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Here is an interesting article in the Washington Post about high achieving high school students who bomb once they get into college. We all know things like socioeconomic class and, to a lesser degree, standardized test scores factor in.  However, this study used personality traits that correlated to academic success in college.

Two categories were created, the thrivers and the divers. The “thrivers” were those who did much better in college than their high school grades would have predicted. The “divers” were those who did much worse.

"What the divers had in common was a tendency toward rashness and disorder. In particular, they lacked a trait that psychologists call “conscientiousness.” Compared with the average student, divers were less likely to describe themselves as organized or detail-oriented, less likely to say that they are prepared, that they follow a schedule or that they get work done right away. Divers were also more likely to say they crammed for exams and more likely to score highly on measures of impatience."

It looks like all of us, especially our students, could benefit from mindfulness and contemplative practices. If only CAT+FD offered resources for those things...

You can read the full article here:

And check out the CAT+FD calendar for the Monday Quarter of Quiet and Contemplative Inquiry Team here:

Have you considered publishing work in the area of Pedagogical Scholarship or the Scholarship of Teaching? This is highly valued by the university if it reaches the stage of public dissemination. There are many topics we might have in mind to study, but just like any other scholarly endeavor, it must be planned out in advance, not just written up as an afterthought. There are things to consoder beforehand, especially if your discipline scholarship is very removed from the education and social science fields. Planning the project appropriately will help you avoid creating aspects that will significant affect, and even void, your data collection when tracing student learning and opinions. (IRB approval, anyone?)

If you missed the CAT+FD talk given by Megan Osterbur (Political Science) and Charles Gramlich (Psychology), they outlined the steps needed to be taken for successful scholarly teaching projects. The process begins with reflection and questions, then project design and data collection, and finally analysis and publication. The CAT+FD office is also uniquely qualified to help with this process, especially the project design and finding an appropriate journal as the new home for your brilliant work. The quote that Meg shared about this field really stuck with me and was so familiar when I think about my colleagues here at Xavier and what many of us do on a daily basis already.

“Scholarly teaching is what every one of us should be engaged in every day that we are in a classroom, in our office with students, tutoring, lecturing, conducting discussions, all the roles we play pedagogically. Our work as teachers should meet the highest scholarly standards of groundedness, of openness, of clarity and complexity. But it is only when we step back and reflect systematically on the teaching we have done, in a form that can be publicly reviewed and built upon by our peers, that we have moved from scholarly teaching to the scholarship of teaching.” (Shulman 2004, p. 166).

Please do not hesitate to contact the CAT+FD staff if you are thinking about advancing your scholarship in this field. Also, if you missed the presentation and believe this is a topic you would like to see offered again, please let us know in the comments below.

Do you require your students to write a research paper for your course? How do they do? Are they full of Wikipedia references or do your students have a good handle on primary sources?

For years I have struggled with that issues in my senior level Drug Design and Synthesis course. Despite lengthy talks and handouts on the subject, I would get a whole lot of WebMD in the final papers. Years ago, I had the students go to the library one class period for research and reference instruction. At some point, students started telling me that they have heard that lecture several times in other courses, so I stopped requiring it. But the papers got worse and worse.

I then contacted the science librarian, Mary George, and discussed the assignment with her. She set up a personal website for my students that had many of the resources they needed for that paper. Check it out:

It has the best search engines for our topics, links to online journals that we have subscriptions to, links for inter library loan, etc. It is AWESOME!

We then had a class in the computer lab in the library where we all used the website and became familiar with it. I had the students pull a reference for a literature reading assignment so they could a) walk through how to access those journals and b) leave that day with that paper in hand. I then had them begin searching for their research paper topic. Mary and I were there to help them trouble shoot and by the end of the class period they were all on their way to gathering sources for their final research papers.

It was a huge success. But the real benefit came when I read the papers. There was not a Wikipedia or WebMD reference to be found. The students used real primary sources and the paper quality was much improved.

I highly recommend you contacting your division/department librarian to set up this tool for your course. It is a fabulous resource for all faculty.

This summer I discovered an invaluable resource I never realized we had here at Xavier (I am embarrassed to say after 12 years here) and that is our research librarians.  I was writing a pedagogical paper which used very different search engines and resources than my normal scholarly publications in chemistry.  Quite frankly, I was at a loss as to where to start searching for background materials related to my paper.

On the library main page, you can select services and click 'request consultation' to get to the form.  (Or click here:

Johanna White contacted me and we had a great chat about what I was trying to do.  She walked me through a few resources and then decided to dig around on her own.  About a week later I got a great email from her with more suggestions on which journals to search and how to access them.

If you are considering writing and publishing  a pedagogical paper (which is, in fact valued by the university and the rank and tenure committee) but the educational and social sciences are outside of your field of research, I can HIGHLY recommend working with one our our research librarians.   Once you summarize your project on the form they will decide who would be the best fit for your project.  It is as easy as that!

Now, if only someone can help me with not using the passive voice...

Cheers, Stassi

So, have you started working on yours?  No?  Really?

Unless you have superhuman time management abilities, odds are you have not.  However, that doesn't mean that you can't do a few things now that will make that job easier next August (or next first week of September).

We at CAT+FD are NOT a Rank and Tenure advisory entity.  We do not offer suggestions or advice and ALWAYS refer you to your department for the specific culture and model of success they have defined.  And I will not breech that boundary here.  I will, however,  relay some of the points made by the Rank and Tenure committee last May in their open forum that relate to  CAT+FD in general.

CAT workshops were mentioned specifically be name numerous times!! (huzzah!!!) In reference to seeing you progress and develop as an educator, the current committee feels that one of your best resources are the NUMEROUS CAT workshops put on by Elizabeth, Jay, Tiera, Bart, Janice, Karen, and the whole CAT+ staff.  The R and T committee highly encouraged faculty to go to these and learn from them.  You can always find upcoming events here:   More than simply attending, it is important to really think about the workshop ideas and suggestions and, if you choose to incorporate them, reflect on if they were successful or not in your hands.

As the center formerly known as CAT is developing into its new identity as CAT+FD, I am personally very excited to take advantage of all of the programming that will now be geared towards scholarly development as well as balancing all  faculty obligations with each other as well as with life.

So keep track of everything you attend this year and, as always, don't forget to sign in.  If something strikes you as particularly interesting we here at CAT+FD are more than happy to continue the conversation with you to help you successfully translate that workshop topic to success in the classroom.


Stassi DiMaggio

CAT+FD Faculty in Residence/First Year Faculty Mentor

What? The Center for the Advancement of TEACHING, is telling me to spend less time on my teaching?

We all know that Xavier is a premier undergraduate university.  This is largely in part due to the dedicated faculty who put teaching first in order to help students achieve their goals.  However, we as faculty have goals too, and some of those goals extend from the classroom.  It is our job to balance those goals and obligations so that each facet of our careers can thrive.  So to that end, what are the best practices, and easiest pitfalls, that new faculty can fall into?

Dr. Robert Boice, Professor of Psychology at SUNY in Stony Brook, NY, has done extensive research polling and following hundreds of faculty members across disciplines and institution types and then charting their success in the tenure and promotion process.  Overwhelmingly, the most common problem among faculty was not spending enough time on scholarly writing (proposals and papers) but that was linked hand-in-hand with being over prepared for their classes.  When faculty were reporting spending nearly 30 hours a week preparing for class, it is clear that some other aspect of their job was going to suffer for it.  However, not all faculty suffered from this lack of balance.  Boice identified 5–9% of new faculty as "quick starters," who in their first few years were well on their way to promotion and tenure especially with respect to scholarship. Moreover, they also scored in the top quarter of peer and student ratings of teaching; so their scholarly success was not achieved at the expense of their students.

You can read a brief article from Chemical Engineering Education summarizing his findings here:

And if you think this might be helpful, you can find Dr. Boice’s book here (among other places):

However, at Xavier, it can be quite easy to quickly achieve a balance.  As I mentioned, one of our greatest assets, and your greatest resource, are our faculty.  Here are some tips to leverage the resources you have in order to prepare a better class, in a reasonable amount of time, leaving sufficient time for scholarship:

  • Ask for and accept help from senior faculty.  If someone has taught a course that is new for you, odds are they are happy to share their notes, slides, test, etc.  Certainly you will want to make the courses you teach your own, but there is no need to spend hours reinventing the wheel (or at least reinventing the diagrams on a PowerPoint slide).
  • Do not be afraid to protect your writing time. We all want to have “open door” policies to our students and be generally available to them, but that does not mean you need to be on call 24/7.  Do not fear your student evaluations suffering if you close your door sometimes to write.  As long as you are available without fail for your classes and office hours as promised, no one will fault you for attending to other parts of your job. (I personally was reluctant to do this years ago, and speak from experience that there was no negative effect on my student evaluations.)
  • Visit CAT. OK, you knew this one was coming.  There are many faculty resources here in CAT including a staff that is eager to help you, not only with your teaching, but with incorporating your teaching into your job as a well-rounded (and successful!) Xavier faculty member

-Stassi DiMaggio