Category Archives: Faculty

Don’t Forget the Good Ones!

A coworker referred her neighbor to my swim class and I learned something from the experience that I should already know, but apparently I had been slacking on.

If someone does something correctly and they do not need corrective feedback, they still need feedback.

The neighbor, as it turns out, is an awesome swimmer.

In a class of 12 swimmers, it is impossible to have eyes on everyone at all times, so generally, the ones that need the most help are going to get the help first, and the ones who can swim well are given more trust to take direction and practice the skill.

My coworker reported that her neighbor didn’t think she was doing very well in my class, as I had not given her much feedback.

The light bulb went on. Awesome swimmers don’t know they are awesome swimmers unless you tell them they are awesome and then tell them EXACTLY why they are awesome.

Ever since that learning experience, I have been practicing my feedback skills with the highly skilled individuals. One technique I have found very helpful is to have them demonstrate a skill for their peers. It is such an ego boost for the student to be the role model for the group.

Assessment and evaluation is a continuous process. It does not just happen at finite points in the semester. It is a process that is woven throughout the length of the course, and every student should feel the drive to improve in relation to their own level of success.

So, in our efforts to help the beginners, we also must boost the experts.



Assessment is tricky business. There are so many different options to use in trying to assess how much the students have learned. And I just have to say, that grading is not one of the favorite parts of being an instructor. I have been teaching for a long time. I have tried several different ways to assess the students in my courses. What I have found to have made the biggest impact on their learning of, and retention of, mathematics, has not been my change in how I assess, but how often I assess. It isn’t unusual, in mathematics, to have your pass rate fall within the (50-60)% range. After having assessed basically at the end of chapters, 16 years ago I switched to assessing every week in many of the courses I teach. These are major assessments not just little quizzes. After this change I noticed a pass rate that was 20 to 35 percentage points higher than before. Here is an example, my college algebra course went from 55% to 80% pass rates on average with just this simple change. I’ve tried collecting Homework, daily quizzes, collaborative activities, large group projects, working at the board, etc. and none of those had the impact that this did. The biggest change wasn’t necessarily that the students were learning more but that more students were learning. The big change I saw was that the withdraw rate went from around 40% to 10%. I don’t know if this will happen in every subject or every different course within a subject area but I have seen it work for all of the courses I teach (intermediate algebra, college algebra, pre-calculus, and calculus 1 2 and 3). Give it a try if you haven’t ever.


On Kindness

Practicing it won’t make you perfect but it’ll make you aware. We’ve all probably been taught at some point in our lives of its virtues, but have we examined its meaning? What does it mean to be kind? To understand, perhaps it’s best to know what it feels like to be treated in an unkind manner.  I’m pretty sure we can all remember the last time we felt like that.  But can we remember the last time we treated someone with kindness?  What were the circumstances under which we chose to act in a kindly manner.  And no, I’m not talking about patronizing manners or obligatory responses.  I’m talking real.  Right here and right now. Starting with today. We’re all too busy thinking and worrying about ourselves and “what’s in it for me.”  And in doing so we’ve missed the opportunity to respond to an overwhelmed student or coworker.  All because, if you please, we were thinking all about “me” instead of “them.”  We know what it feels like when we’re left to feel the sting of a perfunctory thank you or please. My challenge is this:  let’s think ahead and outside of ourselves. So the next time we’re in a situation which may require compassion, we think instead of how we can best be prepared to respond to a need selflessly and with compassion for someone in need of a kind act instead of an eye-rolling dismissal. You see to be kind, we must think of someone other than ourselves. That’s how I wish to be remembered. As an example of kindness.  We’ve been taught the lesson, but so have we learned?  What a difference kindness can make.

Just T.H.I.N.K

I am not a fan of acronyms, but this one speaks volumes.

In the spirit of kindness on campus, we should stop and THINK before we speak. There is always a choice in how we react to a situation.

Optimal health is tied to wellness, and wellness is a dynamic wheel rolling down the road of life. We know it is important to exercise and eat well (physical wellness). We know it is important to socialize and engage with others (social wellness). We know it is important to learn and challenge our minds (intellectual wellness). We know it is important to meditate, pray or dwell on our purpose in life (spiritual wellness).

Emotional wellness  is the fifth aspect of a well-rounded life and it needs more attention. If we are not happy, then all of the other dimensions of wellness are affected. Happiness is the key. The pathway to happiness is to not only look after our own well being, but to look out for the happiness of others.

Small acts of kindness create a ripple effect that we can’t even fathom!  One smile can change a day for someone who is sad or suffering. That smile could end up on the faces of many people through the course of the day because of the smile you chose to initiate. Imagine if everyone did that!

Any act where you give something and you don’t expect anything in return. Buying a coffee or a lunch for a stranger, or a colleague, or a student who could use a boost. Stopping to say more than “hi” even if you are in a hurry (leave 5 minutes early so you can create these moments).

Every day, try at least one act of kindness and watch how your emotional wellness takes an enormous boost!



An Ounce of Prevention to Stop Cheating

studentcheatingCheating and plagiarism are common and unfortunately prevalent parts of the academic environment. Some data suggests that 60-70% of undergraduate students admit to cheating on written work or tests. Cheating is not limited to a certain type of student, and data supports that academically high-achieving students and low-achieving students cheat at the same amount (Encyclopedia of Educational Psychology, 2008). Research has varied about if age, marital status, or other demographics are correlated with cheating. One area where there does appear to be a correlation is with interest in the subject and cheating. If a student isn’t interested in the subject, then they are more likely to cheat (Anderman & Murdock, 2007). With limited data it is very difficult to accurately predict the “type” of student that will cheat. Instead of trying to identify who might cheat, let’s focus on how we might prevent cheating. Cizek (1999) did considerable research on strategies to prevent cheating. Beyond the specifics of better proctoring tests, Cizek felt that, “Communication about honest and dishonest behavior is surely critical to deterring cheating” (p. 187). Cizek cautioned that focusing on individual test takers and test givers is not as effective as “…heightening general awareness about the problem, implementing systemic changes, infusing the educational environment with a concern for integrity, and construing responsibility for integrity as the province of everyone in the learning community” (p. 188). According to Cizek, the best strategy to prevent cheating is to make it as clear as possible, what is considered cheating. Faculty can’t just leave this to a statement in the syllabus that they assume students will read. A recent study in Australia found that only 50% of student read the academic honesty policy when it was left up to them (Gullifer & Tyson, 2013). It is important to provide this information and read it with students so we can explain and clarify what is meant by this policy. Institutions can also clearly inform students of their expectations. Institutions with an honor code that defines expected behavior found cheating decreased by more than 50% (McCabe & Trevino, 1993). Being reminded of the honor code before a test or completion of a paper can also make the agreement more salient and further discourage cheating. Maricopa has a student conduct code and clear information regarding academic misconduct, but an honor code that students sign at the course level may be an additional benefit. Maryellen Weimer, who writes the Teaching Professor blog, addressed this issue and provided three suggestions for what faculty could do to help prevent cheating. These items were talking more about personal integrity, discussing the bigger implications of academic dishonesty on our society, and to demonstrate integrity by following our stated policies like grading timelines and attendance at office hours (Weimer, 2015). These ideas make integrity and dishonesty a part of the fabric of a course as faculty discuss and demonstrate these ideas. While we may not feel we have many tools to stop cheating, clearly stating what cheating means in our class, building expectations into an honor code, and ongoing discussions about integrity can help to curb some of the cheating. This ounce of prevention can also be a lot easier than trying to catch and prove that cheating occurred.
  References and further reading: Anderman, E. M., & Murdock, T. B. (2007). Psychology of academic cheating. Burlington, MA: Elsevier Academic Press. Cizek, G. J. (1999). Cheating on tests: How to do it, detect it, and prevent it. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Encyclopedia of Educational Psychology (2008). Cheating. Retrieved January 3, 2016 from Gullifer, J. M., and Tyson, G. A., (2013). Who has read the policy on plagiarism? Unpacking students’ understanding of plagiarism. Studies in Higher Education, 39 (7), 1202-1218. McCabe, D. L., & Trevinko, L. K. (1993). Academic dishonesty: Honor codes and other contextual influences. Journal of Higher Education, 64(5), 522-538. Miller, A. D., Murdock, T. B., Anderman, E. M., & Poindexter, A. L. (2007). Who are all these cheaters? Characteristic of academically dishonest students. In E. M. Anderman & T. B. Murdock (Eds.), Psychology of Academic Cheating (pp. 9-32). Burlington, MA: Elsevier Academic Press. Weimer, M. (2015). Promoting academic integrity: Are we doing enough? Retrieved on December 22 from
Whitley, B. E., Jr. (1998). Factors associated with cheating among college students: A review. Research in Higher Education, 39 (3), 235–274.
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Inspiration from the Girl Who Married a Ghost

Last weekend I was spending an inordinate amount of time wandering aimlessly (on purpose) around a bookstore, when several titles got my attention (or “caught my eye,” if you’re into painful clichés). I thumbed through them and decided I wasn’t interested in reading them, especially since the “To Be Read” section on my bookcase is much bigger (almost the entire bookcase) than my “Have Already Read” section (one shelf).

But one title in particular stood out: The Girl Who Married a Ghost. I thought about how many of my students often settle for essay titles like “Comparison-Contrast Essay” or “Definition Essay” or even just “Essay.” I realized that this title might come in handy as an example that attracts the reader’s attention. Browsing around, I found more titles that jumped out at me. And since I’m always looking for inspiration for classroom ideas, I typed them into the “Teaching Notes” on my phone:

The Girl Who Married a Ghost

The Baby on the Car Roof

Sleepwalk With Me

A Burglar’s Guide to the City

Monkeys with Typewriters

I’m looking forward to bringing the girl who married a ghost into my classes. Am I referring to the title of the book or an actual girl who married a ghost…? With a little time and effort, maybe both….



In Search of My Inspiration. How Do I Expand Beyond?

I have to admit I’m borderline burnout, but what keeps me going these days are the people I work with on a daily basis. My inspiration comes from all of those faculty and staff who take the time to better themselves and be the best they can be and utilize the CLTE to help them with that. I can’t be a slacker around these folks. Oh no, so I’m inspired to step my game up and help provide the services they need, and it reminds me of why I’m doing this job in the first place. It’s easy to forget at times. So the last thing I need to be doing right now is agonizing over a journal post, but I’m inspired to do so because of the 10+ posts already posted on from last week. They are my inspiration to post, to share. They are my inspiration to complete a tedious FPG application for an upcoming workshop. My inspiration to schedule FMS training in the CTLE. My inspiration to send out yet another announcement about what we have to offer, knowing very few will bother to read it. But it’s that few that inspire me. Recently I attended a district event at SCC called TechTalks. It’s a TEDTalks type of event where 8 speakers talk about their experience with using technology in their life or work environment. These talks are very inspirational, but on this particular Friday I had every legitimate excuse to not miss work and not attend. I’m so glad I didn’t give in to any one of those excuses because that’s all they are is excuses. Attending TechTalks rejuvenated me. It inspired me. It made me want to go and do ALL those things those speakers talked about. I wanted to understand data, play with virtual reality, create portfolios for my students, create OER, and even make a music video despite my lack of music and movie making skills. I was inspired. Again by my colleagues in Maricopa. I’m so glad I didn’t pass up this one of a multitude of opportunities to be inspired because what good am I to you, my colleagues, my students if I’m not inspired to do my job?

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – Reflection from 2/2

From Thursday, 2/2/2017:

This morning, the woman who collects tuition for my son’s school made the discovery of a four inch gaping hole lined with the fringe of shredded fabric on the side of my skirt, “You have a HUGE string hanging off there! Do you want me to cut it?” Of course, this was after leaving the house, dropping kids off, and stretching my brain into work mode. On the drive in and after the discovery, instead of listening to news and attempting to decipher whether it is fake or not, I went into existential mode in thinking about how the more life piles on, the less we have to care about the significance of not noticing a ripped skirt in the scheme of things. I mean, really, how could I have dressed myself and not noticed such a glaring wardrobe malfunction? Did it matter? How is it that the older I get, the more I am forced to “not sweat the small stuff” due to pure circumstance?

It is something I was ruminating about, and then as it tends to happen, serendipitously, of course, after me crudely attempting to mend the gash with a makeshift sewing kit, two brief moments emerged to reaffirm my thoughts.

A returning student of mine stayed after class to let me know that in his previous life, he was a government official who use to care for the special needs population in his community. In class, we have been discussing identities, stereotypes about our identities that society makes, and embedded arguments that perpetuate the assumptions. His family had to leave their homeland in 2008, and they came to the United States with nothing. Nothing. After his narrative of displacement, he continued. Radiating with pride, he says, “We had nothing. But today, today, you know, I have three daughters. All three of my daughters are college graduates from GCC and GCU with nursing degrees.”  He makes sure I know that the lessons his family learned from their hardship are the reasons his daughters are so successful today.

Moments later, I was signing out of the computer, crossing my t’s and dotting my i’s in leaving the classroom ready for the next instructor. “Hi Mrs. Dewey,” chimed someone. It was a familiar someone and one of my highly motivated students from ENG091 and ENG101. Last semester, she enthusiastically signed up for the CRE101 and ENG102 Learning Community, but on the first day, she was not there. It was not like her to disappear, so here and there, I would wonder if all was alright in her world. As it happens, this semester, she is working three jobs while taking her prerequisites to get into the nursing program. Visibly, ENG102 would not work with her packed schedule. She wanted me to know that she would be back for ENG102 in the forthcoming semesters and wanted to check in so I would know what happened.

Tiny yet grandiose moments like this happen every day in my work here.Tiny because they are small in duration. Grandiose because every time they happen, I gain new insight, clarity, and perspective on all that small stuff.


I Made My Mentee Cry

It all took place while I sat at the  car dealership waiting for my 2006 Mazda 3 to get repaired.

I didn’t mean to make her cry.

But she inspires me and she needed to hear it.

This set a thought process in motion that inspired me to write. GCC Faculty work very hard and are incredibly dedicated to student success. We really don’t hear enough about them and their stories that are so inspiring, so I will share one.

As a PAR Mentor, I was reviewing her hybrid 101 course, specifically looking at a series of videos she had created about exercise motivation and adherence. She designed the videos so the students could “chunk and chew” the information for the module. Each of the seven videos were about seven minutes long. Just enough time to engage a student and maintain their attention.

She didn’t have to do this at all. She could have easily said “read the chapter, take notes, and take the quiz.” But she didn’t. She saw a need and an opportunity and she went for it, despite all of her other responsibilities as full-time faculty.

She knew the students could play these videos over and over as a listening tool while driving or exercising, or to watch while sitting at the computer after school. She knew the students would appreciate the extra effort she made.

Do you know how long it takes to record, edit and upload a seven-minute video? It takes a lot of time and love. She did this seven times, and then created quizzes to go with the videos so the students would know if they really understood the material.

Our faculty do a lot of behind-the-scenes work that they don’t boast about. They do it because of their passion for teaching and ensuring the students are getting what they need for success.

So, go ahead and make a faculty member cry.  You might get a quote like this:

“Oh my goodness! You just made me cry! I cannot thank you enough for your kind words and encouragement. You have lit a fire under me to work harder and give more.”


Is Anybody Out There?

Teaching a hybrid public speaking class has certainly challenged my “classroom skills!” Classroom? I only meet with the class five times during the semester, while the remaining weeks are completed through Canvas. The major difficulty has been in making that personal connection with each student. I pride myself in providing a welcoming and enthusiastic atmosphere in traditional structures, but establishing a positive feeling-tone is a bit daunting from afar. Should I care? Should the students need my illustrious “connection?”

Of course, we should all care! Communication is more naturally achieved in face-to-face interactions, and even though the students and I are accustomed to text and e-mail “social skills,” it doesn’t ensure that our messages are understood or that our attitude or emotional message is conveyed. Emojis only do so much😳. I need to know more than names prior to the first speech, and I must develop trust and collegiality among the students to give them the needed courage and confidence to walk up front and begin.

What to do? What to do?

1. In my perfect world, each student would have a clear photograph that appeared by their names in Canvas. (My brain’s memory bank is overloaded with data from 32 years in public high schools, preventing me from easily matching faces and names when we first meet. “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!).
2. Two on-line assignments that help have been an outline for a speech introducing them to me. Once submitted, I can comment on an individual basis. I look for common ground and any unique tidbits thrown to me. The other is a discussion post, requiring each to react to a minimum of two other students. Most address each other by first name and respond to a specific idea posed.
3. The first speech had been a speech of introduction, but for the past two semesters, I have required a personal experience speech. Students really seem to respond to each other on a more intimate level when they listen to the wide variety of stories and what made the experience memorable or important. Before the first speech, students participate in an ice breaker so they have to get up and move around the room. That helps loosen them up a bit.

What I have found is that now the students feel comfortable asking me questions through Canvas e-mail.  When provided with an optional workshop to prepare the longest speech,  many attend.  They also know that I WANT them to do well, so there is less “out of sight; out of mind” and more exchange and participation. The highest compliment I can receive is to have a student tell me that they dreaded speaking in front of the class but they actually “kinda” enjoyed it.