Category Archives: Community of Practice

Confessions of a Frequent Lurker: Getting What You Need from Online Communities

As one of the founding leaders of PECOP, I’m always exhorting people  to “Engage! Get involved! Comment! Rate! Review! Contribute!” But today I willingly confess:  I am an online lurker. It’s not as shocking as it sounds. I’m part of the >90% of people who go to online communities to get information but rarely share or contribute.  For example, I spent the last half hour at Overstock.com shopping for a cushion for my outdoor chair. I found the product I wanted easily and spent the next 15 minutes reading reviews at both Overstock and Amazon to see whether previous purchasers (e.g., the customer “community”) thought the cushion was worth the money. One lady offered up the history of her patio décor…pretty useless.  But most reviews were short, to the point, and valuable. My “lurking” led me to feel confident about the purchase so I bought the cushion. In the last year, I have used online communities to “research” all kinds of purchases from shoes to cars to plumbing services. More importantly, I “lurk” at online communities to learn about services, apps, journals, organizations, and publications.

What’s wrong with being a lurker? Absolutely nothing! It’s one of the five phases of community membership as described by Kim (2006) and Noff:

  • Lurkers: those who visit infrequently, read, but never participate (i.e., comment or submit new content)
  • Novices: those who are new and are seeking to learn the rules of the community and how to participate
  • Insiders: those who participate regularly in the community
  • Leaders: those who not only participate, but encourage interaction and engagement by others
  • Elders: those who are leaving the community due to changes in personal interests, changes in the community, etc.

Lurkers also are the dominant group in community membership. In 2006, the Nielsen Norman Group found that 90% of online community members are lurkers, 9% of members comment occasionally and only 1% of members actively contribute significant content. More recent data suggests that engagement is increasing and, by 2011, engagement looked more like 70-20-10 for lurkers-commenters-content creators. But the vast majority of members are still primarily lurkers.

Why do so many of us lurk rather than engage in online communities? Blogger Joel Lee suggests that many feel they have nothing worthy to contribute while others fear negative reactions to their comments or questions. Alternatively, as a commenter to Lee’s blog noted, users may simply have better things to do with their time than to engage.

Social media

However, for professional networking, online community use is growing.  A recent survey by the Society of New Communication Research (SNCR) found that people spend much more of their online time in professional networks than with friends or family. And when asked what online channels they use to share information with colleagues, social networking (25%), microblogging (e.g., Twitter, 28%), and direct email (31%) comprised the top three methods and were surprisingly comparable in frequency.

Why engage, comment, or contribute? The SNCR survey found that the top two reasons people moved from lurker to participant were:

  1. To help others by sharing information, ideas, and experiences; and
  2. To participate in a professional community of colleagues and peers.

How do YOU choose? Where do you lurk? Where do you contribute? And where do you lead?

Personally, I lurk at sites where I’m considering buying something, taking a course, going to visit…essentially where I’m a consumer and have limited expertise to offer. I contribute to sites that I use regularly for travel or business. Friends know I’m a frequent TripAdvisor reviewer and share science news on my Facebook page. My APS colleagues know I use Vivino to select and submit reviews of wines for APS committee dinners. I lead at those sites where I fill a specific role (e.g., my church’s Facebook page). Of course, here at the LifeSciTRC, I get to do a lot of leading and contributing!

What do we gain by contributing? Kollock (1999) says active users receive more useful help than do lurkers. He also states that visible and useful contributions lead to a positive reputation in the community and that actively contributing helps users feel that they have a real impact on their communities. For me, it’s all about give and take. I receive a steady stream of helpful information from online communities…I try to return the favor. And I learn how to use social media by contributing. It really demystifies the whole process.

Have you had good or bad experiences through lurking, commenting, or contributing to a community? Please share on the bulletin board below…let’s keep the conversation going. After all, this OUR PECOP community!

In the meantime, I’ll wait for my chair cushion to arrive. I will receive several emails from Overstock.com asking me to review it. If I like the cushion, I will be inclined to ignore the emails, but I really should write a review. Of course, if the cushion is rubbish, I will most certainly, in the words of Captain Picard, ”Engage!”

 

Resources

Kollock, P. The economies of online cooperation: Gifts and public goods in cyberspace. In  M. Smith and P. Kollock (Eds.), Communities in Cyberspace. London: Routledge.

 
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Marsha Matyas is a biologist, educator, and science education researcher. For nearly 30 years, she has worked at scientific professional associations (AAAS and now APS) to promote excellence in science education at all levels and to increase diversity within the scientific community. Marsha’s research focuses on factors that promote science career interest and success, especially among women and underrepresented minorities. At the APS, Marsha directs the Education Office and programs, which span from pre-Kindergarten to professional development and continuing education for Ph.D. and M.D. scientists. Marsha will be speaking more about community engagement, especially for physiology educators, at the APS Institute on Teaching and Learning.

 

 

5 New Year’s Resolutions Every Teacher Should Make in 2016

checklistThe fall semester is done, end of year evaluations are complete, and now you sit to reflect.  However, one thing remains – to make resolutions for 2016.

According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, the top 10 resolutions for 2015 were:

  1. Lose weight
  2. Get organized
  3. Spend less/save more
  4. Enjoy life to the fullest
  5. Stay fit/healthy
  6. Learn something exciting
  7. Quit smoking
  8. Help others in their dreams
  9. Fall in love
  10. Spend more time with family

 

Do these resolutions sound familiar?  While these resolutions focus on personal growth, December also marks a time to make career resolutions.  Who do you aspire to be in your teaching, instruction, or position?  What type of person do you aspire to be?

 

If you are anything like me, at the end of the semester I reflect on my semester failures and successes.  My immediate response is to create a mental list of things to improve on such as,

“Next semester I will do ___ before the semester starts.”

“No problem, I’ll do ______ during the break time to.”

“I’ll start early next time”

“I will do that activity/assignment next semester.”

“I will never do ____ again.“

With each passing day, the list fades away and gets tucked away in the back of my mind never to be found again.

 

Resolutions help achieve personal and professional goals.  A recent article by Laura Garnett (Inc.com) described New Year resolutions made by “truly remarkable CEOs.”  The longer I read the article, the more parallels I could see between the resolutions of company leaders and teachers.  We should also think strategically as CEOs do.  So what can we learn from the resolutions of CEOs?  Keep reading to find five resolutions teachers should make in 2016.

 

Five Resolutions Teachers Should Make in 2016

Make a strategic change in 2016 to become the teacher you aim to be. It’s time!

 

1. Meet a new person every week (16 week semester)

Network.  A typical semester spans 16 weeks.  The goal is realistic and accomplishable – meet 16 people in one semester.  CEOs take the people-first attitude very seriously.  They are focus on their employees and make them engage in their work so all could benefit.

How?  Get out of the office/classroom.  Talk to people inside/outside of your department.  Attend university functions or activities, sit on committees, or go to training events offered by your school to meet someone new every week.

 

2. Learn something new every day (blogs, podcasts, public radio, etc.)

Teachers are lifelong learners, but how intentional are you to learn something new every day?  Make it a point something daily in/outside of your field.  Read a blog, tune in to a daily/weekly podcast, listen to public radio, read the newspaper, etc.

 

3. Focus on the long-term, not the short-term

Resolutions most often focus on getting quick and immediate results.  Lose 10 pounds.  Prepare a manuscript.  Attend a workshop.  Instead, pick a resolution that helps you reach long-term success.  Be strategic about your time, invest in your skills, and plan for personal/professional growth.

 

4. Be a better mentor and connect with your own mentors

Commit to being more engaged in your mentoring (Statistic Brain).  Be strategic about the mentoring you give others and about the mentoring you seek for yourself.  Mentoring is the key to success in any field or discipline.  Make it a resolution to engage your students in quality mentoring and/or to reach out to your own mentor.

 

5. Find your zone and do work that inspires you

You do great work when you operate in your zone.  Your zone is the place where you face challenges with excitement.  The zone is about putting your talent inline with your purpose.  This is where you do your best work – at the point where you find fulfillment and feel completely engaged.  Are you in the zone or working towards it?

 

Decide today to make 2016 the year to make your work matter.  Align your zone with your personal purpose.  Be strategic and resolve to make it happen.

 

Editor’s Note:  And decide to participate in the American Physiological Society Institute on Teaching and Learning in Madison, WI sponsored by your APS Teaching Section and the Physiology Educator Community of Practice June 20-24, 2016 (see www.the-aps.org/itl)!

 

Jessica Ibarra

 

 

 

 

Jessica Ibarra received her PhD and postdoctoral training at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Jessica is an assistant professor at the University of the Incarnate Word. She has taught undergraduate anatomy and physiology, medical physiology, general biology, and graduate courses in physiology and neuroanatomy. Her experiences include student-centered teaching strategies, health profession student advisement, K-12 science outreach, and studied inflammation in cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and diabetes. Jessica was recently appointed to anatomy faculty to teach the anatomical sciences in the Masters of Biomedical Sciences program in the UIW School of Osteopathic Medicine. When she is not teaching, she enjoys spending time with her family and running.

6 Recommendations for Nurturing and Including Adjunct Faculty in our Communities

shutterstock_210979459 (2)An on-campus community must include faculty, students, staff and administrators, but ‘faculty’ may not wholeheartedly include adjunct faculty. I have been working as a non-tenure-track part-time faculty member, or an adjunct, since fall of 2011. For me and many others a variety of courses are in my normal rotation; Anatomy and Physiology, Human Biology, General Biology, Nutrition, Medical Terminology and Genetics. I currently teach at five Bay Area community colleges, usually 3-4 concurrently. We adjuncts are hired for content knowledge and are comfortable with the subject matter, but most lack formal training in teaching/education. While not all individuals that accept a short-term teaching contract desire a long-term college teaching career, this post focuses on those who, like myself, have made part-time teaching into a full-time job. This drives me to seek professional development (PD) opportunities to maximize my efficacy, improve the classroom experience and student success, as well as make meaningful contributions to my department(s) and college(s).

In recent months, the ‘plight of the adjunct’ has been sensationalized in the media, February 2015 saw the first National Adjunct Walkout Day approach and pass, leaving the public, students, faculty and parents concerned about the quality and working conditions of ‘the new majority;’ the growing faction of adjunct faculty who have become essential in educating the next generation nationwide2.

I (and many of my biology colleagues) feel fortunate to teach a variety of in-demand courses for pre-professional or allied health students; and have yet to encounter a shortage of available work, however we often struggle to fit together our various contracts into an operational schedule. Rather than a shortage of contracts, I found that there appears, at least to many adjuncts, to be a shortage of opportunities to participate in a campus community. As an elected adjunct faculty representative for my local Academic Senate, I have worked to communicate with my constituents and find ways to improve the opportunities for adjuncts on several campuses. One difficulty we face is the scheduling of committee meetings, workgroups and professional development seminars, which frequently conflict with teaching contracts, meetings or workshops at other colleges, especially leading up to a new semester.

As The Higher Learning Commission described the value and necessity of professional development for adjuncts in a recent article, (which I would encourage anyone involved in planning or facilitating professional development to read), especially when considering the needs, interests and desires of adjunct faculty. The article outlines six areas that should be considered when planning PD and building a community that includes adjunct faculty. I largely agree with these and would like to offer some additional suggestions based my own experiences, which can hopefully be used at other colleges.

6 Suggestions for Building a Community that Includes Adjunct Faculty

 1. Offer professional development in series

Many adjuncts struggle when developing activities and authentic assessments, both tasks which become exponentially harder when teaching several different classes at several schools, using different textbooks, on an unpredictably rotating basis. Although I do not have personal experience with the tenure process, and am certain that it varies between colleges, I hear that the tenure process often consists of weekly meetings with a tenure committee, peer-mentoring, frequent classroom evaluations with feedback and other processes that help the newly hired faculty flourish as a member of the community. I have yet to find a similar process that allows new adjuncts who desire a long-term teaching career to similarly improve, but feel that any effort put into this at a college would provide boundless benefits to the faculty, departments, students and college.

2. Enlist full-time faculty and staff members to facilitate professional development sessions

This is one that I think needs to be revised, as I strongly believe that adjuncts should also be included in the planning processes, to ensure that the next point #3 is being satisfied.

3. Offer relevant topics that include institutional policies and procedures as well as pedagogical best practices

In order to help adjunct faculty (many of whom have little formal pedagogical training), workshops should focus on helping faculty learn via interactive workshops and classroom simulations active and experiential methods such as collaborative assignments and high-impact practices, especially those that focus on building student critical thinking skills and active learning. Anyone planning and scheduling PD workshops must consider the level of training that many adjuncts bring to the classroom. I have heard many adjuncts lament what they could have done with the morning rather than attend a PD session that did not provide tangible strategies to enhance student learning. For many, it feels like a waste of precious time to attend an unpaid session, and may deter them from future attendance. This brings us to the next point.

4. Provide stipends to adjuncts that complete workshop series

Even if not for a series, stipends wherever possible for adjuncts completing workshops or work outside of the classroom should be considered. In my experience, equity funds and other special sources of money may be used. In addition to on campus work, adjunct faculty should also be supported in terms of being able to attend outside seminars, the majority of the off-campus PD I have been involved in was made possible through scholarship or grant opportunities that I sought on my own. Often, it is very difficult for us to get a substitute, while the lost wages, cost of travel and the workshop make out of state seminars cost prohibitive for many part-timers who are not eligible for reimbursement or leave pay.

5. Provide coffee and tea at every session; provide light meals where appropriate

Yes.

6. Employ a visible hands-on approach to community building

A major area where we adjunct faculty could be better supported is in our involvement on campus outside of teaching (e.g., committee work or new course or curricula development). I have found that at some campuses we are allowed to attend such meetings, but are unaware of when the meetings are scheduled, discouraged from ‘working for free’ or are told that we are not eligible to actually serve on a specific committee. Being clear about eligibility criteria, holding regular meeting times and keeping websites with agendas or action items up-to-date are essential. For many adjunct faculty and their colleges, a major challenge is to raise awareness, disseminate information and gather participants and contributors.

With these challenges in mind, I believe the LifeSciTRC is a great resource to facilitate the expansion of on and off-campus resources and opportunities for faculty to share high-impact practices, activities and assessments related to specific content areas or learning outcomes. Lastly when it comes to upcoming professional development, funding opportunities or seminars, please do not hesitate to invite us personally with an email or even a note in our mailbox because it is difficult to keep up with 5 institutional email accounts.
Berg

 

Roseann Berg is an adjunct faculty member at 5 Bay Area community colleges, teaching a variety of Biology classes. She received her B.S. in General Biology from the University of Washington, and her Doctorate of Chiropractic from Palmer College of Chiropractic West, in San Jose, CA. She is involved on campus in her third year as a Student Learning Outcomes and Assessment Co-Coordinator at Foothill College, an Academic Senate representative, and a GE curriculum reviewer. At Mission College, she participates in a Reading Apprenticeship Faculty Inquiry Group, and helped plan and carry out a pilot study on the effects of Reading Apprenticeship in the classroom on student engagement across several disciplines.

 

Observing PECOP’s Impact at the 2015 Experimental Biology (EB) Meeting

The purpose of the physiology education community of practice (PECOP) is to build community support and collaborations and to create emergent opportunities that might not exist in our isolated silos of departments and institutions.  PECOP fellows and participants had a significant presence in the APS teaching section poster session at EB in Boston, with more than a dozen posters.  Several were authored by educators who participated in the APS-ITL (institute on teaching and learning) in Maine in June 2014. The APS teaching section reflects a growing community of physiology educators who are engaged in developing and applying student-centered learning practices, in the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), and in physiology education research. Here, we highlight three posters that illustrate the impact of the APS-ITL and PECOP:

First, the APS-ITL catalyzed the formation of a new inter-institutional group and the comparative animal physiology core concept project (see Cliff et al. poster # 541.32 and Patricia Halpin’s PECOP blog post).  This group has formulated specific core concepts that are essential for student learning in animal physiology.

Second, attending the APS-ITL encouraged a PECOP fellow to attend and present at EB for the first time (poster # 687.23).  Trudy Witt followed up on her fascinating historical poster at the APS-ITL and came to her first EB meeting to share more information about the history of teaching using simulators.  From her poster, we were reminded that teaching with simulations is not new.  A French midwife in the 1700s invented an obstetric simulator and used it to teach midwifery to thousands of illiterate women.

Finally, another poster presented a different type of simulation.  Kerry Hull’s poster (#541.2) built on her poster at the APS-ITL. It described role-playing simulations that help students master complex physiological processes (negative feedback and ventilation). Kerry assessed student comments and exam performance and concluded that role-playing simulations in larger classes can benefit both participants and observers. She also argues that simulations are more effective when they are used in multiple classes so that students have a chance to revisit them, rather than being exposed only once.

These posters illustrate a few of the effects of this community of practice that were manifest at EB 2015:

  • bringing together new collaborative groups to create new tools and research projects;
  • broadening participation in the APS teaching section at EB by encouraging first-timers to present scholarly work;
  • enabling support and constructive feedback for physiology education research; and
  • providing opportunities for PECOP participants to meet and reconnect in person and continue conversations that began in Maine last year.

Did you reconnect with PECOP participants or fellows at the APS teaching poster sessions, symposia, dinner, or box lunch?  Please share your EB experiences in the comments.  We would also like others to share additional information about other posters you saw or presented in the comments to this blog.

 

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Jenny L. McFarland is tenured faculty and former department chair in the Biology Department at the Edmonds Community College (EdCC) where she teaches human anatomy & physiology and introductory biology courses and conducts biology education research on student learning or core concepts in physiology. She received the EdCC Echelbarger-Sherman Exceptional Faculty Award in 2013. She is a PULSE (Partnership for Undergraduate Life Science Education) Leadership Fellow (selected 2012). As a PULSE fellow and a steering committee member on several NSF-funded projects, she advocates for excellence in undergraduate physiology, biology and STEM education at 2-year and 4-year institutions. She has served as a facilitator for the NW PULSE workshops to transform life science departments in the Pacific Northwest. Jenny earned her B.S. in Aeronautics & Astronautics Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her Ph.D. in Physiology & Biophysics and Physiological Psychology from the University of Washington in Seattle.

 

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Robin McFarland teaches anatomy and physiology at Cabrillo College in Aptos, California. She earned her Ph.D. in physical (biological) anthropology from the University of Washington. Robin studies ape anatomy with her colleagues from University of California, Santa Cruz. She coauthored Essentials of Anatomy & Physiology with Ken Saladin.

 

Biology Education Research Group (BERG) at the University of Washington – Seattle, an example of a Local Community of Practice

The Biology Education Research Group (BERG) at University of Washington (UW) is an example of a local community of practice (COP); see http://uw-berg.wikifoundry.com. “Communities of practice are formed by people who engage in a process of collective learning in a shared domain … groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly” (Wenger, 2006).

In 2009, BERG grew out of a desire to establish a regular conversation for faculty and others interested in biology education and provide opportunities for discussing the DBER (Discipline Based Education Research), SOTL (Scholarship of Teaching & Learning) and cognitive science literature, as well as sharing expertise and problem solving. We encourage the formation of other, similar local and regional COPs to promote, encourage and sustain research on biology teaching and learning and implementation of evidence-based teaching and learning.

BERG was founded by faculty at the UW and has expanded to include participation of postdocs and graduate students and other regional university and college faculty. BERG meetings are held weekly during the academic year.  Importantly, BERG encourages participation of undergraduates, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows and these members have now become an integral and essential part of the group. BERG goals include the creation of new methods for teaching Biology, production of research based teaching methods, development of testable hypotheses concerning student learning in Biology, creation of guidelines for conducting rigorous biology education research, providing a forum for discussion of effective teaching methods and fostering a diverse network to facilitate research collaborations.

  •  Please share information about and links to other local and regional groups in this blog discussion.
  • Share your questions about creating a local community of practice.

Some advice for starting a local community of practice:

  • Have explicit, shared values.
  • Use a “collaborative bottom-up approach” Kajiura (2014).
  • Practice “diffuse authority” Kajiura (2014) but there needs to be one person who can send weekly reminders and encourage different members to lead weekly discussions.
  • Create and maintain “community spaces” Kajiura (2014). Use a web-site to house papers, calendar, participants, COP description and other information & resources.
  • Have a list-serve so participants can easily email each other.
  • Post meetings times, locations and topics (and/or presenters) at the beginning of the term/semester.

Things to avoid

  • Don’t rely on a single individual to organize, present or provide expertise.
  • Don’t compete with departmental seminars and critical meetings.
  • Don’t spam your list-serve.
  • Don’t intimidate: disagree without being disagreeable and be patient with DBER & SOTL novices (sometimes these are the senior faculty and sometimes they are students).
  • Don’t be exclusive in your participants or your readings.
    • If you set up a COP for faculty and postdocs don’t exclude graduate students or undergraduate researchers from this group.
    • A biology education journal club should be open to literature from cognitive science, physics education and other relevant disciplines.

Kajiura, L., Smit, J., Montpetit, C., Kelly, T., Waugh, J., Rawle, F., Clark, J., Neumann, M., and French, M. 2014. Knowledge mobilization across boundaries with the use of novel organizational structures, conferencing strategies, and technological tools: The Ontario Consortium of Undergraduate Biology Educators (oCUBE) Model. Collected Essays on Learning and Teaching. Volume 7, No. 1.  Available from: http://celt.uwindsor.ca/ojs/leddy/index.php/CELT/article/view/3990

Wenger, E. Communities of Practice: A Brief Introduction. 2006 [cited 2014 November 25]; Available from: http://wenger-trayner.com/theory/

 

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Mary Pat Wenderoth is a Principal Lecturer in the Biology Department at the University of Washington (UW) where she teaches animal physiology courses and conducts biology education research on how students learn biology. She received the UW Distinguished Teaching Award in 2001and has served as the co-director of the UW Teaching Academy. She is a co-founder of the UW Biology Education Research Group (UW BERG) and the national Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research (SABER). She has served as a facilitator at the HHMI Summer Institute for Undergraduate Biology Education since 2007 and co-led the Northwest Regional Summer Institutes from 2011 to 2013. Mary Pat earned her B.S. in Biology from the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C., a M.S. in Women’s Studies from George Washington University, a M.S. in Exercise Physiology from Purdue University and her Ph.D. in Physiology from Rush University in Chicago.

 

 

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Jenny L. McFarland is tenured faculty and former department chair in the Biology Department at the Edmonds Community College (EdCC) where she teaches human anatomy & physiology and introductory biology courses and conducts biology education research on student learning or core concepts in physiology. She received the EdCC Echelbarger-Sherman Exceptional Faculty Award in 2013. She is a PULSE (Partnership for Undergraduate Life Science Education) Leadership Fellow (selected 2012). As a PULSE fellow and a steering committee member on several NSF-funded projects, she advocates for excellence in undergraduate physiology, biology and STEM education at 2-year and 4-year institutions. She has served as a facilitator for the NW PULSE workshops to transform life science departments in the Pacific Northwest. Jenny earned her B.S. in Aeronautics & Astronautics Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her Ph.D. in Physiology & Biophysics and Physiological Psychology from the University of Washington in Seattle.