Recognizing and Embracing Cultural Communications and Sensitivity in the Classroom

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Eighty-three graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) from the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology (CEET) attended the panel discussion, Recognizing & Embracing Cultural Communications & Sensitivity in the Classroom, on February 10 and nineteen GTAs from various Colleges attended the repeated panel on March 2, 2017.

Invited panelists for both panels were Sim Chin, Director, International Student and Faculty Office; Molly Holmes, Director, Gender and Sexuality Resource Center; and Debra Miller, Director, Disabilities Resource. The panels were cosponsored by the CEET and Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center.

The panel discussions were offered to help GTAs be sensitive in communicating with their students who represent a range of cultures who are potentially different than their own.  The presenters spoke about interacting with students from different cultures, considering gender and sexuality of their students, and dealing with students with disabilities.

After the panel discussion, GTAs took part in an interactive activity to help them think about privilege and heterosexism and to reflect on their own behaviors and beliefs regarding sexuality. After the activity, one GTA asked, “Why don’t we follow the golden rule, treat everyone with respect and kindness? Be that star!” Another GTA suggested that, “These kinds of workshops will definitely help us to grow through our lives and do well in [our] professional careers.”

Center staff conducted evaluations at the conclusion of the panels.  89% of the GTAs indicated that the concepts/techniques covered in the panels were applicable in their teaching or other student-related activities, and 90% indicated that their participation in the panels has potential benefit to students.  GTAs also provided comments, such as:

  • This gave me a good understanding of how to treat people with disabilities.
  • Now I have a broader understanding of cultures.
  • I will be adding an accessibility statement in my syllabus.
  • We need to be more sensitive about the LGBT community.
  • I now feel more prepared to approach an unexpected situation.
  • Be mindful of students because you might not know who they are.

Trends in Blackboard Tool Usage at NIU – 2016

Blackboard Learn, the primary course management system used by faculty, staff, teaching assistants, and students at NIU, continues to be an important platform for facilitating teaching and learning at NIU with over 95% of students and 88% of teaching faculty using the system during fall 2016.  To gain even more insight into how NIU is using Blackboard, the Division of Information Technology implemented custom reporting capabilities within Blackboard that extends the built-in statistics tracking features for recording individual tool usage by course. As a result, we have an even better understanding of overall Blackboard adoption and tool use at NIU, and have the ability to track usage trends over time.

Here are some notable trends in Blackboard tool usage at NIU (also available for download here):

NIU Blackboard Tool Usage Report, 2016

A few noteworthy usage trends as of Fall 2016 include:

  • Between fall 2015 and fall 2016, Blackboard continued to be used at a very high level (95% of students using, 88% of faculty)
  • Overall tool use continues to grow, including of the most-used tools
  • Usage of the Assignment tool (for collecting students’ assignments electronically) has continued to grow at a rapid pace, and has been used by at least half of all courses in Blackboard, for a year
  • Most course instructors make use of Blackboard for communicating important information through the Announcements tool, posting content items (such as PowerPoint Slides, PDFs, Images, etc.), as well as posting students’ grades
  • Assignments, tests, discussion boards, and Collaborate web conferencing continued their trend of increased use during the summer semester

Thank you to the Division of Information Technology for providing these usage statistics, as they have been useful in identifying what tools are being used most in Blackboard as well as recognizing trends usage over time.

For more information about Teaching with Blackboard at Northern Illinois University, visit http://www.niu.edu/blackboard.

Spring 2017 Teaching Effectiveness Institute Featured Tips for Energizing the College Classroom

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Sarah Cavanagh
Sarah Cavanagh, Assumption College

Energy was high for the NIU faculty and staff who participated in the Spring 2017 Teaching Effectiveness Institute, The Spark of Learning: Energizing the College Classroom with the Science of Emotions. The event featured Sarah Cavanagh from the Laboratory for Cognitive and Affective Science at Assumption College, and author of the recent book The Spark of Learning: Energizing the College Classroom with the Science of Emotion. Dr. Cavanagh explained her research in Cognitive Psychology as well as connections between emotions and learning. She also explained techniques for stimulating curiosity, strategies for low-stakes assessments, and methods for incorporating choice of assignments in the syllabus. Sarah guided participants through a variety of engaged learning activities that provided opportunities to apply Cognitive Psychology concepts to teaching and learning in the college classroom. Workshop participants actively engaged throughout the day-long event while carefully considering the impact of emotions on the teaching and learning processes.

NIU faculty and instructors from 23 colleges and departments across campus attended the engaging, day-long event. Participants were excited to learn techniques that could be applied immediately in their courses.

Plans are underway for the Fall 2017 Teaching Effectiveness Institute scheduled for Friday, August 18th. The event will feature David Matthes of the University of Minnesota and will focus on team-based learning.

To share ideas for new Institute topics or if you would be interested in presenting at one of our Institutes, please contact Yvonne Johnson, Multimodal Teaching Coordinator at yjohnson@niu.edu, 815-753-2690 or Janet Giesen, Instructional Design Coordinator at giesen@niu.edu, 815-753-1085. We look forward to hearing from you!

Grading Rubrics

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sample levels for a rubric, excellent, very good, good, average, poorA rubric is a tool that lists evaluation criteria for an assignment. Rubrics can help students organize their efforts to meet the requirements of an assignment and faculty can use rubrics to explain their evaluations to students.

Rubrics are made up of rows and columns. The rows correspond to the various criteria of an assignment and the columns correspond to the level of achievement expressed for each criterion. A description and point value for each cell in the rubric defines the evaluation and score of an assignment.

 

Simple Grading Rubric for a History Research Paper

Excellent Good Poor
3 2 1
Number of sources 10 – 12 5 – 9 1 – 4
Historical accuracy No apparent inaccuracies Few inaccuracies Lots of historical inaccuracies
Organization Can easily tell from which sources information was drawn Can tell with difficulty from where information came Cannot tell from which source information came
Bibliography All relevant bibliographic information is included Bibliography contains most relevant information Bibliography contains very little information

 

Basic Steps in Creating a Rubric

  1. Select a Performance/Assignment to be Assessed.
    Performances and assignments which may be difficult to grade and where you want to reduce subjectivity are great candidates for incorporating rubrics. Is the performance/assignment an authentic task related to learning goals and/or objectives? Are students replicating meaningful tasks found in the real world? Are you encouraging students to problem solve and apply knowledge? Answer these questions as you begin to develop the criteria for your rubric.Performance example: Writing a Research Paper on a Topic Related to Local History
  2. Identify the Criteria.
    Create a list of all traits, features or dimensions that you want to measure, and include a definition and example to clarify the meaning of each trait being assessed. Each assignment or performance will have its own unique traits to be scored. Then reduce the list by chunking similar criteria and eliminating others until you produce a range of appropriate criteria. Keep the list manageable and reasonable.Criteria examples for a term paper:
    Introduction
    Thesis statement
    Arguments/analyses
    Grammar and punctuation
    Spelling
    Internal citations
    Conclusion
    Reference page
  3. Set the Point Value.
    Point values make up the system of numbers or values used to rate each criterion and often are combined with levels of performance. Make sure the values make sense in terms of the total points possible: Is there a difference between getting 10 points versus 100 points versus 1,000 points? The best and worst performances are placed at the ends of the continuum and the other scores are placed appropriately in between. It is best to start with fewer levels and to distinguish between work that doesn’t meet the criteria.Point value examples: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 2, 4, 6, 8
  4. Write the Descriptions.
    Descriptions spell out each level (gradation) of performance for each criterion and describe what performance at a particular level looks like. Descriptions describe how well student’s work is distinguished from the work of their peers and will help you to distinguish the differences between students’ work.Description examples in italics:

    Criterion

    Excellent
    5

    Good
    4

    Fair
    2

    Poor
    1

    Spelling No spelling errors. One or two spelling errors, but not of the type to make meaning obscure, and not of basic or common words A few minor spelling errors (more than two) but not enough to harm your ethos seriously or impede a reader’s comprehension. Many misspelled important or common words, or a number of minor errors that interfere with easy reading or comprehension.

     

  5. Determine Levels of Performance.
    Select words or phrases (often as adjectives) that will explain what performance looks like at each level, making sure they are discrete enough to show real differences. Levels of performance should match the related criterion.Levels of performance examples:
    Excellent, Good, Fair, Poor
    Master, Apprentice, Beginner
    Exemplary, Accomplished, Developing, Beginning, Undeveloped
    Complete, Incomplete
    Yes, No
  6. Evaluate the Rubric.
    Evaluate the rubric each time it’s used to ensure it matches instructional goals and objectives. Be sure students understand each criterion and how they can use the rubric to their advantage. Review the rubric with a colleague, pilot test new rubrics if possible, and solicit students’ feedback for further refinements.

Types of Rubrics

Determining which type of rubric to use depends on what and how you plan to evaluate. There are several types of rubrics including holistic, analytical, general, and task-specific.

Holistic — all criteria are assessed as a single score which can be used for evaluating overall performance on a task. Because only one score is given, holistic rubrics tend to be easier to score. However, holistic rubrics do not provide detailed information on student performance for each criterion; the levels of performance are treated as a whole.

Analytical — each criterion is assessed separately, using different descriptive ratings, and thus, receive a separate score. Analytical rubrics take more time to score but provide more detailed feedback.

General — these rubrics can be used for similar performances such as a rubric for all final presentations, a rubric for all dance performances, or a rubric for all research proposals. Criteria are assessed separately, as in an analytical rubric.

Task-specific — are designed to assess a specific task in which each criteria is assessed separately. It may not be possible, however, to account for each and every criteria involved in a particular task which could overlook a student’s unique solution (Arter & McTighe, 2001).

Using Rubrics in Blackboard

You can build interactive rubrics in Blackboard to simplify the process of grading student work and returning rubric results to students. Interactive rubrics can be used with nearly every assessment method in Blackboard, including Assignments (including with SafeAssign enabled), short answer Test questions, and any Blogs, Journals, Wikis, or Discussion Board threads and forums that have grading enabled. Visit the Teaching with Blackboard website for instructions on using Blackboard’s Interactive Rubrics as well as tutorials, archives of online rubric workshops, and Quick Guides on using Rubrics in your teaching: http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/assess/rubrics.shtml

Summary

Grading rubrics are effective and efficient tools which allow for objective and consistent assessment of a range of performances, assignments, and activities. Rubrics clarify your expectations and will show students how to meet them, making them accountable for their performance in an easy-to-follow format. The feedback that students receive through a grading rubric can help them improve their performance on revised or subsequent work. Rubrics can also help to rationalize grades when students ask about your method of assessment. Rubrics also allow for consistency in grading for instructors who team-teach the same course, for TAs assigned to the task of grading, and can serve as good documentation for accreditation purposes. Finally, rubrics can reduce grading time, increase objectivity and reduce subjectivity, convey timely feedback to students, and improve students’ ability to include required elements of an assignment.

Free Rubric Builders and Generators.

Consider using any of free existing rubrics available online. Many rubrics can be used “as is” or can be modified to meet your specific needs. Creating a rubric from scratch will take time but may be necessary for a particular assignment. The following are school-based but are highly applicable to higher education.

Build a Rubric by Annenberg Learner
http://www.learner.org/workshops/hswriting/interactives/rubric/index.html

General Rubric Generator by teAchnology
http://www.teach-nology.com/web_tools/rubrics/general/

Create a Rubric by RubiStar
http://rubistar.4teachers.org/index.php

References and Resources

Arter, J., & McTighe, J. (2001). Scoring rubrics in the classroom: Using performance criteria for assessing and improving student performance. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc.

2015-2016 Annual Report Now Available

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The Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center is pleased to announce the completion of our annual report for the 2015-16 academic year. This latest report is available at go.niu.edu/facdevreport15-16. Below are a few highlights.

During 2015-2016, the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center contributed to the university’s mission …to promote excellence and engagement in teaching and learning, research and scholarship, creativity and artistry, and outreach and service by collaborating with various academic and support units to meet the ongoing and emerging needs of NIU faculty, staff, administrators, and graduate teaching assistants in their teaching, technology integration, professional development, and related needs. This was the seventeenth full academic year of operation for the center since we were reorganized in August 1998. Some of our significant accomplishments this year include:

  • Offering 164 programs for 1,945 participants, which totaled 6,052 hours of professional development
  • Conducting 1,310 consultations with 468 unique faculty, instructors, staff, and graduate teaching assistants from 92 academic and support units
  • Serving on 17 committees, councils, and organizations within NIU and the broader Faculty Development community
  • Recognized 4 recipients of Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award, issued 10 Graduate Teaching Certificates, and was honored with 4 individual and department recognitions

Activities Quick Glance

Feel free to explore and learn more about our activities and accomplishments from the past year.

Sincerely,

Jason Rhode, Ph.D.
Director

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