All posts by Christine Jones

A Serious OER Segue

It’s Not About The Money… except when it is

“Shiny armor” by greyloch is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

So much is going on, but rather than touch on a point that so many people are writing about for March 2020, I am going to go in a very different direction.  I want to talk to you about Open Educational Resources and my experiences with OER and my campus. On February 28th and 29th, I attended the 2020 Arizona Regional OER Conference, lovingly referred to as OERizona20. I want to talk about that conference, but I also want to set a little context. 

Now, this wasn’t my first experience with OER. I started out with the Maricopa Millions sponsored workshops with Matthew Bloom, working to complete an OER Passport.  I joined the “OER Faculty Workshop” on canvas. The course is also available at (the public Canvas MOOC site) by searching for “Making the Transition to Open.” 

It got me excited. Then, I was offered the chance to do an OER pilot with a mentor using a publisher created OER course. So, I spent a semester using the materials and exploring my student’s reactions.  

I planned out my following semester with the intent to use the publisher supported OER.  I left for the winter break secure in the knowledge that I was ready to go and returned for the Spring semester to discover the publisher wasn’t prepared and wouldn’t be until several weeks after the start of the semester, and my course was already advertised as OER. So, I took a major turn.

I dove in face first and I did a backward-design driven OER adaptation. I had resources available to me and I took to it like a fish to water.  I completed the semester with the feeling that it was the best semester I had ever had. The material was so much more personalized to my style of teaching and adaptable to many different learning approaches. I was able to try new things at every turn. The student feedback was resoundingly positive and I walked away on a high.  

It was such a positive experience that I decided to give a “lightning talk” about my experiences at an OER conference: The 16th Annual Open Education Conference.  It was at this particular conference that I learned that I was not alone. In fact, I felt particularly foolish as I discovered the breadth and depth of support available to me as faculty moving towards open educational resources: the librarians, the faculty developers, the instructional developers, and the OER committee.  All of these resources were available to me on my own campus. I had all the support I could possibly have used. I had done it alone through ignorance. While it had gone fantastic, unbelievably, it could have been even better! Realizing I still had so much to learn, I got involved with the OER committee on the campus and began to research and read and really learn what I was missing.

That brings me to February and #OERizona20.   I am going to share just a few of the sessions I attended, primarily those that had me walk away even more excited than before.

The first session I attended was presented by a few ASU faculty who talked about their “failed” attempt at getting a fully online program to adopt OER.  They called their session “Failure to Launch”. But it wasn’t. Their session talked about needing faculty and program buy-in, field-specific standards, issues with current publications (a library issue), and not doing the “all or nothing” approach.  It was a great session that really looked at the barriers to success.

This was followed by a session on the Z-degree program at Mesa Community College. A lot of that session talked about unnecessary barriers, cost reduction to students, appropriate tagging of courses, having a Quality Matters (QM) foundation, and the process of working with instructional designers.

One of the biggest takeaways that I had from this session was that instructional designers really do want to help you put everything in Canvas. In the session, the instructional designer said “Most teachers say they like creating in Canvas, but when they discover the joy of having an instructional designer help, it turns out they don’t really love creating in Canvas.”  I’m going to have to test that theory because I really do love creating in Canvas.   

The next session was on overcoming ImpostOER syndrome, do we have the right “Koalifications” she asked us in a meme.  The answer was a resounding yes! I want to share all of the information I got from that session, as it was so supportive of the possibilities. 

Step 1. Publishers don’t own most of the information. 

Openly licensed images will go with most things.

Step 2. You are already curating the information.

You decide how to share the information   

You are already creating materials

Just add the creative commons license and it can be used. 

Step 3.  Start small

  • Novice Level
    • Start with one resource
    • Use existing resources where possible
    • Stick with the most “Open” creative commons licenses
  • Intermediate
    • Adapt resources- copy and paste with multiple (open resources) edit, rewrite small sections
    • Learn about licensing.
  • Advanced
    • Write your own textbook 

Step 4: Don’t reinvent the wheel

  • Ask colleagues
  • Repositories

Step 5: Work Together

  • Instructors
  • Librarians
  • CTLE
  • Ed Technologists
  • Instructional Designers
  • OER Specialists

Step 6: Keep track of your sources

  • Provide appropriate attribution.  Open Washington attribution builder was a resource she used for the sources that she found. In Canvas it is built-in Open Attribution Builder in canvas for some campuses.  Proper citation yeah!

Step 7: Use technology to your advantage and with which you are comfortable.

  • Google Docs
  • Press books
  • Canvas
  • OER wrap-around services (Like Lumen Learning)
  • Pixabay OER Images
  • Wikimedia

Step 8: Open up work to peer review

Step 9: Realize just how awesome you are!

$336,000  (personal savings she has done for students)

And that was all before lunch on the first day.  

This was followed by the concept of Open Active Textbooks, a merging of active learning and OER. An open active textbook is graphics, text, references, activities, videos, tools, and active learning experiences.  It is a reimagined learning resource in the same way a phone has been reimagined from the rotary to modern smartphones. 

He ended with the quote “It is kind of fun to do the impossible” from Walt Disney

All in all, that first day was incredible and really helped me to grasp what I was missing, collaboration. My forays into Open had been independently driven and while it was great, my semester could have been so much more had I known the questions to ask and the people to reach out to.

My second day had two sessions that really stand out.  
The first was about getting started with open assignments.  This was a highly informative session that talked about using backward design and using the course competencies to build the text and the open assignments.  A few takeaways:

Renewable assignments are:

  1. Are students asked to create new artifacts or revise/remix existing OER?
  2. Does the new artifact have value beyond supporting the learning of the author?
  3. Are students invited to publicly share their completed work?
  4. Are students invited to publicly license their completed work?

Baby Steps

  • Try making one of your current assignments more open
  • Increase the audience to more than you just seeing it  (Watch for legalities) – Share within a class
  • Make an assignment open to the class, if you aren’t ready to be open to the public
  • Use Google products for sharing
  • Use features in Canvas

Things she tried

  • Open Study Guides
  • Student Written Quiz Questions
  • Used Canvas Collaborations for group work
  • Open assignments –  using Google Docs
  • Most-difficult-concept videos created by students for students

The second session was on OER and accessibility. The session had a lot of valuable information.  While access is at the heart of Open Educational Resources, accessibility should be at the top. The session began with a serious talk about Universal Design for Learning with the course and assignment designs. Then, she went into the top tips.

Tip 1:  Add Accessibility Statements to your syllabus and/or course home page.


  • Disability Accommodation Statement
  • Links to vendor accessibility information for software of materials used in your course

Tip 2: Fix Semantic Structure (Style)

Headers, strong, emphasis, for screen readers

Tip 3: True Bulleted or Numbered Lists, True Columns, True Tables  and don’t allow rows to break across pages

Tip: 4 Ensure Readability

Break large blocks of text into usable chunks and use a sans serif font like Verdana.

Tip 5: Text Equivalents: Always use alt text for images.

Tip 6: Avoid color coding alone as a means of conveying information

Use something other than color with meaning.

Tip 7:Readibility, a second look. Use an ability checker for color contrast issues.  Make sure it is high contrast. 

Tip 8: Descriptive Hyperlinks

Links should make sense out of context.  Screen readers have a links-only mode. Write links so that out of context they will make sense.

Tip 9: Use Accessibility Checkers

HHS.Gov is quite intimidating but is comprehensive

Tip 10: Caption and use transcripts.

This was an important session for me for several reasons.  First, accessibility is SOOOOO important and I want to make sure my materials are accessible to every student.  As of the date, I am writing this in March 2020, accessibility is even more important to me than ever. Following many of these tips help everyone, not just those students who need it. 

Second, I now knew an instructional developer who was at my own campus, who I had known for quite a while without realizing it, and who could and would be a resource for me as I move further into OER.  No excuses, all of the resources are at my disposal.

Are you still with me?  

Let me boil it down for you in a TLDR.

I started my adventures with OER ignorant.  I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I didn’t know who I should be talking to.  I didn’t know the questions to ask. It has been the complete experience of the past 2 years that have brought me to the point that I now know that I don’t have to go it alone.  More importantly, working with the support that is available will make everything that much better, for me and for my students. 

So, I would like to end with what my next step has been.  After the OERizona20 conference, I reached out through the OER Committee on my campus to a librarian and gave my input on the creation of a libguide for faculty interested in getting started with OER.  I did this for me and I did this for you. Because you might be like me and be daring and willing to jump into the deep-end to give it a try, but you shouldn’t have to. 

We have the support and using that support can only make the good, better. 

And, I have to add that attending the #OERizona20 conference resulted in some of the best conference swag, ever!   Take a look at the rocking socks.

And yes, you will catch me sporting these babies.


Teaching Philosophy

This week’s blog post is dedicated to an activity I embarked on last week, the process of rewriting a teaching philosophy.   Due to self-reflection, professional development, and a re-examination of motivations, I rewrote my teaching philosophy. The process I went through in writing my philosophy has been eye-opening for me and might be helpful for some of the 6×6 blog readers.  

 I had a teaching philosophy that I wrote prior to my first position in higher education and every teaching philosophy since that time has been a variation of that original philosophy.  Don’t get me wrong, it had been added to, altered, grown and developed, but a recent discussion with a colleague actually brought me to the epitome moment where I realized that I had not only outgrown my previous teaching philosophy, but that I also needed deep reflection on my current philosophy in order to properly understand where I am and who I am as a teacher. 

As I began the process, I didn’t even bother to look at my previous philosophy.  I decided that the best way to work on my teaching philosophy was to step back and approach it in the same way I had at the beginning of my career, with fresh eyes and a fresh outlook. 

I started with a review of the research.  “Teaching philosophy statements help us stay true to our original vocation as professors and help us to evolve and improve our teaching over the course of our academic career” asserted researchers Niall Hegarty and Benhamin Silliman (2016).  Lecturer Susan Yager (2013) further elaborated that it is not a stationary document to be set aside, the teaching philosophy is “a document in progress and it should change and evolve as your teaching experiences build”. The research further explained that the philosophy is not just the domain of applying to a faculty position, the importance of which is discussed by Eirman (2008) but further is meant to help faculty stay focused on their reason for teaching and staying current with the student population regardless of their current career point (Hegarty & Silliman, 2016).  I knew I was on the right track.

Next, I examined some of the elements of my own purpose in rewriting my teaching philosophy.  Since effective teaching philosophy statements are meant to inform teaching practices specifically with the purpose of improving quality learning for students, and my recent efforts at self-improvement and professional development are directly related to expanding and developing my teaching methods, I came to the realization that my teaching philosophy was going to be directly tied to my self-reflection.

So, I prepared an in-depth examination of my setting. The research recommends starting with the institution, the mission & values, the population descriptors, and the learning outcome requirements.   According to Hegarty and Silliman, there is a clear difference between the ideal classroom and the reality that we face each day, and having the foundational understanding of the student population, the context, the subject matter, the organization & teaching situation, and the level of accountability provides a far better framework than a philosophy written spontaneously (2016).  In fact, they created a clear understanding of the pattern of the continuum process that demonstrates the ongoing evolution and how the mission and vision are part of approaching best practices. The called it a continuum as opposed to cyclical as it is a process of continuous improvement in a forward motion. With an understanding that the philosophy begins with this foundation of the student population, I recorded my understanding of the setting.

The process of recording my understanding led me to further research and reflection.  I examined the pedagogical vs andragogical approaches, delving into understanding humanagogy and teliogogy until I found myself in a debate hole (Holmes & Abington-Cooper, 2000). For a moment, I got a little lost in the research. Then, I remembered my colleague’s cry to “Fail Forward” and moved into elements of self-reflection through assumptions.  I looked closely at my students and the assumptions I have of them as a teacher and reflected on whether my assumptions actually fit with the context. I examined my assumptions about money, shelter, food, and safety challenges that some students face. I examined my assumptions on what I believe will help students learn. I looked at my student-written reflections, both short term and long term reflections; I looked at the student evaluation feedback.  I examined my peer feedback from observations. I examined my own reflections. I examined the published material on the setting and the recent research presented at local conferences by peers and colleagues. This was an attempt at a deliberate and purposeful critical reflection. It was my attempt to embrace and learn from the evaluation and reflection process (Lewis & Benson, 1998).

Next, following the advice of Goodyear and Allchin (1998) I began to consider my own teaching values, considering the “big” questions of motivation and expectations, and establishing my understanding of student success in the classroom. As I started establishing the answers to those questions, I allowed myself to be guided by the “characteristics of successful teaching statements” as described by Meizlish & Kaplan (2008).  

First, I ensured that my philosophy included specific personal examples rather than catchphrases, or explanations of personal examples where a catchphrase is used.  For example, rather than stating that I am a teacher who embraces educational technology, I delve into an explanation of how I use specific tools to support the learning.  I explained my experience using learning management systems as a guide to student’s independent learning efforts. I elaborated on how I show students how to use student-use tools like NoodleTools to support their efforts in research.  I described my use of Google Docs and embedded annotation programs like Perusall. I presented my favorite interactive activities, gamified adaptations that allow students to demonstrate their understanding, such as my plagiarism game or the Badgr Leaderboard.  Finally, I rounded it off by describing my use of non-tech and printable options for students who are not comfortable with those approaches or have accessibility issues. Every ‘jargon’ word or phrase was defined in connection to my actual experiences.

Integrated within my personal examples, I also attempted to establish examples of my responses to instructional challenges woven into my continued efforts at professional development and personal growth. I want to communicate my passion and commitment to teaching in my philosophy.  While it is possible that other people may read my teaching philosophy, when I sat down to write this philosophy, I was my audience. My enthusiasm, my love of teaching should shine through my writing. As this is also a reflective process, the minute I feel that teaching is a burden, I will know that I am either slipping into burnout or it is time for me to retire.  Students know. They know when a teacher loves teaching them, they know when teachers care.  

Last week, I had a student ask if they could give me a hug because they know that I care and wanted me to know that they know.  They informed me that they look forward to my class and that their efforts in my class have actually contributed to success in other classes.  They told me that they hoped I wouldn’t change my “teaching approach” and requested that I “don’t stop teaching”. I care and they know it. That is an element that needs to come across in my teaching philosophy, which leads me to the next characteristic.

My examples and personal experiences are meant to clearly convey my recognition of differences in student levels, abilities, background knowledge, and accessibility issues.  They are a part of demonstrating (rather than just stating) my commitment to learning-centered student supported teaching. For this reason, I added the story of the importance of a single student. I discussed the time I had one student in my class that didn’t want to participate, didn’t want to work, didn’t like me as a teacher, and had “checked out”.  I talked about how I changed my own perspective and approach, how I adapted and showed that student how important they were to me, and how my efforts not only made a difference in that student but in the entire class. I then discussed how this has continued as I have adapted to new populations and how that experience has evolved into an inclusive approach. Whether it is a little extra time on assignments or ensuring every video has closed captioning, choosing materials from diverse sources and being sensitive to historically underrepresented students or “boosting my accessibility capability” through continued training, I made sure that my philosophy describes specific examples at each stage, showing rather than saying.  

Finally, I came back to that element of how I define student success in my class. I started by considering the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that I consider important in my course.  I looked at the course learning outcomes, the array of assessments and how well those assessments matched the learning outcomes and my own considerations of what is important. I evaluated my use of my assessments and how well they reinforce the priorities and context of my course.  I examined how the assessments contributed to student learning and how I recognize that success. Then, I took a step back and considered the guiding question. What am I preparing my students for? Once I had the answer, I wove my understanding of student success with my concrete classroom experiences.  

Overall, I am pleased with the process that I went through in creating my updated teaching philosophy. This week’s Genially graphic is meant to convey all of the elements that I blended as part of my process in writing my teaching philosophy, conveying several of the elements from the references that I used as I researched and prepared to write.   

Below, I have included several of the references that I directly refer to in this blog post. 

Eierman, R. (2008). The teaching philosophy statement: Purposes and organizational structure, Journal of Chemical Education, 85(3), 336- 339.

Goodyear, G. E., & Allchin, D. (1998). Statements of teaching philosophy. In M. Kaplan & D. Lieberman (Eds.), To Improve the Academy: Resources for Faculty, Instructional, and Organizational Development, Vol. 17 (pp. 103-122). Stillwater, OK: New Forums Press. Accessed through

Hegarty, N. C. & Silliman, B. R. (2016). How to approach teaching philosophy statements as career mission statements. Journal of Business and Educational Leadership, 6(1), 103-114. 

Homes, G. & Abington-Cooper, M. (2000). Pedagogy vs. andragogy: A false dichotomy? Journal of Technology Studies, 26(2), 

Lewis, J. M. & Benson, D. E. (1998). Course evaluations. Tips for Teaching Introductory Sociology. Wadsworth.  

Meizlish, D.  & Kaplan, M. (2008) Valuing and evaluating teaching in academic hiring: A multidisciplinary, cross-institutional study, The Journal of Higher Education, 79(5), 489-512, DOI: 10.1080/00221546.2008.11772114

O’Neal, C., Meizlish, D. & Kaplan, M. (2007) Writing a statement of teaching philosophy for the academic job search. CRLT Occasional Papers: Center for Research on Learning and Teaching. The University of Michigan. 

Yager, S. (2013). Writing a teaching philosophy statement, Iowa State University Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, [Video], retrieved from 


On Juggling Faculty Roles

On Juggling Within Faculty Roles

Faculty members in a college are skilled jugglers.  There are a lot of different types of juggling that everyone participates in.  There is a work-life balance for finding a happy medium between your life on and off-campus. There is a work-life balance for finding a happy medium between your fun activities and the expected responsibilities of being an adult. (yeah adulting!)

And there is the juggling that is the sole domain of being a faculty member.  That is the juggling of teaching, research, and service. Finding the optimum state of balance isn’t for the faculty member alone; the college itself establishes the terms of the juggling act. 

Juggle with 5 balls“Juggle with 5 balls” by Alexandre Dulaunoy is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Ball 1: The role of “teacher” has changed over the years, even in the relatively short span of the last 20 years. I arbitrarily chose 20 because that is the span of my own experience.  Faculty members, while still content experts as required by our degrees and certifications, are no longer the “sage on the stage”. We as faculty revitalize ourselves with a better understanding of pedagogy and andragogy,  constantly self-reflection on appropriate teaching strategies focused on our student’s learning. We facilitate student’s learning as we enable students to develop the skills and abilities that help them master content and skillsets needed for their future.  We encourage them to develop beyond the rote materials, inspiring creative and critical thinking as we help students move beyond the ‘cog in the machine’ thinking to expanding conceptual knowledge and honing their inquiry skills. We empower students for learning that extends well beyond the classroom and well beyond the course content. At GCC, I have noticed that this focused dedication in teaching by so many faculty is creating a well-rounded campus learning environment with contributions from every department.  I have enjoyed being a part of the experience as faculty go through workshops and programs that help them “Reimagine Teaching and Learning”, myself included, and find it inspiring how student-focused the teaching role is in this community. I have placed “Ball 1” at the front because teaching is central to all that we do.

Ball 2: The role of research in a faculty experience is dependent on the college, the academic field, and even the department.  Faculty members are often expected to contribute to the shared knowledge base, usually to an audience of disciplinary colleagues world-wide.  Research-oriented faculty bring a sense of prestige as they bring in internal and external funding to explore empirical studies and theoretical examinations. One of the more interesting elements that I have found recently is how much of the research faculty at GCC are doing in an applied manner.  Rather than hitting straight journal publications, rather than centering on the theoretical implications, the research that I have been seeing is not only applied but centered on teaching and learning. The findings are discussed at conferences and in presentations where more peer feedback is actively sought after and ideas are expanded upon in a more dynamic and active approach to research endeavors.  This is an amazing “ball” to watch in the community college setting. This isn’t the domain of the “dry and stuffy”, though that certainly has its place. It is an involved process that moves, grows, develops, and actively encompasses the education process in a way I don’t think is even possible in a traditional setting. It is fast, with dynamic being the only truly applicable word I can think of. While there are continued contributions to the knowledge base, what I am seeing is so much more.  

Here is a challenge to you, dear reader.  How many of these active research elements do you see in your department? Is research being used to expand the knowledge base or do you, like me, see a more active and involved process that contributes to shared knowledge as well as influencing daily decisions in teaching and learning?  How do you research?

 Ball 3: The role of service is complicated. Service happens on committees and boards, it happens in advising, it happens with tutoring, it happens with clubs, it can move beyond the campus location with outreach community programs, connections with local business and community stakeholders, and responsiveness to local needs. Some institutions care more about research and teaching and can even discourage service commitments, others recognize the service role as a demonstration of the institutional commitment to the community. This is one of my favorite aspects of being a part of a community college. The service commitment is fully and completely the community aspect of community college. Participation in service happens both on campus and within the community at large. 

Central to all of the service engagements that happen here are the students.  Any committees or boards are thinking or planning around our specific student population.  Advising and tutoring are all about the students. Club activities are primarily a way to empower students and help connect their outside interests with their academic interests. Even when connecting outside groups like the United Way or Food Banks, the service efforts made are expected to address our student’s needs.  Unlike at the university setting where this ‘ball’ can be pushed aside for the twins of research and teaching, the community college recognizes that focus on the students leads to service as a full aspect of the balanced “balls”. 

Recognizing that these three roles are in a very real sense a juggling act, conceptually and practically, can help faculty understand the necessary overlap and integration needed of each role.  What I love about the community college system is how “in-balance” these three roles seem to be. I came across an article in my reading that demonstrated severe gender and ethnicity bias in academia when these roles are not in balance, when one role is seen as more important than the others.  While the research is dated and is university-centric, the idea is clear that viewing all three roles as a balanced approach makes for a more meaningful experience.

To me, that meaningful experience is key.  When the faculty roles are in balance, it makes the whole system work. It means that I can feel comfortable with all the other roles I have to play. In my case, I can spend time in the roles of mother, daughter, granddaughter, student, and friend as well as the very necessary role of just being me. Me reading, me relaxing, me getting a sunburn while tending my roses  (never underestimate the importance of sunscreen), me watching my British murders (yeah Agatha Raisen & Vera).

And with someone with my personality type, this is when life is simply wonderful.

This week’s is an interactive image with mouse hovering elements. If the embed code isn’t working, you can view it here

Selected Reference

Park, S. (1996). Research, Teaching, and Service: Why Shouldn’t Women’s Work Count? The Journal of Higher Education, 67(1), 46-84. doi:10.2307/2943903


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
  2. Ford, Knatokie. “Defeating the inner imposter that keeps us from being successful.” Tedx Talks. 22 February 2017. Retrieved from
  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:
  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 from
  7. Preville, Philip. “How to Help Students Overcome Impostor Syndrome.” Trends in Higher Education. Top Hat Blog.  12 June 2019. Retrieved from
  8. Wilding, Melody J. “5 Different Types of Imposter Syndrome (and 5 Ways to Battle Each One)”  The Muse. Retrieved from
  9. Young, Valerie. “Thinking your way out of Imposter Syndrome.” Ted Archive. 5 June 2017. Retrieved from