The 26th Annual Facet Associate Faculty and Lecturer Conference (FALCON)
November 13, 2021
FALCON provides professional development and networking for associate faculty and lecturers. In addition to plenary keynotes, there are 45-minute concurrent sessions relating to the 2021 conference theme:
Lessons Learned: The Pivot, Priorities, Perspectives, and Possibilities
It’s an interesting time to be teaching in higher education. The pandemic has made us rethink some things, and all of the challenges we were facing before the pandemic are still with us. How can we best help our students, and how can we learn and grow as faculty and be able to address what is important to us?
With this as the backdrop, please consider submitting a session proposal that will engage and inspire your colleagues. Think about the listed tracks as topics that can be “broadly defined.” Be creative! Share what works for you and why. We want folks to come away with ideas that they can use in their classrooms. We also want to foster reflection about what we do as teachers.
Track 1: Innovative Ideas for Alternative Assessment Track 2: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice Track 3: Learning as a Partnership: Using Feedback from Students Track 4: Universal Design for Learning (UDL): Learning Materials, Providing Accessibility, Reaching all Students
Authentic Projects as Alternative Assessments: Examples from an Introductory STEM Course
In Fall 2020, most courses at IUPUI had to be redesigned to adhere to pandemic-related policies. My Introductory Mineralogy course (G221) shifted from in-person lecture, lab, and recitation sections to a hybrid-traditional course: 26-75% asynchronous online or synchronous live video instruction with face-to-face laboratory activities when possible. This restructuring spurred a complete overhaul of the past curriculum, including replacing traditional mid-term and final exams with “Big Projects.” These projects were designed to assess student learning of course content as well as their ability to communicate that knowledge with non-experts. The projects also included skills that are relevant outside of the mineralogy classroom including, working with a team, utilizing design concepts and software, and building websites.
The first Big Project asked the students to work in groups to create an educational infographic about ten of the most important minerals. I partnered with a local high school science teacher so that the infographics the student teams developed would be actually used to teach high school students in an Earth and Space Science class about these minerals. IUPUI students received feedback from these students about how effective and easy to understand their infographics were. The students found this motivating and fulfilling, and the experience of receiving the evaluations from the high school students allowed them insight into how to improve their science communication in the future. The second Big Project was broken into two parts to scaffold it over time, but ultimately required the students to create individual websites about their favorite minerals. Students used the knowledge and skills built over the course of the semester to present these minerals on their websites, with the goal of creating a resource for themselves in future geology classes, as well as a potential tool for anyone interested in minerals to use.
These alternative assessments allowed students the opportunity to apply their knowledge from the course in an authentic and meaningful way, and to use other skills that may not be included in a traditional STEM exam (e.g., creativity, design, teamwork, etc.). I believe this represents a more equitable type of assessment, because it removes some of the barriers of traditional tests (e.g., memorization, the pressure of a timed test) and gives students the freedom to make a lot of their own choices and to use different delivery methods for communicating their knowledge.
Catherine Macris is an assistant professor of Earth Sciences at IUPUI. She teaches introductory through senior level undergraduate courses, as well as graduate courses in her department. Catherine has also facilitated faculty learning communities and book clubs for IUPUI, including Small Teaching Online by Flower Darby and How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. She is passionate about teaching and science communication, and was recently named the inaugural Peter R. Buseck New Directions in Mineralogy and Petrology Lecturer for 2021-2022 by the Mineralogical Society of America. Catherine’s research involves mineral interactions at extreme pressures and temperatures relevant to understanding planetary processes.
Catching Kindness: Building a Learning Community Through Social Media Collaboration, Ungrading, Creative Assignments, and Other Untried Efforts in Unprecedented Times
When nearly every university was forced to pivot from traditional face-to-face teaching methods to completely remote delivery of material, a panic set in among those who had no online teaching or learning experience. Both faculty and students were stressed by the world events, and the shift in pedagogy techniques added to the uncertainty. But into this scary space, collaboration appeared. More practiced professors freely shared their material using their professional organization. Strangers became colleagues, and tips, tools, and training were dispersed regardless of university affiliation or geographic distance. As instructors focused on what learning objectives were essential in the new form of their courses, they also considered how to assess their students’ learning outside of the classroom. Perhaps it would be as useful to have students reflect on their learning processes and their experiences with the material as it was to sort and judge and score their work as faculty have done in the past. At the same time, giving the students space to show what they learned and how they met those objectives outside of a traditional examination seemed appropriate. If academic integrity was a concern with objective methods, then a more authentic measure could be used. The pivot allowed for re-thinking what was needed in a course, reconsidering how (and if) to formally measure learning, and reframing disciplinary boundaries and boundaries of ownership.
James M. (Jay) VanderVeen is an archaeologist and professor of anthropology at Indiana University South Bend, where he teaches classes about everything from Aztecs to Zombies. He is also the Assistant Director of the university’s center for teaching and learning. He has won several awards for his own teaching and has published on pedagogical innovations in the classroom. Outside of the classroom, his research focus is the interaction between cultures at contact. He has conducted excavations of pre- and post-Hispanic settlements across the Caribbean and pre- and post-industrial domestic residences in northern Indiana.