The resource has been added to your collection
Gretchen Ehlers describes the successful West Valley College project in Spring 2010, to bring together full-time and adjunct faculty for discussions on teaching.
This resource has not yet been reviewed.
Not Rated Yet.
We've finished all the meetings of West Valley's Developmental Math Learning Community, and it's so exciting that teachers want to talk about teaching! At West Valley, we get so wrapped up in politics and day-to-day duties that we forget why we entered the profession - to teach!!
The majority of participants at the meetings were adjunct faculty. Possibly, this is because they received stipends while full-timers got flex credit. All the attendees seemed to value the time to "talk shop."
Here are the details of each of the meetings:
Meeting #1: We got together and discussed the grant we've received from the Basic Skills committee. People introduced themselves. That was an eye-opener! I did not know many of the adjunct instructors by name, and most of them did not know most of the full-time instructors and definitely didn't know each other. Many indicated how nice it was to finally be able to pin names to faces. I asked the instructors what they wanted to talk about in the future meetings. There were two general categories: teaching ideas and technology. So, this helped me focus my planning. Each of the following monthly meetings will have a technology component and a teaching component. Surprisingly, the meeting ended a few minutes before the publicized ending time, and folks were thankful for that. Good start!!
Rebecca lead a discussion on assessment ideas. For many, the difference between "assessment" and "evaluation" was not clear. We focused on methods of fairly immediate, informal assessment of how students were doing before the official evaluation (test, quiz, final exam). Rebecca elicited ideas from the folks at the meeting as well as added any that weren't mentioned. I was happily surprised to hear the variety of ideas coming from both full- and part-time faculty. We've got a good group of teachers who are very thoughtful about their work and always looking for new ideas! A couple of instructors have already told me how they implemented ideas from this meeting the next week. Hmmm...This brings up a thought. We're getting approximately 60% of the full- and part-time instructors teaching developmental math in attendance at these meetings. (No apologies for this as part-timers have so many different scheduling issues.) However, what's happening with the 40% we're not getting, particularly the full-timers? How can I (we) reach out to them?
Following Rebecca's discussion, one of our most tech-savvy instructors, Amy Vu, lead the group through many of the aspects of ANGEL, West Valley's computer learning and communication system. (I'm not sure of the correct term for this.) She did a great job covering things interesting to both novices and regular users. Again, many folks have told me how useful this was.
We just had our third meeting last Friday, and it was encouraging that attendance is actually increasing for adjunct faculty and staying fairly constant for full-timers. I'm personally enjoying making connections with many of the part-timers I wouldn't have otherwise known. I'm sure these connections are valuable for them as well.
In planning this meeting, I knew I wanted to discuss "Best Practices in Teaching Developmental Mathematics." Unfortunately, I was looking for a magic bullet that I never found. So, after quite a bit of searching for exactly the right thing, I decided that there may not exist a list of these "best practices." Honestly, the discussion in the California Basic Skills Initiative "poppy copy" is fairly broad, and I was looking for more specifics. And, some of what was said in this document didn't ring true in my experience. I also looked through the "Staff Development Resources" on our Google site, and found the "Compendium of Good Ideas on Teaching and Learning" from the University of Colorado very interesting because it was essentially a list of what good teachers have found effective with their particular students. This lead me to look at the idea of using student personas. So, after this research, here's what we did...
I started the meeting having the teachers discuss anything they had implemented from the previous meeting that had been successful. The overwhelming response was that they had started using ANGEL to post students grades and that students were finding this very helpful in knowing about their progress.
Next, we read the student personas that were done in the Cal State project referenced in the "Using Student Personas in Course Design" section of this site. My thought was that, even though these were Cal State students, they were still in developmental mathematics, and the descriptions fit many of our students fairly well. After reading the personas, I asked people if there were characteristics of West Valley students not captured in these personas. "Homelessness" was the only one we came up with. We then looked at what characteristics mentioned in these personas get in the way of students succeeding in our math courses. We made a list of about 20 characteristics. Almost all of them could be classified under "attendance issues" or "attitudinal issues." We then looked at specific solutions for these problems. There were quite a few specific ideas, many of which could be classified under clear expectations that are communicated and followed through on. The other thing that came up is not being afraid to talk to students individually. Ideas like, "make an office appointment with each student who has a "D" or less." Interestingly, this discussion had nothing to do with mathematics. It could have happened with a group of basic skills instructors in any subject area. Overall, I felt like this was a great discussion! Following the discussion, each person indicated one thing they would focus on next semester. I wrote these down and will remind folks of them at the next meeting as they start planning for the next semester. (A little accountability isn't bad for instructors either!)
After this, one of our full time instructors discussed how she uses PowerPoint in her teaching. This got us all thinking about effective use of class time. Next, she showed us how to graph electronically using Maple. Following this discussion, two part-timers have sent me information about other graphing tools. It feels great to be sharing ideas!!!
One of our adjunct faculty members, Robert Lieberman, made a presentation about MyMathLab. He did a great job introducing the online homework program as well as commenting on its pros and cons. Many of those in attendance had not used MML, so had many questions. Many of the adjunct faculty have decided to use MML as an option in their classes in the Spring Semester.
This was our kick-off meeting for the Spring Semester. Each instructor shared something that had gone well at the beginning of the semester. We then discussed the article "Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education." At this point, each instructor discussed something they were going to try to do differently in at least one course this semester and how they could evaluate this change. They will report on this at the end of the semester. We ended this meeting with lunch provided by West Valley's Basic Skills Committee.
Initially, this meeting was going to be replaced by a conference put on by Pearson at West Valley, "Changing Times for Changing Students: Millennial tools to help student success." However, at the previous meeting, folks indicated an interest in looking at the research on brain function in learning and remembering math. Rebecca Wong gave this presentation, and then, many of the folks attended the Pearson conference as well. Rebecca's presentation was so informative that one of our full-time instructors is going to use the presentation in her work as an IISME leader in the summer.
I lead this meeting with the topic I've been focusing on in my classes - looking at the big picture after learning the details. We've all seen this issue occur with our students: When asked to graph x+y>1, they ask if they need to shade. Or, when asked to factor x^2+2x+1, they answer x=-1. They get the details, but not the overall ideas. The whole "not seeing the forest for the trees" idea.
After I introduced this topic, we shared our own experiences of reviewing material. I then presented my attempts to have students more effectively pull details together into a bigger conceptual picture. One thing I have learned this year is that basic skills students definitely DO NOT know how to study math effectively. I have had to do a lot of hand holding to get results.
After I presented my thoughts, we brainstormed other ways to look at the big picture in our developmental math courses.
This was supposed to be our final official meeting of the year.
One of our adjunct faculty, Robert Lieberman, attended a very large national conference on technology use in college math programs. He summarized the many presentations he attended. It is very clear that many colleges are changing the way they deliver developmental math courses. These new delivery methods require major structural change to mathematics programs, but seem to be yielding encouraging results. Surprisingly, the instructors are the ones most wary of change. Robert's information was extremely thought-provoking for me!
Following Robert's presentation, we all enjoyed a potluck lunch and discussed each other's summaries of our class projects. I've attached this summary document. It is a work in progress, as many of us had not gotten final results.
I think an indication that this has been a successful endeavor is the fact that many of the instructors wanted to meet at least one more time during the week after finals to discuss implementation of My Math Lab.
This truly was our last face-to-face meeting of the 2009/10 school year. Twelve of us got together to discuss our experiences using MyMathLab. We started by each taking about 5 minutes to explain how we had used MML in our classes. Others asked questions. We then brainstormed ideas for next semester. To continue this discussion, one of our adjunct faculty has started a Google Group for MML discussion which we are all subscribed to. I'm so impressed at how many of our adjunct instructors are willing to go above and beyond their stated duties to do their best for our students.
Plans to Continue:
Here, I'm thinking out loud. I am now department chair. My hope is that we can decrease the amount of business we do in monthly meetings to about an hour. After our business meetings, I want to invite both full-time and adjunct instructors to discuss topics of teaching and learning using a model similar to this year's model. I really want to encourage full-timers to attend. I've approached our Basic Skills director about stipends for part-timers at these meetings, and it looks fairly promising. I really feel that the interaction between all of our instructors will be extremely valuable.