November 20, 2019
Volume 3, Number 7
Want to Understand Your Students Better?
Try Being One
The Professor Becomes the Student
Last fall, Carrie Anne Platt, an associate professor of communications, did something unusual. She shadowed three undergraduates around the campus of North Dakota State University, each for a day, to find out what it’s like to be a student.

Platt thought she had a pretty good idea of student life. After all, she’s on campus every day, and, as associate dean for undergraduate education, it’s her business to think holistically about the student experience.

But after three days of absorbing fast-paced lectures, running from class to class, and following students as they juggled work, extracurriculars, and academics, Platt felt humbled, impressed, and a bit stunned.

“I was overwhelmed, not just by the amount of things students are doing, but the amount of content they were subjected to in classes,” she says. “I was a college student, but I had lost touch with how much information you’re expected to process in a day.”

That experience, she says, prompted her to rethink her own teaching. Her key change: placing more emphasis on getting students focused at the beginning of each class. More on that below.

Platt reached out to me after I  asked  readers whether they had ever taken an undergraduate course while teaching, and how that influenced their approach in the classroom. While hers was the most vivid experience, other faculty members have had similar epiphanies after returning to the classroom themselves.

“Every day was a struggle and I was always one of the worst in class,” writes Ryan Allen, an assistant professor at Chapman University, reflecting on the time he took undergraduate Mandarin courses while a doctoral fellow at Columbia University. “I was already successful outside of this class, so I had the confidence to carry on,” he wrote. “How many other students, though, would give up in similar contexts? Not with Chinese, but with math or English or a multitude of subjects?”

That experience gave him insights into how to make his own classroom more welcoming. “I think about how I can contextualize and adapt the material to cast a wider net,” he writes. “And I think about the struggling student in the back of the class and how I can provide them with some confidence.”

Susanna Semerdzhyan, an adjunct ESL instructor at Glendale Community College, audited an Italian class while teaching. “I now understand my students when they say, ‘I didn’t have time to do the homework because I was working,’” she writes. “I wasn't able to make it to my Italian class several times because I had to focus on work. In other words, my Italian class couldn't be my priority.” One adjustment she has made since is to cover a point over several classes, both to help students who missed class and to aid those struggling to grasp a concept. “As a student I saw how helpful it was to repeat even the things I knew very well.”

At North Dakota, Platt shadowed three students who volunteered for the experience: a Spanish and special education major, a criminal justice major, and a landscape architecture major. She experienced “intellectual whiplash,” she says, as she transitioned from, say, a course about educating diverse learners to one on Spanish. “To reorient your brain to do something completely different,” she notes, “that takes a lot of work.”

In another instance she found herself confused by a class activity, in which one student looked at a screen and told another how to draw what they saw. “Maybe that was a lesson in communication,” she guesses. “I couldn’t quite make a connection.”

In a finance class she struggled to keep up as the professor sped through PowerPoint slides while she took five pages of notes on a legal pad.

And she recalls being relieved when the criminal justice student’s night class was over so she could go home — as he headed out to meet up with friends. “I cannot recall being so tired at the end of the day,” she says.

So how did all of these experiences inform her teaching? For one, Platt says, she’s careful to explain each exercise, to make sure students understand why they’re being asked to do it. “I’m getting a lot more mileage if I talk about it out loud in class,” she says. “There seems to be a greater willingness to engage in the challenge of an assignment.”

She also makes sure she gives students enough time to process the information they’re learning, to avoid her experience of simultaneously trying to write down what the professor was saying while also absorbing the content.

Finally, Platt says, she is more deliberate about starting each class with a few moments of conversation and review, rather than jumping right into the content. It’s a practice she had known was useful, she says, but she hadn’t intentionally practiced every week.

“It wasn’t as if I felt I needed to assign less reading or less work,” she notes. “But how could I create a space at the beginning of my class to help reorient them and remind them of what they learned earlier? Because so much happens between class periods, and that’s when everything is going well. I was following three students who had their stuff together at a high level and still the amount of stuff that transpired was staggering”

– by  Beth McMurtrie, Teaching Newsletter: The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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What I Love About Teaching Campaign
Hello Educators,
We are looking for your response to the question "What do you love about teaching?"

While enjoying the summer, take a few moments to share your response by clicking the link below:
Events on Campus
Here are opportunities for students (and maybe you) on campus:

MSU Event  :
  • Native American Heritage Month Celebration - TODAY, Wednesday, November 20, 7pm to 10pm, ADUC. In celebration of Native American Heritage Month, we will be making dream catchers and having a discussion & answer on the movie Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. Dream catchers are first come, first serve. We will be making dream catchers in the 1st floor lobby of ADUC and then moving to the theater to watch Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. 

MSU Event  :
  • MSU Star Theater - Saturday, November 23, 11am & 1pm, Space Science Center. Every Saturday from September thru June, the Star Theater at MSU’s Space Science Center invites the public to see a full dome planetarium show or laser show!

MSU Event  :
12th Annual Conference on
Higher Education Pedagogy

February 5-7, 2020  

Virginia Tech/Blacksburg, Virginia, USA   

For information about conference registration and associated fees, visit the conference website:

If you have an interest in attending this conference as part of an MSU cohort, send an email identifying your interest (why), what you hope to gain from the conference, and what you will be willing to share with the MSU community upon your return to
Call for Proposals: The 2020 Pedagogicon
May 15th, EKU
Proposals Due: February 16th

The conference theme, “  Students as Partners in Teaching and Learning,” encourages us to examine and promote students-as-partners strategies for teaching and learning that encourage deep, transferable academic experiences.
Do you have an exceptional strategy to share? Do you have a new theory or practice that might enhance teaching and learning, faculty development, educational practices, or student engagement at your institution and beyond? Presenters are encouraged to engage their audience, so preference will be given to those submissions that specify how this engagement will be provided. The conference will host an opening session on transparency in learning and teaching.

Threads might include but are not limited to:
  • Use of technology to enhance students-as-partners in teaching and learning
  • Creative instructional techniques that engage students in partnership experiences
  • Faculty development initiatives, programs, and processes that promote students-as-partners in teaching and learning
  • New ways to use Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) to enhance student partnerships in teaching and learning
  • Strategies for incorporating diversity, culturally responsive pedagogy, and/or inclusive excellence into students-as-partners teaching and learning models and designs
  • High-Impact Educational Practices that enhance students as partners in teaching and learning
  • Student perspectives on partnerships in teaching and learning.

Presenters will also have the opportunity to submit their work for consideration in the annual Proceedings, to be published in late 2020.  

Submit proposals online at .
19th Annual   Posters-at-the-Capitol
March 5th, Frankfort

The   Link to Register  is:
Posters-at-the-Capitol   an event hosted collaboratively by Eastern Kentucky University, Kentucky Community and Technical College System, Kentucky State University, Morehead State University, Murray State University, Northern Kentucky University, University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, and Western Kentucky University, is intended to help members of Kentucky’s legislature and the Governor better understand the importance of involving undergraduates in research, scholarly, and creative work. It provides undergraduates with the opportunity to engage in scholarship, research, and creative work that is important to their educational experience and professional development. We encourage faculty to have their students participate in   Posters-at-the-Capitol to help those in Kentucky who fund higher education understand why these experiences are so important. 
Magna (Online) Webinars
24/7 Professional Development for Faculty
Featured Webinars:

Are Group Exams a Viable Testing Option?
Faculty rarely use group work as a strategy for testing. This webinar, however, explores how to:
  • Overcome common concerns about group exams.
  • Use group exams to increase student learning and improve outcome.

What are the Best Questioning Strategies for Enhancing Online Discussions?
Learn how to engage students in online discussions that:
  • increase class cohesion;
  • explore subject matters thoughtfully; and
  • enhance learning outcomes.

Accessing Webinars:

These licensed Magna resources are available through a password-protected website. For access, faculty need to:
  • Log into MSU’s employee portal;
  • Look under the My Classes (Blackboard) section for the Magna Training Site;
  • If Magna isn't showing up in your list of courses, please send a request to be added to
  • When you click on the Magna Training Site, the Blackboard shell will open. Please note, you will be asked to submit a "Terms of Use" agreement before viewing any webinars.

Benefits of Magna Webinars:

I understand that you have a lot on your plate, so let me give you a few reasons why you should consider trying a Magna webinar:
  • Each webinar takes approximately 20 minutes to complete.
  • All webinars are available on your schedule since they are online and easily accessed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Webinars include supplemental materials such as bibliographies and handouts.
  • Certificates of completion are available for professional portfolios and Faculty 180.
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