A Valuable Classroom Assessment Technique for College Instructors
I realized that I have made no less than three references to this concept without explaining it.
Here is the explanation that I have owed you.
Angelo and Cross, in their book Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers (see References page), describe what they call the Minute Paper. While many authors cite their work, I honestly don’t know if they were the first to write about this assessment tool. They may have been. The Minute Paper has been I have adopted by thousands, make that millions, of teachers under a variety of names like One Minute Paper, One-Minute Paper, 1 Minute Paper, and Fred. Okay, I am kidding about “Fred,” but there are a lot of free spirited, nonconformist instructors, so it may have happened. “Students, before you leave take out a blank sheet of paper. I want you to do a Fred.” I wonder how many students would return for the next class. Anyway, I prefer the term One Minute Paper (OMP), and that will be my default nomenclature.
Stephen Covey’s 5th Habit of Highly Effective People addresses an important aspect of interpersonal communication. Covey begins with a claim that really applies to me. He says, “We have such a tendency to rush in, to fix things up with good advice. But we often fail to take the time to diagnose, to really, deeply understand the problem first,” (p. 237). As with Covey’s other habits, this one has some unique applications for college faculty members. I will begin with one of the most important things college instructors need to understand about understanding. Covey doesn’t cover this.
The 6th Habit of Highly Effective College Instructors
The Compact Oxford English Dictionary defines synergy as the “interaction or cooperation of two or more agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.”
Putting this in the context of college instruction, Dr. Paul (that’s what they call me around the college … to my face that least 😉 ) defines synergy as “the cooperation of students and their instructors to enhance student learning beyond what could be achieved by students or instructors alone.”
In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey presents Synergy as the 6th Habit.
In the introductory article I posted Friday, I gave a dictionary definition of synergy, which was the “interaction or cooperation of two or more agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.”
In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey shares his thoughts about leading a well balanced life. This is what “Sharpen the Saw” is all about.
As I read and reread the chapter entitled “Sharpen the Saw” I pondered how I was going to make this real and relevant for college faculty. What am I going to say? It could be a short article. It may be difficult for me to provide the 1,500 to 2,000 words you normally see in my articles. What? Did I hear someone say that would be a good thing?
Where Are Those Teaching Jobs and How Do You Get One?
I chuckle a bit when I think about job postings for part time college instructors that call for two years prior teaching experience. It’s the chicken or egg thing. Which comes first? You mean you can’t get a job teaching unless you have had a job teaching? Well, I am being a bit facetious, but the question remains, how do you get a job with little or no prior teaching experience?
Identify all the opportunities in your area. Check college websites for job postings. In my part of the country, every college advertises openings on their website. Many have online application processes also.
Apply early, well before the start of a term. Colleges attempt to assign classes well in advance of each term.
Apply at the “last minute.” (Huh? Didn't I just say ...) There are always a few last minute openings that are posted in the week or two proceeding a term. Twice in my adjunct career, I landed a teaching assignment with less than a week to prepare, but that’s the name of the adjunct game. (Hey, did you catch that little rhyme? Sounds like the title of a future post to me. :-) )
Make sure you meet the minimum criteria. If it says that a masters degree in English is required, don’t waste your time if you only have a bachelors degree or if your masters is in communications. Unless the ad specifies such options, the likelihood of you getting a job is nil. Sometimes, however, a college will accept a “related” masters with 15 or 18 graduate credit hours in the specific discipline.
Note: Many career and technical education positions require less than a bachelors degree.
Sharpen the Saw*. Assuming your academic credentials miss the mark a bit, go back to school. Take the courses you need to qualify for openings at colleges near you.
Apply for non-credit teaching positions at local colleges. These positions have less stringent requirements, and the experience will look good on your resume.
Put a teaching spin on your resume. Emphasize "pseudo-teaching" experience if you are short on classroom teaching. Have you trained co-workers? Have you taught Sunday school? Have you spoken at your local Rotary? Do you educate the customers you deal with on your job?
Synergize * (Is that a verb?) your background. Whether through reading my blog and upcoming books, by networking, or by osmosis, you need be familiar with the skills, qualities and characteristics of good college instructors. Indicate how your education and experience demonstrate that you possess those qualities. Some good ones to emphasize are passion for the subject, desire to give back, willingness to put in long hours of preparation time, and good computer skills. By all means, you should always emphasize that you are not in it for the money.
Attend college-sponsored job fairs. Sometimes these events include part-time teaching opportunities.
Keep fishing. When I was a kid and the fish weren’t biting, I’d reel in my line and go hunt for snakes. Dad would remind me, “You can’t catch any fish if your line isn’t in the water.” Get the point? By the way, I do not recommend hunting for snakes as a diversion from adjunct job hunting. I got bit once, and that was the last time I remember picking up a snake.
Obstacles You Might Face
The laws of economics, primarily the law of supply and demand, come into play. A greater demand for instructors coupled with a lesser supply of instructor candidates, translates into more teaching opportunities. Unfortunately, many highly qualified professionals who have been “displaced” from their former positions increase the supply. Furthermore, when college enrollments decrease, the demand for instructors goes down.
Then there are expense issues. You have to spend money to make money, and job
hunting can have its expenses. Keep in mind, your job hunting expenses may be tax-deductible, so keep good records. You may even want to use a tax calculator. Some are free, and there are even smartphone apps.
And in addition you may overlook lessons to be learned. It was Albert Einstein who said insanity was, "doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." Don't act insane! When you apply for a job and don't get a call, go back and compare your application to the job posting. If you get an interview but no job offer, thank them for the opportunity and politely ask what were they looking for that you lacked. Network with current instructors at the college and ask their advice for getting a job.
* Note: Without planning of forethought, I realize that I applied several bits of advice from Steven Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. If you haven’t read it, get a copy!
Think about the best college instructor you ever had. What was special about him or her? How do you match up to that standard? More importantly, how do your students and your college administrators judge your quality?