Faculty reviews and teaching evaluations are such an issue at school lately. Our student ratings are incorporated in our annual reviews, so the numbers count in our overall annual evaluation by the school administration. Now, on the one hand, this doesn’t actually mean much since there’s no material reward for a good review these days and no one’s job is threatened by an average review. On the other, my happiness is still tied to them. In the ideal sense, they measure whether or not your teaching is effective. Frankly, teaching evaluations are political. Commitment to a certain type of pedagogy, for example active learning vs.Read More →

A great team building activity is the spaghetti marshmallow tower. In this activity, students build a tower made out of spaghetti sticks and marshmallows in order to assess their performance and communication skills in a team situation. To build the tower, the students must “buy” their materials (spaghetti = 10 ¢, large marshmallow = 25¢, small marshmallow = 5¢). The tallest tower wins, the cheapest breaks a tie. The rules are that the tower must (a) support a ping pong ball at the top, and (b) stand freely long enough to measure. Often the groups get competitive with each other, which makes the activity entertainingRead More →

Today has been an interesting lesson in stereotypes. Lesson one: A guest speaker from Deaf Services in BR come to the Interpersonal Communication class. He was dynamic and interesting, and the students loved him. The capital D is important to people in the Deaf community, by the way. Deaf culture is fascinating, particularly as it illustrates major concepts from communication studies. I’ve been fascinated about it ever since a friend of mine demonstrated the way that sign language is not a literal interpretation, but a more poetic one.  She did this by signing a song. Audre Lorde once said that it’s good to educate yourselfRead More →

The Opportunity of Adversity – Aimee Mullins’ presentation at TED.

Mullins had her legs amputated as a child and has made a name for herself as a model, athlete, and inspirational speaker. Her talk addresses how the idea that she’s “overcoming adversity” diminishes her. It’s a great illustration of the power of language and our stereotypes about people with “disabilities.” It’s a good video for discussing language.

A comment on the TED site is interesting, though: Mullins wouldn’t be as effective if she weren’t pretty.

 

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After a challenging semester of public speaking in the fall, it seems that faith indeed gets rewarded. This semester, public speaking classes are simply awsum! There is no other way to describe it. EVERY SINGLE STUDENT was ready to give speeches today. Early on, our discussions were great, the students were responsive in class, and things were going swimmingly. Today confirmed these sentiments with something objective and observable. See? On days like today, work does not feel like work. *happydance*Read More →

One of the biggest problems faculty complain about is student absenteeism and late work. I’ve been whining about this problem all year, so I decided to turn to the POD list for advice. The community offered many creative suggestions, but the most compelling one made the point about connecting with students on an individual level to find out what was underlying their performance. The issue is why the student isn’t attending or submitting work Answering this question raises the difficult concern about balancing accommodation and spoon feeding. But it also made me reconsider something I’ve long thought to be a bane: Bonus points. The oldRead More →

Students stumped me this week over my information literacy quest about how to peel a hard-boiled egg, which is now a homework activity for public speaking. First, a bit about the activity: The homework requires the students to follow a list of the sources and determine the best way to peel an egg. The point of the assignment is to evaluate the credibility of internet cites and learn that (1) the first Google hits aren’t necessarily valid, and (2) credibility isn’t necessarily obvious at first blush. A colleague who is a librarian mentioned once that people rarely look past the first page of search engineRead More →

New technologies erode the boundary between the personal and the public, as Joshua Meyrowitz observed about television in No Sense of Place twenty five years ago. Since displaying ourselves is de rigeur, thanks especially to Facebook and Twitter, I feel less guilty about doing it on my blog, even though personal disclosure was never my original intent. In class, students appear to enjoy my disclosure. Still, there’s an art to disclosing appropriately in the classroom, one that has taken me years to balance comfortably. As one friend put it, it’s easy “to hold your students hostage” to your personal narratives in class, which is anRead More →

The end of the semester is drawing near, bringing the closing blues. This semester started in such chaos with all the campus changes. I hope Christmas break brings its usual re-energizing rest (a little under a month away). I have excellent students this semester, which carries me through the weekly grind. Here is a random list of changes for next semester’s classes: 1. A service learning component to the interpersonal class. The project will be designed around a new “conversational partners” program on campus to help international students learn English. To that end, I joined this semester and met a great partner. She’s Chinese andRead More →

Today I am grateful for copy machines. I have to return comments on group projects to students today, and I don’t have to rewrite the comments for each student. I can simply copy each group member’s copy on my magical combo printer/fax machine/copier/scanner. Once, this sort of task was impossible. I remember carbon paper, ditto machines, and mimeographs. Members of the academic generation before mine shared stories about typing their dissertations on carbon paper, and storing copies in the freezer to ensure they would survive a fire. Editing and revising under those circumstances were herculean. Carbon paper gave us the origin of the phrase carbonRead More →