All posts by Christine Jones

The Assessment Wheel Goes Round and Round

I would like to share a few thoughts on assessment, if I may.

I have to begin with a slight clause to this week’s blog by saying two things.  First, I am into assessment. When Julie Morrison came out in her “Get Your Assess in Gear” t-shirt, I had the biggest smile on my face.  What a great way to promote the positive aspects of assessment and how important it really is!  

Second, I am a big believer in refreshing one’s self. I make a point of regularly attending different professional development opportunities when they are available, in part because keeping my knowledge up to date is important, but also in part because I know I have forgotten some of the ideas I have picked up over the years as I have tried new things, ideas that work and that I want to try again. Last week, I attended the CTLE’s workshop on “Keys to Unlocking Effective Assessment” as a refresher on effective assessment approaches and to ensure that my understanding of assessment is compatible with GCC’s understanding of assessment. Therefore, assessment is right at the forefront of my mind.

It was a great workshop.  If you haven’t participated, allow me to encourage you to do so.  It is a workshop, not a lecture series, so it is involved and interactive, and I really enjoyed it. Thanks, Meghan!

Thinking back, I can recall horror stories about how hard the assessment course was in my Master’s program, but the class was not only interesting, it was fun and I really understood the way assessment worked as an intentional aspect of course implementation and how it operated in a way to promote student success.  The teaching practicum in my MA required students to come together and collaborate on ideas for incorporating formative assessments as well as the “big” summative assessments and using indirect and direct measures for different feedback in the composition courses we taught. I learned to think of assessment as a living breathing part of the teaching approach rather than a separate entity, a consistent feedback loop that allows performance to engage with working towards strategic objectives or learning goals and encourages self-awareness.  

As a result, I don’t see assessment Data (big D) as numbers. As an English faculty, my mind lends itself to words more easily than it does to numbers. Numbers don’t scare me, but I find it easier to work my way through information in a linguistic fashion. My experiences with assessment in my MA program approached the data more holistically in a way that encouraged my ‘English’ mind to weave the information garnered from the mixed assessments into the teaching and learning process as a whole. Not numbers, concepts and ideas. Data isn’t the numbers, it is what the numbers mean. 

So, in my experience, assessment is continuous. It enables adjustments to teaching-strategies and methods. It provides a constant feedback cycle that allows the students to become self-aware and encourages self-confidence as they learn what they know and what they don’t know and start asking the right questions to expand that knowledge. It helps me as a teacher properly support the student at the right time and in the right way.  It helps me to make adjustments to what I am doing in the classroom to make sure the students are achieving their goals as well as my own. 

The continuous assessment cycle doesn’t just impact my students, it impacts me. All that feedback, all that ‘Data’, provides me with the opportunity to improve, to grow, and to adapt as the educational environment changes around me.   With my students, I have a moment in time to “assess for success”, and yes that can have a huge impact. On the other hand, the continuous assessment also provides me with ‘Data’ on what is working for me in the classroom. What approaches are working? What methodologies are working for the current student population? What activities are providing the best interactions with the content? What areas do I need to approach differently? Which projects are the students embracing as a vehicle for understanding? To put it simply, what works and what doesn’t?  

The Keys to Unlocking Effective Assessment began with a quote, and I am going to end with part of it here.  “Perfection is always just out of reach, but continually striving for perfection contributes to keeping both our instruction fresh and our interest in teaching piqued.”  -E.S. Grassian

And that is why I embrace continuous assessment.

This week’s genially infographic on assessment can be found at this link if the embed code isn’t working.

 

F.A.T. Teacher

On being F.A.T.: A reflection on teaching and working with diverse groups of individuals.

“You are one of the most F.A.T. people I know,” Tricia said with a smile.  One of my colleagues was speaking to me about dealing with change in our university setting and how we could prepare for the new policies. Tricia was from the U.K. and a resident of Australia who had worked in Singapore.  She was a very experienced communications teacher. You can imagine my surprise at her claim that I was F.A.T., so I asked her what she meant.  

The F of F.A.T. stands for Flexibility.  In general, flexibility refers to how quickly one can react or respond to change, a willingness to adapt to events. This is the open mindset, the willingness to embrace ambiguity, the quick adjustment as the situation changes, and the attitude that is taken.  

Early in my teaching career, I was in a setting that was the perfect introduction to that flexible mindset. On Friday, I was given my schedule for classes that I would be teaching on Monday.  On Monday morning, I was given a new schedule and told that I would be teaching in completely different classrooms 10 minutes before my classes started; I had new rooms, new times, and new students.   I had a choice, I could get upset or I could accept that the situation had changed and move forward with a positive attitude. So, I went forward with a smile. 

In fact, that positive attitude is central to being flexible.  It wasn’t an easy start, but I felt much better about my reaction when I discovered that the reason for that sudden change had to do with a few classrooms no longer having electricity or windows and there had been a concern about snowdrifts entering the classroom.  In the end, I was grateful for the change and glad that I had gone about it with a smile. That flexibility meant less stress for me. I simply accepted that I had no control over the situation and chose to be positive in response. 

Years later, in another country and another position, when the same situation occurred and I responded with that positive mentality, my colleagues ended up asking me to be their interim department chair.  

The A stands for Adaptability.  Adaptability in this context is about behaving in uncharacteristic ways in order to effectively deal with situations or people.  My previous employer funded a training called “True Colors”, a personality training that encourages people to better understand themselves and their colleagues.   This program went over core values, needs, and communication styles in order to encourage better communication. In a company with over 45 teachers, only 3 of us were labeled as “Gold”.  Everyone else fell strongly into Blue, Green, and Orange. Gold personalities are generally not that adaptable, as they have a strong desire for order, rules, and authority. My personality test was so far in the gold that the other colors were mere slivers.  The communications coach said they had never seen anyone that far into the Gold category. He asked me how I could even function with all the changes that happened at my work. My colleagues were stunned at my color ‘reveal’.   

“You can’t be Gold, you are so diplomatic!  You never say anything bad about anyone and you are always smiling when people interrupt you or your schedule changes,” said Kyra.

“When I came into the office for the first time, you smiled and welcomed me and took the time to explain things to me, even though you were clearly busy.  You are the only reason I didn’t turn around and go back home!” declared Paul.

“No, it makes sense.  Whenever you are faced with a scheduling problem, you tend to offer choices of solutions.  Everyone else always asks me to solve the problem for them,” said Manar.

“When I needed to take longer with the students, you waited patiently for me to finish.  And, I cut into almost 20 minutes of your class time. But you didn’t complain, you just smiled and said “No Problem”,” said Jeff.

While my personality may prefer structure and order, being adaptable means being willing to understand where the other person is coming from,  being able to adjust to the situation through understanding. So, when my order was being interrupted, I continued to adopt a flexible, positive attitude and adapt to the changes that were presented. When my schedule was suddenly changed, I accepted that I had no control and moved with the situation.  When the technology in my classroom stopped working, I may have had a moment of panic, but I moved forward with quick thinking and adapted to the use of the dry erase boards instead. Being adaptable may mean working outside of my comfort zone, but I find that reaching out to others in that way simply helps. Situations are easier to solve, people are easier to work with. 

The T stands for Tolerant. Tolerance is accepting opinions and practices that are different from your own.  Embracing the interchange of cultures with varied interests. A willingness to listen to others’ points of view, even when you disagree.  

Did you know people of different cultures have very different comfort distances when having a conversation? Personal space distances are not universal. When I worked in central China, my students would come within 2 inches of my face to speak to me. I knew that this was a comfortable distance for them, while it made me very uncomfortable.  I learned to turn my body slightly so that my shoulder would face the students for my personal comfort because shoulder-distance is different than chest-difference with personal space. It was a challenge to me, but one that I learned to deal with and accept.   

When I worked in the United Arab Emirates, the school I worked for hired Canadians, Australians, the British, and Indians.  I was one of 2 Americans when I started at the college, a situation that lasted for more than 4 years of my 9 with the college.  I was also the only American in my neighborhood. I had a lot to learn and a lot to tolerate. From the camels in my backyard to the goats in my garden, from the rules about dress and public displays of affection to learning how to Morris Dance and participating in British Pantomime, I learned that being open to opinions and practices that were different from my own could mean temporary discomfort but more often led to acceptance, excitement, and contentment.  I wasn’t there to change anyone’s mind or make anyone change their ways, I was there to teach and learn. Being tolerant didn’t mean I had to agree, it simply meant being understanding and accepting that other people hold different beliefs than I do.  

Personally, I think that is part of what makes this world such an amazing place.  

On reflection, I am flattered that Tricia felt that she could label me “F.A.T.” with such confidence.  Each time I am approaching a new teaching methodology, a new educational technology, a new colleague, or a new group of students, I take a moment to consider what it means to be F.A.T. and hope that I can continue to be Flexible, Adaptable and Tolerant, both as a teacher and in life.

For this week’s graphic, if it doesn’t appear below try the link.

 

Impostor Syndrome

In January, Maricopa Community Colleges held the 2020 Faculty convocation.  There was a lot of discussion about student success, supporting our students, and inclusiveness.  I was fortunate enough to present at the convocation and in doing the research I did to prepare for that presentation, I came across some interesting points that I would like to share with you, gentle readers, in my first blog post for the Write 6×6 Challenge.  

I would like to talk to you about impostor syndrome.  

The tendency to “discount or diminish the obvious evidence of our abilities” is called impostor syndrome, impostorism, or impostor phenomenon.   It is an inability to self-assess and is tied to diminished self-confidence and self-efficacy. How did I connect this to the convocation?  Well, we were discussing student success and inclusiveness and my research took me in an unexpected direction.  Impostor syndrome “disproportionately affects women and minority groups,” leading some researchers to identify impostor syndrome as a symptom of inequity. That said, the most recent studies suggest that anyone can be affected.  Impostor syndrome is more common in STEM and male-dominated fields.  It is more common when the person is not a part of a larger group or feels left out of the group.  And, it is a condition that affects some students and some teachers. Mature students can suffer from impostor syndrome, especially if they are first time attendees or have a sense that they don’t belong. Students who suffer from impostor syndrome can struggle with their courses, make poor career choices, and can become socially isolated.  It has even been linked to burnout, in part because “owning and celebrating achievements is essential if you want to avoid burnout”. As impostor syndrome occurs despite external validation and feedback, no one is immune. 

However, my research also found that our institution has the means to support these students academically and personally. Students who are offered support through mentors, professors, and institutional programs, are less likely to experience impostor syndrome.  Building positive relationships with the students has a direct impact on their academic performance, and minimizes the impact of impostor syndrome.  If you see a student who seems to be struggling with the issue of impostorism or find yourself falling into that pattern, reach out for assistance. Don’t try to go it alone.

I don’t know about you, but I have had several students over the years who have clearly fallen victim to the cycle of impostor syndrome.  I wish I had known a little more and had better ideas about how to help them. So, using the information I have found in my research, I have created this infographic to better explain the issues of impostor syndrome and how to defeat the phenomenon. The infographic has clickable elements for even more information. 

In case the embed code doesn’t work, here is the link.

I hope you have found this helpful. As an aside, I am setting a personal goal to create an interactive element, or an infographic, for each of the topics I work on for the 6×6 challenge.  That should make things a little more colorful for me as I am working. Let’s see how I do. See you next week.

A Few Resources Used

  1.  Cox, Elizabeth. “What is Imposter Syndrome and How Can You Combat it?” 28 August  2018. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/ZQUxL4Jm1Lo
  2. Ford, Knatokie. “Defeating the inner imposter that keeps us from being successful.” Tedx Talks. 22 February 2017. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/J9PgY1mbPgM
  3.  Le, Ling (2019) “Unpacking the Imposter Syndrome and Mental Health as a Person of Color First Generation College Student within Institutions of Higher Education,” McNair Research Journal SJSU: Vol. 15 , Article 5. Available at: https://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/mcnair/vol15/iss1/5
  4.  Mullangi S, Jagsi R. “Imposter Syndrome: Treat the Cause, Not the Symptom.” JAMA. 2019; vol 322 issue 5, 403–404. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.9788
  5. Parkman, Anna. (2016). The Imposter Phenomenon in Higher Education: Incidence and Impact. Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice. Vol. 16. 51-60.
  6. Pinto-Powell. “Impostor Syndrome: Not Exclusive to Women.” Inside Higher Ed. 20 December 2018. Retrieved fromhttps://www.insidehighered.com/views/2018/12/20/what-colleges-can-do-help-students-avoid-impostor-syndrome-opinion
  7. Preville, Philip. “How to Help Students Overcome Impostor Syndrome.” Trends in Higher Education. Top Hat Blog.  12 June 2019. Retrieved from https://tophat.com/blog/student-impostor-syndrome/
  8. Wilding, Melody J. “5 Different Types of Imposter Syndrome (and 5 Ways to Battle Each One)”  The Muse. Retrieved from https://www.themuse.com/advice/5-different-types-of-imposter-syndrome-and-5-ways-to-battle-each-one
  9. Young, Valerie. “Thinking your way out of Imposter Syndrome.” Ted Archive. 5 June 2017. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/h7v-GG3SEWQ