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About Jason S. Todd

Jay Todd studied writing with Frederick and Steven Barthelme and Mary Robison at the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi. His fiction has appeared in journals such as Southern California Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, Fiction Weekly, and 971 Magazine. Since 2007, he has been a member of Department of English at Xavier, where he teaches American Literature, Freshman Composition, Modern English Grammars, and The Graphic Novel and Social Justice. From 2007 to 2010, Dr. Todd served as Xavier's Writing Center Director. From 2010 until 2015, he served as QEP Director, managing Xavier's Read Today, Lead Tomorrow initiative. In 2015, he became the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development's first Associate Director for Programming. As Associate Director for Programming, Dr. Todd assists in providing high-quality, relevant, evidence-based programming in support of CAT+FD's mission to serve faculty across all career stages and areas of professional responsibility.

According to Robert Porter, a faculty member's first grant is often the most difficult one to get funding. "When they are new to the grant game," says Porter, "even scholars with fine publishing records can struggle with proposal writing." To address this often overlooked challenge, in 2015, thanks to the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Xavier's Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development began a new program called "Support for First-Time Grant Writing," as a means of providing Xavier faculty who have never served as the Principal Investigator on a grant the time to develop a strong proposal for an external grant to fund a scholarly project. According to Dr. Elizabeth Yost Hammer, Director of CAT+FD, "By providing release time for faculty to work on and submit that first grant proposal, this program will help faculty members sustain their research and scholarship even in the face of a heavy teaching load."

...continue reading "Grant Writing Success"

By J. Todd

When I first started teaching, as a graduate student, I would would plan my classes in excruciating detail. These classes were largely lectures, interspersed with the occasional individual or group work. Often, I would even write out a joke or some irrelevant comment I wanted to start the class with. I still have the legal pads that I filled up with this extensive planning. Meanwhile, I had friends who could walk into the classroom without any real preparation and lead a successful class.

Post-It Notes saying, Do it! I've always been a planner; although, now those plans are just outlines with approximate times -- things to help me keep the class on track. But I've also always been a procrastinator; I do much of my best work under a quickly diminishing deadline. These days, I do most of my daily class planning the night before class.

However, recent innovations that I've become involved with are challenging me to plan in different ways. There are plenty of great and potentially powerful pedagogical innovations available now. Two new ways I'm dealing with this semester are inverted teaching and collaborative teaching. Both of these, I'm slowly learning, mean that planning for class is not simply getting ready to teach class on a given day. As a result, I'm (very) slowly coming to accept that I have to do significantly more planning significantly earlier.

Inverted Teaching

While video lectures are not a necessity for inverted teaching, they are one effective way to deliver content without using up class time. The videos, to be honest, are killing me. I suppose, as is often the case, this will get better over time, assuming I decide to reuse the videos from this semester the next time I teach this class. (Although, given my propensity for making significant changes every time I teach a class, I probably won't.) I had grand plans to record all the videos for my grammar class this past summer, to have them done and ready to go throughout the semester. Then, once the semester began, and I hadn't recorded any of the videos, I developed a plan for recording each video at least two weeks in advance. Here too, I failed.

Aaron Sams, one of the pioneers of inverted teaching, tells stories of recording videos for his Chemistry classes late at night in the laundry room, so as not to disturb his sleeping family. This past Saturday morning, I recorded a lecture on rhetorical grammar in my car while my son was at his Tae Kwon Do class. The video needed to be watched by my students before class this Monday. Granted, it's only a 15 minute video (I know, I know. It should be under 10 minutes.), but still, it feels like cheating to tell my students in class on Friday, "Please watch the video on Rhetorical Grammar before Monday's class. It's not done yet, but when it is, be sure to watch it."

This has been the pattern for much of the semester. For the composition classes I'm teaching in the spring, I have a list of about 20 videos I'm planning on recording over the winter break...

Collaborative Teaching

Meanwhile, I'm also team-teaching a class with a colleague in the Art department. The class itself is pretty well planned out, with a fairly set schedule that we've managed to stick with throughout the semester. It's a largely discussion-based class, so as long as both of us arrive having done the assigned reading and supplemented it with some additional research, the classes themselves go pretty well. We both come to class having individually prepared, but we never seem to have enough time to get together to collaborate on the planning and grading. Much of that takes place via email, often sent late at night.

The literature on this is beyond clear: you have to co-plan to co-teach. It's another new way of thinking about teaching: as I said, I do most of my best teaching planning the night before a class. That doesn't leave much time for co-planning, though, so it's another change I need to make in my time management. Maybe next time, we need to schedule at least one joint office hour to have a set time each week that we can be together to plan for the following week.

What's the Point?

The point, I guess, is that these innovations, which I believe are having a significantly positive impact on student learning, are also having a significant impact on the way I prepare to teach. I suppose that is another improvement, but the growing pains aren't that fun. Innovation is about change, and change can be a challenge. These innovations, while done to help our students, can also help us by forcing us to rethink the way we do things.

The Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development is pleased to announcement the recipients of this year's Support for First-Time Grant Writing awards.

The Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development is pleased to announcement the recipients of this year's Support for First-Time Grant Writing awards. ...continue reading "Support for First-time Grant Writing Award Recipients"

By J. Todd

The ePortfolio Process: Collection-Reflection-Interaction
The ePortfolio Process: Collection-Reflection-Interaction

The use of portfolios as an educational tool is not a new idea. Nor, in fact, is the idea of making portfolios digital. A quick literature search will find numerous articles discussing the benefits of using either traditional or digital portfolios, often focusing on the impact in discipline-specific settings. Portfolios are not only effective teaching tools, but also effective assessment tools. As the need to conduct college- or even university-wide assessment becomes more common, we've seen renewed and increased interest in digital portfolios — or ePortfolios as a way to assess a student's learning over the course of his or her academic career. ...continue reading "Empowerment through ePortfolios"


By Jay Todd

Photo of a parking meter that says, FAIL, instead of 0.
"Parking Meter Fail" by Jeramey Jannene / CC BY 2.0

I'll be honest: I can't remember the last time I penalized a student for turning in a late assignment. I used to be very strict about this. I was taught, in fact, to be very strict about deadlines. Make your policy clear in your syllabus and never deviate from it, I was told. Don't let the students take advantage. So I used to deduct one letter grade for each day a major assignment was late. Small assignments couldn't be late at all.

At some point though, I started to wonder about the effectiveness of this approach. Mostly, I started to worry, as a writing teacher, that I was hindering good writing by making the deadline some important. A few times, because of my clearly stated policy, I had to give an A paper -- I mean a truly excellent paper -- a C, simply because it was late.

I still have a policy in my syllabus that says, clearly, that a deadline is a deadline, but I follow that up with a statement that says, "If you anticipate having difficulty meeting a deadline, please speak to me about it." Basically, to an astute reader, I'm negating my policy right there.

Ellen Boucher discusses this a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education: It's Time to Ditch Our Deadlines. Her new policy is that all assignments come with an automatic two-day grace period. If a student needs still more time, all that's required is a meeting. As a result, she says, she's seen higher quality work and less stress from her students. She makes a good argument, especially by focusing on how this helps under-prepared college students.

I should say though that so far, I've only taken this approach with big assignments -- essays and research papers. Daily homework, quizzes, and such still come with fairly rigid deadlines.

The Faculty Communities of Teaching Scholars (FaCTS) initiative is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support faculty in planning and implementing innovative curriculum and/or pedagogical projects over the course of an academic year.

We would like to take a minute to congratulate the 2016 FaCTS Fellows. The Faculty Communities of Teaching Scholars (FaCTS) initiative is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support faculty in planning and implementing innovative curriculum and/or pedagogical projects over the course of an academic year. Each year, we select a pedagogical theme that addresses the needs of the university. The theme for the coming year is Inverted Teaching, commonly referred to as "flipping the classroom". Each of the awardees below submitted a proposal to modify an existing course to incorporate the ideals of inverted teaching.

  • Cary Caro, Assistant Professor, Division of Business
    Project title: "Inverting BSAD 2200: Balancing the Global Perspective"
  • Kelly Johanson, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry
    Project title: "CHEM 4140: Converting Metabolism into a Flipped Course"
  • Wyndi Ludwikowski, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology
    Project title: "Inverting the Psychological Statistics Classroom"
  • Elizabeth Manley, Associate Professor, Department of History
    Project title: "Teaching History in the Archives: Inverting a Research Methods Course"
  • Ariel Mitchell, Assistant Professor, Division of Education
    Project title: "Experiential Learning of Career and Lifestyle Development"
  • Ifeanyi Onor, Assistant Professor, Division of Clinical and Administrative Sciences
    Project title: "Implementation of Inverted Learning Strategy in Applied Pharmacokinetics"
  • Megan Osterbur, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science
    Project title: "Activating Black Politics using the Inverted Classroom"
  • Richard Peters, Assistant Professor, Division of Business
    Project title: "Freshening Up Freshman Seminar: Creating an Environment of Expectancy, Excitement, and Empowerment"
  • Cirecie West-Olatunji, Associate Professor, Division of Education
    Project title: "Use of Inverted Teaching to Facilitate the Integration of Social Action and Advocacy within Counselor Identity among Graduate Counseling Students"

In May, the FaCTS Fellows will participate in a week of intensive training to learn about the theories behind and the best practices for inverted teaching. Lisa Schulte-Gipson, Associate Professor of Psychology, will serve as the faculty coordinator for the 2016 cohort. During the 2016/2017 academic year, the FaCTS Fellows will offer their redesigned courses at Xavier.

This idea of the eight-minute lecture can also be useful to the faculty member interested in, but also concerned about, inverted teaching.

Image released under the Creative Commons CC0.

In "The Eight-Minute Lecture Keeps Students Engaged," a brief but informative article on Faculty Focus, Illysa Izenberg, a lecturer for the Center for Leadership Education in the Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, discusses her use of this data-driven pedagogy. According to Izenberg, there have been a number of studies supporting what we all fear: namely, that our students don't remember those brilliant oratories we deliver with passion and zeal. More useful, though, is the data suggesting that students will remember information presented in eight- to ten-minute chunks.

Such data is useful not just for the traditional classroom, but also for faculty members considering inverted or flipped teaching. Whether delivering lecture content in the class (the traditional model) or outside of it (the flipped model), faculty should contain their presentations within that eight- to ten-minute frame. Whether sitting in an uncomfortable plastic desk or running on a treadmill or vacuuming the carpet, the student is going to remember what you say after that ten-minute mark.

This idea of the eight-minute lecture can also be useful to the faculty member interested in, but also concerned about, inverted teaching. The common advice for anyone interested in this recent trend, which you can hear from Aaron Sams, one of the coiners of the term "flipped classroom," in our most recent podcast, is to start small. The eight-minute lecture might be one way to start small. Try it out in with one class session, following Izenberg's advice. If it works, try it with another session, but this time, record the eight-minute lecture ahead of time and put it online for the students to watch before coming to class.

As with any pedagogical shift, talk to your students about it ahead of time. Izenberg points out that part of the success she finds with her eight-minute lectures is that her students know what's coming -- they know they are about to receive just enough content for them to remember. Let your students know what you are doing and why you are doing it, and make sure they understand what you expect them to do in response.