Do your students need help asking for help?

Your syllabus is full of resources your students can use when they need help: Center for Learning, the Writing Center, STEM tutoring, the Library, GCC’s Food Pantry, Technology HelpDesk, Office Hours, and the list goes on. Do you know which of the available resources your students are using regularly? At all?

Mariëlle Hoefnagels shared a compelling blog post recently: My Students Need Help Asking for Help; Do Yours? A teacher for over 20 years, she has been wondering about why students used to ask for help in the past, but now, they no longer do. So she asked them what keeps them from seeking the professor’s help. And the answers surprised her. She thought lack of time, feeling intimidated, or thinking it wouldn’t do any good would be the top answers. But instead, her students admitted being afraid to confront failure, or to “look stupid.” They were also overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start.

Hoefnagels followed up by emailing students who chose “other” in her survey. Each person’s reasons were different, and her blog details the replies she received. One student mentioned not knowing what kinds of questions they are supposed to ask during office hours. It can be so easy for us to forget that office hours are far more comfortable and familiar to faculty than they are to students. Faculty have done this over and over. Students haven’t.

This reminded me of a recent experience with surgery. I felt like my nurses were treating me like just another object in the room, as inconsequential as a thermometer or tongue depressor. In reality, I felt pretty scared. The nurses seemed to think I knew the medical terms they were using, but I didn’t understand. I could feel the assumptions but I couldn’t name them. It wasn’t until I asked everyone to remember I was the only one there who had never done this before that they began to slow down and take a little more time for my concerns. I was able to find a way to ask for what I needed to feel comfortable. But this is a skill with which many of our students haven’t had much practice.

After thinking about her initial survey, Hoefnagels checked in with students about what format they preferred for getting help. She was expecting them to prefer options that didn’t require in-person interaction. But the students surprised her again with a strong preference for office hours, which she already offers, and students rarely attend. What’s going on here? Hoefnagels thinks she needs to help her students be brave about asking for help, or as she says, overcome the psychological barriers that keep them away. Her students had some other interesting responses as well, such as having a study group at a neutral location like a coffee shop. Maybe we can be more helpful to students outside our offices and other spaces that faculty “own.” We hear a lot about “meeting students where they are” – and maybe we should take that literally, and go to the places they’re most comfortable.

Many GCC faculty already make a big effort to help our students in any way they can. If you are one of them, please share one of those ways in a comment on this post, or stop by the CTLE to tell us about your experiences. One of the best things we can do is just ask our students instead of assuming we know their motives. I believe if we trust them, they will tell us.

⭐ Faculty Excellence Awards – Call for Nominations (due Nov. 18th)

Seeking Excellence

The Glendale Community College CTLE Advisory Committee is now accepting nominations for its 15th annual Faculty Excellence awards.  Award recipients will be presented with a plaque and honored at GCC in January.  In addition, the award winners will be recognized via the NISOD Excellence Awards, and the college will support their attendance at the NISOD conference (May 23 – 26, 2020, in Austin, Texas).

Please help us recognize your outstanding work or celebrate your outstanding colleagues.   For inspiration, you might be interested in reviewing this list of prior recipients.

Eligibility Requirement: Open to full-time, residential faculty

Deadline: Monday, November 18, 2019

Nominations: Faculty members can self-nominate or nominate any colleague they feel should be recognized for excellence.  We encourage you to collaborate with the individual you are nominating to help with the details on the nomination form.  

Nomination Procedure: Please complete the online nomination form.  Use just 300-500 words to convey your nomination for the 2019-2020 Faculty Excellence Awards.  

You are welcome to include any relevant information; however, if you are not sure where to start, you might consider some of the following areas: student advocacy, service to the college, community outreach, teaching and assessment, faculty leadership, disciplinary expertise, innovation, curriculum/course/program development, mentoring, etc.  These are just examples of potential areas for consideration.  You may choose any relevant topics in presenting your nomination.

All nominations will be reviewed and scored by the CTLE Advisory Committee.

Thank you so much for your consideration of this opportunity!

Choose Truly Valuable

It is challenging to make something feel naturally-by-choice when it is required. The students in my English 101 and 102 courses are asked to do this all semester. 

“You are an author,” I tell them. 

“You publish everyday on social media,” I tell them. 

“Your words are connected to your name,” I tell them. 

“I am not your audience when you write assignments for this class,” I tell them.

Yet it is really hard for students to disconnect from the concept of “writing for their teacher” because their teacher is the one who grades their writing. I get it. My class is an early step of many in the path to reach their degree, their career, their BMW.

And even though I know this, I still tell them, “You need to write in an authentic context in order to generate authentic writing; I am not your audience.” So they try. They do. They work hard to generate the best writing they can, but we all know, at the end of the day, they are working for that grade, that goal. OBVIOUSLY, there is nothing wrong with working for a goal, for the next step. In fact, it is awesome, and I am glad to see it in students…and in colleagues.

You see, this type of situation occurs throughout the Maricopa District–many of our colleagues are asked to make something required feel organic. The PAR mentor/mentee relationships are a required element of the PAR process, yet the intention has always been for the relationship to feel as natural as possible. 

Thus, in both the PAR Mentor Training and in FYRE, I work to impress upon faculty the idea of mentoring being best when it is organic, so it is worth trying to make PAR mentoring feel as organic as possible. Yes, it is a required element of the PAR process, but we have the power to choose how we approach it.

As PAR Mentors, we can choose to do the bare minimum to cross the task off our to-do list (“Yes. I can observe your class.” “Yes. Your IDP looks fine.”), OR we can embrace the learning and growth that can happen when we truly apply ourselves (“So when shall I visit your class? I am excited to see this new activity you are trying!” “I have read through your IDP and am thoroughly impressed! When can we meet to talk about it?” “Just checking in. How are you?”). 

With either choice, as we ALL know, getting to the goal is possible; it is the journey that is different and truly valuable.

CTLE Seeking Faculty Developer/PAR Facilitator

We are pleased to announce that the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Engagement (CTLE) is seeking a Faculty Developer/PAR Facilitator to run the FYRE program and oversee the PAR/PARc process. This 6 load hour per semester (reassigned time) position will start in Fall 2020 and serve for three years, with opportunities to extend up to a maximum of five years. The position will serve on the district Faculty Development Committee and work closely with the Co-Faculty Developer position as well as the CTLE. Detailed information about this exciting position can be found here.

If you are interested in serving in this role, please submit the following via Google Form by Tuesday, November 11/12:

  1. Short Bio including your department, position, and educational background.
  2. Letter of intent:
    1. which outlines how your knowledge and abilities align with this position;
    2. your vision of the Faculty Developer/PAR Facilitator role in the CTLE and the role it will play in fostering student success at Glendale;  
    3. your ideas for how you believe you can further FYRE and the PAR process; and
    4. areas of teaching and learning you are passionate about or have an interest in.

A committee comprised of members of the GCC CTLE team and other key individuals from across the college will review the submissions. We will contact individuals for interviews by November 15th, with the intent to conduct interviews the week of November 18th (dates to be determined).

If you have specific questions, please do not hesitate to contact Jennifer Lane or Meghan Kennedy.

New Canvas Gradebook

There is a new Canvas Gradebook (NCG) coming to town, and it will arrive for the Spring 2020 semester!  Some of the new features for the NCG include:

  • Grade detail tray allows you to easily click through all assignments for a student and view or change grade, status, and comments, or for a single assignment you can click through every student one by one and view or change their information.
  • Late policy (missing work) automatically applies a zero for missing submissions.
  • Late policy (late work) deducts specified percentages for each day late.
  • Unpublished assignments can now be shown in the NCG.
  • Arrange columns by assignment name (A-Z), due date, points or modules.
  • Filter columns either by assignment group, section modules or grading period.
  • Change default colors associated with the NCG status (late, missing, resubmitted, dropped or excused).
  • Sort grades in an ascending or descending order.

To learn more, Canvas has created detailed guides outlining all of the changes coming with the NCG, or you can attend one of the upcoming NCG training sessions.

Engagement in eCourses by Crafting Connection: Two Easy Strategies

Photo by cottonbro on

Sometimes I try to imagine my online students, sitting at a Starbucks or at home, typing away and trying to engage with a community of learners who are not near to them. It’s not too hard to imagine because I have been a student in online classes, and I have felt that isolation. Even when I did feel a little connection, it was hard to image the other people in class, instructor included, as anything other than words on a page.

One technique that did help a little bit was when my instructors would use my name in their writings to me–either in discussions or comments in assignment feedback–such a small effort on the instructor’s part, but it can make students feel like they are individuals and a part of the learning environment. As an instructor, I consciously remind myself to use my students names as often as I can.

A second strategy I try to employ is sending out individual messages to students when I could just send a whole-class email. For example, there is an end of the semester project coming up in one of my classes where students will select a book to read. I’ve announced it already and given suggestions. But then I wrote an individual email to each student asking if they had thought about it, and to reach out to me if I could help them in any way. The core of the message was the same, but for each student I added bits of individualization, based on what I know about that student. This took about twenty minutes longer than the easier way of reaching out to students, but I know that the effort it took will help students feel more connected and engaged with the course.

What strategies are you using to create connection and encourage engagement? Share a strategy in the comments.

Welcome To You…Welcome To New

dark background with the word "welcome" written in all lower case neon orange letters

We meet again! Back to another academic year following a hot summer break! No matter how you occupied those ten weeks out-of-contract (I do hope you enjoyed those weeks), we all ended up back in the same place…GCC! Sweet! 

Welcome back to you!

This year, upon our return, we are joined by eight new Residential Faculty that bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to our college and our students. I hope you all have a chance to meet our newest colleagues sometime this year; they are fab!

Welcome to new faculty!

Roxan Alexander-Arntson–Communication

Mary Anne Duggan–Psychology

Jessica Gano–Biology

Ghaith Salman–Computer Science

Wayne Smith–Engineering

Jonathan Strait–Automotive

Sean Stumbaugh–Fire Safety/PSS

Jen Woodcock–Nursing