Tis the season, for me at least, of haunted houses and scary movies. I like to engage in what psychologists have recently termed recreational fear. This is the fun of being scared. A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Sarah Rose Cavanagh applies this research to the classroom. She argues that there are four pedagogical lessons we can learn from haunted houses.
We never go into haunted houses alone. In times of anxiety and threat we tend to find safety in others. The same holds for the anxiety produced in learning environments. Creating collaboration opportunities with classmates and communal class environments can enhance learning.
Pleasurable arousal happens when we are scared, but not too scared. Cavanagh calls this “pleasurable disquietude,” and it's the appropriately uncomfortable spaces in our classrooms and disciplines that allow students to progress to the next level in their learning.
Fear and motivation have physiological similarities. As instructors we can harness student anxiety to move them forward and deepen their learning.
Finally, we grow stronger by facing our fears. Students must confront challenges in the classroom in order to grow. So instructors need to provide appropriate challenges for them.
Cavanagh provides some nice examples of what this might look like in our classrooms. Teach well, and enjoy spooky season!
Did you know that Global Cat Day was celebrated this weekend? It is a day when "advocates around the world join Alley Cat Allies as [they] lead the charge to save cats from being harmed and killed." Given that this blog is dedicated to providing CAT FooD (for thought), we thought we'd celebrate in our own special way by having some door blog prizes.*
To say thank you to our XULA subscribers, we did a random drawing for a mug. Congratulations to Dr. Patience Obih (Pharmacy) for being our winner! We also want to recognize our newest subscriber, Dr. Chen-Hui Lo (Languages)! We appreciate your dedication to your professional development, and we will be delivering your mugs soon.
Thanks to all our subscribers. We are hope you continue to find this blog timely and useful.
*A special thank you to Dr. Mark Gstohl (Theology), our incoming Associate Director, for having the insight to celebrate Global Cat Day this way.
Devon Price, a social psychologist (they are the best!) and author of the book, Laziness Does Not Exist, reminds us that we don’t have to “earn our right to exist. We're fine and beautiful and completely lovable when we're just sitting on the couch just breathing.”
This quote made me think of my colleagues (and students) who are doing some heavy lifting post-Hurricane Ida and in Surge 4 COVID to keep up with their courses, advise their students, and be insightful in committee meetings. It’s a lot, and it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of “if I am not working this very moment, I am not _________ (successful/effective/professional/committed/worthy). You fill in the blank. But that kind of thinking leads to burnout (or as I describe in a previous post of mine, job-related depression).
In fact, Price argues that feeling “lazy” shouldn’t always be viewed as a deficit; instead, it might be your body telling you that you need a break!
So find time to do just that. Take a break, slow down, enjoy some nature, savor some you-time. Do this to model it for colleagues who look up to you. Do this to model it for your students (who feel like they aren’t really studious unless they are stressed out). Do this for your friends and families who care about you. But mainly, do it for yourself.
NPR’s Life Kit has some good information about avoiding burnout and other topics related to well-being. I highly recommend you check it out. You can subscribe and get their newsletter delivered right to your inbox.
"[M]y time at Xavier has allowed me to understand and appreciate the mission of St. Katharine Drexel and the University. This insight is vital for understanding the needs of our students and the demands upon our faculty and how this impacts programing at CAT+FD. -Dr. Mark Gstohl
Although we are sad to see Dr. Jay Todd move on to other things, we are delighted to welcome Dr. Mark Gstohl back to CAT+FD as our new Associate Director for Programming beginning January 2022! Dr. Gstohl is an associate professor in the Theology Department who has taught at Xavier since 2000. He formerly served as CAT+FD's faculty-in residence for Service-Learning from 2010-2013. His service-learning projects, Little Free Library projects, and work with local artist Jacqueline Ehle Inglefield at A Studio In the Woods helped him to win the Top 100 Leaders in Education by the Global Forum for Education & Learning in 2021, in recognition of his contribution to the field of education.
In addition, Dr. Gstohl brings his talent in incorporating technology into teaching, as well as his expertise in effective online teaching. He served on our original e-learning committees and implemented effective online and hybrid pedagogical practices well before they were pandemic imperatives.
In 2014 (CAT+FD's 20th anniversary) Dr. Gstohl served as a central member of our MVP team, where we explored how our mission should grow and change. It is with this insight and history that he will approach his new position to support our activities and initiatives by planning and promoting CAT+FD programming.
Thanks to those of you who attended last week's workshop on how to be effective and inclusive in mixed-mode teaching. For those who were unable to attend, we hope this video recording of the workshop will be helpful.
Xavier instructors, by completing the #LearnEverywhereXULA (#LEX) course, you honed your Brightspace skills and learned some of the better practices for remote and online teaching. Congratulations! You now have the opportunity to expand your horizons even more by becoming #LEX Advanced Certified. How do you achieve that? Keep reading.
You earn this certificate by participating in at least four #LEX Advanced workshops or completing four self-paced #LEX Advanced modules, or any combination of the two as long as you complete four. In these workshops/modules you will learn about using design and automation features available in Brightspace to apply better pedagogical practices within your courses by making them more user-friendly, accessible, and efficient.
Be on the lookout for #LEX Advanced workshops in CAT+FD’s events calendar or check out the #LEX Advanced course in your Brightspace account. Any questions? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Even in a typical academic year (which this one was not) we tend to burn our candle at both ends as we work our way from August toward graduation. I don’t know if you have felt it, but I have certainly felt the increased pressure of keeping up the past few weeks—letters of recommendation, student advising, and wrapping up goals for the academic year have all made demands on my time.
Burnout, a concept studied psychologist Christina Maslach since the 1970s, doesn’t just mean we are overwhelmed and exhausted (though exhaustion is at the core). It also includes becoming cynical about our work, which in higher ed can lead to "phoning it in" to our classes, complaining about our students or colleagues, and disengaging from our institutional missions. (Salvagioni and colleagues provide a thorough, empirical review of the physical and psychological consequences of burnout.)
However, there is recent evidence that what we have called burnout might actually be a form of job-related depression. In a meta-analysis, Renzo Bianchi (University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland) and colleagues looked at evidence from from 12,417 participants in six countries and found that characteristics of burnout were more strongly associated with depression than they were with each other. The implications of this data? Burnout is something that both institutions and faculty should take seriously.
If you are feeling physical or emotional exhaustion or cynicism, I encourage you, in these last fews weeks of the semester, to engage in some of the following that work for you.
Adopt healthy eating, exercising, and sleeping habits.
Give yourself permission to invest in you own good health. Yeah, you have a lot to do, but none of that work is going to get done if you are too ill to do it.
Balance work and play.
Be sure you have downtime and take breaks to do things you find truly joyful. In the academy our work is never truly "done." It's up to us to set some boundaries.
Take a daily break from technology. Need I say more about this? Take some time each day to completely disconnect and perhaps even look at a tree.
It is with great CAT+FD pride and almost as much heartache that we lend our support to Dr. Tiera Coston as she joins the A&S Dean's office as the new Assistant Dean for Engagement and Outreach. In this position, she will provide oversight for our new Quality Enhancement Plan, ‘CARE.’
Tiera has been in CAT+FD since 2013, when we were simply CAT. She has played a large role in the evolution of our work including expanding our mission to support all areas of faculty responsibility, developing expertise in supporting effective, culturally responsive mentorship, and meeting the professional development needs of our STEM colleagues. These are only a few of the areas where she has made an impact. Of course, there are too many to name individually.
Personally, I am grateful for the many lessons I have learned from Tiera over the years—about leadership, kindness, faith, little dogs and more. I know I speak for all in CAT+FD when I say that we wish her well, we support her, and we are looking forward to seeing the amazing things she does with CARE.
You can read more about Tiera in her bio below.
Tiera S. Coston is a proud alumna of Xavier University of Louisiana. She earned a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology at Tulane University and a J.D. from Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. Dr. Coston joined Xavier’s staff in 2013 as the STEM Educational Improvement Specialist in the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development (CAT+FD). She has also served as the Assistant Director for Mentoring and Pre-Law Advising. Dr. Coston has more than 13 years of experience supporting faculty and in the areas of pedagogy, curricular development and enhancement, and mentoring. She has collaborated with faculty to develop their teaching and mentorship in projects sponsored by Innovation through Institutional Integration (iCUBED), Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE), and Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD). She has conceptualized, developed and implemented three different mentorship education programs that are currently ongoing at Xavier - Preparing Mentors and Advisors at Xavier (P-MAX), Entering Research at Xavier University of Louisiana (ER-XULA) and Mentee-to-Mentor (M2M). She is a National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) Certified Facilitator, which requires demonstration of consistent and effective facilitation of mentoring-themed workshops and seminars. She has facilitated these events and Xavier, throughout the United States and abroad. She mentors undergraduate research and pre-law students as well as freshly minted Xavier alumni whose goal is to gain entry into graduate or professional school programs. She has had the privilege of teaching general biology and the various iterations of College Experience. In all of her work, her ultimate goal is to facilitate and promote the success of Xavier’s students for the fulfillment of Xavier’s mission.
Wow, we spend a lot of time on Zoom these days— for classes, office hours, workshops, committee meetings, and even happy hours! Zoom has been both a God-send and a time-suck. It is pretty user-friendly, and has allowed us in CAT+FD to keep offering events while also allowing me to stay in (better) touch with my siblings.
But after a long day of multiple Zoom meetings, I find myself worn out in a special way. My back hurts, my eyes are tired, and my ears are sore from my fancy Bluetooth headset. The Stanford University Virtual Human Interaction Lab recently studied “Zoom fatigue” and found four roots causes. Spoiler alert: they include having extended up-close eye contact, seeing ourselves on video all day, being stuck in front of our computer cameras, and requiring an increased cognitive load.
Check out this article which includes some simple fixes for each root cause (for example, reduce the screen size for Zoom, hide your own video). The article also includes the 15-item Zoom Fatigue and Exhaustion Scale that you could take to identify how videoconferencing is affecting you.
Have any tips that have helped you combat Zoom fatigue? Please share them!
I find that attending a teaching conference is a great way to get inspiration and new ideas, especially at the beginning of a semester (and a new year and a new decade). And this year we have one right in our own backyard!
The Center for Engaged Learning & Teaching (CELT) at Tulane has a similar mission as CAT+FD, and we support each other when possible. Plus, registration is free!
According to conference chair, Mallory Monaco Caterine, the 2020 Sparking Success Faculty Development Conference is shaping up to be a great event--with already over 150 faculty from around the New Orleans area signed up to collaborate and learn together. The more, the merrier! I know it falls during our registration, but Jay Todd and I are presenting, and we'd love to see you there!