College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is a student-centered and diverse learning community that engages in critical inquiry extending knowledge to enrich and enliven individual and public life.
CLAS Website and Beyond
Congratulations, you’ve almost made it through another academic year! As you reflect on those students who have excelled in your classes this year and may be good candidates for pursuing nationally competitive scholarships or fellowships, please refer them to us in the Frederik Meijer Office of Fellowships. P.S. Look for Fellowships Referral Cards coming to your campus mailbox soon!
Amanda Cuevas, Director
FROM THE DEAN'S DESK
Frederick J. Antczak, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
No matter what the outdoor temperature, the inspirations of spring start with our Sabbatical Showcase and Spring Celebration (April 3) by checking in with recently returned faculty for whom the buds are starting to flower on the branches of their research and creative endeavors. Rarely do we get access to the work of so many different kinds of projects all at once. This is one of my favorite ways that CLAS benefits from its own diversity and breadth: afterward you can go back to your department, your students, and your family and talk in an informed way about someone’s fascinating work—often in a field distant from your own. In addition to the substance of the presentations, we have substantial hors d’oeuvres (selected to suit a wide audience), music, and reports by chairs of CLAS committees so that you will know more about the achievements made on your behalf by faculty governance. Oh, and fair warning: I have been known to say a few words about the year we are beginning to end.
Your Faculty Development Committee knows you’ll be inspired by the Showcase to think more about your own sabbatical. On April 11, you can learn more about the process and maximize your chances of success by attending the Sabbatical Information Session.
Also inspiring will be the Arnold C. Ott lecture which is bringing in for a public talk Nobel Laureate Ada Yonath (all the way from Israel) on April 3.
Another really fine way to support your graduating students, see your colleagues and remind yourself what the academic life is all about is to support your graduating seniors by attending commencement. Saturday, April 27, with robing for faculty giving your some time before the 3pm start to talk to colleagues you haven’t seen in a while and practice the collegial bonding ritual of hood-adjustment. Your CLAS marshals for the Winter graduation are Dwayne Tunstall of Philosophy, celebrating his new book from Oxford UPress, Doing Philosophy Personally: Thinking about Metaphysics, Theism, and Antiblack Racism, and Danielle Leek of the School of Communications, in celebration of her founding of the GVSU Speech Lab. Don’t forget to RSVP to Commencement!
Speaking of projects coming to fruition, a big round of applause for Jim Goode’s latest book, A History of the Syrian Community of Grand Rapids, 1890-1945: From the Beqaa to the Grand (Gorgias Press).
For your calendar, please note we are hosting the Media Ecology Association’s 14th annual convention in Grand Rapids on June 20-23, 2013. The GVSU Provost's Office, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the School of Communications are its major sponsors, and Corey Anton and Valerie V. Peterson of the School of Communications are the Convention Co-Planners. Discounted registrations are available until May 15. See more info here.
Before I let you get back to the many demands of April, let me just express a word of praise for all the people who with confidence, perspiration and great ideas made grant applications in the last academic year. Many of us were successful in receiving grants despite the competition—Grand Valley has a success rate far above the average, so our reputation is building and perhaps others of us will benefit next time. It was great to celebrate with you last week at Grants on the Grand. Similarly, the Author Recognition Reception is always a proud moment for CLAS. Congratulations to all the authors I saw honored there. In all these ways, you make us proud.
Before you know it we will be reminding you of the importance of getting your grades in on time. Until then, teach well, cheer on your graduates, and take an hour to come celebrate the work of your colleagues. If I didn’t know better, I’d say the weather was about to break, daffodils will be shooting up, and Nature will begin to share in our celebrations. But this is Michigan, we best not wait!
Faculty Governance Election Results
Congratulations to those inducted into Gamma Theta Upsilon, the International Geographic Honor Society!
Other Honor Societies in CLAS departments are invited to notify Monica Johnstone of their inductees so we can mention them in future issues of CLAS Acts.
What the Deans are Doing in April
Dean Fred reports, “April is not the cruelest month for me, but it’s among the busiest. I’m meeting with Geology in the wake of the visit of their external consultants. I’m going to the Sabbatical Showcase—I might even be persuaded to say a few words, reporting on the year and looking forward. Speaking of that, I’m looking forward to the Ott Lecture; we don’t see a Nobel Laureate pass this way every day. The Dean’s Academic Advising Committee meets, as do the W.K. Kellogg Grant folks, the Board of Trustees, the PSM Directors, Faculty Council, the Transfer Committee, the Unit Heads, and the planners of the Golf Benefit. Of course I’ll be going to the Annual Awards Celebration, to Student Scholarship Day, to the Internship Recognition Luncheon, the Science Lab Groundbreaking, the Children’s Enrichment event, the Graduate Showcase, the Graduate Awards event, the Lavender Graduation of our LGBT students, the Food for Thought reception, and of course the Honors Ceremony. I have a brace of semester end meetings with unit heads, several retirement open houses to visit, and will top things off with Traverse City graduation. After which I may need a little vacation!”
In April Associate Dean Shaily Menon will facilitate the CLAS Sabbatical Showcase and Spring Celebration. She will participate in events such as Student Scholars Day and the groundbreaking ceremony for the new science building and attend several meetings including those for the ASH refurbishing design team, university strategic positioning committee, and high impact experiences committee focusing on undergraduate research. She will grade essays and exams for her introductory natural resources management class and participate in a qualifying exam and a thesis defense for graduate students. In late April, Shaily will attend the Asian and Pacific Americans in Higher Education (APAHE) conference.
Associate Dean Mary Schutten continues her efforts related to several student support initiatives on orientation, academic advising, and admissions. Specifically, she will participate in several planning sessions for the Student Success Collaborative as it begins this semester and beyond. She will continue collaborating with the College of Education on a series of initiatives. She continues to implement and assess degree cognate substitution requests, support the work of the CLAS Curriculum Committee as ex officio; and serve as a faculty mentor for Movement Science. She will continue to engage individual units in discussions related to curricular efficiencies and will advise transfer students during transfer orientation. At the end of the month, she will work toward timely submission of Winter 2013 grades.
Associate Dean Gary Stark will be monitoring summer enrollments, assisting the CLAS Faculty Council and College Personnel Committee, notifying units of upcoming Fall personnel actions, preparing materials for units’ position requests for 2013-14, serving on the Internationalization Task Force, and analyzing college data to identify possible areas of greater efficiency.
April 3, 2013
April 3, 2013
April 4, 2013
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April 9, 2013
April 11, 2013
April 30, 2013
Do you have summer or fall events coming up? Let us know so we can add them to the CLAS web calendar (it is never too early): firstname.lastname@example.org
The Present Professor in a Knowledge-Centered Classroom—a conversation with Robert Talbert
Robert Talbert, Associate Professor of Mathematics, thinks long and hard about how people learn appropriately for the changing career landscape. He thinks about preparing his own kids for the world and the 500 mathematics majors for whom his department has stewardship during their time at Grand Valley.
His thoughts on the subject are shared in his Chronicle of Higher Ed blog, on campus at the Teaching with Technology Fair, and in the hallways of his department. These conversations have steered Robert in the direction of practices that allow him to make good use of technology and that “leverage the humanity of the students.”
In particular, they have led him to invert or flip his classroom. Robert uses a course design that places the transfer of information outside of the class so that the hard work of the activities traditionally relegated to homework are brought into class time when he is present to interact with students and when their peers can vie with the material together.
“Reversing the usual practice is more humane,” Robert decided. “And I am able to talk with each student every day.” Imagining a student wrestling with a tough problem at 2am with no help in sight persuades Robert to keep the emphasis of class time on the hardest aspects of the course—and to recognize that the transfer of basic information such as terminology is not that hardest aspect.
“These discussions have percolated through our department and many courses have some aspect of this design. We are working more intentionally and using these practices in many places.” For instances, textbooks are going away or at least playing less of a role.
“Knowledge is central,” Robert explains. “I want to teach students to acquire information on their own. If you graduate from GVSU, you need to be able to acquire information on your own. That’s what is needed in people’s working lives.”
Such an approach requires regular and reliable feedback so Robert has been making use of a response system like clickers that runs via a website. He can serve up questions that the students then answer. An FTLC grant helped him to set up the system he uses based on the WIFI devices students have (phones, tablets, etc.). He finds that about 2 students in a class don’t have a WIFI device so an accommodation is made for them, such as DVDs and flashdrives, so that they have access to the same course materials.
Robert also relies on peer instruction, a pedagogy he credits to a Harvard Physics professor whose students were able to ace exams but still didn’t possess the level of undergirding scientific knowledge he was trying to impart. So he developed presentations in place of lectures and used class time to poll students using clickers, discover any misconceptions, and base the class time on addressing those misunderstandings or areas of difficulty.
Robert notes that in this way assessment is broken up into frequent bits. Sometimes there is no strong consensus around the solution to a question, so groups are set up to argue the pros and cons of their personal views. Afterward another vote is taken. This generally results in a 50/50 split or a majority being persuaded to the right answer. “In other words, I’m able to leverage what the students know,” Robert explains. “The ‘strong’ student is not necessarily the most vocal; this methods levels the playing field so that every student has a risk-free way to be in the discussion via clicker. It can be very empowering.”
The strong students bet even better through the act of explaining material. All students benefit from hearing the material not just from the teacher, but also from their peers. The resulting class is very active. “There’s a lot of talk, but not a lot of lecture. I feel as though I’m treating the students as human beings.” He also sees that this process teases out the tangle of their thinking by getting it out in the open.
Robert has been using these practices since 2011 in most of the course for which it makes sense, such as larger classes particularly in the lower division.
“Research shows that students with strong conceptual understanding also do well in the mechanics. Again, this is part of training students to be independent and self-regulating learners. As academics, we sometimes assume that self-regulated learning will just happen during college. My job is to help them get there, so that they are self-feeding,” Robert notes. Thinking of the development of his own children, Robert continues, “There are many analogies with child development—you can’t lecture on how to eat with a fork.”
Robert’s goal each term is to make himself obsolete. Students do come in with preconceptions about the format of math courses. He wants to show them how real mathematicians work, which is frequently thinking about how to set up a computer program to crunch the numbers, and not, these days, so much hand calculation. Conceptual knowledge has to be pushed into the forefront and students taught to use tools like the program Mathematica or some of the GeoGebra type programs which are easy to sit down and use. Robert sees this interface with programming to be where college mathematics instruction is headed—toward more model construction and to a place where more interesting questions can be addressed with the available computers in very ‘real world’ ways.
Robert blogs about his experiences teaching this way. The Chronicle audience tends to fall into two camps. The like-minded share their experiences in different contexts (such as in community colleges). The detractors are often professors at research institutions who do not share his student-centeredness and tend to argue that “lecture was good enough for me.” Robert doesn’t worry too much about that skeptical attitude because he sees so many instances of teachers finding productive ways to bring peer education and inverted class techniques into the schools at many levels. For instance, at Zeeland High School flipped math courses are now common.
Robert does have some advice for anyone thinking about trying this platform. He recommends that approaching the shift as a year-long project. First build it, then roll it out. “Try a couple flipped class sessions first,” he offers. The benefit will be in higher student achievement reflected in better grades and better written assignments. “Noticeably better, increasingly,” Robert nods.
Robert Talbert’s Casting Out Nines blog
Page last modified March 29, 2013