Monday, September 24, 2012

AFE Fall 2012 Workshop Series

Academic Foundations English 
 All AFE Faculty are invited to attend.

Using Educational Technology 

to Create Student-Centered Classes 

Fall 2012 Workshop Series Schedule 

Portal and Gradebook 

Saturday October 6, 2012 
1:00PM - 4:00PM
168 Sip Ave Jersey City 

Participants will learn how to use various functions of the Portal, including all facets of Gradebook, accessing and using Shared Files, and submitting a Retention Alert. They will also be introduced to various resources available to them on the Portal.

ACCUPLACER Reading Comprehension Exam 

Saturday, October 27, 2012 
1:00PM  - 4:00PM
168 Sip Ave Jersey City 

Participants in this workshop will gain a greater understanding of the ACCUPLACER reading comprehension exam used for initial placement at HCCC and inter-level placement in AFE. Participants will be given the opportunity to take the test themselves and ask questions about how it operates. 

Helping Students with Disabilities 

Saturday, November 10, 2012 
10:00AM – 1:00PM 
168 Sip Ave Jersey City 

This workshop will focus on techniques and technologies that can be used in the classroom to better support students with disabilities.


Grading Student Portfolios & Inputting Final Grades 

Saturday, December 1, 2012 
1:00PM - 4:00PM
168 Sip Ave Jersey City 

This workshop will help participants accurately and holistically grade student portfolios at the end of the semester and enter grades into the new Gradebook template.

Sponsored by: Hudson County Community College Grants Office, The Office of College Life, and Academic Foundations English


Friday, August 31, 2012

Welcome Back!

Welcome back to HCCC!

The Fall 2012 semester started August 23 with College Service Day, where faculty and staff were invited to hear addresses on the states of various aspects of the College, beginning with an address from College President Dr. Glen Gabert.

Classes began Wednesday, August 29, 2012, although the College has been awash with students coming to register and get their books and materials for the past couple of weeks.

With the beginning of the new semester have come several changes, some good and some alarming. One notable difference involves changes to student financial aid due to new Pell Grant policies. Some of the eligibility requirements have changed, and the amount of grant assistance has been limited.

On the other hand, there have been some excellent program changes and new student services initiatives, many in Academic Foundations.

In Academic Foundations English we have made changes to the assessment process for our students. Until this semester, students' ability to move on to another level or exit the Academic Foundations program depended entirely on their performance on two exit exams given as final exams for the courses. Under the new system, student work over the course of the semester will take on a much larger role in determining student progress. They will keep a portfolio of work completed throughout the semester. This portfolio will be graded by the professor and will count for 50% of the student's final placement at the end of the semester. Students will still take exit exams, one in reading and one in writing, each of which will be worth 25% of the final placement score.

The new system will allow students to reflect on their learning and progress over the course of the semester and will take into account the expertise and more extensive understanding of their abilities by their professors.

Students in Academic Foundations Math will enjoy full use of their beautiful learning space in 162 Sip Ave. Equipped with computers, moveable tables, and a SMART board, this learning space allows students to work closely with each other and tutors in a variety of learning scenarios.

In addition, there is the implementation of a new SI (Supplemental Instruction) program. Supplemental Instructors are specially trained to work with basic math and algebra courses and students to offer them the extra support many of them need. The training, for Supplemental Instructors, created and implemented by AFM Director Constance Calandrino, is extensive--beginning with 2 full days of sessions and workshops before the start of classes. Both the instructors and the students will benefit greatly from this new program.

It looks like the beginning of a great year at HCCC. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fall 2012 Kickoff Event: MAP to Student Success

Welcome back, faculty! 

This professional development workshop will kick off the semester with a great start. We will focus on the new Academic Foundations student assessment system: Multiple Assessment Placement (MAP). We will talk about new processes and policies, get hands on with a norming session, and have extended roundtable conversations about how to help our students succeed. We will also distribute course materials and sign contracts.
Morning coffee and lunch will be served. Adjunct faculty will be compensated for their attendance.

Saturday, 8/18/12
10:00AM - 2:00PM
HCCC's Culinary Conference Center
161 Newkirk St., Jersey City
Scott Ring room

  • Welcome and Introductions
  • MAP Overview
  • Policies Quiz
  • Norming session
  • Lunch
  • Big screen view of ACCUPLACER-style questions in Bb
  • Roundtables—Themed discussion and Q&A
    • Followed by a full-group report/discussion
  • Wrap-up
    • Dates of the rest of the series
    • Adjunct pay dates Other items of business?

This event is by invitation only; you must register to attend. If you would like an invitation, contact Elizabeth Nesius.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Could the Flipped Classroom Work for Developmental Education?

Many people would be quick to answer "yes" to this question. The concept of a flipped classroom is where class lectures are recorded and watched as homework and then the hands-on activities that used to be homework are done in class.

One of the benefits of a flipped classroom is that it can make better use of classroom time. Instead of the professor standing in front of the room lecturing, time is spent on hands-on and small-group learning, and the professor can spend more time working with individual students. The lecturer becomes facilitator. This, in turn, can create stronger relationships between students and teachers, and students and students.

It also "meets the students where they are," a buzz phrase that's going around. The idea is that our students are tech savvy and tech focused, so we can get their attention by using technology to teach. This isn't new--education technology has been employed for decades, although the technology itself is always changing.

It can also greatly help struggling students, something that will make developmental educators sit up and take notice. Almost all of our students are struggling in one way or another, and we don't always have the ability or resources to help them effectively. The flipped classroom helps with many of those problems. Students can listen to and review lectures as many times as they need. They (or better yet, the professors) can break lectures up into shorter segments that can be digested one at a time. Many recording systems also offer closed captioning of the videos, sometimes even in multiple languages. And studying has never been easier--students no longer have to take notes on the lectures (although it's still a good idea); they can watch them over and over.

That last point, however, leads to a couple of the possible drawbacks of a flipped classroom. It can reinforce the idea of memorization and regurgitation, which most would agree is not really learning. This issue can be combated by what goes on in the classroom, but it will take awareness and careful attention by the professor.

Flipped classrooms also reinforce the old "sage on the stage" model--except now the sage is on TV. This method of teaching tells students that the professor has all of the knowledge, which s/he will impart to them. Not only does it devalue the experiences and curiosity of the students, but it also reinforces the idea that there is always a right answer, and that the professor knows what it is. This is something that many are trying to get away from, especially in higher education.

This doesn't mean that there's no place for lecture in education. It will always be necessary to impart new information to students, and sometimes there is a right answer. Again, the professor has to be careful to follow up on the lectures in class and make sure the students are learning what they're supposed to, and as deeply.

When we come to the concept of meeting students where they are, we have to stop and ask, "Are they really there?" In community colleges, the answer is often "no." Students don't necessarily have access to computers and/or the Internet when not on campus. Further, many of our students are not as tech savvy as we think, or not in the way we think. Even the youngest, most plugged in students have serious limitations in what tools they know how to use. And if we are overestimating some students, how many professors will be able or even want to use technology in this way?

Finally, there is the problem of money. Lecture capture systems are not cheap, and they have to be managed (to varying degrees) by a college's IT department. There are certainly ways of getting funding to get started with lecture capture, but colleges do have to make plans to maintain the system in the future, and they have to be willing to dedicate money that may have gone elsewhere.

So the long and short of it is, a flipped classroom can be a great idea for developmental (or any) education, but it needs planning and the right people to make it successful.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Academic Coaching

It's common for courses taught at the developmental level to be accompanied by some sort of lab time that allows students to practice skills and get extra help in areas where they struggle. Labs are staffed with tutors who are experts in the fields of reading, writing, grammar and math.

However, anyone who teaches developmental education has probably heard that developmental students need more than just content teaching. They need to be taught "how to be students." Many students who test into developmental courses do so because they never developed the discipline, study habits, and motivation that the most successful students do.

Academic coaching is designed to teach students these "non-academic" skills. The need for these skills is not limited to developmental students alone. Many of these skills are addressed in a first-year seminar-style course designed to help students transition to college. However, one might argue that this method of delivery is at best not enough and at worst ineffective if taught in isolation from the rest of a student's courses.

Academic coaching is presents more of an "alongside" approach. Carol Carter, when interviewed for the Winter 2011 issue of the Journal of Developmental Education by Amy. L. Webberman, says, "Coaches, whose role it is to guide students academically, emotionally, and socially, can be a counselor or an advisor, but they can also be a math, English, or biology professor" (20). Carter advocates this approach for all teachers of developmental education. These students in particular need extra guidance and support, and they are the least likely to persevere."Academic coaching is an ongoing partnership to help student produce fulfilling results in their lives. Through the process of coaching, students deepen their learning, take responsibility for their actions, improve their effectiveness, and consciously create their outcomes in life" (Webberman 19).

Academic coaching programs have been linked to improved student retention and graduation rates, too. With funding for public colleges rapidly shrinking and depending more and more on graduation rates, it's likely that more developmental ed programs will start looking into coaching programs and training for their professors.

Webberman, Amy L. "Academic Coaching to Promote Student Success: An Interview with Carol Carter." Journal of Developmental Education. 13.2 (Winter 2011): 18-20. Print.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Learning Communities

Learning communities have become popular at many community colleges, especially in the below-college levels--both developmental ed and ESL. They involve grouping 2 or more courses together, so that the same group of students takes all of the linked courses together.

However, learning communities offer more than simply paired courses (another common strategy employed in developmental education). The courses that are grouped combine college-level courses with developmental courses. The faculty teaching the courses work together, sharing materials and lessons, and sometimes even syllabi and assignments. Thus, the developmental course(s) teach with a focus on the college-level course grouped with it.

For example, a school might group a Psychology 101 course with a developmental reading and writing course. The reading and writing assignments would have a psychology focus, which gives the students a sense of purpose in their developmental courses and extra help mastering the new lexicon involved in the field of psychology. In addition, because the same group of students meet for more than one class together, they are more likely to turn to each other as a support system for the classes. They contact each other for missed classes and may even form study groups.

They also allow students in developmental classes to start taking college-level courses earlier and have been shown to increase retention of below-college-level students. As more and more colleges' government funding becomes tied to retention and completion, learning communities may be turned to more as avenues to improving student success rates.
Image source:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What's Academic Foundations?

Academic Foundations (AF) courses are designed to get students ready for anything they'll meet at the college level.. The department offers classes in basic math, algebra and English to help students learn the skills that will provide the “foundation” for their future college work. Classes are designed to meet the particular academic needs of each student.

Over half the students at Hudson County Community College take at least some Academic Foundations classes. Among them are those who have been out of school for a while and may need some help remembering their English and math skills, those who did not thrive in high school and need a more mature learning environment, and those (from other countries) who know English well but do not yet read and write it on a college level.

When a student first arrives at the College, he/she is given four tests: the College Placement Tests (CPT) in reading, math and algebra and an essay test. The CPT in reading is multiple choice and concerns reading comprehension on a college level. The CPT essay is evaluated for writing skill, organization, coherence and grammar. The math and algebra tests require students to answer problems which show the ability to do math and algebra at a college level. The cut-off scores below will determine a student’s AF or college-level placement for the upcoming semester.

For more information, go to HCCC's Academic Foundations webpage.