eLearning Technology Blog

To help first-gen students, increase access—and reduce acronyms

by Ruth Gregory 14. April 2015 15:33

By Richard H. Miller/WSU Global Campus

Four out of 10 undergraduates at WSU Pullman are first generation. How can faculty help them succeed?

The answer, said Professor Gregory Eiselein, founding director of Kansas State University’s first-year experience program, is more about access than identity.

“Things that work for most students work particularly well for first-generation students,” he said. “We just need to make sure they have access to those educational opportunities.”

So what works for most students? Get students involved in their own learning, Eiselsein told a crowd of about 60 WSU faculty, staff and administrators at April 8th’s “First-year, First-generation Pedagogies That Work” presentation in the CUB Junior Ballroom.

Combine challenge with support

Students do best when they are equally challenged and supported, and when they feel connected to a community, he said.  Examples are first-year experience programs, common learning experiences—such as WSU’s Common Reading program—affirmation from faculty, and service learning opportunities. The first-year seminar program at Kansas State, he said, increased first-year retention by 6 percent and the four-year graduation rate by 14 percent.

A few tips were quite specific. Avoid confusing acronyms. Be as obvious as possible—“teach them how to do what it is you want them to do”—and use such highly effective classroom techniques as group discussions and having students teach others, as opposed to lectures and reading, which, he said, have lower learning retention rates.

“We are the people’s university”

Eiselsein was introduced by Melynda Huskey, interim vice present of student affairs and dean of students. Her father was a first-generation student, she said, and her personal commitment to reaching new students matches the university’s commitment to its land-grant mission.

“We are the people’s university,” Huskey said. “We bring students who might not otherwise have access to a four-year education here, and we expose them to an incredible range of gifted faculty members.”

Eiselsein’s presentation shows how WSU can harness its research capabilities to its land-grant-mission, she said: “There’s a kind of dizzying quality to using top-notch research to extend access. It folds the two together in a beautiful origami way.”

April 8th’s presentation was hosted by the WSU Office for Access, Equity & Achievement, Critical Literacies Achievement and Success Program, Department of English, First Scholars Program, Office of the Provost, Suder Initiative for Faculty Professional Development, Student Affairs, Teaching Academy and WSU Global Campus. It was live-streamed by the Global Campus. The video is available on YouTube

'An Expression of Care': Academic integrity workshop puts an emphases on learning

by Ruth Gregory 13. March 2015 11:23

Mary Wack


By Richard H. Miller/WSU Global Campus

A recent WSU workshop on academic integrity began with regulations and ended in compassion.

Adam Jussel, director of the Office of Student Conduct, started last Thursday’s panel discussion with a PowerPoint outline of WSU rules on academic integrity violations.

Plagiarism is the most common reported violation at WSU, Jussel told a group of about 25 faculty members in CUE 518. Second is cheating, and third is fabrication.  Between 2001 and May 2014, about 450 violations were tallied, he said.

Professor Richard Zack uses two approaches to academic integrity in his 100-level entomology courses. The first is to build discussions of integrity into his course—weaving in Aesop’s Fables, Chief Joseph and Steve Jobs—along with a talk about how science is necessarily based on truth. The second involves a bit of truth-twisting: He has a grad student pose as a cheater. The cheater gets spotted looking over someone’s shoulder, and is—with great drama—ejected from the classroom.

Communication Professor Doug Blanks Hindman recommended using TurnItIn, an anti-plagiarism tool, to reduce time spent tracking down violations, and help students learn proper citation style. To help students learn how to paraphrase properly, he asks them to complete APA citation exercises in a WSU library tutorial. 

“I prefer to be a teacher not an enforcer,” Hindman said. “My goal is to make infractions learning experiences for students.”

Hindman and Zack’s emphasis on integrating integrity into their courses reflects the latest national thinking, as outlined by the International Center for Academic Integrity and described by panelist Mary Wack, vice provost for undergraduate education.

The initial approach was the “speeding ticket phase,” in which universities focus on catching and penalizing violators, she said. But that can fail to create remorse, she said, “just as you can go 64 on the way to Spokane and not feel like you are morally at fault.”

The second approach was to make assignments and exams cheat-proof. “But experience shows there are not enough collective resources to have that whole burden rest on individual faculty,” she said. The newest method, she said, is to create a culture of integrity where “students, faculty and administrators all build a context in which students develop the inner resources of integrity.”

Jussel said that holistic approach is part of the reason he encourages faculty to report violations to Student Conduct. His staff may find documentation that a student’s academic issues are linked to other life problems.

“If we get that kind of information, we can look at the whole student,” he said.  “That can be the trigger point to engage our Student Care Team.”  

After the session ended, Hindman reiterated that intervention needn’t be punitive.

“There’s no reason that it can’t become a positive experience,” he said, “an expression of care from the University.”

Excerpts from the workshop can be viewed in the video below from the Global Campus Faculty Led Workshop channel on YouTube.

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