Joe Doctor Colloquium 2013

Rifat A. Salam, Social Sciences and Human Services


BMCC full- and part-time faculty gathered at the Joe Doctor Colloquium to discuss and reflect upon initiatives which provide instructors with pedagogical training in key areas across the curriculum. The theme of the Joe Doctor Colloquium, held on April 17, 2013, was “All Across the Curriculums: An Integrated Approach to Teaching.” 


The Joe Doctor Colloquium was organized by the Faculty Development Committee with the support of the Office of Academic Affairs. The members of the Faculty Development Committee are: Rifat Salam, Social Sciences and Human Services (Chair); Silvia Alvarez-Olarra, Modern Languages; Catarina Mata, Science (EC Rep); Jacqueline Nichols, Nursing; Manita Pavel, Science; Lisa Hale Rose, Social Sciences and Human Services; Sarah Salm, Science; Erica Seidel, Counseling Center (Secretary); and Mike Vozick (Science).


Initiatives Inspired by WAC


In his opening remarks, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Michael Gillespie, recalled that the idea for “across the curriculums” was imagined as an overarching project by himself and Prof. Gay Brookes (Developmental Skills, Chair), a founding coordinator of Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) at BMCC.


The WAC model inspired a number of initiatives, including Reading Across the Curriculum, ESL Across the Curriculum, and Quantitative Literacy Across the Curriculum. Leaders of these programs made up the panel of speakers at the Joe Doctor Colloquium, including Prof. Brookes, Prof. Judith Resnick (Developmental Skills), Prof. John Beaumont (Developmental Skills), and Prof. Margaret Dean (Mathematics). Prof. Emily Anderson (Social Sciences and Human Services, Chair) moderated the panel.


Let’s Talk About Writing


Prof. Gay Brookes began her presentation by saying she didn’t want to talk about WAC. She wanted to talk about writing. Community college students value writing and writing courses, even if they don’t enjoy writing, according to Prof. Brookes. Writing is valued and writing courses are popular because writing has the capacity to engage students.


Prof. Brookes shared the ideas of John Bean, the author of Engaging Ideas, who asserts that engagement in the classroom is related to the level of writing done by students in a class. Prof. Brookes paraphrased Bacon in saying, “Conversation makes a person ready, reading makes a person full and writing makes a person exact.”  She went on to note that exploratory writing is a way of talking oneself into a new discovery. Students like to talk about their ideas. Prof. Brookes encouraged instructors to have students write “every day for your class.”


Prof. Brookes explained that the researcher Myna Shaughnessy studied remedial students and found that it took 10,000 words of writing to improve their writing scores by one point (50 pages) on an exit exam. WAC teaches that you don't have to read or grade all of students’ writing. Ask students to re-read their writing or share with a partner. Or ask students to re-read their writing and ask them to underline their main points.


Quantitative Skills for the Real World


Prof. Margaret Dean began her talk with possible names for the program, Quantitative Reasoning or Math Across the Curriculum. She noted that she doesn't like “math across the curriculum” because the program is not so much about formulas and equations. It is about teaching quantitative reasoning skills to help students in the real world so that they are able to interpret numbers and graphs and to be able to assess and make alternative hypotheses. Real life examples where quantitative skills are important include mortgages, marketing, statistics, and political decision making.


Prof. Dean asked faculty to think about ways to have their students read a chart or a graph or be able to understand data. This is helpful in STEM fields and social sciences, and even for a class like speech, where quantitative data can back up a persuasive speech.


How could reasoning with data be incorporated into English literature courses? This needs to be explored. The Quantitative Literacy Across the Curriculum program will have Quantitative Fellows from the CUNY Graduate Center to help explore ways in which quantitative literacy could be developed in any course. These skills will help our students become better world citizens and not to have “the wool pulled over their eyes” with deceptive math.


This year, CUNY central chose 2 colleges that will have Quantitative Research fellows and that will start a new program having faculty develop ways to help students better acquire quantitative reasoning skills. Prof. Dean will be developing a formal training program for Fall 2013 and encouraged faculty to participate. Students have a fear of math but so do faculty. Part of the training program is to combat that fear.


Helping ESL Students Learn 


Prof. John Beaumont discussed ESL Across the Curriculum. He noted that it grew out of a program that began with ESL faculty and with English 101 faculty. The training now includes people now from 8 different departments including Mathematics. Along with his co-leader, Prof. Judith Yancey (Developmental Skills), Prof. Beaumont used common faculty challenges noted by the participants to design 3 workshops. The workshops deal with affect, reading, comprehension, vocabulary, cultural references, discipline specific information, issues of grammar and syntax, providing students with feedback, and dealing with diversity.


ESL Across the Curriculum training sessions, Prof. Beaumont explained, begin by providing participants with awareness of factors which influence student performance and the phenomenon of generation 1.5. Participants are shown a film which showcases voices of ESL students. Over the next few sessions, participants learn about strategies to help their ESL students better learn course materials and participate in class discussions. Participants are asked to work on a project to understand and incorporate strategies to deal with an ESL challenge in their classes and then present at the last session to share their results and reflect on the process. The ESL Across the Curriculum program hopes to share the work of the faculty and make it available to the college community.


Promoting Better Student Reading


Prof. Judith Resnick (Developmental Skills), a member of the CUNY- wide reading discipline council, shared what she and Prof. Katherine Figueroa (Developmental Skills) present in their Reading Across the Curriculum (RAC) workshops. They ask faculty about challenges they face in the classroom and the common response is that students don't read the text or don't understand what they read.  


Prof. Resnisk passed around a short reading to give the audience a sense of how students feel when they read a text that they get “cold.”  Students, especially ESL have trouble reading the amount of material in the time they have. In the workshops, faculty are asked to give students in- class reading and time it to see how far the students get with the reading. She exhorted faculty to avoid having students read from PowerPoint slides through which they will develop “the idea of the non-necessity of reading.” The leaders of RAC instruct faculty on how to determine readability of their texts, incorporate pre-reading strategies, and to develop guides to complete or fill in while students are reading. Participants in the program work on a project and leave the program with strategies to help promote better student reading.


Breakout Sessions


After the panel, faculty participated in breakout sessions at tables designated around each of the interest areas. These discussions were led by the panelists who presented earlier. Faculty talked about different challenges they faced and strategies they could use.


The ESL table discussed how faculty can ask students what classes they have taken to get a sense of their skill levels. At the quantitative literacy table, faculty talked about fear of math, math as a language, and how faculty can build a bridge to help students think. At the reading table, faculty reported back about challenges with getting students to read. They discussed strategies to deal with these challenges, such as giving students a series of questions to answer, and instructing students on how to read a chapter since students read page by page rather than as a whole piece. The consensus was that students need guidance. Faculty at the WAC table talked about the necessity of designing writing assignments with specific directions and specific objectives.


In his closing remarks, Dean Michael Gillespie thanked the panelists and the attendees for their contributions and the stimulating discussion and encouraged faculty to find out more about the programs. Professor Rifat Salam thanked the Faculty Development Committee for their hard work and encouraged faculty to attend and encourage their colleagues to attend future events sponsored by the committee.