Textbooks and learning materials look a lot different than they did even 10 years ago. You might remember borrowing an old textbook from your high school and looking at the inside cover to see the long list of scribbled names of students before you who used that very same book. The book even had a peculiar, stale smell to it.
Or perhaps you remember being in college, making a trip to the university bookstore to purchase or rent your course materials for the new semester. You went with excitement, eager to learn about what career possibilities lay ahead of you, and thought your materials might provide you with just the answers you were looking for.
As you read, you may have been disappointed to find that many examples seemed to be about a similar person–someone who didn’t quite look like you or self-identify the way you did. You may have started to become discouraged and think to yourself, “Maybe people like me can’t become an engineer, a psychologist, a business executive,” or whichever profession you dreamed of.
Representation matters. More importantly, positive representation matters. But what does that look like? At Macmillan Learning it not only means signing authors and producing course materials and tools in which students feel represented and reflected, it also means a mission of inclusivity that goes beyond course materials.
Macmillan Learning LGBTQIA+ Employee Resource Group Recognizes LGBT History Month
LGBT History Month was founded in 1994 by Rodney Wilson, a Missouri high school history teacher who came out to his students after teaching about the Holocaust and informing his students that he would have been persecuted because of his sexual orientation. Wilson recognized a lack of positive representation of LGBT people in the teaching of history, and he envisioned a month in which role models could be provided for LGBTQIA+ youth.
The month of October was chosen because of other coinciding LGBTQIA+ affinity days during the month: National Coming Out Day on October 11 and the commemoration of the first and second marches on Washington for LGBTQ+ rights in 1979 and 1987.
One of the highlights of LGBT History Month is the spotlight of a different LGBTQIA+ historical figure each day of the month. This includes highlighting the accomplishments of LGBTQIA+ people in sports, entertainment, science, politics, and many other professions. These individuals serve as role models for young LGBTQIA+ people who may not otherwise have known of a successful queer person in their industry or desired future career.
Macmillan Learning’s LGBTQIA+ employee resource group, Proud@ML, participated this year by sharing its second National Coming Out Day storytelling project externally so that students can learn about the different roles that LGBTQIA+ people hold at an educational publishing company. Proud@ML hopes that doing so will encourage LGBTQIA+ youth to pursue whichever career path they aspire to.
Macmillan Learning LGBTQIA+ Employee Resource Group Sponsors Book Donation
For Proud@ML, positive representation means creating engaging and inspiring educational opportunities for colleagues to learn more about LGBTQIA+ people, their history, and the rights they’re still fighting for. It also means giving back to communities outside of Macmillan Learning and paving the way for young people to lead a more inclusive future.
During this year’s Pride Month, Proud@ML invited all Macmillan Learning employees–including those who identify as LGBTQIA+ and those who are allies–to participate in the creation of Pride floats. Teams could submit entries in contest categories such as Best Incorporation of LGBTQIA+ History, Best Pride Photo, Best Group Float, Most Visually Creative, and Best Show of Pride. Submissions ranged from videos to photo collages and included participation from employees across the company including Susan Winslow, CEO of Macmillan Learning.
All category winners received recognition and a small prize. But Proud@ML wanted to do something more for the Best Show of Pride category winner, which showcased student support from a local middle school in Austin, Texas, where one of Macmillan Learning’s employees has a family relation. Texas is one of several states with increased anti-LGBTQIA+ and legislation, which greatly negatively impacts LGBTQIA+ youth.
Working with Project Open Books , a small nonprofit organization that is committed to improving and promoting access to age-appropriate LGBTQIA+ books and stories, Proud@ML sponsored a donation of 10 LGBTQIA+ inclusive books for this middle school to include in its library. Macmillan Learning employees delivered the books this October as a way to acknowledge and celebrate LGBT History Month and just in time for the new school year to get underway.
Two of the books donated were What Was Stonewall? by Nico Medina and Resist: 40 Profiles of Ordinary People Who Rose Up Against Tyranny and Injustice by Veronica Chambers. Both exemplify the meaning and purpose of a month dedicated to the history and teaching of important LGBTQIA+ figures and rights movements. The other books donated included fiction titles featuring LGBTQIA+ characters in main roles, which Proud@ML hopes will help LGBTQIA+ students feel represented in the stories they read. Macmillan Learning and Proud@ML know that representation matters, which is why positive representation of all types of people remains a pillar of what they do and the content they create.
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Do you remember coming home from school with a backpack full of books and a couple hours’ worth of homework as a child? If not, you must be pretty lucky to not have had any homework. If so, this scenario may sound pretty familiar.
You ask an adult–perhaps one of your parents, an older sibling, or another caretaker–for help with your homework, and they start using a completely different method to solve the problem than the method your teacher taught you earlier that day. “This is how I learned it,” they may tell you, and you wonder why your teacher hadn’t taught you how to solve the problem this way.
Maybe you’re a little lost at first, but you follow them along and see that they solve the problem with ease. Now you’re curious. You try to complete the same problem using the method you recently learned in class, and you see that you get the same answer using both methods. Why hadn’t your teacher taught you the method that you learned at home?
You ask your teacher the next day before class and find out that the method you learned at home requires extra knowledge about this mathematical concept, which many of your classmates haven’t yet learned. Nevertheless, there are a group of students who do understand this other method, so your teacher starts grouping you together to work on these types of problems.
This is an example of differentiated learning in which the teacher adapts what they are teaching–or the way they are teaching–to meet the needs and readiness of their students.
What is Differentiation?
Differentiation is a valuable pedagogical tool for educators to create more equitable learning experiences for every student. At its core, differentiation is a framework for effective teaching that involves providing a diverse classroom of learners with a variety of methods to understand new information, regardless of differences in ability.
In order to implement effective differentiated instruction in the classroom, educators should first do their research on an important subject–their students. By recognizing and understanding each student’s unique background, experience, and subject matter expertise, educators can better meet every student where they are and help them on their own learning journey.
While this can be an overwhelming step for educators who have large, diverse groups of students with different needs, levels of readiness, and learning styles, getting to know students better throughout the term will help instructors tailor their teaching throughout the semester, even with limited resources. Macmillan Learning’s digital learning platform, Achieve , can help simplify this step with its Goal Setting and Reflection Surveys that give students the opportunity to state and reflect on their goals and needs, and to share this information easily with instructors.
Components of Differentiated Learning
Once educators have a better understanding of the students in their classroom, they can then turn their attention to the content , process , and product involved in their differentiated instruction.
Content = curriculum or what students learn
Process = how students learn it
Product = what students produce that shows what they’ve learned
At the content level of differentiated learning, educators may have the option to adapt what they are teaching to meet the needs and readiness of their students. As part of the research phase–when getting to know students–instructors might consider including a course readiness assessment or diagnostic test to gain a better understanding of what their students already know. This way they can begin tailoring the content of their lessons or providing additional reading assignments for students who might need to brush up on a few concepts.
Educators may find that they have a very diverse group of students when it comes to readiness and prior knowledge of the course’s subject matter. Some students may be completely unfamiliar with concepts and others may exhibit partial or complete mastery of certain topics.
The goal of differentiated learning is not to raise or lower standards for different groups of students but to provide learning opportunities that are appropriate and effective for each student, providing methods for understanding a concept and absorbing new information.
The process level of differentiated learning further emphasizes students’ unique backgrounds, traits, and experiences while focusing on different learning styles. Instruction at many universities has often followed a one-size-fits-all approach, mostly through the delivery of lectures. It was very instructor-centric rather than student-centric.
Differentiation gives instructors that chance to focus on the individual, to ensure that each learner can achieve their fullest potential. Students’ culture, socioeconomic status, language, gender, motivation, ability, disability, previous educational experiences, interests, and many other factors have shaped them to create totally unique learners.
Taking into account different learning styles , educators can help students by working with them to develop tailored study plans or by varying content delivery methods through things like reading assignments, lecture, active learning, peer learning, and so on.
The product level of differentiation is understood as what each student produces at the end of a lesson or course to demonstrate mastery of content. This can take the form of tests, evaluations, projects, reports, or other assessments.
Instructors should think about what they expect students to show and accomplish on each assignment and at the end of the course. They should ask themselves how they might change their grading scale and expectations, acknowledging that each student starts from a different place and that progress is the main goal. Might you choose to grade on a curve or award students points for showing their work?
With differentiated learning, students should have the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned in various ways; again, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.
Tips for Scaling Differentiation in Large Courses
Implement one small change. Educators can start small. In a recent webinar about academic integrity , Cindy Albert from the University of Wisconsin-Eau-Claire advocated that faculty start by making one small change when seeking to level up their teaching. This can also apply to differentiation.
Use learning platforms (ed tech) that deliver personalized learning experiences. Learning Curve in Macmillan Learning’s digital learning platform Achieve offers students a more personalized learning approach.
Aggregate the data using tools like Achieve and iClicker. Achieve offers Goal Setting and Reflection Surveys, and iClicker can be used to take pulse checks with exit surveys, allowing instructors to quickly see in aggregate what some common needs are across students, and to drill down to the exact student-level needs.
Have you implemented differentiated learning in your classroom? Let us know in the comments below.
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It’s the time of year when the leaves begin to change color, the air gets a little cooler and Americans celebrate their favorite pastime -- watching sports. Fans take to the stadiums and TVs to celebrate what’s been called the “holy trinity” of American sports: football, baseball and basketball. Yes, the Houston Astros winning the World Series ends baseball for the year. But we still have the National Basketball Association (NBA), National Football League (NFL), college football, and -- starting today -- women’s college basketball.
Sports is a big entertainment business in America, with a valuation of more than $80 billion in 2022 -- that’s more than the valuation of the film industry and more than double that of the music industry . It may be much smaller than Wal-Mart, but when it comes to entertainment, sports triumphs over most everything. Within that, football is the top dog, with the NFL alone generating about $17 billion in revenue each year. But what is it that drives the economics behind sports? How do economic realities like scarcity, taxes, and spending impact their popularity?
With the end of the World Series, we spoke to David Berri, Professor of Economics at Southern Utah University and David Berri, Professor of Economics at Southern Utah University author of Sports Economics to better understand how market forces may impact America’s favorite pastime. So… is there a link between payroll and performance? Why are some sports more popular than others? As it turns out, not all sports are created equal. Here’s what Professor Berri has to say.
What role does economics play in the World Series?
There is a prevailing sense that teams that spend the most win the most. For example, the World Series this year was contested between the Philadelphia Phillies (4th in MLB in payroll) and the Houston Astros (9th in MLB in payroll). Last year it was the Atlanta Braves (11th in MLB payroll) and the Astros (5th in MLB payroll). But in 2020, the team that spent the most (the Los Angeles Dodgers) ended up playing the team that spent the least (the Tampa Bay Rays). And back in 2015, the Kansas City Royals (13th in MLB payroll) took on the New York Mets (19th in MLB payroll).
In Sports Economics , we note that payroll does have a statistical link to team wins in Major League Baseball. But the link is somewhat weak. A team’s relative payroll (team payroll in a year relative to average payroll that year) only explains 16% of the variation in regular season winning percentage. And when we look at more recent data, we find exactly the same result. About 84% of the variation in team winning percentage is NOT explained by a team’s spending on talent. Rather, what players do on the field explains outcomes. The reason why salary doesn't explain pay is that teams can't predict performance (and there are impediments in the market). So we do know what explains outcomes after the fact.
Part of the reason for this outcome is that baseball has a number of restrictions on what some players can be paid (reverse order draft, a reserve clause for younger players, and a luxury tax on payrolls). But part of this is because baseball performance is not always easy to predict. Salaries are a statement about the future. And the future in baseball isn’t always known. For example, few would have guessed the Philadelphia Phillies – a team that wouldn’t even have been eligible for the playoffs last year – would be in the World Series!
Why does a regular season NFL game get more interest than a World Series baseball game?
The NFL generates about $17 billion in revenue. Major League Baseball’s revenue is about 60% to 70% of that total. So, one issue is baseball has a smaller fan base.
But it is also the case that given the violent nature of American football, the schedule length for the NFL is quite a bit smaller. An entire season is just 17 games. To put that in perspective, the Philadelphia Phillies will play at least 17 games in the postseason this year. And in 2020, both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays played more than 17 games in the postseason.
The immense popularity of the NFL coupled with the scarcity of games likely combines to make a regular season NFL game more popular than a Major League Baseball playoff game.
Why is there such a discrepancy for women's sports as it relates to pay and interest?
This is an entire chapter in Sports Economics , and I am writing a book on this subject. Many people (mostly men) want to argue that the differences simply reflect “the market”. But as noted in the textbook, the changes we have seen in women’s sports across time are not simply due to market forces. In 1972, Title IX was signed into law. This dramatically changed opportunities -and participation – in girls and women sports. Prior to this act, girls and women simply weren’t given the opportunity to play sports. In fact, there is a long history of girls and women being explicitly banned from sports.
Beyond this history of discrimination, leagues like the NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball receive billions of dollars in public subsidies. Even minor league baseball and soccer in the United States receive public subsidies. Women’s professional sports do not.
We should also not forget that the male dominated sports media primarily focuses its attention on men’s sports. Minor league football – which has never been successful in the United States – still receives an immense amount of media attention despite never being able to create a fanbase.
All of this tells a simple story. Women’s sports lags behind men’s sports because of a history of discrimination that continues today. This is not a story about market forces. It is a story about men choosing to promote and invest in men’s sports over women’s sports.
David Berri is a sports economist and professor of economics at Southern Utah University. In addition to his Sports Economics textbook (Macmillan Learning), he is also the lead author of two books— The Wages of Wins (with Martin Schmidt and Stacy Brook; Stanford University Press) and Stumbling on Wins (with Martin Schmidt; Financial Times Press) and has had more than 50 papers accepted and/or published in refereed journals. In addition, he has written for the New York Times, the Atlantic, Time, Forbes, and numerous other popular media outlets. Berri has also served as president of the North American Association of Sports Economics (NAASE) and currently sits on the editorial board of the Journal of Sports Economics and International Journal of Sport Finance (the two journals in sports economics).
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I’m often asked when I think life at colleges will go back to “normal.” If “normal” means a return to what education looked like before the pandemic, I think the answer is that it won’t. But that’s a good thing for our industry and, more importantly, for students attending college now and in the years to come.
In many ways, how students attend college has changed. From where learning takes place to how students interact with their instructors to what student engagement looks like, the learning environment is very different than it was both pre -and during the pandemic.
The rise of digital
As an education and publishing services company, we have witnessed the gradual shift from print to digital materials and online learning. Although early student experiences with ebooks began as reading a simple .pdf, it has now blossomed into having access to a comprehensive suite of digitally interactive tools; many being created as digital-first products. As the offering got more sophisticated and the benefits of digital learning became more apparent, use increased.
The pandemic changed everything, though. In 2020, that gradual shift became immediate and something important happened along the way. Despite the challenging circumstances, more instructors began experimenting with their courses, learning new ways to support active learning and engagement. They used new tools and discovered an exciting way to enhance learning.
The importance of student engagement
In 2020, engaging students in a new virtual environment was incredibly challenging. Many instructors were teaching a class full of blacked-out zoom screens, not knowing if students were learning or even paying attention to the material. Introverted students and students that didn’t have easy access to digital tools suffered. Further, the etiquette of how to ask a question during class, or how to best respond to instructor questions were not always clear. Even though classes have moved into a hybrid offering, we continue to hear new questions from instructors with greater focus on issues of equity and learning pathways.
With the need for stronger engagement, for peer review for students in all locations, or even to learn new low stakes ways to assess knowledge, instructors are using features within Achieve (our digital learning platform) at a higher rate than ever before. We’ve also seen an increase in benchmarking student progress -- whether it be by using assessments, in-class polling with iClicker or new cross-disciplinary tools to drive and measure learning.
The return to campus
During the pandemic, while many adjusted to and even thrived in an online environment, many students experienced an unhealthy isolation by learning in homes by themselves and not engaging with materials and classmates. Like many, they yearned for a return to normal; a more traditional college experience. We are slowly seeing a return to campus. Though it certainly looks different for every college, it's been great to see so many campuses filled with people and activity. I’ve heard from quite a few folks on our team that the energy, excitement and buzz among students and faculty is palpable.
In-person learning and student activities hasn’t been quite this prevalent since the onset of the pandemic, and many -- including us -- have longed for the connections that come with face-to-face interaction. Not all campuses are running at full capacity, but what we’re seeing now feels like the best of the virtual and in-person experiences being used together for a hybrid experience. For example, being able to access instructors via virtual office hours has made attending college more accessible for many students and we’re seeing that trend continue despite in-person classes resuming. I believe that the new “normal” includes the best of both worlds.
We’re getting back to more familiar routines and a healthier ability to connect, but what we’ve learned over the past few years can’t be ignored. I think that what we’re seeing happen in higher education is not unlike what we are witnessing in the workplace -- and some of the best solutions are taking a bit of the best from both worlds. Just like how employees are eager to see their colleagues, travel and host in-person gatherings, students are excited to be back on campus, with their one-time reluctance being replaced with excitement to get back to customary college activities. The lessons learned from the pandemic have allowed for space for both, and I believe there will continue to be a place for hybrid learning and the advantages it brings.
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It’s become more and more common to hear about academic integrity challenges among college educators. Whether it be a perceived increase in students’ academic dishonesty or instructors seeking out new ways to curtail any cheating, the pandemic and increase in remote learning has brought a heightened awareness to an issue that has concerned the industry for decades. With readily available digital tools -- like cell phones, group chats, and multiple tabs or screens -- it’s also brought increased suspicion within college classrooms.
While the challenges are new, the problem of academic dishonesty is not. International Center for Academic Integrity (ICAI) founder Dr. Donald McCabe found that more than 60 percent of students admit to cheating in some way while in college -- both in his initial research in the 1990s and in subsequent studies. There are, however, resources and tools available to teachers and institutions to encourage academic integrity and help dissuade students from cheating or being dishonest.
But what exactly is academic integrity? The ICAI defines it as a commitment to six fundamental values: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage. Academic dishonesty, on the other hand, happens when there’s cheating, plagiarism, fabrication, or falsification, and it happens for a variety of reasons. While some students are worried about grades, others succumb to peer pressure and yet others just take advantage of an opportunity that is presented to them. There’s no one silver bullet to fixing the problem.
There is one other important category -- the students that may not even be aware that what they’re doing is dishonest; this has less to do with cheating and more to do with offering students the support they need in order to succeed. In a recent conversation blog about the state of academic integrity, Dr. Camilla Roberts, Kansas State University Director of the Honor and Integrity System, and Cindy Albert, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Associate Director Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning spoke directly about the support students need.
Teachers, colleges, students, and we at Macmillan Learning all want the same thing -- which is to see students succeed. Academic dishonesty can be a major barrier to accomplishing that goal, with consequences extending well beyond getting caught. For example, students construct an understanding of a topic, in large part, based on prior knowledge of it. When academic dishonesty is involved early on, students may not acquire the knowledge necessary to connect the dots with future lessons or more advanced courses.
Free & Low-Cost Tools and Resources for Academic Integrity
Some tools for detecting dishonesty have been around for quite some time -- like software that allows professors to identify whether or not students’ writing has been plagiarized -- others are quite new. But supporting academic integrity should be more than just finding an EdTech tool to catch cheating and punishing the cheaters. In fact, uncovering academic dishonesty is just one of several ways to consider the topic. The other, which may be even more effective, is to proactively support academic integrity.
With a goal of offering tools that educators can use to teach students about academic integrity and help create a learning environment that supports it, Macmillan Learning has compiled a list of free and low-cost resources and tools that support the journey:
Create support services. Writing labs or tutoring services encourage both academic integrity and student success by supporting persistence and helping to eliminate one of the causes of cheating -- students' low confidence in their understanding of the materials. With academic assistance, students are more likely to persist and succeed in college, according to recent research from the Council of Learning Assistance and Developmental Education Associations.
Events and activities that promote education and transparent dialogue around academic integrity. It’s not just instructors who can play a part -- colleges, non-profit organizations, and leading educational technology and publishing companies have a role to play as well. The International Center for Academic Integrity promotes and supports academic integrity & integrity of the academy, and often hosts events and activities on their social media, including Twitter. Other examples include UC San Diego’s series of events and activities in support of academic integrity, including a mentorship program , integrity awareness week , and contests . Macmillan Learning is also hosting three free webinars in October about the topic, which you can register for here .
Get to know your students. When instructors build a strong connection with their students, those students can be less inclined to engage in dishonest behavior because they’re more likely to ask for help when they need it most. A degree of trust and mutual respect is required for this, and it can be built with a little extra effort. Make it a point to get to know your students. Learn their names, encourage them repeatedly to attend office hours, and remind them that you are a resource for them.
Investigate misconduct. Unfortunately, proactive measures to support academic integrity don’t always work. There’s no way to eliminate every instance of cheating or prevent every form of plagiarism. It is important to report suspected violations to your institution for investigation. Students may engage in dishonest behavior at higher rates when violations go unreported because they have not experienced any consequences.
Low-stakes quizzing . Many students engage in dishonest behavior because they feel immense pressure to do well in a course or on a single assignment. Nearly every student wants to succeed but when so much of their grade depends on only a handful of assessments, they might turn to dishonesty in an attempt to ensure that success. Frequent, low-stakes assessments can be a great way to check students’ knowledge and progress to identify areas where additional review is needed and to provide them with more opportunities to make the grade. Another tool to consider is authentic assessment, which asks students to apply what they have learned to a new situation; many assignments within Achieve can be adapted to include elements of authentic assessment. Further, the student engagement system iClicker supports frequent, low-stakes assessment and student engagement through active learning.
Model behavior. Students look to their instructors for guidance, not just information. One way that you can encourage academic integrity in your students is to model it for them. Source and cite your course materials the way that you expect your students to on their assignments. Answer students’ questions with the same honesty and integrity that you expect them to answer yours. Show students how to cite their sources by teaching them to use documentation advice in their handbooks/textbooks and taking time to have specific lessons on citation practices in your discipline. And when you set an expectation with students, follow through as consistently as possible. We’re often surprised by how much our students don’t know about academic integrity. They may not understand the boundaries of plagiarism. By modeling integrity, you can help students learn how to be good, honest scholars.
Plagiarism review: This type of tool is available in modern courseware, including Achieve for English courses. It works two ways -- students can check their drafts for potential plagiarism and instructors can use it to check work after it’s been turned in. For example, if a writing instructor chooses to enable Achieve’s Source Check feature, students can check their drafts for possible issues with their use of sources and receive instruction that helps them evaluate and fix any problems. Services like Grammarly and Turnitin are also used by colleges and universities to check the integrity of students’ work.
Review your institution’s honor code and set your own class policies. Every institution has a code of academic integrity, an honor code, or a code of conduct that clearly outlines the college or university’s expectations of students, potential violations of the code, and consequences for violating the code. Whether you choose to include it in your syllabus or dedicate time on the first day of class to reviewing it, or both, it’s important to remind students that they have agreed to the honor code. You can take additional measures by setting your own class policies for academic integrity and making your students aware of them.
Students may have a great deal of motivation to engage in dishonest academic behavior, and possibly countless opportunities to do so. Techniques and tools that center transparency and academic honesty can help deter some of the most common forms of dishonesty. Have you used any of these techniques in your courses?
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Now more than ever, faculty are considering the role they can play in preventing student misconduct and encouraging academic integrity. While each classroom and campus are different, there are steps that instructors can take to help create an environment that supports student success.
Ahead of the upcoming webinar, “ Emphasizing Academic Integrity in Every Classroom ” on October 19 at noon ET, Macmillan Learning spoke with two presenters, Dr. Camilla Roberts, Kansas State University Director of the Honor and Integrity System, and Cindy Albert, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Associate Director Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, about the state of academic integrity. The pair shared some misconceptions about academic integrity, their insights as to why students cheat, and offered suggestions about how to create the kind of classroom community that supports integrity.
Both Albert and Roberts got their start in academic integrity through their work with students, though their paths there were different. Albert’s interest was sparked when she started working in the Teaching and Learning Center. Her work there created an interest in assessing student learning and leveling the playing field. Roberts' interest in the field of academic integrity began about 15 years ago, when she was hired as the assistant director for the Honor and Integrity System at Kansas State University. Prior to that, she had been involved in student affairs and development through the residential life programs.
“The reality is, there is more opportunity than ever for academic misconduct,” Roberts said. Students’ “technical problems” uploading documents has become the new “my dog ate my homework” with more instructors hearing about problems like a computer uploading the wrong document or a camera that stopped working during proctoring. “Sometimes technology does mess up, but this seems to be a more common excuse recently,” she said. And while misconduct can be a problem, not all of it is intentional.
Misconceptions about Academic Integrity
One widely-held assumption by both faculty and administrators is that students who cheat always know they are cheating. According to both Albert and Roberts , this is not necessarily the case. Many times, students are not clear on what cheating entails. For example, students may believe that if the professor didn’t say work had to be done independently, it was safe to work together on an assignment, explained Albert.
To rectify this, instructors should clarify what the class rules are -- for example, whether it's okay to paraphrase, share work with peers, or look up answers. If an instructor expects a certain style of citation (APA, MLA, or AP), they should make that clear to students as well as offer resources where students can find more information about it. “ One thing I say on repeat when I am talking to faculty is that academic integrity and the culture of integrity is not only on the students,” said Roberts. She believes it’s everyone’s role to create that culture. “If a faculty member is going to hold a student accountable, then they need to take time to make sure the student knows and understands what they should be doing or how they are to be doing it.”
According to Albert, students don’t cheat solely because they want to get a better grade; rather, a variety of factors can play a role. Students may not plan on misconduct, but instead take advantage of what they see as an opportunity -- like when they perceive that all students will get the same questions in the same sequence. Also, they may believe that “everyone cheats” and there’s no harm in it because it’s just what students do. Finally, students may suffer from imposter syndrome, and not feel that they belong, or face other pressures like financial, social, and familial stresses, or mental health challenges.
Cheating Harms Learning:
There are no two ways about it -- cheating harms learning. It’s an issue that Roberts tackles using three words in every presentation she gives on academic integrity: choice, learning, and promise. She believes that everyone has a choice about how they conduct themselves, and those choices impact those around us. Also, learning stops when there is an academic integrity violation because if someone else is doing their work or work is taken from online sources, students are not learning. She noted that having a solid foundation helps students to move through their learning. “When the cheating occurs, the foundation for future classes is weak,” she said. This can impact students’ promise for the future.
But there are actions that instructors can take to stop cheating in its tracks. Albert cites building relationships and class culture as critical steps that instructors can take to help students realize that cheating is not the answer. In addition to discussing what cheating is and why it’s harmful, the pair notes that building a community within the classroom is critical. “When a student is invested in the class, cheating is less likely to occur,” said Roberts.
One way to build both community and trust, as well as explain what cheating entails, is to create a contract with students. Doing so creates an awareness of the class rules and offers students a greater voice in areas like the kind of assignments they’d like to take on and the point values of assignments. “Speak in language students can connect with. Talk with them about what you want them to do and why it’s important, and then explain how misconduct hurts everyone,” Albert said. “ When instructors give students a voice and create a connection to the work, they create a culture where students are invested in their success,” she added.
One way to create that connection is to offer assignments that students can relate to or that are in some way related to their careers and interests. Explaining why particular assignments were chosen and are important can also help to curb cheating. “Connect the purpose of the assignment to something they want to learn for their future,” Roberts said. “Tell them regularly you are helping them prepare and improve their skills so they’ll be successful.” Roberts continued, “ Helping the students understand why the material in the class matters, why the instructor cares about the class and them as a person, and why integrity matters in the classroom will help them realize that even if the class is hard, doing their own work is worth it.”
Lastly, Albert recommended that instructors offer opportunities for students to practice their work before taking an exam, writing a paper, or working on a class project. She said, “This builds their confidence and gets them started on the work before it is due.”
To learn more about the state of academic integrity and get even more suggestions about how to support it in classes, register for the free webinar, “Emphasizing Academic Integrity in Every Classroom” on October 19 at noon ET. The webinar is part of Macmillan Learning’s professional development series for the education community focused on critical challenges for students and instructors.
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There are a lot of misconceptions about the relationship between psychology and science, and Dr. Mitch Prinstein is on a mission to change the hearts and minds of those that hold them. His passion for creating a better understanding of clinical psychology and teaching the science of mental health is aptly reflected in the many papers and books he’s written over the years. In his current role as Chief Science Officer for the American Psychological Association, he sets the science agenda and advocates for the application of psychological research, and in his role at Macmillan Learning, he’s a co-author of the popular Clinical Psychology title used in college courses.
At Macmillan Learning, we appreciate that the success of our textbooks and courseware is in large part due to our outstanding authors. We want to offer students and instructors an opportunity to get to know these extraordinary authors, whose remarkable careers and interests often extend far beyond higher education. For that and so many more reasons, we partner with authors like Dr. Prinstein, who dedicate their lives to their fields and are just as passionate as us in improving students’ lives through learning.
We spoke with Dr. Prinstein about his career, teaching and learning about psychology, what’s next in the field, how we can help fix the mental health crisis, and, of course, the revised edition of Clinical Psychology . Throughout our conversation there was a constant theme -- the importance of science and research in the field.
There was no one particular milestone or “aha” moment that inspired Dr. Prinstein’s career path, but two things helped it along the way: mentorship and observation. His early inspiration came from his own experience as a child and adolescent; Dr. Prinstein was attuned to and interested in how kids got along with each other and the different kinds of popularity that he observed. While he didn’t know it at the time, it was his first foray into the field. “When I began pursuing clinical psychology, I had no idea that my childhood observations were an area of scientific inquiry.”
Dr. Prinstein began his academic career as an assistant professor and later director of clinical psychology at Yale University. In his first academic jobs, he started every morning by reminding himself to have learning goals rather than performance goals. “I had to remember that mistakes and failures were the reason why it takes many years to get tenure.” An assistant professorship, he believes, is like a faculty-in-training program and there is a lot to learn along the way. He later became Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at UNC-Chapel Hill, where he also mentors students from the Clinical Psychology and the Developmental Psychology programs.
In his teaching roles, he was a consummate ambassador of the science of clinical psychology, and was known for his commitment to supporting the professional development of students. It’s that passion that drove him to take professional leave from his role at UNC and take on one as the Chief Science Officer for the American Psychological Association.
Writing is Another Form of Teaching
Throughout his career, Dr. Prinstein maintained a focus on the academic inquiries that had first inspired him, with critically-acclaimed research on popularity and its effects that has been called “eye-opening.” From course materials like Clinical Psychology (more on that book later) to trade books such as Like Ability: The Truth About Popularity , his goal is to open the world of psychology with academic, yet approachable, books that can be read by anyone -- whether they are studying psychology or are simply curious.
For example, in Like Ability: The Truth About Popularity you’ll learn that people who pursue popularity based on status rather than likeability end up unhappy, and in Popular: Finding Happiness and Success in a World That Cares Too Much About the Wrong Kinds of Relationships you’ll learn different ways to build strong emotional appeal that help you stand out from the crowd and succeed. These are just some of the many takeaways.
I was curious as to what drove him to become such a prolific writer. As it turns out -- it’s teaching.
“Writing is another platform for teaching,” he said. He enjoys it in particular because he can help people learn from his mistakes and can also help cultivate a love for the field of psychology. His own teachers made such a difference to him. In fact, he credits the opportunity to work with his “selfless and generous” graduate school mentors Dr. Annette M. La Greca and Dr. Anthony (Tony) Spirito as the inspiration for some of the most important milestones in his career. Through his work with them, he learned what it meant to be a psychologist and to have a service-oriented perspective.
He mentioned that in his own teaching, writing and research, he aims to be impactful and helpful, noting, “It's something I think about and work towards every day.” Dr. Prinstein believes strongly that his greatest accomplishments may be yet to come, as he seeks to continue to make contributions to the field and his students. “Writing has always been a way for me to help people learn from my mistakes,” he noted. By that he means that his career successes happened in spite of what he came into the field knowing, rather than because of it.
He wants students to know the things that he didn’t, and have awareness of the things he wished he knew. For example, when he was a grad student, he found that academic psychology was a complex field to navigate. “We learn a lot about how to do research, and if we’re lucky we learn how to teach a part of class. But those are such a small part of what careers in academic psychology include. We’re also mentors, we do admissions, hiring and grant writing and we work on running labs, which are like small corporations.” To help students navigate the complexities, he put together a manual with professional development advice, which turned into a mentoring book and professional development resources.
“We need to reboot the field of clinical psychology”
With ongoing research, the field of clinical psychology is ever-evolving. Despite the fact that knowledge is obtained through verifiable evidence of behavior and mental processes, there are plenty of misconceptions -- primarily that it isn’t a science. There’s much that can be done within the field, the practice and by the education community to rectify that.
Dr. Prinstien believes that within the education community, there should be more emphasis on communicating the scientific basis that underpins clinical psychology, and that doing so has become increasingly important with the current mental health crisis. Further, he believes that mental health should be thought of in the same way as the other sciences, noting that there are proven and tested methods and approaches that have undergone clinical trials and new approaches that are based on what we understand scientifically. “For too long there’s been confusion in the public about how psychology has been depicted. And how much of what we do is in fact based on science,” he said.
As the field looks towards creating better equity and helping with the mental health crisis, the models of how patients are treated needs to change. Dr. Prinstein noted that the current model is not sustainable over the long term, and doesn’t address the growing and changing needs of our society. “There’s more that can be done to reach people who need help,” he said. “Psychologists meeting one-on-one with patients alone will not get us to help as many people as needed. It won't create the equity we all care so much about when it comes to reducing mental illness.”
But it’s bigger than just changing the treatment model. “We need to reboot the field of clinical psychology.”
For his part, Dr. Prinstein would like the field to explore how to help train providers to support people who may never go into traditional therapy. He believes that another question the field should be asking is how to better build prevention techniques, “so that things like media consumption and kids video gaming are providing skills and learning that help to actually prevent mental illness.” Additionally, he would like to see mental health be considered alongside physical health as part of an overall holistic perspective of health. “We should understand that the ability to work, be a parent, be a partner, take care of your body -- a person’s overall daily function -- is related to psychology.”
But change doesn’t happen overnight, and it can’t happen with just one person. Dr. Prinstein believes change is more likely to happen when an entire community is ready to make that change. “No matter how much blood sweat and tears you might put in, it really takes all the people that you're directing change towards to be open and willing to receive and participate in that change.” In his role as Chief Science Officer for the American Psychological Association he’s learned that while one person can make an impact within the field, it’s more commonly done with many different teams and perspectives.
“If at the end of your work you can see your smudged fingerprints in a sea of thousands of other fingerprints that have helped to produce something or move something, then that's a job well done.” By sharing his knowledge of what it is, how it has evolved, and what it could be, there is an opportunity to teach people about what he calls “the most wonderful field in the world”. He believes that the new edition of the print and digital textbook offers a more modern take and helps to demystify clinical psychology.
Prinstein believes that the more people recognize and care about mental health, and the scientific underpinnings of clinical psychology, the better off society will be. He also noted that when you demystify clinical psychology, you allow people to see themselves as being an important voice in the science or practice of it. “We want students to say ‘that’s something I can do,’” he said.
Importantly, he believes that writing course materials is “a great way to help people see clinical psychology in a multicultural and scientific framework from the start.” He noted that the enhanced focus on inclusive practices and how the field can improve in supporting different communities was the part of the revision he’s most excited about. “We have a very direct, candid and important dialogue throughout the entire book about the limitations of clinical psychology and the opportunities to be more focused on equity, diversity and inclusion.” This dialogue can be found in a new podcast within Achieve for Clinical Psychology which features interviews with leading clinical psychologists who talk about their research and practice.
He believes that the best is yet to come in the field, and hopes to inspire others to learn more about the field. “My hope is that everyone who takes the class and uses Clinical Psychology either becomes a clinical psychologist or becomes an ambassador of this knowledge.”
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Coming out is an extraordinarily personal journey that many LGBTQIA+ people embark on as an early step to living open and authentic lives. More than just an act of telling the truth about oneself, when someone comes out, they create visibility and claim space in the world. That is a radical and brave act that Macmillan Learning’s LGBTQIA+ employee resource group, Proud@ML, is happy to celebrate.
Today Proud@ML shared its second annual National Coming Out Day storytelling project, where employees once again had the privilege to share a bit of their lived experience of coming out from within Macmillan Learning. This year Proud@ML also made space for employees to share their perspectives on supporting a loved one’s coming out.
Each story is unique, and Proud@ML is so grateful to those who took the time to share their stories with us. Celebrate National Coming Out Day with us by learning more about our employees’ coming out experiences.
From our LGBTQIA+ identifying colleagues:
Why was it important for you to come out?
“Coming out was important to me because I knew there were others like me (Mexican American gay men) and wanted to show them it is possible to be happy, loved, and even successful in predominately white straight spaces.” – Tony Villasenor, Senior Sales Rep
“The first person I truly came out to was my dad. It was important to me that coming out was a deliberate decision. I grew up in the south, so in my mind coming out was taking the stance that my truth, life, and love were too important to suppress, even against the homophobic rhetoric that was so prevalent in my childhood.” – Calyn Clare Liss, Editorial Assistant
How did coming out affect your sense of self or your understanding of your own identity?
“Being an openly gay man allowed me to meet some of the most amazing people who helped shape me into the man I am today. Their love and affection gave me the courage to do things that would have scared me previously and it helped me become a more positive person overall.” – Jeffrey LeGrand-Douglass, Senior Specialist, Conference, Meetings & Events
“I didn’t know how resilient, resourceful and capable I was until life threw some challenges at me that required me to rise to the moment. I am a bit of a gentle giant, I consider myself wise, and I am sharp-tongued. Those traits developed out of my coming out experience. I had been raised to understand that gay meant weak, different, even abnormal. I certainly didn’t accept that assertion and have fought hard against it.” – Anonymous
“When I first came out, I felt like I was a complete person for the first time. I was liberated from the exhaustion of compartmentalizing myself.” – Adam Whitehurst, Director of Media Editorial, Humanities, & Proud@ML Co-Lead
If you could offer your younger self advice about coming out, what would that advice be?
“Be yourself, and the friends and family who don’t accept that do not truly care about you and the ones who do are worth it!” – Indigo Carr, Editorial Assistant
From allies at Macmillan Learning:
How did your loved one’s coming out affect your relationship with them?
“I believe we are stronger for it, and I have so much respect and awe for her. I see more confidence in her, more passion as she openly embraces her interests and talks about LGBTQIA+ media, and above all, she is so much happier than she was as a child, which makes me indescribably happy.” – Anonymous
“I think she is able to be her authentic self, which actually allows me to get along better with her compared to when we were kids. I get to better understand who she is and what she dealt with throughout her life.” – Sean Jenkins, Associate Digital Initiatives Specialist
“I have experienced this with a handful of friends and family members. In each case, it definitely brought us closer. I felt extremely honored that they chose to come out to me and it really opened the door for deeper, more meaningful conversations about everything going on in their lives, not just their queerness.” – Heather Christian, Senior Content Production Manager
Resources for Coming Out
The Trevor Project – The Coming Out Handbook
GLSEN – Coming Out: A Resource for LGBTQ Students
PFLAG – Coming Out
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Metacognition is thinking about ways to improve your own thinking and learning processes. And for students, the act of knowing themselves and seeking to improve their learning process can positively impact their success in college. Importantly, for students it’s an internal guide that recognizes their own strengths and weaknesses, that helps them plan to achieve their goals, and enables them to monitor if they are doing what it takes to be successful. Realizing that you might not be on the right path to achieving your goals and correcting your course of action? That’s metacognition in action.
Students want to excel in college. In fact, 48% strive to get an A in all their courses, according to a study in Spring of 2022 of more than 1,400 undergraduate students by Student Monitor. Some of the more common activities they participate in outside the classroom to get a better grade are participating in a study group, or meeting a professor, and watching online videos.
Metacognitive and self-regulating behaviors help learners conceptualize their academic goals and then identify the tools and processes necessary to be successful. The act of regulating oneself as a learner is a critical area of focus in the company's recent grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. More broadly, the research will focus on how digital courseware can help to close equity gaps in course completion, retention, and performance rates for historically and presently underserved students.
In this brief blog series about metacognition, we’ll explore how students' metacognition impacts their behavior and attitudes in the classroom and, more broadly, in college. It’s part of Macmillan Learning’s commitment to sharing knowledge about what we learn throughout our research. Next month we’ll explore how metacognition impacts behaviors (goal setting, study habits, asking for help) and attitudes (self-efficacy/confidence, grit/productive struggle, intrinsic motivation.)
Learn more about Macmillan Learning’s partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
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Andrea Lunsford, Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor, Emerita, Stanford University “Everything’s an argument,” says Andrea Lunsford, co-author of the eponymous book . If you disagree, she’ll ask you to provide her with an example. “What’s something that you don’t believe is an argument?” she’ll ask. Then she’ll argue that whatever example you provided is, indeed, an argument. She wins every time. She’s never yet been stumped.
“But, it’s not about winning,” she’ll tell you next. There are so many purposes for arguing, and winning is way down at the bottom of the list. Andrea will encourage you to think about the consequences of our arguments–what do we learn from arguments? “We also argue to explore,” she’ll say, “but mostly to understand things. Even meditation and prayer are forms of argument with oneself–to better understand oneself.”
This month’s Macmillan Learning Author Spotlight series features the co-author of Everything’s An Argument , Andrea Lunsford, who recently led a workshop titled “Teaching (Ethical) Argument Today” with our Bedford New Scholars . I met virtually with Andrea earlier this summer to learn more about her career as an educator and author, and to hear how retirement is treating her.
July 26, 2022 – It’s a beautiful midsummer Tuesday–depending on where you live. Even Americans’ favorite topic of smalltalk–the weather–is an argument. While large swaths of the country endure relentless heat, it’s pleasantly cool on the Northern California coast. Andrea spends this crisp morning harvesting vegetables from an organic community garden. Today she harvests broccolini, squash, and the first potatoes of the season. The members of the community call the garden “Posh Squash.”
Andrea works in the garden every Tuesday. Her shift begins at 8:30 in the morning and ends thirty minutes past noon. Though today she must cut that short. Her interview with me begins at one o’clock sharp, and she needs to rush home to freshen up.
She’s punctual, joining the call right on time. We spend the first few minutes discussing the pronunciation of our Germanic last names. We’re both fascinated with language. I learn that her niece-in-law speaks six languages, which provokes a short discussion about code-switching. I’ve the feeling we could spend hours talking about our mutual interests, but our time today is limited.
We begin discussing Andrea’s own education journey. Did she always know she wanted to be a teacher? When I ask her this, she tells me she was always an avid reader and writer as a young girl. “I used to make my brother and two sisters take lessons from me,” she says, “and when we went to the five-cent movies, I would make them walk in a line behind me,” she adds with a smile.
Growing up in a very segregated and restrictive society, Andrea learned early the liberatory potential of literacy. Born in Oklahoma, her family moved to Eastern Tennessee after her father was rejected from World War II because of his flat feet and poor eyesight. After he secured a job with an aircraft corporation and became an accountant, the family moved to St. Augustine, Florida.
“I couldn’t imagine going anywhere other than my state school,” Andrea says. So, she enrolled at the University of Florida, where she completed both her bachelors and masters degrees in English. While she was interested in pursuing her Ph.D., her advisor, whom she describes as an old, white man, told her that she should go home, get married, and have children. “At the time, I wasn’t offended,” Andrea says.
Andrea did go home after that, but she didn’t become a stay-at-home mother and housewife. Instead, she started teaching. “I taught every grade from seventh through twelfth,” she tells me. “Juniors and seniors were some of my favorite ages to teach,” she says, “though I liked teaching juniors a bit more because they aren’t yet jaded and don’t have senioritis,” she jokes. Andrea also believes that anyone who teaches middle school is a superhero. “Teaching seventh graders always felt like a battle; either they were going to kill me or me them,” she adds.
While continuing to teach high school English, Andrea also began teaching night classes at a community college. “It was then that I started to think more about my advisor telling me that I couldn’t get a Ph.D.,” she says, “and I started to become angry about it.” She started looking at schools, and decided to apply to The Ohio State University in order to study under Edward Patrick Joseph Corbett, author of Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student . It was Corbett’s book that really sparked Andrea’s interest in the study of rhetoric.
After spending a short time on the waitlist, Andrea was admitted and arrived in Ohio in 1972. “This was during the height of significant political and social unrest,” she says. “There were many protests and conflicts, and the Kent State Killings were only two years prior.” It was this time of Andrea’s life that instilled an ongoing interest and enthusiasm for feminist scholarship and writing about women’s issues. “I’ve always wanted to teach young people how to speak and write with power–to have agency and take control of their own lives through discourse,” she says.
Andrea retired a few years ago, but she continues to speak to many students during virtual classes, conferences, webinars, and workshops. “What I miss most about teaching is the students,” she says. When I ask her about her experience with the Bedford New Scholars, she tells me she most loved hearing about their own work. “These students are working on exceptionally interesting projects and implementing really innovative teaching strategies.”
Students often have just as much to teach their teachers as the teachers have to teach them. Andrea shares with me a recent instance when a student really made her think. “I gave a talk at UC Irvine about writing style, and this young man asked me how he could make his sentences sing,” she says. “That was one of the best questions I have ever been asked. It’s certainly possible to make a sentence sing; we all know one when we see it.”
Andrea enjoys the stylistic part of writing, and she credits many women and especially women of color for creating more freedom in academic discourse. She quotes Maya Angelou, who said “I love a sentence,” and she tells me about Gloria Anzaldúa. “Gloria told me that early in her career she was strongly discouraged from genre mixing, which is something she became quite known for,” Andrea says. “She had an old, white male professor at the University of Texas who did then encourage her to write as she wished, and that gives me hope for the world.”
Writing Everything’s An Argument was one of the highlights of Andrea’s career. She tells me that her co-author, John J. Ruszkiewicz, had students that were complaining about their argument book, and so they decided to write their own. Their book is designed to help students understand and analyze the arguments around them as well as create their own. Sounds like a good skill to me since, as Andrea has now taught me, everything ’s an argument.
Andrea tells me the most fun she had was developing the Hume Center for Speaking and Writing at Stanford University. There wasn’t an existing writing center when she first arrived at Stanford in 2000, and she didn’t want to institute a new curriculum without one. “We could make it however we wanted to,” she says enthusiastically. “But, we wanted it to first and foremost be a place for the celebration of writing.”
In the beginning, the center sponsored higher-level writing seminars that brought in a far larger audience than expected. “We learned quickly that we needed more room because so many people showed up,” she says. “Eventually, we started hosting writer’s nights, the Stanford Spoken Word Collective, tea parties for multilingual students, parents’ night during parents’ weekend, where parents and students could read together, music nights… everything you could think of!”
Photos from "Posh Squash" Community Garden Andrea tells me how much she misses spending time at the center. She always used to conduct office hours there, and she tutored thousands of students during her time at Stanford. Nevertheless, retirement has certainly allowed her to pursue other hobbies and interests, including tending to the community garden.
Andrea stays plenty busy. She tells me she goes to the gym three times a week. “Though I’m not a regular gym rat,” she says. “I’m a gym swan because I don’t sweat,” she jokes. Her nephew will come for a visit later this afternoon. If the good weather holds, which it surely will, they may enjoy a walk along the beach.
Andrea Lunsford, Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor of English emerita and former Director of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stanford University, joined the Stanford faculty in 2000. Prior to this appointment, she was Distinguished Professor of English at The Ohio State University (1986-2000) and, before that, Associate Professor and Director of Writing at the University of British Columbia (1977-86) and Associate Professor of English at Hillsborough Community College. A frequent member of the faculty of the Bread Loaf School of English, Andrea earned her B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Florida and completed her Ph.D. in English at The Ohio State University (1977). She holds honorary degrees from Middlebury College and The University of Ôrebro.
Andrea's scholarly interests include the contributions of women and people of color to rhetorical history, theory, and practice; collaboration and collaborative writing, comics/graphic narratives; translanguaging and style, and technologies of writing. She has written or coauthored many books, including Essays on Classical Rhetoric and Modern Discourse; Singular Texts/Plural Authors: Perspectives on Collaborative Writing; and Reclaiming Rhetorica: Women in the History of Rhetoric, as well as numerous chapters and articles. For Bedford/St. Martin’s, she is the author of The St. Martin's Handbook, The Everyday Writer, and EasyWriter; the co-author (with John Ruszkiewicz) of Everything’s an Argument and (with John Ruszkiewicz and Keith Walters) of Everything’s an Argument with Readings; and the co-author (with Lisa Ede) of Writing Together: Collaboration in Theory and Practice. She is also a regular contributor to the Bits teaching blog on Bedford/St. Martin’s English Community site.
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In early July, I made a trip back to my old neighborhood of Kingsbury in Trenton, New Jersey. I was on my way back from a board meeting for a nonprofit organization I support that serves Trenton and its surrounding communities. I couldn’t be in the area without stopping through Kingsbury Square to see where my journey began. So, instead of putting on my blinders and staying the course of the highway that cuts through the city and leads north to home, I took the off-ramp to Cooper Street and pulled up to park in front of my old building.
The neighborhood was a shell of the community it was in the late 70s and early 80s when, on a July day like this, men Kingsbury in the early 2000s would be out waxing their cars, Black and Hispanic mothers would be perched in their windows, and children would be running in and out of every corner of every building laughing and playing any game their minds could imagine. I ran across an older woman sitting in front of my building, Ms. Carmen. We shared stories about how the neighborhood used to be and how so much of the spirit of community had fled with the tenants who were able to escape to a better life.
I asked her what the main problem facing the neighborhood was today. Ms. Carmen paused for a moment and explained to me that it's education. The children aren’t going to school because they don’t see the value in it anymore. Everything is different without an education. It is as if the children in the neighborhood have lost a curiosity for the world, a desire to learn in and outside of the classroom, an appreciation for life and the discovery of new ideas, the articulation of dreams, and the power of hope–all of it left in the distant past. A deep sorrow came over me all at once. I realized that my story was so different from the story that Ms. Carmen had shared with me about the families living today in the shadows of Kingsbury.
My mother and father came to Trenton as transplants from the Jersey shore, looking to start a new life and a family together. They had a plan while we were living in that crammed apartment in Kingsbury. With me being just born and my sister a year old, they realized that the only way up and out of Kingsbury was to focus on their education. So, both of my parents enrolled in colleges in the suburbs, juggled jobs and transportation, and created relationships with older families at a local church they joined to support us in every way. They traded the anxiety and fear of what they were running from in their youth for the stress and challenges of what they were running towards in their future together. The sacrifice was tremendous for all of us. My sister and I had to adjust to being cared for by a new extended family of older women from the church and their full house of foster children, relatives, and children of their own.
Kingsbury, NJ in the early 2000s While standing there in front of my old unit, I asked Ms. Carmen what I could do to help. She replied, “Backpacks, Coltrane. The children need backpacks full of books.” It all made sense to me at that moment.
I had grown up in those early years with a sense of urgency, mobility and possibilities that started with watching my parents pack their backpacks every morning for a day of part-time work and college campus life somewhere far out beyond that crammed apartment. They would read to us at night and pack books into tiny backpacks before sending us to Mother Williams’ or Mother Sampson’s house for the day. We were literally a family whose future was being determined by what was in our backpacks and how we were using the books inside to transport us to new experiences.
That simple routine each day led to bookshelves lining the apartment on every subject from the socioeconomic state of Cuba to the collective works of Robert Frost. When my sister and I left the apartment each day, we felt like college students with part-time jobs too. We chose to sit and read from the books in our backpacks when we were away from home, instead of giving in to the mesmeric preoccupation of television.
No, we weren’t immune to the daily pressures of urban life and the encroaching onset of poverty that was slowly consuming Kingsbury and the city as a whole. But, the foundation was being laid early in the life of our young family that would push my parents to get masters degrees and to eventually buy a house on the other side of town; push my mother to start a policy consultancy aimed at supporting at-risk populations nation-wide; push my dad to be a school administrator and college professor and to write six books; and push my sister and I to win scholarships to Princeton area private schools and obtain college degrees of our own.
Ms. Carmen was right in seeing the power of backpacks and books. I was a witness to what they could do to empower a family and inspire you to personal excellence. There, in front of my old building, Ms. Carmen and I vowed to work together this fall to provide backpacks for the returning students living in Kingsbury. Hopefully we can plant seeds of hope for children returning to the classroom from their summer break. Maybe my story and my presence might somehow inspire this generation of Kingsbury residents to understand how valuable education can be to their dreams for the future.
As students all over the country return to school this fall, let’s appreciate the complexities and challenges that learners face at all levels of their educational and career journeys. As an educational community, we must continue to acknowledge the importance that dreams and aspirations, plans and structure, and guidance and support play in the success that all students seek through the foundation of an education.
Helping fill backpacks for students in need can make a difference and help them succeed in school and beyond. One of the charities Macmillan Learning and its employees have donated to in the past is Operation Backpack in New York City, but there are many other local and national charities to choose from, including Stuff the Bus and the Kids in Need Foundation.
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The first few weeks of classes are cruising, and your students aren’t yet snoozing. Either they haven’t yet lost that new-school-year excitement, or your active learning strategies are keeping them engaged–perhaps a mix of both!
Active learning requires that students learn by doing; they aren’t only passive observers of class lectures. Instead, instructors create an environment in which students are able to practice their understanding of course material and develop skills by actively participating.
Active learning not only improves student engagement; it also increases student performance. According to a 2014 meta-analysis of 225 previous studies, the implementation of active learning techniques correlated with students earning nearly half a letter grade higher on test scores in science, engineering, and mathematics.
Active learning works , which is why many instructors are already using these five active learning strategies in their classrooms:
Asking students to work through problems in class. This can include solving math problems, working through economics concepts such as supply and demand , or responding to an essay prompt.
Assigning group work . Each member of the group can also be assigned a specific task to ensure that all students are actively engaged.
Assigning presentations . When students are asked to present, they’re required to reflect on their knowledge and communicate their understanding. Presentations allow students to practice many skills including task or group member delegation, research, and speaking skills, among others.
Participating in LMS discussion boards . Students are able to share their thoughts about class material and interact with others virtually.
Asking students to facilitate small group discussions . Not all students feel comfortable sharing their ideas in large classes but are more inclined to in small groups.
Exhausted this repertoire of active learning strategies and looking for new techniques to try? No problem! Here are five less commonly used active learning strategies to keep your students engaged through the end of the semester:
Using Case Studies. Case studies provide students with real-world examples of the concepts they’re learning in the classroom and help them contextualize course content. Case studies also provide an easy way to foster collaboration between students by incorporating the common active learning strategies listed above.
In-Class Polling. Similar to asking students to work through problems or answer quiz questions, in-class polling gives every student a low stakes way to get involved. In-class polling promotes critical thinking and reflection by asking students questions that are more experiential.
Peer Instruction. Ever heard an instructor say that they finally learned the material by heart because they were tasked with teaching it? The same applies to your students. Having to communicate what you’ve learned with others reinforces your own grasp of the material.
Gamification. It’s time to turn classtime into gametime! Keeping learners engaged can be a challenge, and one solution is to teach through games. You can have your students participate individually or in teams, and you can provide incentives such as points earned for correct answers.
Pre-Class Activities. Unlike regular homework assignments turned in before class and not discussed until graded and handed back to students, pre-class activities require that students come prepared to class with something that will be used during that current class period.
Macmillan Learning’s digital learning platform, Achieve , and iClicker make it easy to implement many of these active learning strategies. Achieve is a comprehensive course management system that’s accessible to students before, during, and after class, and iClicker was designed specifically for student engagement, lending itself to teaching techniques such as interactive games and easy polling.
Have you tried some of these active learning strategies in your classroom or have others not included above? We’d like to hear from you! Let us know about your experiences with active learning strategies in the comments below.
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The importance of teaching and learning is nothing new to corporate America. Businesses have long known the value of educating their teams through learning and development departments. But there’s more that businesses can learn from higher education including how to best retain top employee talent, how to make hybrid and online meetings and events more engaging and how to improve corporate training.
At Macmillan Learning, we’ve worked with Fortune 500 companies to apply best practices from higher education in order to improve their organizations. The following are three examples of how we’ve seen higher education influence and improve corporate America.
Student Retention and Engagement:
According to the latest data , adults who are both out of school and have some college with no degree account for up to 11% of the US population. That means more than one out of every ten adults started college, but didn’t finish. Universities are keenly focused on retaining their students year after year and ensuring that they graduate on time. That’s why universities use solutions like Skyfactor’s retention surveys to identify students who may be off track for on-time graduation so they can intervene early and get them back on track.
But higher education isn’t the only industry focused on retention. You may have heard of the “Great Resignation.”
Employers are as focused as ever on understanding what keeps their best employees motivated, engaged, and retained year after year. But experts have differing opinions. Willis Towers Watson says that “health and retirement benefits appear to be the tipping points.” A Harvard Business Review article cites “inertia” as the reason, noting an employee will stay until something forces them to leave. And the Workforce Learning Report from LinkedIn notes that organizations should prioritize enabling employees’ personal success through career development to retain employees; they say companies that excel at internal mobility retain employees for an average of 5.4 years (which is about twice as long as companies that say they struggle with retention).
The bottom line: there’s no one way to retain employees. The methods companies use to retain their top talent are as varied as, well, their employees. Through our own research, Macmillan Learning has learned that the factors that drive employee retention vary from organization to organization and can even change year to year.
In one case study, Macmillan Learning partnered with a Fortune 500 company to apply proven methods for retaining students in higher education toward helping retain top talent at the organization. The results were fascinating. We were able to use the same methodologies developed for higher education to identify the key factors that influence employee retention at the organization. We were then able to identify the employees most “at risk” of leaving the organization and offer suggestions for how the organization can improve the employee experience such that employees are more likely to stay–and ultimately thrive–at the organization. A year later we measured the efficacy of the changes the organization made and found that the organization successfully improved the key factors that were driving employee retention.
Through the case study we learned that the methodologies used to retain students in higher education can be effectively used to improve employee retention and satisfaction. This bodes well for improving the overall employee experience and addressing the challenges of the “Great Resignation.”
Student Engagement Best Practices for Online and Hybrid Meetings:
As a result of COVID, institutions of learning were forced to pivot from in-person to completely online learning almost overnight. It’s no surprise that the move to online learning presented significant challenges. Among these challenges was how to keep students engaged in online learning. Educators were now teaching from home and often staring at faceless rectangles in Zoom where once they saw students in classroom chairs. Educators met this challenge by adopting classroom engagement solutions like iClicker to encourage student attendance and facilitate engagement in the classroom. Educators reported that these solutions greatly improved their ability to keep students engaged in online learning.
While educators were struggling to create an engaging online learning experience, corporate America was dealing with their own COVID challenges. Employees who once met in person to solve business problems were now working from home and meeting entirely online using the same video conferencing solution as higher education. The challenges were similar: meetings–especially large meetings–were less engaging and employees with cameras turned off became faceless participants.
It may not surprise you that the solutions that worked in higher education also worked for corporate meetings. Corporations looked to audience engagement solutions like iClicker to make meetings and events more engaging and effective. Meeting facilitators were able to poll their audience using advanced question types like short answer, word cloud, multiple-response and heat maps. Facilitators were also able to solicit anonymous feedback to encourage participation and honest responses. Meeting participants had a voice and felt more engaged in decision making. While online meetings and events may not have been the same as when they were in person, the online experience improved with the addition of audience engagement solutions and methodologies from higher education were once again able to help corporate America.
Active Learning Best Practices Used for Corporate Training:
We all know the importance of learning and development in corporate training. In fact, the Workforce Learning Report from LinkedIn I mentioned earlier notes that nearly three-fourths of L&D leaders agree that learning and development have become more influential within their organizations over the past year. We also know that passive learning–where students passively read, attend a lecture, or watch videos to learn–isn’t particularly effective. That’s why a Fortune 100 company turned to Macmillan Learning to find out how they can make their corporate training more effective.
Macmillan Learning is currently piloting its iClicker student engagement solution to help this fortune 100 company make corporate training more engaging and effective. The company uses videos to train its employees but found that they needed a way to ensure that employees were engaging with the materials and measure how effectively they were grasping the materials. For over a decade iClicker has been solving this same problem for educators and was selected ahead of its competitors during a preliminary review because of its ease of use and reliability. Macmillan Learning was also able to point to how its own Learning and Development team uses iClicker to improve corporate training.
Using iClicker, the Fortune 100 company will be able to easily stop their training videos and ask formative assessment questions that will not only help the employees to better understand the materials but also track their progress and performance on the questions. The addition of iClicker will turn the video training from “passive” to “active” learning and based on education research promises to improve learning outcomes.
As you can see from the examples above, best practices in higher education are indeed influencing corporate America in ways that can improve employee retention, engagement, and learning outcomes. Corporations are learning that some of the challenges they face are not dissimilar from those faced in higher education and that heavily-researched solutions to help them solve their problems already exist. It’s exciting to see two worlds that I care deeply about blending and finding solutions to both old and new challenges. And we’re only scratching the surface of the problems we can solve together.
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Dr. Eric Chiang is no stranger to being online and in front of a camera. The Economics: Principles for a Changing World 6e author and instructor was a pioneer in online learning, bringing tech to teachers and students - an environment he was very familiar with well before virtual learning took over during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, his stint on the nationally televised show Holey Moley was when I first met him. Just as I was curious about his time on the show in 2019, I’m curious about what got him to that point.
At Macmillan Learning, we recognize that the success of our textbooks and courseware is in large part due to our outstanding authors. With this Author Spotlight series, we offer students and instructors a unique opportunity to better get to know these extraordinary authors, whose remarkable careers and interests often extend far beyond higher education.
There’s so much genuine interest and passion about the world’s economies within Dr. Chiang that helps make Principles for a Changing World the compelling text that it is. Within it, learners can hear his distinct voice speaking to them as they are introduced to economic concepts and the many unique examples from both within the United States and around the world.
Economics can be practical
Economics doesn’t have to be some pie-in-the-sky, impractical set of concepts. And Dr. Chiang doesn’t teach it that way because he didn’t learn it that way.
His journey into economics began when he was just a boy, with everyday lessons from his father, a chemist by trade, who had immigrated from Taiwan in the 1960s. While his father had always been interested in economics, he felt compelled to go with the trend of the time within the Taiwanese culture of coming to the United States and studying either engineering or the sciences. Despite that, his father never lost his interest in economics, and he began to teach Dr. Chiang the principles of it with practical life lessons -- how to be frugal with money, how to save money and how to invest money.
“He got me excited because he spoke about it in ways that made sense. Oh, we eat at Wendy's a lot, do you want to own a piece of Wendy's?” Dr. Chiang did want to invest and he saved his birthday money and allowances for some time so that he could invest $100. “He taught me about how companies make profits, how companies work -- and the fact that I owned just a few shares of Wendy's … it felt really exciting.” And it’s that same practical thinking that he uses to teach his students at Florida Atlantic University and the College of Southern Nevada.
His interest was further piqued when, in high school, he had the opportunity to take classes at Indiana University South Bend. “Everything I’d learned as a child just sort of formalized into these economic models.” And while he considered pursuing careers in his other interests during his undergraduate years of college, like geography or hotel management, he was always drawn back to economics. “Economics provided a foundation that allowed me to study many other subjects,” he explained with a smile.
It was ultimately Game Theory, the study of how and why people make strategic decisions, that took him from the role of student to teacher. As a graduate student at the University of Florida (Go Gators ) he was expected to teach an undergraduate class; he saw that Game Theory was an option in the catalog and decided to go for it. It was his first teaching experience, so he over-prepared his lectures, memorizing and scripting them. As it turns out, that wasn’t necessary. “As soon as I stepped into the classroom it became so natural, I absolutely fell in love with it. From that point on, I knew I was going to be a teacher because spending time with my students in the classroom was the highlight of my week.”
And while he loved teaching Game Theory, the topic proved to be a specialty and niche subject. So niche that he was having to come up with his own course materials for his students because there wasn’t much out there for him to use. “I wasn't satisfied with the existing textbooks at the time, so I was always using my own content.” And while he went on to customize chapters in other economics textbooks, something was still missing in those textbooks and, well, most others.
“One part missing in most books that I wanted was the story behind the concept. For example, most principles textbooks jump right into supply and demand, they jump right into elasticity, and they didn't really start the chapter with ‘Why is this important, and how is this relevant to everyone's life?’, and that was the part that I kept sort of filling in right when I customized the book.” And soon enough, he got the chance to write one on his own terms.
At first he began as an accuracy checker and reviewer of an economics textbook written by Jerry Stone, but quickly became more and more involved as a contributor. The two authors had a lot in common, with both Stone and Chiang teaching at public universities catering mostly to non-traditional students, who often took classes at night because they were working during the day or had families. Both believed in teaching practical, usable versions of economics -- Chiang understood just how valuable the students' time was and wanted to help them invest it in their future.
To do that, Stone and thereafter Chiang tailored the textbook to the needs of those students with the philosophy of being practical and connecting economics to the real world. “You have to be a little more thorough in your explanations, and you have to provide those additional explanations and examples and connect what we're learning to the real world.” That philosophy may be the reason why the largest population of students using the book are those from community colleges.
A global perspective
When Chiang began authoring the Principles for a Changing World textbook in 2014, he brought in a wealth of modern examples and global perspectives to create even stronger connections with the students. He also placed a greater emphasis on data literacy, all while still staying true to the original philosophy of being practical and connecting economics with the real world.
In writing, he made sure that the text attempted to make connections with every student by offering examples from across various regions of the US and even the world. “Take, for example, sports. We’re not just talking about baseball and football in the examples. We’re also talking about cricket, soccer and field hockey. That makes it more relatable.”
Chiang is passionate about international travel and culture, which is evident throughout the textbook. Every chapter of the book has an “around the world” feature, offering a different way to think about economics. “If you look at most other textbooks, if they're talking about something in another country, it is because they're comparing their country with our country. It’s their growth rate vs. ours. For me it's more from an individual perspective -- if you were standing in that country, how would someone in that country solve a problem?”
Take, for example, Disneyland in Tokyo. It’s quite different from the Disney World or Disneyland that students in the U.S. are used to. Culturally, in Japan, they are not as interested in thrill rides, like roller coasters, but they love photo taking. “Line management in dealing with scarcity and surplus is different in Japan. The park is so crowded but everyone's having a great time because there's so many characters walking around, and you can always take a picture with them and it's a very fulfilling experience …It's just interesting to see how different countries address different demands, and different cultural differences of what people value and that goes into their decision making. It all goes to show there’s not just one way to solve an economic problem.”
Growing up, Chiang never traveled far from his Indiana hometown. So as an adult he makes up for it by trying to visit a new country every year. He wants to bring new examples, ideas and stories to his students, which is how he came up with the idea of his Around the world in 80 hours series which is “a fun way to show the class how economics is all around the world.” I asked him about his favorite spots and he mentioned Japan and Singapore. Although he tends to stay a very short time in each country, his reasoning is that there’s around 200 countries in the world, so he’d like to have a glimpse of as many countries as possible -- his face lights up just thinking about it.
His most striking economic lesson was when he traveled to Bhutan, a small agricultural Kingdom in the Himalayas. According to Chiang, while it’s not modern (he did not see a single traffic light in the entire country), it’s one of the safest, healthiest and happiest places in the world. “You know they don't have much, but they live very, very well so to me that's a striking economic example.”
“The government doesn't measure their well-being through gross domestic product, which is how every other country measures the size of their country.” Rather, Bhutan has a Gross National Happiness Index comprising of nine domains that include psychological well-being, health, education and good governance, among others. “I think Bhutan offers an example of the opposite of what we think of as societal norms - you don't have to have money or lots of possessions, but you have to have community. And that’s a different way of thinking about the health of a country and its economic well-being.”
And that’s what makes Bhutan Bhutan. And what makes each student their own person as well, which is why it’s so important that diversity is not only recognized, but championed.
“Everyone faces different circumstances and manages resources differently, and that's what economics is about. How you manage your money and your time is different from how I do it. A lot of it's based on our circumstances and values, and how we grew up, and that's based on cultural diversity,” Chiang said. Students growing up in a small town have vastly different experiences than students growing up in an agricultural community, which differs vastly from those in a large city. And that’s just taking into account population size, let alone ethnicity, background, gender or income, among other factors.
And that’s true for the world around us, for our classrooms and also for our textbooks. “In the past century there have been so many prominent economists and Nobel Prize winners that are women and people of color, and we highlight the biographies of many of these important contributors to economics,” Chiang noted. He cited Cecilia Rouse and Phyllis Wallace as examples. He further explained, “People always talk about prominent macroeconomist Milton Friedman, but actually he worked most of his life with Anna Schwartz , who was equally deserving of the Nobel Prize.”
Dr. Chiang just finished writing the sixth edition Economics: Principles for a Changing World and notes that it will offer the practical and relevant content that’s been counted on for many years as well as fantastic new features like interactive graphing. But this new edition will offer even more information about diverse economists like Rouse and Wallace and how their contributions have affected our everyday lives -- including the economic decisions we make today. It will also include more stories, just like the Gross National Happiness Index from Bhutan that help students understand different ways of thinking about economics. Until then, you can find Dr. Chiang at FAU, UCS, or somewhere at cruising altitude.
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“One of my passions is to help students succeed,” said Dr. Kevin Revell, author of Introductory Chemistry . “It’s part of what drives me.” During his sixteen-year tenure as a chemistry professor at Murray State University, Kevin has helped many students succeed, and this isn’t limited to his own students. As the author of a popular, introductory level textbook, his passion to help students stretches much further than his own classroom.
Writing a textbook is challenging, as educators work to channel their experience and knowledge into a tool to teach others. Macmillan Learning’s authors are accomplished experts in their fields; often distinguished academics at some of the most reputable colleges, universities, and institutions around the globe; and they also have remarkable careers outside the classroom. They use all of these experiences as practical examples when teaching or writing their books.
Macmillan Learning’s new Author Spotlight series gives students an opportunity to learn more about the educators authoring their textbooks. What have their careers looked like? Did they always know that they wanted to work in higher education? When did they turn from teaching to writing? This month’s spotlight is Kevin Revell, an author whose successes and struggles as a student and teacher have informed the way he teaches and writes today.
Dr. Kevin Revell, Murray State University Kevin became interested in chemistry at an early age. He told me he remembers sitting in a tree at eight-years-old trying to figure out what plastic was made of. “It’s not made of wood. It’s not metal. So, what is it?” Kevin said. His developing interest in science continued to grow, and he described everything as “clicking” during his high school chemistry class.
“Most students didn’t like the class,” Kevin said, “but I was fascinated by the material and couldn’t stop asking questions.” Less than two years later, Kevin started his undergraduate career at the University of New Orleans as a chemistry major. Despite his strong interest and enthusiasm for the sciences, he struggled during his first year, describing this as a formative part of his education that greatly influenced the way he teaches today.
It’s an age-old piece of advice that students should visit professors during their office hours. Nevertheless, many students are often hesitant to take them up on their offer. I shared with Kevin that my younger sister recently completed her first year of college as a declared biochemistry major and that she struggled during the spring semester in her Chemistry II course. “Tell her to come to Murray State,” Kevin joked.
Kevin wants his students to take advantage of his and other professors’ willingness to offer one-on-one help. “I know I may look sort of big and scary,” he said with his military-style haircut and two folded U.S. military flags in his office, “but I really want my students to know that they are welcome. I want to see them succeed.”
Kevin told me about a frequent visitor to his office hours. “This young woman took both Chemistry I and Chemistry II with me last year, and she really struggled,” he said. “We spent hours working through problems together on the whiteboard, and she got better and better.” Kevin impressed the importance of working through problems on the whiteboard. “I can better understand students’ thought-processes and see where they get hung up,” he said. “We go through a bunch of whiteboard markers.”
The student Kevin described didn’t take organic chemistry with him, yet she still continued to visit him during office hours for help. “She’s on her way to vet school now,” Kevin said. “It’s gratifying to see students not necessarily know where to begin with a problem and then emerging at the end of a semester or academic year with a really developed cognitive skill set. They know how to tackle big problems and persevere until they make it through.” Kevin described many of his students as being far ahead of where he was at their age. “At nineteen I had no idea what I was doing. These students are going to accomplish things that I never could,” he said.
When asked what career Kevin saw himself pursuing as a student, he told me his goal was to obtain his PhD. “I wanted to do high-level research and be a big shot in the field of chemistry,” he said. But, after entering graduate school, he became frustrated with his research and felt he needed to step away for a while to reassess. “I moved to Florida and taught at a high school for one and a half years. That’s where I learned how much I love teaching,” Kevin said.
Kevin and his wife had two small children at the time, and he realized that going back to school was going to be the best option to support his growing family. “So, I returned to school and finished my master’s degree,” he said. “Afterwards, I worked for a couple of years in the pharmaceutical industry. I learned so much chemistry during that time. It’s just such a different world from academia. It’s no longer theoretical, and the stakes are really high.”
Fortunately, Kevin also found a way to continue doing what he loved most during this transitional time – teaching. While working for Eli Lilly, Kevin taught one night a week at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis. “I’d get off work an hour before class, make a quick stop at White Castle for dinner, and then rush over to the community college with a handful of markers and a vague plan!” Kevin said. “I really came to appreciate what a community college does, and the challenges and opportunities that professors have,” he said.
Like many others, 9/11 made Kevin reflect about where he wanted to be and what he wanted to do with his life. “It was always going to be teaching,” Kevin said. An opportunity popped up in Florida, so Kevin and his family made the move back to the Sunshine State. “This little college was just beginning to launch into the physical sciences and build the program from the ground up,” he said. Kevin has fond memories of this time. “Everything was new and there wasn’t much of a budget, so the other teachers and I had to be a little experimental.” Kevin described all the “goofy” stuff they were doing – from dropping bowling balls to measure the acceleration of gravity to using old record players from the school’s library to measure rotation. “We even built our own primitive fume hoods to conduct microscale organic experiments,” Kevin laughed.
Although Kevin was thriving as a teacher, he wanted to complete his PhD. “The experience with my master’s degree left a bad taste in my mouth, and I was very reluctant to go back,” Kevin said. It was a mentor, the provost at the college where he was teaching, who made all the difference. “It’s really valuable to have someone in your life who will tell you the things you don’t want to hear,” he said. “He told me the hard truth – that if I wanted to succeed in academia, going back for the PhD was essential.”
It turned out that the PhD experience was much better than his time as a master’s student. “I ended up working with Professor Ed Turos at the University of South Florida. “He was terrific to work with. He understood that I was an adult, balancing the responsibilities of being a teacher and dad, and that I needed to figure out how to make it all fit,” he said. “He helped me make it fit.” Kevin finished his PhD in 2006 and has been teaching at Murray State University ever since.
While there are many chemistry professors, only a few are writing introductory textbooks for thousands of college students. So, how did Kevin become a textbook author? When I asked him, he told me it was sort of a funny process. “I ended up working with Sapling Learning, doing virtual product demos with colleagues around the country. I was able to build a lot of great relationships and learn about the teaching challenges that my colleagues were facing,” Kevin said. It was through this experience that Kevin met the publisher, Roberts & Company (which eventually merged with Macmillan Learning), and started the Introductory Chemistry project.
“It’s amazing how it all came together,” Kevin said. “Our department chair assigned me the non-majors chemistry course. It was a night class, and I was originally pretty grouchy about it because it was during my son’s basketball season, and I hated missing games. But I fell in love with the class, and have been closely involved with the non-majors course ever since.”
Originally, the non-majors class used a textbook that had some gaps in it, so Kevin ended up writing an entire chapter himself to fill those holes. When he was approached by a publisher interested in producing a digital-first textbook, Kevin was already prepared with a writing sample.
After signing his project, Kevin noted, “I had this great team with the energy and know-how to make my vision of helping students succeed a reality,” he said. “I wanted to create digital tools that emulate the ways I work through problems with my students in the classroom and office. I feel we achieved that.”
Another thing that was important for Kevin to consider with his textbook was practicality. “I’ve had the benefit of working in the pharmaceutical industry, so I’ve seen how industrial chemistry really works,” he said. “I want students to have the context they’ll need to succeed in their jobs.” Introductory Chemistry exposes students to a wide variety of different potential career paths for students of chemistry. “I’ve provided chapter introductions that tie in stories from different disciplines – forensic, conservation, archeological, geological, manufacturing – all sorts of different things. There are so many opportunities out there that students aren’t even aware of.”
Kevin Revell teaches introductory, general, and organic chemistry at Murray State University, and also serves as the assistant dean for the MSU Jones College of Science, Engineering, and Technology. A passionate educator, his teaching experience includes high school, community college, small private, state comprehensive, and state flagship institutions. His work encompasses curriculum, technology-enhanced pedagogy, assessment, and active-learning design. He has hosted multiple science education workshops, and is the senior editor for flippedchemistry.com, an online community for college-level instructors implementing active-learning pedagogies. A synthetic chemist by training, his research involves the synthesis and evaluation of functional organic materials. With his wife, Jennifer, Kevin has three children – James, Julianne and Joshua – and two grandchildren.
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