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SoTL in 10 minutes
Keeping track of it all
You do a lot every day and you can’t possibly be responsible for remembering it all!?!?! Yes, you are responsible, and you are the only one doing it. You are the only one who knows everything you do – and how wonderful it is. But it loses its value unless you can effectively communicate that to others – and around here that is the FAR and T&P portfolios. Meeting with one athletic recruit might not seem worthy of a notation, but if you don’t keep track you might not realize that you met with four different recruits over the past year – and that becomes more significant and worthy of inclusion.
I use Outlook – every meeting (committees, students, recruits, department) is recorded. If you open each meeting, you can add notes (presented proposal X, review # of documents, ran meeting in chair’s absence). I also use tasks – so I don’t forget to do something and then also to not forget that I did it. Finally, I add a tickler at the end of each month to review what I did and jot it down in my “Raw FAR” document – see tomorrow’s SoTL in 10 minutes for more on this idea.
What is important is that you find a system that will work for you – and stick to it. Here are a couple of articles that might motivate you to better self-document:
FAR time is around the corner
The Faculty Activity Report – I can hardly wait to fill mine out – how about you? Actually, this task is not so arduous for me; I started my 2014 FAR back in January. Every month I have a task appear via Outlook that says “Update raw FAR”. This document is 19 years old (and coincidentally 19 pages long) and is a loosely organized list of ‘FAR-worthy’ things I have done. It takes me 5-10 minutes to transfer the notes from my calendar, the meeting notes and tasks and add those that make the cut to this running document. It is organized into sections: annual activities (Green Key advisor), activities unique to one semester (fall courses), and other (graduation marshall). At the end of the year, I pull up last year’s FAR and start editing, highlighting the items I have included so I don’t forget or include repeated accomplishments.
So what gets included in my FAR, what makes the cut? The Division of Science and Mathematics developed a rubric several years ago that is helpful in understanding and appreciating different activities as they contribute to each of the three areas in which we are evaluated (teaching, professional development and university service). If your academic unit has a rubric, make sure you get a copy – DSM’s is attached. If you don’t have one, feel free to use this one as a template. Each academic discipline is especially unique in the area of professional development, and the document attached would be likely be inadequate for some disciplines. But it’s a start. We use rubrics with our students – to help them understand and complete an intellectual endeavor. Let’s do this with each other as well.
Telling your story
The Marketing and Communications Office primarily exists to tell – and assist in telling – the JU story. And some of our best stories, obviously, emanate from our faculty. These stories alert potential students, community partners and donors to JU’s distinctive characteristics can have a role in their decisions to be associated with us.
We are here to help faculty members – and administration, staff and alumni – share information and impart their knowledge within JU and beyond. We do this through:
Publishing Wave Weekly, a newsletter/blog for internal and external audiences.
Publishing The Wave magazine, which is published two or three times a year and is focused toward alumni.
Responding to reporters’ requests for us to identify qualified experts (whose information is maintained in our experts database) who can comment on a broad range of timely news topics that add context to issues of the day. These stories may involve whatever the talk of the town or the state or country is that day; are often very timely because of news cycles; and may have a wide range of societal impact or human interest.
Pitching stories to the media, which is interested in stories about new or innovative classes or research, and creative approaches to teaching. Reporters depend on us only to pitch what they would consider to be newsworthy stories, so our experience is called in to play for discretion. Our relationship with the media is particularly sensitive and important because the messages that we portray go a long way in defining JU’s reputation.
Announcing new hires, promotions, etc.
Working as faculty members’ communications consultants, so to speak. We can help determine a story’s relevance and thus, its, newsworthiness – doing this is among our niches – and we also are available to provide interview tips and communication strategies.
Creating marketing material -- ranging from brochures to billboards to radio commercials -- promoting classes, programs and new hires.
Self-promotion’s benefits go well beyond promotion of the self. More awareness of faculty members’ activities and accomplishments can lead to more grants, programs and faculty members.
The Curriculum Vitae – The Course of a Life
When was the last time you looked at your CV? When I received tenure, my husband congratulated me with this “Congratulations dear, you are now a barnacle on the butt of Jacksonville University!” And he was right, nineteen years and I don’t see myself going anywhere anytime soon. But you use your CV for more than job searches, it is too important to ignore – granting, editor/reviewer/consulting work. You should keep two running copies of your CV – the full version and a two page version. Once a month (or semester, but no less frequently), put a tickler on your calendar to update both so it is always ready (or almost ready) anytime someone needs it, at the last minute. This ProfHacker blog has numerous links within to improve specific aspects of the CV.
In addition, keep a brief bio on hand. This might be a running document with several versions depending on the specifics of the request – more personal, teaching, or discipline specific; brief vs. lengthy. By keeping all these bios in one document, you can readily pick the bio that best fits the current request, and easily copy and edit it for a fast turn-around. For more, see this ProfHacker blog.
We are evaluated in three areas – teaching, professional development and university service. The latter two categories have lots of concrete measures of success. The first, however, is much more subjective and I believe the hardest one of all – how to you document that you are an excellent teacher? Here are some ideas, the majority of which come from the comments to a Chronicle of Higher Education blog – Beyond the Teaching Statement. Add these ticklers and prompts to your monthly documentation procedure and revitalize both your teaching and your FAR.
- Don’t just use the buzz words, everyone uses them and therefore they are not unique to you.
- Provide specific examples, as short as a 1-2 sentence description or a full page outlining your goals, assignment/activity details, student perception and student performance.
- Collect and/or ask for student feedback – how did they like an assignment or activity? What did they get from it? Be sure to ask both during the course as well as down the road – not all benefits are immediately recognizable.
- Personalize your pedagogical experimentation and success by telling the story of student X who came out of her shell, or student Y who finally started to make the connections.
- Don’t forget your out of classroom teaching – advising, club sponsorship, being the only women/parent/former athlete/minority in an academic area places you in a unique and important mentoring role.
What have you learned? What have you tried, and failed? Why do you think you failed? Did you try it again? If yes, did you modify anything? Purposeful and reflective teaching can look messy when it goes badly, but is a sign of a dedicated teacher and should be documented.