All posts by Jenna Duncan

Reimagine: All your classes online!

I am still working to catch up a few weeks that I fell behind with my regular posts. But I found the suggested theme from Week 4: Dream & Imagine, to be quite apropos during this time of “Extended Spring Break” and talk of taking all classes online for the remainder of the semester.

Personal reaction to this idea: I like it! True, it means I would not get to see my lovely face-to-face students every day and I would miss out with at-work social interaction. But, it has not been difficult to try to “re-imagine” shifting my lecture material and all assignments to be fully online. I have taught ENG 101 and 102 online in the past. Some of the subscription tools our dept uses I like and some I would rather not go back to. But with my one section of JRN online, I always enjoy it and the proactive students of the class contact me and we have regular communication. The ones I have most contact with (probably no surprise) tend to do GREAT in this online class.

So that has me thinking, how can I adapt the class or my classes to be even more successful and have more students finish them? I really see that good, regular communication is a must. For that reason, tonight and tomorrow I will be recording and posting some update videos to all of my classes in Canvas, and reaching out directly to any student I’ve noticed has fallen behind.

Now, another big block to 100% student success in online courses that I can identify is: what if the student doesn’t have a computer and/or regular internet connectivity capability? Let’s say they live in housing where Cox high-speed WiFi isn’t available, they do all their work on a smartphone (I’ve know this to actually happen!) or they have other reasons access is an issue. Then what? I heard on the radio Cox Communications has added 1,600 free WiFi hotspot locations around Phoenix. I’m sending the link to the map to all my students through various modes of communication.

I’m being more flexible with deadlines than I ever have in the past. Partly this is in response to my new attitude of better respectful, active listening when a student tells me of “life happening” or a hardship. This health crisis has put me in a mood of being more flexible and undertanding. Perhaps this is not a temporary but a longterm, lasting change in my teaching.

Finally, while working for a few hours on campus Monday, I overheard another colleague explaining she is going to try to send to students only positive, motivational messages, assuring them that no matter what happens, we will get through this semester together. I am going to borrow that idea, too!


Dealing with conflict in the classroom

I don’t like conflict. In life; in general. I was the kid of parents who constantly fought and ended up getting divorcsed when I was 8 years old. Even though I remember it being a little sad and a little hard to leave my old friends and my old elementary school, ultimately, when they split up I felt relieved.

I know when I started thinking about teaching, I immediately leaned towards adult learning environments because I had this thought that if I was working with grown people I would have to do zero classroom management. After 10 years experience, I now know that isn’t always true. But, still, I think my own style of teaching and learning, my philosophies of androgogy and my increasing understanding of emotional intelligence and different “ways of knowing” lend themselves best to the college classroom.

That said, at times conflict has arisen. When I was brand new, I think it was hard for me to try to adjust student attitudes or demand respect at all times. I do not like people I perceive to be Control Freaks, and therefore, I would never want to come across as one. So what I’ve had to figure out is a sort of happy dance-a negotiation–between the personalities in my classroom and my own, mixed with methods for me to stay up-in-front, so to speak, leading the class, but also doing so with a fair and even hand.

I try to model professionalism. My students are going to need to know how to at and behave like professionals when they enter the workforce (or advance), so it’s important to me to set a good example. And I tell them this! We all experience that personality that just rubs us the wrong way. It could be an equal or peer at work, or it could end up your boss or editor. How can we find ways to navigate, negotiate and learn from these situations when they arise?

Thankfully, I have only have a few behavioral incidences with students arise in my time at GCC which required an intervention. In those times, I am glad I knew where to turn for advice and support (Counseling, dept chairs and deans) and I’m also glad to know I have a community of colleagues who have “got my back.”


Assessment Matters!

Sometimes when I think of assessment, I think of business regulations and why they are necessary for free trade. I like to hear different viewpoints on regulation and take them into consideration. For example, I was once working with a colleague from MCC’s business department who really felt that fewer regulations were important to more successful international import/export trade. It was her viewpoint that the more we could free up channels and remove blockages, delays, etc. the more the economy could grow through the exchange of trade. Seems simple, and I see her perspective. However, I also believe that some regulations are important because they provide critical protections to consumers. For example, the ban on using lead paint in children’s toys. That just seems like common sense, but without regulation, who/how can it be monitored?
I think of assessment in a similar way, as far as, yeah, sometimes it seems like an inconvenience or a little extra work, but on the other hand, if we never checked in with ourselves and each other regarding our work, how could we possibly ensure that effective teaching & learning is going on within our classrooms? (That sentence contained a lot of prepositional phrases… I apologize!).
But what I’m getting at is, basically, effective assessment ensures accountability.
I don’t want to become one of those workers who just chugs along, performing at “status quo,” and frankly, I have an expectation of our college that as an institution we, as a whole, regularly challenge our own performance and standards, and routinely strive to do better.
This reminds me of a line from the old comedy series, “Reno, 9-1-1”: “We aim to try.”
I want to revise this and turn it into a motto: “We aim to try harder and do better.”
I think assessment is a meaningful process that helps us reflect regularly and start to attempt to answer the question: “HOW should we try harder, next time?”


Is it our job to teach students responsibility?

I may be a week behind (almost)… I blame login challenges. I think I’ve got it now.
I want to respond to the question about teaching students responsibility. I have been reading a lot of Aristotle lately for a philosophies of higher education course, and I feel like I’m seeing different sides to this concept–perhaps, different applications of ethics.
What is fresh in my mind is the idea that yes, we should be helping our students build character and prepare for “the real world” in as many ways as we possibly can. This means holding them accountable for things like turning in assignments, and getting them in on time. We should also hold students accountable for paying their tuition and fees and taking care of holds on their accounts, etc.
On the other hand, I feel like there are right and wrong applications of upholding this standard of accountability. At a recent day-long training session I attended, I heard from many different administrators from colleges all around our district about account holds, financial aid conditions and other related student finance issues. It seems that we have some policies in place that actually counteract or contradict our goals to increase student enrollment and better aide students in signing up for their class schedules. I understand we need students to figure out for themselves how to fund their education, but punishing them by dropping them from all their courses or not allowing them to add and plan a schedule for next semester based on some small library, lab or parking fine seems to me to be counter-intuitive to the greater goal, which is student success (whether that be defined as retention, completion, or the student’s individual, personal growth).
I’m neither an anarchist nor a lazy-student apologist, but I don’t want to be a hypocrite, either. I’m still not over the time when I was 17 years old and my math instructor at MCC dropped me from class on my 3rd absence,even though I was getting a B and had no missing assignments. I had paid for that class out of pocket, and getting dropped knocked me to less-than full-time enrollment and messed up my financial aid for the next semester. It was a hard and costly lesson to learn. I think of that moment every time I’m faced with issuing a W for non-attendance, and I try to reach out to the student before making that move.


Getting Started with Write 6×6 Challenge: Teaching, Learning, & Student Success

Greetings, readers!
Thanks for checking out my blog. For years I have been reading emails about the Write 6×6 Challenge and wondering what it’s all about. This semester, I decided to “take the plunge” and actually participate. (Wow, I often discourage writing students from using cliche and I just used one… hope this isn’t a sign of burn-out!)
The timing seems right for me. I am in the second year of my EdD program in Higher Education Leadership through NAU and this semester in my Philosophy of Education class we are talking an awful lot about the common good, what is “student success,” and who gets to define it. Similar conversations have been arising when I’m in the room working with the GCC Academic Strategic Plan Bridge committee. What contemplating these questions has forced me to do is review my time here at GCC, the things I’ve learned (and am in the process of learning), what I hope to accomplish, what I still wish could be changed, and from what position I stand to try to affect positive changes to better serve our students.
To me, in my personal thinking, our students are the entire reason all of us are here. This is a public institution of teaching and learning–these things should be at the core of everything we do. Best, better, more innovative, and more effective practices and processes should be what we seek (uh-oh, now I’m sounding like Yoda!).
Anyway, those are some of my thoughts as I set up this blog and get ready to take this challenge. Won’t you come along with us on this journey? 🙂