New Faculty Class of 2016-2017 Start Strong!


NOVA welcomed thirty-four new teaching faculty this semester.

NFO 2016-17 classFullSizeRender

The Center for Teaching & Learning (CETL) hosted a New Faculty Orientation seminar on Wed, August 17th with jammed pack sessions geared to help new faculty start strong. Topics included; student services, advising, CARES, disability services, Title IX, educational technology and assessment. College president, Dr. Scott Ralls welcomed the group and highlighted the uniqueness and importance of NOVA and the students we serve.  CETL will be bringing back the year long New Faculty First Year Experience this year.  The faculty cohort will meet on a monthly basis. Fourteen faculty hired last year also attended the day long orientation. For more information, go to

NFO 2016-17 Dr. Ralls


  1. Group picture
  2. Dr. Ralls welcomes new faculty to NOVA photo by Kevin Mattingly
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September NFO Seminar Series #2 scheduled for Friday, Sept 30th 1:00-3:00pm.

Class of 2016-17 and a few from 2015-16,

We are in our 5th week of the semester and I hope all is going well with your classes. Just a friendly reminder about our September NFO Seminar Series #2 scheduled for Friday, Sept 30th 1:00-3:00pm.

We were originally scheduled to meet at Woodbridge campus but due to other programming conflicts, we will be meeting at the Alexandria campus Room AA158.

For our Series # 2 session, I have invited  LO campus faculty member, Joe Agnich, and NOVA’s Director of Academic Advising, Keri Bowman, to come to discuss with us the connection between teaching and advising practices. As the college moves to the guided pathways approach this topic will be important for all of us.  I will send more information to you about this early next week.

Now that you’ve had a chance to get to know about the avaialbe resources  for you and your students, please come with suggestions on topics and issues you would like to discuss or be presented. This is YOUR First Year Experience NFO program, your inout is valuable. I also encourage you to share your best teaching and learning strategies. We will talk about that a a little more when we meet.

In the meantime,  please let m know if you have any questions about our upcoming NFO series.

DATE: Friday, Sept 30th

TIME: 1:00-3:00pm

LOCATION: Alexandria Campus AA158

*snacks will be provided.

See you soon!


Dr. Frances Villagran-Glover

Interim Director – Center for Teaching and Learning (CETL)

Dean, Learning & Technology Resources (LTR) 

NOVA-Alexandria Campus  

5000 Dawes Avenue AA340

Alexandria, VA 22311


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Northern Virginia Regional Center for Teaching Excellence Upcoming Events


VCCS logo

Northern Virginia Regional Center
for Teaching Excellence
Save the Dates


The Northern Virginia Regional Center for Teaching Excellence (RCTE) offers professional development opportunities to faculty and staff at Germanna Community College, Lord Fairfax Community College, and Northern Virginia Community College.

Northern Virginia Regional Center events scheduled for fall 2016 are listed below. Unless otherwise stated, RCTE events are free to VCCS employees and open to all full- and part-time faculty, staff, and administrators.
For event details and registration information, click on the name of the event below, or email Camille Mustachio, Northern Virginia RCTE Chair, at

Upcoming Northern Virginia Regional Center Events
The Impact of Socioeconomic Status on Student Success

Germanna Community College

Fredericksburg Campus

October 14, 2016
10:00 am – 2:00 pm
Student Engagement: Proven Strategies That Work

Lord Fairfax Community College

Middletown Campus

October 28, 2016

10:00 am – 2:00 pm

A Truly Inclusive Classroom

Northern Virginia Community College
Woodbridge Campus

November 11, 2016

10:00 am – 2:00 pm


If you are interested in attending a Northern Virginia Regional Center event and are VCCS faculty, staff, or administration outside the Northern service region, please contact Northern Virginia RCTE Chair Camille Mustachio at



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2 NISOD Student Opportunities to Tell Your Students

A membership organization committed to promoting and celebrating
excellence in teaching, learning, and leadership at community and technical colleges.


Scott Wright Student Essay Contest

One of your students can win a $1,000 and a trip to Austin! The annual Scott Wright Student Essay Contest honors Scott Wright, past editor of Community College Week. Student authors are to describe a faculty member, staff member, or administrator who encouraged them to complete a course, finish a semester, or graduate from college, and how that encouragement helped them reach their goal. Learn more about criteria, terms, deadlines, and prizes here.

Community College Scholarships and Internships

Student Veterans of America is providing six (6) $2,500 scholarships to student veterans currently attending a community college. Visit here for full details.
U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science is accepting applications for its Community College Internships Program for the 2017 spring term. Visit here for full details.


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NISOD- Innovation Abstracts- Transforming Classrooms Into Active Learning Zones

Innovation Abstracts

Volume XXXVIII, No. 16 | August 26, 2016

Transforming Classrooms Into Active Learning Zones

While student response systems (SRS) have been around well over a decade, it was not until recently that I began to take advantage of their pedagogical benefits. In the span of time since my first implementation of SRS-associated peer-instruction approaches (about five years ago), SRS technology has greatly evolved from hand-held clickers to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) cloud-based classroom interaction systems. Undeniably, the evolution of cloud-based has opened the door to teaching and learning approaches that were previously impossible to implement or were limiting in nature, especially in large enrollment courses.

For example, the ability to ask students questions using varying types of formats, including short-answer questions, image quizzes, and ordering, in addition to multiple choice questions via the cloud-based system, support the efforts of educators to enhance the learning experience in diverse ways. Additionally, built-in features such as “ask an anonymous question” and the “confused flag” give students additional opportunities to communicate with their professor during class time and empower professors to build a stronger learning community by creating seamless links between students and themselves.

Most research on the benefits of using SRSs in the classroom has shown that the wise use of such systems can help assess prior knowledge, poll student attitudes, confront common misconceptions, transform the way you demonstrate, test students’ understanding and retention, test conceptual understanding, facilitate discussion and peer instruction, and increase classroom attendance. Research also shows that students become engaged and enjoy using the technology. I certainly had that experience after implementing the Echo360-ALP for the first time in my second-year large enrollment course (three sections of approximately 200 students each). Indeed, the experience has transformed my classroom into an active learning zone and continues to do so to this day.

For example, analytics provided by the Echo360-ALP showed that:

  • The participation rate (based on the number of students submitting answers to questions I asked in class during a given class) was nearly 99 percent on a per-lecture basis.
  • Approximately 70 percent of students, on a per-lecture basis, took class notes via the notetaking features of the program—350-500 words during lectures that were more traditional in nature, and fewer words on days where active engagement activities (e.g. many SRS questions were asked) were the primary mode of instruction.
  • Students submitted 5-10 questions (using the “ask an anonymous question” feature) per class and indicated confusion (using the confusion flag) during problematic concepts. The questions that were submitted were answered either during class time or soon after.

Based on classroom observations, student comments, and efforts by our Teaching and Learning Support Services (TLSS) team to deploy the Echo360-ALP on our campus, factors that appear to contribute to the high rate of student engagement in my classroom include:

  • Low cost: Echo360-ALP is offered to students free of charge at the University of Ottawa. Thanks to efforts by our TLSS team, this effectively takes advantage of the BYOD movement and eliminates additional costs students may have incurred had they been required to purchase access to the cloud-based system or physical clickers.
  • Low-stakes participation: Approximately 15 percent of the overall grade was dedicated to participation marks. If students answered (correctly or incorrectly) 80 percent of the total questions asked throughout the term, they received full participation marks. If they participated less than 80 percent, their participation mark was calculated as a percent of the submission rate divided by 80. This approach provided flexibility by allowing for absences or malfunctioning issues related to their devices, for example. With the solution being cloud-based, some students also valued the flexibility of being able to participate from a different location. Though I did not originally intend to use the solution in that way, I must admit that they are engaged in some manner!

This technology provides many mechanisms to help educators break out of the traditional mold and establish learning communities within their classroom to fulfill their teaching and learning objectives. For me, these include actively engaging students during class periods, facilitating low-stakes testing and enabling anonymous participation, providing and receiving real-time feedback and insights based on students’ questions and answers, and questioning students using a multitude of question types.

Does Fearless Engagement Translate Into Class Performance?
To answer this question, I share below my observations of trends in class performance through the lens of final exam average scores, as well as learning gains and item analysis scores from a validated concept assessment test. Overall, these assessments are designed to measure a series of prescribed course-level learning outcomes.

The final exam average has been steadily increasing (about 68 percent to about 75 percent) compared to the years prior to introducing SRSs into my classroom (about 65 percent). Concomitantly, the proportion of students in the A and B ranges of our letter grade system increased and the proportion of students in the C and D ranges decreased. Moreover, failing rates decreased from five percent of the class to one percent.

Because exam questions and difficulty may differ from year to year along with group abilities, and despite all the good intentions to formulate thoughtful and useful questions to assess student learning, final exam scores may not necessarily serve as good indicators of class success. An alternative way to assess classroom performance is through the use of pre-validated concept inventories. Concept inventories are tools designed to help educators evaluate students’ understanding of a specific set of concepts and identify misconceptions. Unlike typical multiple choice question tests, both questions and response choices are the subject of extensive research designed to determine what a range of people think a particular question is asking and what the most common answers are. In its final form, the concept questions present correct answers and distractors that are based on commonly held misconceptions. If valid and reliable, concept inventory data can be used to measure student learning over the duration of the course and provide educators data that can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of classroom interventions and, thus, learning.

As matter of habit to assess teaching and learning, a genetic concept inventory (Smith et al., 2008), which comprises a set of 25 multiple-choice questions designed to measure the aforementioned course learning outcomes is administered at the beginning (pre-assessment) to get a baseline level of student understanding and again at the end of the course (post-assessment). Analyses of the results of the student performance on the concept assessment test administered to my classes prior and after my use of SRSs revealed the following:

  • Students do better on almost all the questions in the post-assessment phase when compared to years where SRSs were not used.
  • Learning gains have progressively increased (yr1= 48%, yr2=53%, yr3=60%, yr4=60%) compared to 30-36% prior to using SRS-linked peer instruction methods.

Here, I make no claim that the data provide convincing arguments for a causal relationship between student engagement and success in the classroom. Using evidence-based student focused activities in my classroom, the data presented above are consistent with investigations that demonstrate that educational conditions and practices that foster student engagement contribute to student success. So, does leveraging the features of the Echo360-ALP translate into classroom success? I will let you be the judge of that.

Strategic Uses of Echo360 Classroom Solutions to Enhance Teaching and Learning Effectiveness in the Classroom

Through my use of this tool, I am consistently finding new ways to leverage its features to maximise the student learning experience—and let’s not forget the educator’s teaching experience! Insofar as concept inventory data are concerned, they cannot only be used to evaluate the effectiveness of classroom interventions, but also can be used to identify student misconceptions and problematic concepts, allowing for pedagogical approaches to be designed to address them. In my genetics course, student difficulties that are often identified are typically related to misconceptions and application of analytical thinking to formulate hypotheses to solve problems. Indeed, data from the item analysis of student answers on the concept assessment test not only serve as a catalyst for reflection and designing approaches to address the difficulties, but also to evaluate their effectiveness.

Implementing approaches to address problematic concepts and misconceptions is not a trivial task, especially in large enrollment courses. In this respect, Echo360-ALP features, such as the different ways to ask your class a question, have paved the way for facilitating the integration of teaching and learning approaches to mitigate difficult concepts and misconceptions. With the identification of the common misconceptions and the concepts that are most difficult to the students, the Echo360-ALP facilitates active learning and formative assessment opportunities to improve student performance by offering a diversity of approaches to set-up instruction and reflections on prior knowledge (to provoke thinking, stimulate discussions, and induce cognitive conflicts); to develop knowledge (tackle misconceptions, exercise skills, and conceptual understanding, judging, etc.); communicate (asking questions, answer questions); and assess learning (exit polls, probe limits of understanding, demonstrate success, and review). Indeed, while the Echo360-ALP offers educators endless ways to engage students’ intellectual domains, I find it also offers diverse opportunities to reach out to their affective domain and metacognition.

So, this brings us back full circle to student engagement. Does student engagement translate into successful learning? I believe the Echo360 classroom solution offers educators opportunities to engage students in fearless reflection, interactivity, collaboration, community, discovery, and exchange—hallmarks of academes—regardless of class size!

Colin Montpetit, Assistant Professor, Biology

For further information, contact the author at the University of Ottawa, 30 Marie Curie, Ottawa, ON K1N 6N5.

Posted in CETL Teaching Institute, Education: Research and Reflection, Faculty Consultations, Faculty Learning Communities, News, Uncategorized | Leave a comment




This year marks the 50th Anniversary of NOVA’s commitment to student success and we are happy to welcome the 2016-17 class of New Faculty Members.  The Class of 2016-17 will be fifty-plus strong and will join a community of 650 full time faculty members.

NOVA is tremendously invested in its faculty.  The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), in partnership with the Office of Academic and Student Support Services and the Office of Institutional Effectiveness has developed a New Faculty Orientation (NFO) First Year Experience year-long seminar series in response to the renewed institutional commitment to student access and success.

The NFO First Year Experience will begin with an  Orientation Seminar scheduled for Wednesday, August 17, 2016.


NFO First Year Experience Seminar #1:

Date:  Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Time: 8:30 am Check-in    9:00 am-4:30 pm

New Faculty will be sent email notifications by Aug 4th.

Posted in CETL events, CETL Teaching Institute, Education: Research and Reflection, Faculty Consultations, Faculty Focus & Workshps, Faculty Honors, Faculty Learning Communities, News, Presentation Materials, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

NISOD Free Webinar- Sept. 22

To register please ask Robin Muse for the password at

Helping Students Value Challenge and Hard Work

In postsecondary classrooms, it’s important to help students move beyond the “empty vessel” model of learning to a model that encompasses self-directed, strategic learning. Sometimes it’s difficult for students to value challenges and hard work as components of the learning process because they do not understand how to move towards being an engaged participant in their own learning. Using classroom examples, this webinar shares ways to increase student engagement in the learning process. Webinar participants explore concepts related to learning improvement, analyze and synthesize the information presented in order to integrate “learning how to learn” content into their teaching practices, and evaluate various “learning how to learn” opportunities that can be used in their classrooms to improve learning and student performance. The webinar facilitator has taught in postsecondary education for 12 years, teaching developmental reading, writing, and freshman composition. Her research interests focus on improving the academic success of underprepared students.

Renee Wright, Faculty, Triton College

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Eastern: 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

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NISOD Free Webinar – The Hero Complex: Advising Minority Males



For Password please contact Robin Muse at

Upcoming Webinar!

July 14, 1:00-2:00 p.m. (CST)

The Hero Complex: Advising Minority Males

This webinar highlights several critical issues, including networking factors, cultural and parental support, and abilities and skills of minority male students. Webinar participants learn how to motivate students so they realize their true grit and gain an understanding of major persistence concepts related to advising minority males.

Register for this webinar here.


Webinar Archives
All webinars are recorded and available for later viewing on the members-only section of our website.

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Electronic Learning Community Journal

The Learning Communities Journal is now available online for free download at the Journal website.

Volume 8, Number 2 (2016), a complimentary bonus, online-only issue, focuses on The Community of Practice Initiative at Hong Kong Baptist University. As the Editors’ message describes it, “This special online-only issue of the Learning Communities Journal includes noteworthy contributions—indeed, breakthroughs—in the field of faculty learning communities (FLCs) and communities of practice (CoPs). For the first time, a hybrid model of an FLC/CoP has been designed, implemented, and assessed. The survey designed and implemented by Beach and Cox (2009), which has assessed the impacts of FLCs on members’ educational development and their students’
learning in the U.S., has been used again to measure the impacts of this hybrid FLC/CoP model. Direct comparisons have been made between FLC and hybrid FLC/CoP outcomes, and they are published in this issue.
In addition, this issue contains the robust scholarship of teaching and learning that these hybrid FLC/CoPs have generated. Also of note, this project has taken place in Hong Kong, providing an international perspective and application of the FLC model in a different culture.”

The articles in the new issue are as follows:

Establishing Communities of Practice to Enhance Teaching and Learning:
The      Case at Hong Kong Baptist University
Eva Wong et al., Hong Kong Baptist University
Networked Learning Communities: A Perspective Arising From a
Multidisciplinary         Community of Practice on Student ePortfolios
Tushar Chaudhuri & Chan Wai Yin, Hong Kong Baptist University
Designing and Implementing a Two-Level Community of Practice Project
to         Develop a Teaching Portfolio Framework
Atara Sivan et al., Hong Kong Baptist University
Using a Community of Practice to Enhance Undergraduate Students’
Graduate         Attributes Through Problem-Based Learning
Siu Yin Cheung & Kevin K. M. Yue et al., Hong Kong Baptist
A Community of Practice to Assess Students’ Teamwork Skills in a
Team-Based    Learning Setting
Peter Lau & Theresa Kwong, Hong Kong Baptist University

The Impact of Peer Tutoring in a University Language Classroom
Angela Ng & Peter Lau, Hong Kong Baptist University
A CoP Project Enhancing Student Learning Through a Holistic Mentoring
Program in the Sciences
Karen Ka Wai Mak et al., Hong Kong Baptist University
Service Learning for Whole Person Education in Chinese Medicine
Developed by a Community of Practice
Hong Qi Zheng et al., Hong Kong Baptist University
Assessing the Effect of Communities of Practice in Higher Education:
The Case         at Hong Kong Baptist University
Theresa Kwong et al., Hong Kong Baptist University

Click “Issue Archive” to access all issues of the Journal; to
locate learning communities topics you wish to research, click on
“Search Archive.”

For information about submitting manuscripts or other inquiries, click
“Submitting Manuscripts” or contact Gregg Wentzell, Managing
Editor, at the Center for Teaching Excellence, Miami University,
Oxford, OH 45056 (telephone: 513-529-9265; e-mail:

Enjoy reading, and watch for Volume 8.1 of the Journal, our regular
annual issue, in Fall 2016.

Best regards,

Gregg Wentzell, Ph.D.
Managing Editor

Do not reply to this automated message. If you have any questions or
problems, contact the subscription manager:

Matthew Evins, Circulation Manager
Learning Communities Journal
c/o Mevins Consulting
366 Brandon Drive
Monroe, OH 45050
United States
Telephone: 513-360-8120
Fax: 513-529-9984

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Faculty Focus-Personal Narratives: Perfect for Summer Reading

 May 4, 2016
Personal Narratives: Perfect for Summer Reading

By Maryellen Weimer, PhD

Right before the end of the academic year when the promise of summer stretches warmly ahead, many of us are making lists that anticipate other kinds of tasks. If you’re considering some pedagogical reading, I’ve got just the recommendation.

I am a huge fan of personal narratives—those first-person, experienced-based pieces of scholarship in which faculty explore what they’ve learned from an experience (or several of them). Narratives aren’t all that popular right now. We’re preoccupied with all things evidence-based. I do heartily endorse empirical explorations of various sorts, and I recognize that a lot of experience-based scholarship didn’t used to be all that scholarly.

But a good personal narrative has a lot going for it. It provides an in-depth analysis of an experience. In the best narratives the author looks deeply at what happened, with brutal honesty.  Personal narratives show how understanding why or how something happened, and what can be learned from it, has great value. Those who write them benefit tremendously, but personal narratives are equally beneficial to those of us who read them.

As readers, we get to see models of how experience can be analyzed—the questions that need to be asked, how answers must be subjected to logical analysis and verified with evidence. They encourage us by demonstrating that even negative experiences can be faced and learned from. If you’ve had a class that went poorly, discovered a policy resting on questionable assumptions, received a set of rank ratings, your personal narrative lets us as readers borrow the questions asked, the methods of analysis, and the ways of dealing with the results. We find ourselves using your methods to explore own our narratives.

Personal narratives fuse the personal and the professional, the emotional and the analytical. They touch us because emotions are a part of meaningful teaching experiences—we respond to them as humans and follow up as professors. It concerns me that the affective dimensions of teaching are so overshadowed by the rational and the intellectual. Both have a place in teaching, and the absence of one diminishes the power of the other.

While you’re putting together your post-semester to-do list, we do hope attending the 13th annual Teaching Professor Conference makes the cut. Whether you’re a first-time attendee or among the many who join us every year, it’s energizing to be together with a large group of faculty—all committed to teaching, all wanting new and better ideas to promote learning, and all willing to share freely. Learn More »

And finally, good personal narratives are fun to read, and that can’t be said of a lot of scholarship. Summer and personal narratives seem made for each other. Some of my favorite narratives you’ve seen in previous posts. I’m opting here to recommend ones mentioned less often, and I’ll let the authors introduce their own work.

Delgado, T. (2015). Metaphor for teaching: Good teaching is like good sex. Teaching Theology & Religion, 18 (3), 224–232.

“I know it is unconventional to equate teaching and sex, much less good teaching and good sex. However, this teaching metaphor emerged from a real experience in the classroom that became revelatory: about the incongruence of my teaching approach to the subject matter, the assumptions I made regarding my students, and the need to examine my pedagogy regularly as a matter of practice. Here’s the story of that experience” (p. 224).

Mulnix, A. B. (2016). What my cadaver dog taught me about teaching and learning. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 27 (1), 5­­­–21.

“College educators need to tell more stories about their own learning experiences, not just to their students but also to other faculty. Personal stories that describe learning are rare in my experience, yet I think they have real potential to help faculty intellectually grab hold of the new realities in teaching and learning” (p. 8).

Cohan, M. (2009). Bad apple: The social production and subsequent re-education of a bad teacher. Change Magazine, November-December, 32–36.

“I have a confession to make. I was a bad teacher. I was not mean or abusive to students, and I didn’t make capricious demands, ignore my syllabus, grade while under the influence, or test students on material I had not taught….” But a clear sign of bad teaching, Cohan says, was the way he thought about students. “They were enigmas to me, and I didn’t know how to deal with the varying levels of interest, commitment, and ability they brought to class. All I knew how to do was to expect of them what I had always expected of myself—not perfection, exactly, but something close to it” (p. 32).

Albers, C. (2009). Teaching: From disappointment to ecstasy. Teaching Sociology, 37 (July), 269–282.

“Unintended outcomes can derail the best of intentions in the classroom. Designing a new course for Honors students provided an opportunity to change my traditional teaching style. I envisioned a classroom where students enthusiastically became more self-directed learners. I was perplexed with mixed reactions from students; while some joined me and adopted the model of teaching and learning I proposed, far more than I expected resisted the change” (p. 269).

Posted in CETL Teaching Institute, Education: Research and Reflection, Faculty Consultations, Faculty Focus & Workshps, News, Uncategorized | 1 Response