From the category archives:

Community Colleges

From Adjunct to FT Professor

by Dr Davis on November 21, 2014

One of my dear friends has been officially hired full-time by the community college for which she has been adjuncting for the last four years.

It can happen!

–Note: I adjuncted there for 8 years and was never hired full-time, though after publications were added to my CV, I did get hired by a different cc full-time.

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The Manifesto Caught My Attention

by Dr Davis on May 30, 2013

A Manifesto for Community Colleges, Lifelong Learning, and Autodidacts

As some are raised a Catholic or an atheist or a vegetarian, I was raised an academic. …

Learners today are taking matters of education into their own hands. …

We have — we participate in — a system of education that works against the learner. The university is a place where students must abandon their passions and hopes…

I want to restore the high gloss image of the university as a vibrant campus of engaged learners. I want to free learning from the grip of education. …

Today’s learner is a doer and a maker of content….

Ultimately, what must happen is the development of a pedagogy, and an institution supporting that pedagogy, that is resilient in the face of the most rapidly-evolving learner in history. We must have pedagogies (and pedagogues) that are as responsive and flexible as our technologies. We must do more learning and teaching on the fly, collaborating with rather than corralling learners.

Interesting ideas.

male studying computerHow can we collaborate with our students? How can they collaborate with us?

I think it is more than “undergraduate research” as presently being implemented on many college campuses.

My colleague who brought one of her students into the reading of research as well as the creation of a new kind of class is an example of the kind of collaboration I think the author is calling for and that would be amazing. I don’t think many students are willing to do the kind of work that required, though. And this student decided not to become a teacher as a result. (Too much work and not that interesting to her.)

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CC v SLAC: One Year Each

by Dr Davis on October 11, 2012

Overview of two ft positions, one non-tt, one tt:
I guess, having looked at the work I did as an adjunct (2009-2010) and as a full-timer, I am actually doing more in my new tenure-track position (2011-2012, 2012-2013) than I did in my full-time community college position (2010-2011).

I was concerned, having been at Houston Baptist the year before–when the provost laid off long-term faculty in job lots, that my CC job would not continue long-term. However, they did hire to replace me, so I guess it would have. Also, while one CC system in Texas was closed by the legislature, Houston Community College is vibrant and growing, serving a huge population, and appears to be in no danger.

I did not receive a raise at the SLAC this year, which I would have at the CC.

I do have my own office, which I would not at the CC–even though I often had the eight-person office to myself, but this year the CC moved everyone to a new building and into cubbies in a single office for all the English professors.

The SLAC said I would teach a grad course a year and have a 3/4 for the grad course; this has not worked out. Instead, I have only taught part of one grad class. There was no reduction for the course, but I only had to meet the class for five weeks, have the students observe me, and grade one long and two short papers.

The only committees I was on at the CC met once a semester, maximum, and almost all the work I did depended on myself alone, so that I did not have to attend meetings. (The only exception were QEP meetings.) Even our department, the largest in the CC, only met one time a semester. At the SLAC, on the other hand, they apparently believe in meetings for everything. This week alone I have missed four departmental, college, and university meetings; I will make another one scheduled for today.

Both the CC and the SLAC paid for one conference a year. I received more money from the CC, so I was able to plan to go to a bigger conference. However, the SLAC has monies available, if you meet the early and not well advertised application deadline, there is some supplemental conference money. If I had a national conference (which I did last year), I could also apply for presidential funds. This year, though, I am only a chair at a national conference, so I don’t expect to have that paid for and I am fairly sure that I will have spent my conference money before then, even though I am driving to both the other conferences and staying with my father for one of them.

My colleagues at the CC were friendly and helpful. Several of them were very encouraging. I adored the departmental secretary, who was stolen by force and sent to another department this year. The chair was amazing at keeping politics away from the rest of us; he retired last year, upon having a major medical issue, so he is gone, though.

My colleagues at the SLAC are friendly and helpful. Several of them are very encouraging. I know people in administration. I was assigned a mentor my first year who I knew as an undergraduate and we get along well. We have met socially outside of school functions.

Students at both schools were very motivated. There were different preparation levels, but the courses also required different loads.

Composition Courses at Both:
I taught developmental writing at the CC. I had four classes which met four hours a week each. The students wrote six papers, all in the 2-3 page range, and we did them as a process, so that I saw multiple drafts of each.

At Houston Community, I taught in the computer lab. I was scheduled for all my courses in the computer lab for my second year and the chair made my schedule so that I would have an extended lunch time to meet my father for lunch each day, if I wished.

I teach fyc at the SLAC. I teach the mid- to lower-range student here. All the higher level students have tested out or taken the course as dual credit. We have a requirement of four papers a semester, most in the 4-6 page range. We do them as a process and I see multiple drafts of each. However, my students actually compose six essays: one diagnostic essay, three 1200-word essays, and two 800-1000 word essays. In addition, they compose a group digital essay and an individual computer-animated essay.

Based on yesterday’s post, I obviously need to see about revising this schedule.

For the second semester fyc at the SLAC, the students write an annotated bibliography of sixteen works (full page of annotations for each) and a research paper, so the four pages end up being: 4-6, 4-6, 16, and 10-12.

None of my classes at the SLAC are in a computer lab, but most of my students have computers or iPads that they bring to class. Those who do not have computers are able to use the computers in the library, which can be checked out and used in the learning commons area.

You can see that the grading load at the SLAC, even though I teach fewer papers, is quite a bit higher.

Technology:
As I mentioned, the courses at my CC were in a computer lab. The courses at the SLAC require students to have their own mobile devices for papers.

My first semester fyc courses at the SLAC have two digital compositions. One is a group analysis of a commercial. The students write an evaluation of the commercial individually after the analysis is complete. The second is an individually created Xtranormal video, using Xtranormal’s software and pre-set stages, voices, and actors, proposing a solution to a problem. Then they write a justification essay over their proposed solution composition. It covers both their solution and their choices in Xtranormal.

Outside of Class Contact:
At the CC, I answered emails and had ten office hours a week. Students came in to my office rarely and generally only when I required them to.

At the SLAC, I am required to respond to emails within 24 hours. I have seven office hours a week. Students come in to my office occasionally and when they do, they tend to stay for about an hour. They also come in for required, regular conferences. (Two a semester.) I have the fyc students to my home, an expectation of the university. I also give them my cell phone number. Or I intend to. This year I gave them both mine and, accidentally, my husband’s. So far they have not abused that and they don’t call after 9 pm or before 9 am–the hours I established.

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Exhaustion.

by Dr Davis on October 10, 2012

I am overwhelmed by the work I am doing. I am not sure it is more than I have done before, but I am just too busy to even sit down and think most days.

So, I decided I would try to figure out what I was doing and what I had done and see if I just forgot how busy I was before.

2009-2010:
Three years ago I taught a 5/5/2 load; wrote and had published six articles, two reviews, one chapter, and one book; created and published a digital poem; gave ten conference presentations, seven of which were national or international conferences; mentored a new PhD through multiple conferences; read entrance exams for the graduate business department; served on the writing committee; spent six hours a week in office hours; held those office hours on a couch after the hurricane destroyed several buildings on campus and did severe damage to the one I was officed in; lost my mother; and wrote and presented several poetry readings.

2010-2011:
Two years ago I taught a 4.5/5.5 at an inner city community college, including two totally new preparations; created, launched, and arranged a monthly update for an online literary journal; organized a panel for a national convention; gave three regional, one national, and one local conference presentations and one invited talk; served on the Executive Council for a regional conference; read for AP Language; won a competition for creation of a proposal and white paper for the college’s QEP plan; attended QEP meetings and wrote a complete QEP proposal and white paper; served on the committee for online textbooks; held office hours ten hours a week; created and published a digital poem; and wrote and published two articles, two poems, one review, and two chapters. This was while driving in one-hour each way from the suburbs to downtown and taking my stroke-limited father to lunch at least once a week. (Thank you, HCC-Central, for working on my schedule so I could do that.)

2011-2012:
Last year I taught a 4/4 load, which included having four classes of students to my home and teaching five composition classes (four fyc and one business writing); taught four new preparations, including a course in an area which was a minor interest in undergraduate and PhD, but whose topic had been off my radar for over twenty years; spent two hours a week in a conference learning to teach that preparation; resurrected an honors society and held four events with the newly re-created group; created and updated the honor society blog; contributed to the departmental blog; wrote one article which was published and two chapters which are in press; published three poems; wrote four grants and won two of them; gave four conference presentations and did three original poetry readings, two digitally; served on the Executive Council for one regional conference; created and updated the website for a regional conference, including creating original art for the site and acquiring online payment abilities; was chair and organizer for two regional panels; read for AP Language; created and gave a presentation for graduate students on conference presenting; acted as a graduate student mentor for two in-coming graduate students, which included reviewing papers, suggesting conferences, having them over to my house, and taking them out for lunch; participated actively on the departmental library committee, with full responsibility for rhetoric, composition, and linguistics acquisitions; participated in the composition committee; read for freshman and graduate student assessment evaluations for SACS; took a digital story-telling professional development class; took two photography professional development classes; attended twelve professional development luncheons; beta-tested a new CMS; held office hours seven hours a week, met in conference with all my fyc students twice, and stayed in contact by email and texting with the students from 9 am to 9 pm seven days a week; and studied twelve professional development books.

2012-2013:
This year I am teaching a 4/4 load, including one new preparation this semester of a graduate class in the history and theory of rhetoric and four different preparations next semester and teaching one of the classes with totally online texts; classes next semester include a new book, so a total revamp of a class I have only taught one semester before; creating an iBook for Early British Literature; teaching a class with the brand new iBook; serving on the Executive Council for one regional conference; updating the website for a regional conference, including changing the online payment and registration abilities; creating the program for the regional conference and organizing and creating a digital presentation showcasing student work from our university; advising students!!!!; participating actively on the library committee, the UG research committee, the composition committee, and the business writing committee; presenting for two conferences, both regional and both on technology–the focus of a grant I won…

I am behind in my writing and being accepted to conferences. I received an R&R I have not gotten to and I am supposed to be revising my dissertation and getting it to the publisher by the end of the year. I have no conferences next semester and no abstracts out for writing or presentations.

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Ekphrastic poetry

by Dr Davis on April 23, 2012

One of the profs at my previous school has her poetry classes work with an art studio/gallery. They choose an art work, write a poem about it, and the studio/gallery posts these next to the works. They are up on the gallery’s website. Go and read it. Admire the level of writing community college students can do.

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Progress

by Dr Davis on January 12, 2012

I have seen a book about progress touted as a great read from 2011 and have been planning to get it and read it.

Then I saw a post from Community College Dean about the book.

Over the break I read The Progress Principle, by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, and I have to admit that it unintentionally shed some useful light on academia.

The one idea of this book is that the feeling of “progress,” even when small, is a powerful motivator. People who achieve little victories are far more likely to stay engaged with what they’re doing and put forth solid effort than people who don’t get those victories. The major advice of the book was to structure work (and management) to recognize the value of small victories, and to encourage a sense of forward motion whenever possible.

And then I thought about semesters.

It’s hard to get a sense of progress as a teacher when you have to start all over again every few months. Just when the students are starting to get the hang of it, they leave, and you have to face a fresh crop that puts you right back where you started.

He goes on and it is very interesting.

I especially was intrigued by how he very specifically ties it to community colleges.

He’s made me want to read the book even more. I am going to stop typing and go shopping.

Read an interview from Daniel H. Pink with Teresa Amabile on Pink’s blog.

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A Year in Review: The Best of 2010-11

by Dr Davis on May 31, 2011

Philly Teacher wrote Ending the Year on a Positive Note which inspired me and reminded me that I wanted to do a review of the last year. Since I am leaving a non-tt position, which I expected to be in for decades, and going to a tt position at the school from which I resigned from a similar position to follow my husband’s job and raise my children, I think that this year is a particularly good one to be introspective about.

Great Things about Non-tt School:
1. The department is incredibly active in publishing and conferences, particularly in a school where such is neither expected nor rewarded. I found that very encouraging.
2. The chair is very good about insulating the faculty from the drama of administration. Having been in places without that, I was particularly grateful.
3. Scheduling is based on preference. I had a great schedule this year and was supposed to have a wonderful one next year as well. Unfortunately for me, someone else will get that great schedule.
4. The department (particularly the chair and secretary) encourage the stretching of wings. I took a late-start class a week before the classes started. This was a course I had never taught before and didn’t really know anything about. Turns out it dovetailed all my interests into a single course. What a blessing!
5. Overall the department is very good about praise. I like praise. It helps me to keep going.
That may be something I need to remember/think about more in terms of my own teaching.

Great Things about My Teaching this Year:
1. I was not wedded to my syllabus, so that when something was more challenging than expected, I was willing to stick on that topic and skip or move around others.

  • a. That did add a bit of a problem, since the syllabus changed.
  • b. It meant we did one less paper this semester than last semester, but we worked on higher level papers.

2. I had several students thank me for teaching them, even though they didn’t like having to do all the work. Comments included:

  • a. “I did not have any idea how to write a paper. Now I do. This is going to help a lot next year.”
  • b. “No other teacher has ever taken the time you have to make sure I ‘got’ it. Thank you.”
  • c. “I still don’t really like you, but you sure did make sure we knew our stuff and how to write. I think that’s going to be really important as I keep going in school.”

3. I had a student from a previous semester come back in and ask to take me for freshman comp. Unfortunately, it’s summer and I had bowed out of teaching the summer due to my writing schedule–even before I knew for sure I was moving. Now my summer is even crazier!
4. I got to teach a class I’ve never taught before and I enjoyed it immensely. I found ways to use information I already had/knew in an engaging way to get the students involved.
5. I had the best final ever in that new class.

Great Things about My Students:
1. I had students working 48-hour shifts and then coming to class and making As because their education was a priority. Kudos!
2. I had a student getting up early in the morning, taking the train to the hospital, visiting his daughter in ICU, getting back on the train, and coming to school. That is perseverance in the face of adversity.
3. I had several students coming back to school after being stay-at-home moms. It was a challenge for them to get back into the education for themselves mindset, but they all persevered as well.
4. I had a student who was laid off and is going back to school in order to get a better job. He is my age and doesn’t have the fundamental reading and writing skills he needs, but he is determined to develop them.
5. I had many students who were the only stable person in their extended families who took care of their parents, their own children, their grandparents, and sometimes even their cousins, all while working and attending school.
6. Even though I am an exceptionally hard teacher, who requires a lot of writing and revision, I had over 130 students who passed my classes.
7. I had a student re-take my class who had done very poorly the first semester. She earned a B through her commitment to improvement, without recycling a single one of last semester’s papers (which I would have allowed for the first drafts).
8. For the first time in my teaching history (which is longer than most of my students have been alive) I had six students in the developmental writing course make a 95% before the final and thus be exempt. Whoo hoo!

Things I Will Miss Most:
1. My wonderful colleagues.
2. Seeing my students in the hallway and having them tell me they are doing well in the next class.
3. The humanities class, with its emphasis on almost everything I am interested in all at once.

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How to Get a REAL Education

by Dr Davis on May 20, 2011

How to Get a Real Education at College – WSJ.com

This article by Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, made me smile and laugh.

That’s the year I learned that if there’s a loophole, someone’s going to drive a truck through it, and the people in the truck will get paid better than the people under it.

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Peer Coaching

by Dr Davis on May 5, 2011

You Can Teach Writing has an interesting post, Formal Assessment by Proxy, on peer coaching.

Along with a definition and description, Aragoni includes discussions of when peer coaching will work well and when it will fail.

One of the successful hints is that there should be minimal reading.

The questions are short, focused. Even students who read poorly can learn the drill by hearing the questions a few times.

I would not have thought of that one, even though I am used to reading the essays to my students to make sure that they “get” them.

One of the failing techniques I also would not have thought of.

Infrequent use. Like all writing strategies, peer coaching has to be done often enough that students memorize it so they don’t have to consult their notes.

I recommend the whole article, which was recommended by Dr. Lee Skallerup of College Reading Writing.

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Developing a New Approach to Developmental

by Dr Davis on April 18, 2011

Perhaps we need to trash developmental and start over. (For the record, I teach and love teaching developmental. I was hired to do this job and I enjoy it. I have taught developmental since I began my teaching career 27 years ago.)

Community College Dean has been thinking about this and wrote a post that I think has significant thoughtful suggestions.

At the League for Innovation conference a few weeks ago, some folks from the Community College Research Center presented some pretty compelling research that suggested several things. First, it found zero predictive validity in the placement tests that sentence students to developmental classes. Students who simply disregarded the placement and went directly into college-level courses did just as well as students who did as they were told. We’ve found something similar on my own campus. Last year, in an attempt to see if our “cut scores” were right, I asked the IR office and a math professor to see if there was a natural cliff in the placement test scores that would suggest the right levels for placing students into the various levels of developmental math. I had assumed that higher scores on the test would correlate with higher pass rates, and that the gently-slanting line would turn vertical at some discrete point. We could put the cutoff at that point, and thereby maximize the effectiveness of our program.

It didn’t work. Not only was there no discrete dropoff; there was no correlation at all between test scores and course performance. None. Zero. The placement test offered precisely zero predictive power.

Second, the CCRC found that the single strongest predictor of student success that’s actually under the college’s control — so I’m ignoring gender and income of student, since we take all comers — is length of sequence. The shorter the sequence, the better they do. The worst thing you can do, from a student success perspective, is to address perceived student deficits by adding more layers of remediation. If anything, you need to prune levels. Each new level provides a new ‘exit point’ — the goal should be to minimize the exit points.

I’m excited about these findings, since they explain a few things and suggest an actual path for action.

I think this would be something my own college could do, track success rates, and see what it means to be developmental at our school. If we have some other way of organizing, perhaps we could help it work for our students better.

My alma mater has “dropped” the two developmental courses and has a single sequence by which previously labeled developmental classes take a year-long freshman comp first semester course. This gives the teacher and the students time to ramp up the writing and helps the students feel it is worthwhile by giving college level credit for it.

Yes, there are some students who would not survive with this approach and our students at the CC may be among them, but I think it is worth considering.

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