Cognitive Dissonance: Real Education

Cognitive Dissonance is a regular Monday feature in which a post is presented that, if read, may provoke “a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.” I hope these pieces will provoke thought, if not conversation.

The stories in this piece are familiar enough for most of us. By the end of it, though, the author seems to be at a loss about what to do. Which begs the question: what to do?

“Reacting to the Past” in the Community College: Introduction

You walk into your class a few minutes before it is scheduled to begin. To your pleasant surprise, six or seven of your students arrived sufficiently early to arrange the tables in a large half-circle, in preparation for discussion and debate. They did this without your request, but it’s exactly the formation they needed today. You also notice a large portion of the students already seated, pouring over their copies of Plato’s Republic.  Some students are wrapped in white linens, in imitation of the tunics worn in Athens, circa 403bc. One has a garland in her hair.  Rather than walking to the front of class and introducing the day’s main topics, you instead quietly take a seat in the back and pull out your own copy of The Republic, turning to the pages on the goals of an excellent education: to make good citizens first, and to give them the tools so that they may contribute to society in the way they are specially suited as individuals. Though you have not provided specific guidance, most everyone is reviewing the same pages.

The minute that class is scheduled to begin arrives and passes. Nothing has changed. You are still sitting in seat, saying nothing, unless a student approaches to ask a question about the text. Otherwise, you can clearly see your students clustered in groups about the room, speaking in hushed voices, The Republic in hand. Occasionally, a student from one corner of the room stares menacingly to another cluster. A young, petite woman raises her fist and booms, “Athens is a city of democracy! The men who fought for us have the right to participate in government!”  A young man from the opposite group retorts, “giving the rule to the mob is giving Athens over to the passions of the appetite! That’s no way to rule wisely or justly!” A commotion begins, and chaos threatens. You continue to sit in your chair, taking notes about who is saying what. Ten minutes after the scheduled class start, you, the instructor, have yet to say a word.


An Argument for Democratizing Knowledge in America

I just read a book “Back to school: Why everyone deserves a second chance at education” by Mike Rose.

Back to School book cover

The students described in this book could be my own and I find that rather refreshing in a book about higher education!

There was something really powerful about reading the words of students like mine in the pages of this small book. It reminded me that our students all have various reasons for being in our classrooms:

To be a role model for my kids. To get a career to support my daughter. I don’t want to work in a crappy job all my life. I want to learn to read and write. I want to have a better life

I teach in the Child Development program. I’ve always thought of my courses as serving both academic and occupational goals, and I have treated both goals equally. We are a career program, and yet the intellectual life of my students is extremely important to me. I want my students to experience many and varied opportunities for cognitive growth in their time here. I also have a higher responsibility to the young children my students will ultimately serve so I work hard to make sure my students understand developmentally appropriate practices in the profession of early childhood education. This book has reminded me of the importance of developing an academic intellectual life, but it has also reminded me of the intelligence of occupational work.

It’s midterm by the way, in case you haven’t noticed! This is the time in the semester when many of us lament that students are unable or seem unwilling to take advantage of the support resources available to them such as office hours, tutoring, and the like. The book helped me to remember that my personal approach to learning in terms of actively seeking information and forcing myself to take charge of my own educational experience by any means necessary can be really different from how students approach my class.

As Rose states,

Many students with privileged educational backgrounds are socialized from day one to seek out resources and engage members of institutions to help them attain their goals. This seems so much like second nature to most academics that we forget that it is a culturally influenced, learned behavior.

…teaching is more than transmitting a body of knowledge and set of skills but also involves providing entry to the knowledge and skills and tricks of the trade necessary for fuller participation in learning.

It’s a quick read, but it has inspired me to think differently about my students and my teaching. I think it’s worth a look. Let me know if you want to borrow it!

A Survey about Surveys

In the last couple of months we have seen more and more surveys popping up in our inbox. There was the survey about the Inspector General’s Office, about Morale (where are those results?), Lecture capture cameras (ditto), and now Registration. I know many people do not fill out these surveys which I think is a mistake. Consider this, in some small way filling out these surveys is like voting. If you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain about decisions made later. How much happier we all would have been if the powers that be had sent a survey about branding or graduation or most recently,  no more spring hires. (Just a side comment- if we are no longer allowed spring hires, does that apply to district too? So, if there is a job opening do they have to wait until fall semester to hire or are they allowed to hire based on need and availability?).

Not to say that a survey would have changed the decisions that the money spenders made, but at least our voice would have been heard. A large complaint about this administration is the total top-down communication. I would like to think these surveys are at least an attempt to give the people who actually work with students a voice.  So next time you see a survey pop into your inbox, don’t ignore it, fill it out. Don’t pass up an opportunity to actually communicate back to the powers that be, we have so few opportunities to do so….

The Final Tuesday Teaching Talk (TTT) of Spring 2012

Tuesday Teaching Talk is a regular feature which, as the name implies, is an opportunity to talk explicitly about teaching (and learning) in the practical and philosophical sense that happens on, you guessed it, Tuesday. Hold on to your hats.  The CAST coordinators (yes there are 2 of us) are tasked with supplying TTTs to you.  Look for questions, videos, tips, etc.  Enjoy!

Though not the most animated speaker, what he has to say is very interesting.  This is a somewhat selfish post on my part given my admiration for Noam Chomsky.  It’s rather long and I don’t expect you to be able to watch this in its entirety this week.  But for a nice little snippet, fast forward to 1:20:30 for some interesting discussion about open courseware, online education  (and student engagement0) in general.  See you all Thursday at 4 at Emerald.

The scam is on?

I saw this article in today’s tribune. Apparently, the time and money students spend on their education is not worth it in the long run.

From the article (yup, I thought of PhiloDave when I read this):

“(Doing standup) will teach you how to write,” he wrote in a blog post earlier this year. “How to communicate. How to sell yourself. How to deal with people who hate you. How to deal with the psychology of failure on a daily basis. And, of course, how to make people laugh. All of these items will help you later in life much more than Philosophy 101 will.”

What say you? Are we the problem or the solution? Is this a business perspective or a true educational view?

Education and Incarceration: Priority Shifts

According to the Christian Science Monitor, the NAACP has begun advocacy on a new and worthy topic:

Over the past two decades, states’ spending on prisons grew at six times the rate of spending on higher education, notes the report, “Misplaced Priorities.” In 2009, while K-12 and higher education spending declined during the recession, 33 states spent more discretionary dollars on prisons than they had the year before.

The overall annual price tag for incarceration, youth detention, and parole in the United States: nearly $70 billion – of which $50 billion is spent at the state level.

The current system largely warehouses people who need treatment for drug and mental health problems, while at the same time taking dollars away from education, one of the best ways society can prevent crime, the report says.

At least read the article, if not the report, but the report is worth some time, too.


As part of the Graduation Outreach Strategy, District Office has
planned a series of activities to promote graduation.
One such activity is
Faculty and Staff Cap and Gown Day!
Faculty and Staff are encouraged to wear caps and gowns on
Thursday, March 31, 2011
in an effort to prompt more students to inquire about and sign
up for the
Spring 2011 Graduation

that will be held on
May 11, 2011 at the UIC Pavilion.
April 15, 2011 is the deadline to file a graduation application. 

Students will pick up their tickets the week of April 25, 2011.
Additional information flyers and posters will be distributed throughout the school.

Tuesday Teaching Question

Tuesday Teaching Question is a regular feature that attempts to get a conversation going about teaching.  Typically, the questions attempt to be very practical and begin with an excessively long preamble.  TTQ is brought to you by CAST.  If you have a question that you’re dying to have featured in an upcoming TTQ, e-mail me at

Here’s last week’s, back by unpopular demand. 🙂

Yesterday (now one week ago) seemed to be a day full of waiting…waiting for the Red Line to get to work, waiting for various websites to load at HWC, waiting on line (yeah, I said “on line” instead of “in line”; I’m from NY) to submit my midterm grades (they’re due today BTW), waiting for students to stop in during office hours, etc.  If you’re like me, when you’re waiting, your mind starts to wander.  Today’s TTQ is inspired by the time I spent waiting.

I was thinking about our new president’s letter and his blog (and now his 2nd entry about academic “coaching”).  I jokingly asked the class I was teaching yesterday if the building felt any different.  They asked me why I’d asked this.  I went on to tell them that we had a new president.  They asked me if this was a good thing.  I said, “so far, so good.”  I remain optimistic.  Anyway, here’s the ending of President Laackman’s letter.  Maybe we can jump start the “getting to know you” process.

Our mission is central to who we are. All of us bring that mission to life. I am trying to learn how you do that and what you need to do an even better job for our students. I look forward to working with you to support our students and prepare them to realize their dreams.

What do you need to do an even better job for our students?

What do you do currently that you think others should know about?

To FC4, Love District


Going along with the example set by WIKILEAKS, the following information is being leaked through district faculty council. You might want to ask your local administration why they have not relayed it to us.

Julius Nadas,
secretary FC4

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

1. December 13-16, 2010:  College Success Seminar Training is scheduled to take place at District.  The request for College Success to be part of load is under review

2. December 18, 2010:  All grades must be entered into PeopleSoft no later than Saturday at 2:00 p.m.  Faculty who are experiencing issues should contact the CCC Help Desk by email or by phone 2600.  Also, campus Registrars are available to be of assistance.

3. January 3, 2011, additional advisors and tutors will be hired for each college and will be paid for by an ICCB grant.

4. January 6, 2011:  The Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet at Harold Washington College.

5. January 10, 2011:  Spring 2011 semester starts Monday; spring classes begin Tuesday, January 18, 2011.

6. January 2011: The Upgrade to Blackboard 9.0 will be available.

7. February 15, 2011:  Initial deadline date for I.A.I. five-year Course Review process.  College administrators, Department Chairs, and District Academic Affairs need faculty assistance to complete program reviews.

8. The 2010 CCC Credential Guidelines are attached. If you feel you are qualified to teach courses on some other basis you will need to present the relevant documentation to your VP and ask that it be presented to the district office of Academic Affairs.

9. The spring 2010 Syllabi Audit conducted by the Office of Academic Affairs is attached.

10. Please remember to update your syllabi and upload them to Blackboard for spring 2011 classes.  Syllabi are expected to be available to students no later than the first day of classes.

11. The official CCC Syllabus Template is attached.   2011 CCC Syllabi Template

12. A sample CCC Syllabus is attached.   F09-CHLDDV-109-K-Connor

The last Tuesday Teaching Question(s) of 2010 (I think.)

OOPS, this should have gone up at 11:59 last night.  I had it scheduled for 11:59 tonight, giving people only one minute on Tuesday for the Tuesday teaching question.  Sorry for the delay.

The end is here.  The multicolored pen business is booming as we in the education business (ha, according to who?) do our business so we can enjoy a much earned vacation (if such a thing is truly possible).  I figured I’d keep it incredibly practical and low level this week in order to respect the cognitive demands of grading.  Here goes.  The even-numbered questions are slightly meatier than the odd-numbered ones.  In fact, the one that is divisible by 3 and even (i.e. divisible by 6) is likely the meatiest of them all (and my original TTQ idea).

1. Are you procrastinating from grading right now?

11. Do you have a red pen to lend me?

24. Since it’s likely that many students won’t come back to collect their final work from you (assuming it hasn’t happened already)…

a) What do you do with you students’ work?

b) Are you as careful “marking their work up” knowing that they will likely never see it?

40. Do you use a percent based grade weighting scale or points?  Why?

115. Would you be more likely to grade in room 1046 if there was music playing?

Let’s see if we can get more than 2 responses this week.  Thanks for reading.  Good luck in this final week.

To FC4, From District Office

Each week, FC4 representatives (and our own FC president (TBD)) will be sent the upcoming events from District Office. Please relay questions and concerns here or to your local FC (or FC4) representatives.

1. November 19, 2010 is the deadline date for online training for faculty to enter their final grades. For face to face training, please check with your College’s Registrar.

2. December 1, 2010 COMPASS test scores will be automatically loaded into PeopleSoft.

3. December 11, 2010 is the last date to enter your final grades on line in PeopleSoft.

4. December 17, 2010 students will have access to one CCC transcript, which will list transfer credit as well as all the credit courses taken from the various CCC’s. A separate transcript for Continuing Education courses will be available.

5. January 3, 2011 testing for foreign language proficiency using the ACTFL or the CLEP will be available at each campus.

6. January 3, 2011, additional advisors and tutors will be hired for each college and will be paid for by an ICCB grant.

7. The CCC catalog is available in three versions: print, CD, and on-line. The Spanish version of the CCC Catalog is under development and may be completed as early as January 2, 2011.

8. Please inform adjuncts about the availability of services to assist at-risk students, especially, tutoring and advising. Students are currently being contacted regarding their mid-term grades.

9. A draft version of the Credential Guidelines, first distributed in 2007, has been updated and distributed to Deans of Instruction and Vice Presidents for their review and comments.

10. Please check with your Dean of Instruction regarding date for submission of your tenure portfolio.

In what ways can a teacher get in the way of a students’ growth?

In what ways can we teachers actually impede the growth of a student, despite our best intentions? It is a fundamental element of my teaching philosophy that it is my job to stimulate a student’s curiosity and enable them to learn and process new information on their own, and that I must avoid the model in which I give them the information that I expect them to absorb. Despite this being my goal, I probably get in the way of that goal, every time I get frustrated by something a student says or writes, and every time I try to give them my “wise advice” about learning and life.

I was meeting with some students today, and one of them related a conversation had with a professor. The student’s account was of expressing about two hours worth of thoughts to the professor, and that the professor merely listened with enthusiasm and interest. The student’s reaction was absolutely warm and positive. I realize that if I had been in the student’s position, I would probably have felt the same way, and thankful that someone’s character and intellect I respected would let me elaborate my thoughts. I also realized that I have never been that professor: that when a student comes to visit me, I perhaps deliver “sage advice” all too often. If I was a student visiting myself as a professor, I wonder if I would become frustrated? I wonder if I would have “learned” that my thoughts were not good enough? My teaching habits may be at odds with my teaching philosophy goals.

PhiloDave related a story a while back about dealing with “silent students” that is of a similar vein: the desire to get students talking can be distracting and counter-productive for those students, of whom I was a member, who are generally quiet and reflective, and more comfortable thinking through the ideas slowly.

Have you had a similar epiphany? In what ways have you gotten in the way of a student’s learning?

“make lemons out of [DWFDW] lemonade”

Yes, to borrow the innocent, yet powerful, quote from PhiloDave’s daughter, I’d like to create this open post and keep it running all week in some way or another to focus on POSITIVE outcomes from Faculty Development Week. (OK, you can list concerns too.)

With Day 1 Day 2 underway, what will you or what have you done with your lemons?

Thanks for the input everyone! Here we go with Day 3 4 the last day of events! It will be short. Possibly sweet?
Last chance to leave a comment before the post leaves the main page. (Thanks for keeping it at the top Dave!)

Small hint to the timid and shy: You don’t need to leave an email in order to comment. Just a name. Silly, outrageous, and creative appears to be the fad.

DWFD Week Update

Yep, with less than two business days to go, we finally have the information we’ve been waiting for all summer. In case you didn’t get the email, I’m here to inform you that the Faculty Development Week 2010 website now has pertinent information!

I have my issues with the contents on site. Here are just a few:

Point number one.
An excerpt from the message from Chancellor Hyman reads, “I believe the City Colleges of Chicago can be the economic engine that prepares a skilled workforce for jobs in the 21st century.” Hmmm, here I thought we were preparing students to be critical thinkers and not worker bees.
Further down our Chancellor states, “One of my short-term goals is to re-build and upgrade CCC’s aging facilities, classrooms, labs and student gathering spaces to help restore pride and professionalism.” I got no problem with pride and professionalism, but can someone tell me why the focus is not on EDUCATION? IMHO, I believe this needs elaborating, which, according to the schedule, may happen August 10th during the Q&A session… maybe.

Point number two.
I see the break-out sessions for August 10th SEPARATE us back to individual colleges to report on assessment and self-study issues. So much for UNIFICATION. Maybe I’m a bit slow, so if someone can shed some light on this, I’d certainly appreciate it. Tanks!

Point number three.
August 11th, I’ll just copy-and-paste this one:
BREAK OUT SESSION D: Build A Low Cost Interactive Whiteboard Using Wii Remote
What happened to restoring “pride and professionalism”? Seriously? A Wii remote? In the classroom? Let’s just equate school with the living room and blur the gap between EDUCATION and ENTERTAINMENT. BTW, apparently the investment in technology doesn’t trickle down to the faculty. Nothin’ against the faculty member. I applaud him for making the best of his MacGyver skills.

Point number four.
August 12th. BREAK OUT SESSION G: Now is the Time to Think About Tenure!
Did C get feedback from faculty who had issues with the process? Is it streamlined? I feel for the poor souls who will attend yet feel oppressed to say anything meaningful or contradictory to the process. Better time would be spent if C took our non-tenures and showed them how to crochet a blanket. Think about it.
“Panelists who recently completed the Tenure process share their insights.” I gotta laugh at this one. Sharing of insight does not and has not equaled a change in the process. Please.

Point number five.
August 13th. BREAK OUT SESSION B: Syllabi Creation
Yep, better late than never. This one comes on the last day of FDW and then we’s got to come back the following week and assist with registration. Im trying my darndest to get my syllabi done NOW. Are we still tryin’ to STANDARDIZE our syllabi? Just give ’em Cecilia’s old powerpoint presentation and call it a day.

Don’t worry. By next week I will attend with an open mind and optimism. Thanks for reading.