has been a resurgence in research on organizational creativity and innovation. Just in searching “organizational creativity” on google scholar for 2013 (7 months) returned 14,800 hits compared to a total of 58,400 for the time period of 2000-2005 (an average of 11,800 per month). This does not include other concepts that might fall under “creativity” such as knowledge creation, innovation, product/idea development, organizational design, and collective knowledge.

My own research on knowledge creation in distributed groups has recently had me reevaluating my data to answer the following questions:

1) What organizational, departmental, and group processes affect individual creativity and the creativity at all levels of an organization? How do these processes inhibit or encourage innovation and creativity?
2) How do cultural practices (organizational, departmental, academic discipline/professional, societal) inhibit or encourage creativity? How creativity is perceived and/or defined?
3) What design features create the best environment for creativity? What environmental features? What interpersonal/societal/communication features?

I will be focusing on some of my findings about transactional and negotiated knowledge, knowledge boundaries at various levels, and the concept of “design” in organizational practices.

Reading list:

Shin, Soo-Young; Park, Won-Woo; Lim, Hyoun Sook, (2013). What Makes Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises Promote Organizational Creativity: The Contingency Perspective. Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, Volume 41, Number 1, 2013 , pp. 71-82(12).
Anit Somech & Anat Drach-Zahavy (2013). Translating Team Creativity to Innovation Implementation
The Role of Team Composition and Climate for Innovation. Journal of Management. vol. 39 no. 3 684-708.

Cook, S & Yanow, D. (1993). Culture and organizational learning. Journal of Management Inquiry, 2 (4), 373-390.

Goodwin, C. (1994) Professional Vision. American Anthropologist, New Series, 96 (3), 606-633.

Mohammed, S., & Dumville, B. (2001). Team mental models in a team knowledge framework: Expanding theory and measurement across disciplinary boundaries. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 22, 89-106.

Rouwette, E. & Vennix, J. (2008). Team learning on messy problems. In Sessa, V. & London, M. (Eds) Work Group Learning (pp. 243-284). New York, NY: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Moreland, R., & Levine, J. (2001). Socialization in organizations and work groups. In M. E. Turner (Ed.), Groups at work: Theory and research (pp. 69-112). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erbaum Associates.

Jehn, K., Northcraft, G., & Neale, M. (1999). Why differences make a difference: A field study of diversity, conflict, and performance in workgroups. Administrative Science Quarterly, 44, 741-763.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Where do lost ideas go?

The summer is usually when I do my best blog posts. This summer (the first as a "Doctor" in which I will not be working on my dissertation), I am using my time to apply for jobs. This is very time consuming as there are many different requirements schools demand depending on the position. One of the jobs I am applying to is as instructor in writing and critical inquiry. Most writing positions demand a writing sample (which I'm having difficulty identifying as to what is relevant). So I decided to revise one of my previous blog posts.

Where do lost ideas go?

My process for writing my dissertation makes me wonder about what happens to ideas that are created and then lost while I write. I try to write at least two hours a day. When writing at home, I am often interrupted. As a result, I find I have to continually read what I have written and try to capture the thought I had. However, as I am creating the knowledge, what happens if it is lost? Was it truly an important thought? Upon rereading what I have written (in order to recapture an idea I might have lost), might I not create a deeper understanding of what I am writing? And where does that idea go that was lost? Is that lost knowledge? Or is it just part of the process of idea generation and knowledge building?

I occasionally see this with my own students, who have created a speech using PowerPoint. In their presentations, they will sometimes forget to mention something and may go back to it. I am continually asking them, however, how important that piece of information is for the audience to understand the speech. If speaker has forgotten to present a specific piece of information, perhaps it is not really necessary for the audience. The speakers may still have that knowledge in their head which allows them to understand what they are saying. In fact, that specific piece of information was a building block for presenters as they were creating their speech (and a basis for their speech as a whole), but the knowledge may not be necessary for the audience to understand the speech.

I think of it like a building that is built on the ruins of others. The original building creates a foundation and even a structure upon which a new building can be constructed. However, it is not necessary that the new building be constructed exactly the same as the original. More often than not it is improved upon, creating its own flavor or style. It is a unique creation in the end, which also can be built upon. This is the same for edits or lost versions of anything that we write. We may have a structure or framework from which to work, but our ideas evolve and become unique as we revise our writing (or try to reconstruct documents that have been lost because of computer glitches!).

It is difficult to let go of the lost ideas, just as it is difficult to create something new rather than going back to the original design. The process as we discard, change, and/or create something new helps us to have a deeper understanding in general of the topic. Writing helps us document our thinking, although not all thoughts will be put down. This might be the underlying reason for why project based learning creates a deeper level of learning than can be measured in a finished product or even a test.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Help with new technology trends for 2013/14

Each summer, I choose one or two new emerging technologies to learn. Last summer I worked with edmodo and mendeley. I ended up using Edmodo, but not really catching on to mendeley (nor did my students as it was a bit limited in collaborative work, we found). I also started playing around with pintrest, which had mixed reviews with my students, however, I've found some use personally.

This Spring, I was given an ipod to use as part of a "flipped classroom" project, along with clickers. However, I found the two technologies created information overload. So my goal for the summer is to work more with the ipod, including learning how to create effective learning videos.

So I need your help. Does anyone know of good videos on how to create a learning video? Or does anyone know of good learning videos? (If there are no how to create a learning video, this just might be a research project I can do next fall).

I also would like suggestions on new technology, technology used in new ways, new software being used, and apps that my students may be using (i.e. snapchat, google +) and/or businesses might be using for collaborative work or communication. I am especially interested in data visualization (including mindmapping or flowcharts) apps and/or video apps.

You can either make the suggestions in the comment area here, and/or tweet them to @comprof1 using the hashtag #cmc2014. I will vet out the best suggestions and present them in my blog.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

College reflects the shortcomings of the US healthcare system

My daughter is starting college this fall and my son currently is a sophomore in college, both of them outside of our home state. In both cases, as we prepare(d) to send our children to college, suddenly the gaps in the US healthcare system stand out. Going through the paperwork needed to send my children away to school, I discovered the following:

1) Insurance does not cross state lines. In some cases, like my son who attends Penn State, the university health system will not take insurance non-related to the university. It makes sense since there are 40,000+ students, all with different insurance policies. Each state has its own requirements and restrictions for insurance carriers. If the US had a universal reporting system, it might make healthcare easier as people crossed state lines (or even county lines or employers). Imagine having one universal form that your provider could access as you moved or visited other areas. They would be able to access your information (with your permission). When I broke my foot a few years ago, I had to go to three different places for treatment. At each place, I had to give the SAME INFORMATION! Imagine giving it once only? It would be a lot more effective.

2) Related to this are the differing immunization requirements. If we can agree on universal right on red, can't we agree on a few universal immunizations and how they should be administrated? I never realized, for example, that there were so many differences in how many MMR's (mumps, measles, and rubella) vaccine requirements there were. Some require boosters, some require they be administered within a certain time frame or at specific ages, etc...

It used to be in NY State, where I live, that only those born after 1957 had to have the MMR vaccination. A new law requires childcare workers, even those born before 1957, to have proof of immunization. Few if any have records of their childhood diseases from the original doctors (most of which are in their 90's if they are even alive) so they must have blood tests to prove immunization.

Now I have found out that one of the vaccines that caused my daughter to have a reaction requires a booster. I don't want her to go through the reaction she had before, but now she has changed doctors, I have to explain the reaction and hope they will fill out the paperwork so she doesn't have to risk having a repeat of the reaction.

3) Finding a doctor that will take a patient who lives in the area only three months out of the year is difficult. My area has a doctor shortage as it is. Try finding a doctor you can see only during school vacations, when all the other college students are home and need to see their "regular" doctors. Then there is the problem with physicals. Doctors want to see a new patient and do a full physical. However, many insurance companies will only pay for one physical a year. So this means college students may need to pay out of pocket for a second physical if it is at their school. If a student has already had a physical within the year, why do doctor's require a full physical again? Should doctors have a regular "new patient" intake interview they can bill, but not a full physical (as long as they can get the records from the doctor in another state, thus universal information/database for the US)?

I understand why my students are chronically ill and/or go home to see their doctors when they are ill. Students who live off campus in my town, may not be able to find a doctor that will see them.

While the new healthcare bill has helped in some ways, until the US begins to build a "healthcare system" rather than focusing on healthcare costs, we will trail behind the rest of the world. As people complain about "universal healthcare" taking away choice, increasing costs, and limiting when and where a person can access health services, realize that this is currently happening in our country today already. Our healthcare system is not meeting the needs of American citizens, and not meeting them at a high cost.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The mobile classroom

As part of the flipped classroom, I was given an ipad to use. At first I was excited because I thought I would be able to tape and project some of the classroom activities (very important in communication education). However, I soon found that logistically this was difficult. An unexpected outcome that was noted when my class was observed was that the mobile devise also put a barrier up between my students and I. To film, they could not make eye contact with me. This meant many disengaged from me, acting as they would act if I had left the room (going off topic, not working on the activity, etc...).

However, I have learned that the ipad is very useful as I manage my class. Often, I will project an activity (either powerpoint or googledoc) so students can follow the activity goals and requirements. However, this makes it difficult if they have questions that I need internet access to answer. For example, they may ask for an example of how something works. Using the ipad, I can access a resource and show it to them (rather than just explain it). In some cases, students will copy down or access the resource on their own smart phones.

This has been especially useful in modeling technology use for my students. For example, students will come to me saying they can't find a resource. I will go through the process, showing them how to access/search for resources. This means they no longer can say, "I don't know how..." and hope to end the learning there. Now I can show them at the same time allowing them to save face since this can be done during group or individual work. I also don't have to bore those that already know by repeating the process on the classroom screen.

The use of tablets and other mobile technology gives me the tool to individualize learning for my students. It also aids in the just-in-time learning many students have come to expect.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Flipped classroom: Is it something for contingent faculty?

As my previous posts have discussed, I am part of a training project for the flipped classroom. As part of the training, my teaching was observed and the students filled out an evaluation (anonymously) on the class. In reviewing their comments and feedback, I began to think that perhaps I had made a mistake in being part of the project.

I currently am looking for a new job for next year. As part of the application process, most schools ask for teaching evaluations. However, I fear that the teaching evaluations for this class will be less than stellar due to the gap between student expectations as to what a good teacher is and the way it is defined by the flipped classroom. Even the questions on the evaluation (does instructor explain the concepts well) is geared towards evaluating the traditional classroom. In a flipped classroom, the instructor does not lecture which many students equate with "explain the concepts."

My Goals in the Flipped Classroom

I teach two different courses this semester. In all, I teach 5 courses regularly for the department. However, the one course I chose for the flipped classroom, group communication, has been plaguing me for the last 2 semesters. While the students enjoy the hands on classroom activities, many fail to make the connection between the readings I assign and the activities. As such, for this class, I wanted to create a greater link between the readings and the class activities.

Unlike many of the others in the project who were trying to loosen teacher control of student learning, I needed to tighten control (by making the link more obvious) while still allowing student direction for learning within the classroom. The first step was to rewrite my goals so they reflected the messiness of the course content while also indicating the importance to the students.

For example, I added the following goals to the course syllabus:

1)Challenge assumptions about effective group processes and communication

2) Apply communication skills (written, oral, and non-verbal) and processes in multiple real world group (especially small group) settings

3) Develop numerous communication strategies in order to participate and contribute to group processes and products in both professional and academic work environments

4) Understand and analyze basic communication research and studies. Learn to collect, analyze, and use communication data in order to thrive in difficult social environments, workplace group problem solving activities, and the participation of dysfunctional teams.

The next step was to create a mechanism that both motivated students to read and provided some framework for their learning. I did this by creating a question of the day. It turns out that my ineptitude in creating good multiple choice questions, actually was to my advantage in developing critical reading skills for my students. One reason I always gave essay questions was because my multiple choice questions often were too open for interpretation. However, these are exactly the type of questions that create good environments for discussion.

Difficulties for contingent faculty

These ambiguous questions of the day, however, are problematic for students that have been educated in the NCLB environment. They have been taught that there is only one answer and a set process. In addition, teachers in K-12 are assessed based on their ability to get their students to understand what the "correct" answer is.

In addition to students coming into class with assumptions about how they will be assessed, they make certain assumptions about the teacher based on their ability to "get the question right." In other words, if they get the question wrong, it is because they weren't taught or they didn't study. However, often the case is that there was a difference in interpretation of either the reading or the question. Students that can argue towards an answer other than the one I give, supporting it with information and evidence from class and the readings, demonstrate a deeper level of understanding to the material. Unfortunately, students interpret this is the "teacher doesn't know what she is doing" or "teacher is not teaching us." The students want a definitive final answer.

One of the other problems I have in this class is the use of team based learning at our university. Many of the students are part of teams in which faculty support learning and encourage support through team structure as part of the concepts of team based learning. However, my class is not based on team based learning even though there are group activities. In fact, my class is experiential which means I am hoping for conflict, social loafing, and groupthink so we can discuss these issues as it pertains to group communication. Students don't like these ambiguous learning environments and this can be reflected in course evaluations.

So, as the number of faculty who are contingent grows, new ways to teach and changing the skills that must be learned to something that is more challenging (such as critical thinking and problem solving skills) will be more difficult to implement, especially if we don't start creating new ways to measure teaching effectiveness. I have yet to see a job application that provides space for a digital portfolio of student work, faculty research, or blogs/social media. Teaching effectiveness for most colleges and universities are still student evaluations and supervisor observations (which can be difficult to obtain unless you take part in a pilot program). The only way to change the learning/teaching culture in universities is to change the way potential faculty are evaluated.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Flipped Classroom: How many hours does an instructor REALLY put into teaching

I'm writing my blog instead of preparing for my class today. Part of the reason is that I find Blogging a way to ease back into academic writing that will be published (rather than writing my dissertation which I have now completed). However, this blog post has weighed on my mind for the last 24 hours.

I have previously written about my participation in a "flipped classroom" project through our school. The last class was less than stellar! First, we woke to some bad weather in the area, and since I teach first thing in the morning, I sent out email instructions for students that may not have been able to come into class because of the weather. Unfortunately, I teach two levels of Group Communication and I mixed the two up, sending the email to the wrong (later) class. More than that, I am using 2 new technologies this semester. The combination of two new technologies (I usually only introduce one new technology each semester) made transitions in set up slow.

So coming home exhausted from 3 straight hours of teaching, I came across this article about how the IRS has warned colleges that the calculations for hours adjuncts work may need to be recalculated. This is the first time that I have seen someone recognize that adjuncts do more than classroom contact hours. It got me to thinking about how much time I put into my classes compared to a full time faculty member. Likewise, while on paper the "flipped classroom" may look like it is less work for the instructor because the "students are teaching themselves", like online learning, in fact, the instructor's role requires a lot more time commitment, often outside of anyone else's view.

Prep Time

There are a number of factors that come into prep time. As mentioned before, I am using two new technologies: clickers and an ipad. I usually only use one technology because of the learning curve in using the technology, figuring out timing (for set-up, transition from activity to activity, student interaction with technology before they feel comfortable). However, I was willing to use the two technologies because I had some prep time and support in using both (something I know many adjuncts or part-time instructors don't have).

Many of the activities I use in class, had to be modified for the flipped classroom. Halfway through my second class, the class chosen for the training, I realized I was "directing" the conversation too much, taking it away from the students. This is something that will be difficult to change. At the same time, I don't want to loose some of the concepts I want them to walk away with. This balance is something I will need to work on in the next few weeks, perhaps coming up with some additional discussion questions before class (I have always been good at reacting to student comments, but now I need them to also participate in directing the conversation).

Another difficulty (and this is just the nature of the demand for our courses, lack of faculty, and the ability for students to drop/add) is putting together groups, getting to know students/student strengths and weaknesses. As a result, I spend the first two weeks frantically putting together groups, coordinating supporting information, answering emails, making sure students have access to the technology we will be using, and collecting information about the students.

This semester so far, I have put in about 50 hours of prep work even before classes begin.

Class prep and assignment management

I usually have a class of 35-45 students. This semester, because one of my courses was added at the last minute, I have a class of 42 and a class of 39. Off courses, this still may change over the next week or so, but these are the numbers I'm starting with.

I have always taught using a style in which I take the content (which I am familiar with) and modify it to meet the needs of a particular class. Sometimes, student written skills are strong, but they lack interpersonal; sometimes their know of communication theory is strong, but they lack practical experience. It is important for me therefore to always prepare before my class. However, with the flipped classroom, I feel I have to be even more prepared, understanding ALL the reading concepts as students my bring up concepts I had not thought of in our discussion. It is not that I don't know the concepts, but rather the vocabulary used by the author. This means, my usual 45 minute prep for class will require twice that amount. I need to be prepared if students bring up concepts I did not necessarily feel were important.

Because I will be evaluating students in class more, I will need to be more "present" in the class (so I can evaluate them). This is very fatiguing especially when teaching 3 hours straight. In addition, there is more assessment after class and follow up (I tape a review of the key points I wanted them to take away from class based on what we did in class). I have cut down on some of my written assessments, but I still need to figure out how to access the statistics from the clickers that I will use in my in-class assessment.

I estimate that I will be spending about 10 hours a week per class in class prep and assignment management (this means 26 hours a week of work on my class alone for 2 3-hour classes).

Other school related responsibilities

In addition to my classroom requirements, our department expects us to have office hours. I have about 3 hours a week scheduled, although I don't usually have students during that time. In addition, I often meet with students when they can't make my office hours. Being part of a large university, most students don't take advantage of office hours. However, I put in as many hours with students outside of the class as most full-time undergraduate instructors/professors (graduate student interaction is different).

Because of my style of teaching, I get know my students as individuals. Because of this, I have requests for 4-8 letters of recommendation per semester. This is not overly time consuming, but does take about 15 minutes per student (an additional 1-2 hours a semester). Those students that do come to speak with me, usually do not discuss the course but rather graduate school and career advice. Our department is lucky in that instructors are part of the faculty and there are a number of faculty who are term (have worked for more than 3 years and therefore are offered full year contracts). As a result, students view these instructors as valuable resources when they have professional and academic questions.

Finally, if I want a tenure track position, I will need to continue to participate in profession activities such as blogging, publishing, attending conventions (if I can get funding for it), interacting with the community, networking, and reviewing journal/conference papers. In this area, expectations for part-faculty are the same as for full-time, but full-time/tenure track faculty get paid for it.

The only area that differs between full-time faculty expectations and part-time is in the area of college service. While I was asked be a representative for part-time faculty for the faculty senate, without being paid for it, I could refuse without it hurting my career.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Flipped Classroom: My project for this semester

I know I haven't blogged for a while. Partly it is because I have been busy participating in commencement (it's official, I'm a Dr. and I have a picture to show for it), partly its family responsibilities (I AM in the sandwich generation), but mostly its because I'm working on some very interesting projects.

The first is a blog I have started with my sister, a 50 something who I convinced should learn more about social media. With this in mind we have started a blog in which she posts questions as she navigates the ins and outs of social media (getting stuck, confused, and otherwise frustrated) and I try to answer her questions.

The second is part of a program I was chosen for through my university: the flipped classroom. Honestly, one of the main reasons I applied for the program was to get an ipad I could use for my classes and figure out the technology my students all seem have at their fingers tips. This was a smart move on the part of our Leaning and Instruction Center to get us into the door.

The fact is, I wasn't sure I'd be accepted for the program. After reading through the information and watching the videos they sent us about the "flipped classroom" movement (see below for those resources), I wasn't sure I'd be able to change my class much since my current teaching approach (based on experiential learning theories)seemed to "flip" the class so students had a lot of control over their learning. However, as I discussed "flipped learning" and read some of the background information on it, I realized there was a key weakness in one of my classes especially.

For the last 3 years, I have been having an increasing difficulty in getting students to link what we do in class to the assigned readings. Now granted, some of this is students not doing the assigned work. However, many times I would see the frustration of my best students who would look at me blankly when I asked them to link the reading concepts to class activities. I could see in their body language the question: Why are you here? Aren't YOU going to tell us what is important? Why aren't you teaching us? What do you mean there is no right or wrong answer???? What are we PAYING YOU FOR? HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO KNOW THIS IF YOU DON'T TEACH US !!!!!!????

I don't blame the students for being unable to make the links, but rather have identified the problem as years of education where testing for the "correct answer" has been drummed into them. The results of this type of teaching is that students are afraid to take risks (they get it wrong, they fail) with their learning; they are unable to develop hypotheses and/or are not confident in their own abilities to draw their own conclusions; and they look to resources and teachers to tell them how to interpret information. Many of my students just had never had their critical thinking, critical reading, and problem solving skills developed so they were able to make the links between the reading and active learning activities.

So my goal for this semester is to:

1) Develop my skills in teaching them critical thinking, problem solving, and critical reading

2) Make the links I make between the activities and reading more transparent, so my students learn to make those links also

3) Rework my syllabus and class activities so students feel safe in making mistakes, yet learn from the activities and apply assigned reading concepts to those activities.

To do this, the learning team I am working with has suggested I use clickers (helps focus reading and promote discussion around questions), video recordings to summarize the most important concepts (or fill in spaces of understanding) from the reading, and (my idea) use the video recording capacity of the ipad to record specific examples from class activities, that the class can then review and critique.

Hopefully, throughout the semester, I'll be able to blog about the process. Already I'm working on writing objective questions that will provoke discussion. I also have gained a better insight into the tone of a syllabus and how it can empower students (or take away their choices, and therefore responsibility, for learning).