In early November, nine adjunct faculty members involved in Communities of Practice and staff from the Academy for Teaching Excellence, traveled to Indianapolis for the 22nd Annual Facet Associate Faculty and Lecturer (FALCON) Conference. The conference, designed specifically for adjunct faculty and organized by Indiana University, focuses on practical classroom applications. The theme this year was Exploring the Future of TEaCHing: Innovative TECHniques in Higher Education.

Feedback from some of the attendees:

  • “FALCON was a wonderful collaborative lexarning experience. I will take those ideas with me as I engage students in the understanding and use of technology in the classroom.” Ana Contreras, Liberal Arts
  • “The FALCON conference was a great opportunity, especially because the main focus was on adjunct faculty. The conference was fast paced, with many different course opportunities for learning, including the role of smart phones in your classroom, movie clips as a way to connect and engage the students, and many more! Thank you to the Academy for giving us the opportunity to learn and collaborate with other adjunct instructors.” Sarah Sherry, Health Careers
  • “This conference allowed me to have a shared learning experience by being involved with a new Community of Practice with different Harper College adjunct faculty members. While attending the workshops, I was not only able to learn how to effectively apply a few new teaching concepts in my courses, but there was a significant amount of information that reinforced my current instructional design knowledge. Being an adjunct, I appreciate this opportunity to connect with the Academy and the CoP to share similar educational goals.” Cindy Miller, Career & Technical Programs

A few takeaways:

Upon returning from the conference, a group of attendees met to discuss connections between the conference sessions and their classroom teaching. Although there were active discussions about identifying and getting students through bottlenecks, metacognitive writing experiences, and using film clips to inspire inquiry, the topic of using retrieval practice emerged as a theme that some attendees realized they were already doing and some realized they wanted to do more. Lecture may be a primary mode of teaching, but there are ways that faculty can build-in opportunities for students to work with the material. Encoding the information and moving it into long-term memory and retrieval practice can alternately take place by weaving activities into the lecture. Although these activities can be done with merely pen and paper, there are technological tools that may provide additional stimulation for students who are accustomed to multimedia learning tools from their K-12 classroom experiences.

Looking for a tried and true review game?
Even if you aren’t itching for one, your students probably would love it. Sarah Sherry, adjunct faculty in Dental Hygiene, uses one of the tools recommended at the conference, Kahoot, to create quizzes for the class to take via smartphone in class. Kahoot allows students to compete with one another individually or in small groups to see how many questions they can answer correctly. Faculty create questions to review essential material, and students can join the game by simply going to the webpage and entering a pin number. Students can play on a laptop, tablet, or smartphone; if students don’t have smart phones, partners or small groups work well. Students may opt to download the free Kahoot app if the instructor uses the tool frequently. A discussion of the answer choices prompts students to look through lecture notes and texts to find supporting information. A display of the players or teams with the most correct answers keeps the game competitive. Kahoot is based on research carried out by Professor Alf Inge Wang and his colleagues at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and has been growing in popularity since its launch in 2013, so many students are familiar with the format and find it easy to use.

Ready to give students a way to interact the material as it is presented?
You may have never heard of a backchannel, but you have probably experienced one in social media. And if you haven’t, most of your students have, but likely not in the classroom. Jasmine Coleman, adjunct faculty in Chemistry, uses a newer tool, TodaysMeet, to allow students to post questions and comments as information is presented in order to keep students actively engaged and interacting with the material. Jasmine has used this tool during student presentations to help students to stay focused and generate reactions, connections, and questions for post-presentation discussions. Much like social media platforms that students are accustomed to, this live-streaming tool allows students to post comments to a live chat that during a presentation, allowing other students to read and respond to their posts. Jasmine explained that this type of interactive discussion is called a backchannel, or a conversation that takes place alongside the main presentation or activity. Faculty can create a room and invite students to join a backchannel discussion by sharing a web address, link, or QR code for students to login. When the discussion ends and the room closes, faculty can still access or share the transcript and may choose to use it as a guide for further discussion.

Want to help your students learn how to transform our world?
Cindy Miller, adjunct faculty in Computer Information Systems, shared that the “Building a Better World: Service Initiatives that Make Sense” workshop at the conference identified the United Nations’ Sustainable Development (UNSD) Goals related to setting goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. “Different pedagogical classroom strategies were introduced on how students can become more engaged through active learning by describing a potential problem, critically evaluate information, and apply their learned knowledge within their classroom environment,” shared Cindy. “This workshop provided me with ideas that can be integrated in my computer information system course designs on how information technology has impacted diversity in the classroom. By incorporating different elements into my course work, I can try to present information to students so they can become more engaged within their community or to be involved with various environmental or social initiatives which can dually support Harper’s mission statement.”

FALCON conference attendees remarked on the benefits of conferences like these for exposure to new ideas and tools and the theories behind them. We can certainly expect to hear more from this group as they seek to start some new Communities of Practice to continue to explore their ideas.