Annual Faculty Narrative
Name: David Terrell Ph. D.
Title/Department: Professor of Physical Science, Division of Natural Science and Health.
Date: May 2020 (2019-2020 Academic Year)
Creating the future by reinventing ourselves
“We become who we are in part by how we respond to the shifting circumstances against which our lives delineate themselves.” Sissela Bok in her book Exploring Happiness: From Aristotle to Brain Science.
“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future” and “The future ain’t what it used to be.” Yogi Berra
To say that this academic year has been extraordinary is a complete understatement! This year has been extra-extraordinary, it began as any other, connecting with our new students and advising them of the year to come. I used similar syllabi as previous years with some small changes to adapt to the new year but basically expecting that the year will be as any other in the recent past, and the MyWPclasses site for the class was cloned from previous classes. For the first semester it appeared to be the case, and I worked with my students using the pedagogical tools that I have developed in the past years. Having open and visible lesson plans at the beginning of the class, having attendance quizzes every day so they can use them as guides for tests, partial and final, using the MyWPclasses LMS to deliver information. The semester went well for both Organic Chemistry and General Chemistry. And so, the spring semester started with the assumption that we had everything under control.
There is a saying is Spanish: “Tu propones y Dios dispone” that translates to something like “You propose, and God makes”. This saying comes to mind thinking about the coronavirus pandemic, as we all had plans that were completely shattered. (My daughter’s wedding in July for example.) So, it was with teaching. We had to move online and do labs in a different way. We had to create and re-create how we deliver, how we teach. Fortunately for me I had been enthusiastic about online learning tools and was somewhat ready for the change. So, we moved to online classes and I feel it was a success. In his book “Radical Hope: A Teaching Manifesto” Kevin Gannon writes “I have hope in the future, the thinking goes, so I just need to survive the present; this too shall pass. But hope without actions is merely fantasy.” The success is not permanent, so we need to keep working on it. One point that Gannon makes is the difficulty, these times, to be a transformative teacher. Thus, one thing I am grateful for this year is the opportunity to serve and be a transformative teacher. With respect to the transformative power that we as teachers have, let me mention the email I received (attached) from a student that is grateful for me helping her to be transformed! This transformation is in line with the initial stamen about re-inventing our-selves.
The challenges that higher ed have in some ways have pushed colleagues to a sense of desperation and cynicism. Charging students with their lack of motivation, and low success rate. Including retention. Blaming and criticizing their institution and in many cases their colleagues as well. We have to do everything in our power to work together, so as in the book Great Potential we can bring the best in us as we help others get their best.
Chemistry is intrinsically complicated, its complexity stems from the interconnectivity of various components, from language and nomenclature to algebraic formulation. Thus, students need to develop the skill of thinking outside the box, which for iGenners (or Gen-Change as some of them like to call themselves) is not easy due to their previous education based on hyper-connectivity. Again bringing the idea of transformation to the learning/teaching process.
The beginning of the second half of the semester was disrupted by the arrival of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. We had to move to a full online delivery system including laboratory instruction. This change that was imposed by circumstances, not by will, made us take extraordinary measures and reach out to unexpected tools. The good news for me was that I was already working on, and being trained on tools for online teaching. The pandemic only accelerated the transition. For many years I have followed some of the “Process Oriented Guided Inquiry” (POGIL) techniques and used some books written in this format such as the one for Organic Chemistry written by Straumanis.
Since the beginning of the lock-down many small groups that were in their infancy matured to be more active, extensive, and useful. One of those groups is the Technology Networking in Education, a Google group within CCCU in which I have been participating for some time.
In order to learn more about the tools available I attended webinars provided by zoom.us, Smart Tech (for smartboard and smart suit for online (cloud) teaching), ScreenCast-O-matic, Screencastify, Labster, and McMillan Learning (“Latenitelabs”) (for online laboratories).
An important concept that I developed during these last years and keeps growing and deepening is the misconception of how we learn. I read and participated in several discussions, seminaries, and conferences to learn more about this topic. Following are some examples of these conversations and reading.
- The Science of Learning PDF in iCloud Misconceptions about learning done by https://deansforimpact.org
- Wesley K. Clark on the NYTimes (May 23, 2019): Over the years, thousands of cadets at the United States Military Academy, myself included, have memorized and recited West Point’s Cadet Prayer. “Make us choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong,” the prayer goes, “and never to be content with a half-truth when the whole can be won. Endow us with courage that is born of loyalty to all that is noble and worthy, that scorns to compromise with vice and injustice, and knows no fear when truth and right are in jeopardy.”
- What goes around comes around. Thoughts about the social upheaval going on right now. “In fact, organizations with happy employees are also more successful and consistently demonstrate greater profitability” Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler.
- Polling students about their conceptions before and after the semester and after the whole year. Foer. 2017
- In the book The Coddling of the American Mind a reference to critical thinking at The Foundation of Critical Thinking (definition of) www.criticalthinking.org/pages/defining-critical-thinking/766 (retrieved 6/3/2019)
- The Chronicle of Higher Education: The Truth about Student Success: Myths, Realities, and 30 Practices That Are working. This study done with strong data supports the idea that financial aid is critical for retention and success, more than integrating academic support with education or faculty training.
Major Accomplishments Related to Current Academic Year Goals
Development of Pedagogy
I have been working on the concept of non-linear teaching of chemistry adapting the Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) technique that I have been using for a while.
Below is an example of the information I have used from Class Teaching in the UK.
At the NORM 2019 conference I presented a paper on non-linear learning in General Chemistry where I included as an example the use of coding in Chemistry using the Tao equation that I developed last year to calculate the change of pH of a buffer solution when a small amount of acid or base is added to the solution.
Other activities related to scholarship and professional development are listed below:
- ACS Webinar on Laboratory Safety August 15, 2019
- Webinar on Oct 3 Effective Interactive Teaching (With Beth)
- ACS Webinar on The Future of O-Chem in water. October 10, 2019
- ACS Webinar on Designing drugs for diabetics with computers. Oct 24/ 2019
- ACS Webinar on November 7, 2019 “Combating Climate Change with New Nano Bugs: Teaching Bacteria to Eat Carbon Dioxide and Light with Quantum Dots”
- Participation at the Energy-Environment Future Summit at OIT Nov 1, 2019. In this meeting I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Naganathan president of OIT and had a very constructive conversation about more collaborative interaction. Also met Maria Pope CEO of Portland General Electric who mentioned that she would be happy to help us have a PGE electric car charging station on our premises.
- Murdock Undergraduate Research Conference November 8-9, 2019. 4 WPU students presented papers, I was one of the judges. At this conference I attended a Meeting on Collaboration (Sat 11/9) where very important opportunities were apparent. In particular I met Dr. Daniel Beck Central Washington University Director of Latino and Latin American Studies. Department of Biological Sciences. With whom we talked about the possibility of having some kind of meeting of LatinX biology students.
- Nov. 14, 2019, ACS Lecture on Colorant Chemistry. Lisa R. Cox from DEQ Oregon who is promoting the program Oregon Applied Sustainability Experience Developing environmental workforce through hands-on internships.
Webinar on student retention and summer courses Acadeum Monday, Jan 30th. 2020.
January 30, 2020, “How Your Summer 2020 Enrollment Strategy Can Boost Retention and Bottom Line” Webinar Acadeum on retention using summer courses online.
Why would an online course work when the face to face didn’t?
Time management, taking only one at the time, etc.
The cross-functional team at WPU, most questions related to financial aid.
Using intrinsic instead of extrinsic motivation has been a positive change in the way I address my students’ learning. As articulated in the article “I’ve changed the way I grade My Students” in EdWeek magazine Feb. 18, 2020 doing the same thing and expecting different results is insane. We have been teaching based on the same premises of external motivation for many years and we have seen a drop in student performance over the years. That is why I have changed focus from external to internal, from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation. https://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2020/02/18/ive-changed-how-i-grade-my-students.html?cmp=eml-enl-tu news1&M=59046352&U=900517&UUID=dd7f090c1b74b7451c0893826c723966
This year I participated in the Accreditation Committee, the Promotions committee, the search committee for the Associate Dean of Nursing, and the School of Innovation and Technology SOIT’s Curriculum Council.
As a reader in the HUM 410 of two students one in fall and one in spring. I had the opportunity to serve them and to help them find ways to deal with their paradox.
Continued being a liaison with High schools participating in our “Concurrent enrollment” program.
I continued being an active member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) participating West Hills Friends my local meeting. As an active member of the American Chemical Society I continue to participate regularly in activities such as monthly lectures. Being the chair of the Non-Partisan Policy Advocacy NPPA committee I have been leading the public relations of the Portland Section of the ACS (Officially as a Chemistry Ambassador), and as member of the Steering Committee of the Portland March for Science that this year had to postpone the Science Fest that was initially scheduled for April 5th but had to be postponed for later in the year when the coronavirus emergency allows it.
How have you incorporated this year’s Core Theme in your teaching, scholarship, and service?
This year Core Theme is “Investing in the formation and success of students from diverse backgrounds”, I asked my students to include this core theme in their final paper, by answering the question how did learning in my Chemistry classes help you in your life, in particular taking into account the diversity represented by them.
Goals for Next Academic Year (Connect to WPC Mission)
Continue to grow spiritually, finding how to better serve my community and in particular my students. As the attached email sent to me by Amelia Pullen shows there is no better reward than the recognition from our students.
In parallel to teaching General Chemistry and Organic Chemistry and the new course that I developed this year as Introduction to Electronics and Computing; I would like to develop new programs (as I mentioned in my annual narrative of last year) and continue to push for a new major in Environmental Chemistry/Chemical Hygiene and Hazardous Waste treatment and disposal as well as a Pre-Engineering degree that will bring students who now do not come for the lack of this opportunity. Also related to promoting WPU for new students I will work hard to promote the creation of an Urban Observatory and a Business Incubator.
In particular for General Chemistry and Organic Chemistry I want to develop a feeling for a strong personal connection including adding to the syllabi a paragraph about team learning and team teaching. The format of the lecture will include students presenting the topic assigned in advance and I as the professor filling in the concepts not explained by students.
Again, this year I could not find the time to do some research on nuclear activation analysis at the Reed College nuclear reactor, so I will continue to hold-on to this project. I will try to get funding to do research on bitterness related to the IBU (International Bitterness Unit) used to measure hop content in brewing. Prof. Heidi Owsley and I have continued writing our book “Earthkeeping: Human Nature and The Natural Environment” which is well advanced, and hopefully during this summer of 2020 we will have a final draft.
I will continue my service in Institutional committees, like Accreditation, Education Technology, Acadeum Consortium, SOIT, and any other assignment I am asked at WPU such as being a liaison with High Schools participating in Concurrent Enrollment. I will continue service at West Hills Friends Church, where I will continue being an active member of the congregation. At the American Chemical Society also I will continue being active. Finally, I will continue participating in regional meetings of the Oregon Academy of Science, and the Pacific Northwest Association for College Physics.
Last year I wrote how we can’t predict the future, and every moment this thought comes to my mind. As I am writing this final touch to my narrative, I am getting news of the transition of our esteemed Dean Dr. Reginald Nichols. If you have asked me a week ago what was not going to happen the answer would be that Dr. Nichols would be still at WPU in June.
Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber. 2016. The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy. ISBN: 978-1-4426-4556-1
“Slow Professors act with purpose, taking the time for deliberation, reflection, and dialogue, cultivating emotional and intellectual resilience, able as Collini puts it, to hold our “nerve” (What Are Universities For? 85).”
Sissela Bok. 2010. Exploring Happiness: From Aristotle to Brain Science. ISBN 978-0-300-13929-7.
James Boyd White 1984. When Words Lose Their Meaning. ISBN: 0-226-89501-7
“Whenever a person wishes to speak to another, he must speak a language that has its existence outside himself, in the world he inhabits. If he is to be understood, he must use the language of his audience.” The lack of vocabulary of students these days needs to be addressed, so words like “empirical’, function or variable need to be explained and work with.
The Chronicle of Higher Education report “The Truth About Student Success: Myths, Realities, and 30 Practices That Are Working” January 2019.
The Innovation Imperative. 2019. The Chronicle of Higher Education Report.
Using case studies analyzes the barriers, how change happens, and high hopes.
Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler.2009. The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World. ISBN: 9780767920643
Franklin Foer. 2017. World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech. ISBN: 9781101981115
Donald E. Knutt. 1997. The Art of Computer Programming: Vol 1 Fundamental Algorithms. 978-0-201-89683-1 vol I (3rd. Ed)
G. Lukianoff and J. Haidt. 2018. The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure. ISBN: 9780735224896
Scott, Laurence. 2020. The ASMR Cure. Wired Magazine February 2020. P 14.
Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. “Perhaps every age feels strung between extremes, and the strategies that help people cope are one way of identifying the times.”
Richard Stengel. 2019. Information Wars: How We Lost the Global Battle Against Disinformation & What We Can Do About It. ISBN 978-0-8021-4798-1
Student’s Email 5/10/2020
This is student Amelia Pullen from your Organic Chemistry 2 class at Warner Pacific University. I just wanted to email you to let you know how truly grateful I am to have had you as my professor this year. Coming into organic chemistry at the beginning of the year, I was quite terrified and filled with stress and anxiety about what the year would hold. I had heard so many horror stories from people I knew who had taken organic chemistry at other Universities and I was dreading it to be completely honest. I came in with the attitude that I was just going to get it done and get out. However, little did I know that I would have one of the nicest, kindest, most caring and compassionate professors probably in the world! That first day, I remember I was so intimidated being in a class as a freshman with only other upperclassman but you jumped right in to begin us in a prayer and passed out a welcoming letter addressed to each of us specifically. This gesture meant everything to me. It put me at ease immediately and your warm personality was so welcoming and inviting that all of my anxiety slipped away that very first day. I realized right then and there, that this was not going to be the dreadful class that I had made it up in my mind to be. I realized that this was going to be an enjoyable place for me to come and to learn and to HAVE FUN!!! Dr. T, whenever I met with you in office hours, you did your very best to help me not only to answer the questions that I had but to also help me with life in general and seeing the big picture in life and the most important and meaningful things in life. You helped teach me that its not worth torturing myself stressing over one class when in the big scheme of things, what really matters is being able to learn and enjoy the journey along the way and learn to appreciate life and all that life has to offer. We had some really good chats about both chemistry and about life and I appreciate how much you genuinely cared for me as a person and not just as a student. I cannot thank you enough for everything you have done for me and for all of your students. I just want you to know that your effort does not go unnoticed. You go above and beyond for your students and you make it your priority to help each student to learn in ways that they individually learn best. I have never had a professor that cares as much about each of their students as you do about us. Even in these last couple months where this whole COVID-19 virus issue has arisen and things have seemingly fallen apart, you did your absolute best to accommodate and work around and through these issues. I am so blessed to have gotten a whole year with you at Warner Pacific University even if the second half of the second semester went a bit unexpected with the whole online formatting stuff and all. I hope you know how appreciated you are and as sad as I am to be leaving Warner Pacific University next year to head off to WSU in Pullman Washington to study Animal Sciences and probably Vet School, I will forever remember you and the things that you have taught me throughout my year at WPU.
Thank you again one thousand times over. I hope you have a wonderful day and Mother’s Day today and have a wonderful summer and life ahead of you. I hope to stay in contact next year and keep you updated on my journey as well!
**Student’s name* ***
Other important information.
Fran Haynes in Classteaching.worldpress.com
The Durrington Research Blog this week summarizes the findings from the Department of Education’s recent paper ‘Cognitive Load Theory in Practice: Examples for the Classroom’. This paper provides seven teaching strategies that teachers can employ to help ensure that students’ working memories are neither dealing with too much cognitive load nor too little. When this balance in explanation is struck, students’ learning is optimized.
Strategy 1: Tailor lessons to students’ existing knowledge and skill.
A key element of an effective explanation is to tether new knowledge of what is already known. Ways to do this in the classroom include making comparisons, using analogies and using concrete examples. A recent example from Durrington comes from an English teacher explaining the meaning of the word ‘imperceptibly’ to a Year 10 class. This is a tricky concept to elucidate that could result in a very convoluted and abstract discussion about the tangibility of observational matter. Instead, the teacher explained how fingernails are examples of something that grows imperceptibly, that is something that definitely happens over time but without you noticing until a later stage. The use of a concrete example, to which all students could relate, pinned this slippery idea to rock-solid understanding.
Strategy 2: Use worked examples to teach students new content or skills.
Worked examples provide students with fully guided instruction by labeling every step of the process required to solve a problem or successfully complete a task. This strategy helps to free up students’ working memory and allows them to focus on the process. In turn, this means they are more likely to be able to solve a problem using the same process later on. An example from Durrington comes from a history lesson on the Cold War. The teacher wrote an exemplar paragraph step by step on the board, labeling each step as he went. The teacher then left this labeled example visible for the students on the board and presented a new (but similar style) question for them to complete.
Strategy 3: Gradually increase independent problem-solving as students become more proficient.
Fully-guided instruction is useful for teaching new material but can become less effective as students increase their proficiency. Eventually, students need to be pushed into their struggle zone (see last week’s blog on ‘challenge’) by practicing independently. The process of removing explanation in the form of scaffolding is a finely-tuned one involving very accurate knowledge of how expert students have become with specific skills. One approach that we use at Durrington is the ‘I – we – you’ model. In the first step of this strategy, the teacher models how to successfully complete a task or solve a problem. This involves the teacher thinking aloud and thereby explaining the questions, decisions, and checks that she is making as she works. There is no input from students at this stage – their job is to do as the teacher is doing: watching, listening and recording what happens. In the ‘we’ stage, the teacher presents a new but similar task and this time questions the students very carefully on what she should do to complete this successfully. The questions will probably be about the procedure, for example, ‘How do I start?’, ‘What do I need to remember to do at this point?’ etc. From this questioning, the teacher must judge where she needs to step in with direct guidance because there is a knowledge gap or misconception, or where it would be more beneficial for the students to think hard about the process for themselves. In the final ‘you’ stage, the students complete a new but similar task independently. The teacher can use this feedback to identify if any parts of the process need explaining and modeling again.
Strategy 4: Cut out inessential information.
On average, we can only hold around seven chunks of new information in our working memory. This means that teachers need to think very carefully about the details they are providing in an explanation of material to students and minimize anything that is not relevant. Ways of doing this include:
- Thinking carefully about PowerPoint presentations and avoiding images or words that do not directly contribute to an understanding of the material.
- Not presenting students with words on a PowerPoint and speaking to the class at the same time. A better strategy would be to allow the students to read independently, or read aloud with no visual presentation of words.
- If students have been studying material for a long time, minimizing resources that are based on the knowledge they have already secured. This will free up students’ working memories so that they can focus on the next stage of learning.
Strategy 5: Present all the essential information together
A key aim of the explanation is to avoid the split-attention effect. This is when students have to divide their attention between two or more sources of information that have been presented effectively but can only be understood in reference to each other. The English Department at Durrington has recently been developing resources with this strategy in mind. Year 11 students have been practicing their extended transactional writing pieces with a particular focus on structuring their writing effectively. To support the explanation of how these pieces should be constructed, every student is provided with examples, with the labels integrated into the model (rather than on a separate resource or different page) to show how the structuring strategy works in the piece.
Strategy 6: Simplify complex information by presenting it orally and visually.
Our working memory has two separate ‘channels’ that can cope with visual information and auditory information. If information is spread across the auditory and visual channels at once, the cognitive load can be better managed by the student. Ways to enact this strategy include using images to support verbal descriptions (as long as the images are directly linked to the explanation) and summarising key ideas in a diagram. Our Geography department makes excellent use of this strategy through their case study diagrams, which you can read about here.
Strategy 7: Encourage students to visualize concepts and procedures they have learned.
This is a strategy for when students have already been taught the necessary declarative or procedural knowledge and have a very secure and accurate understanding. The aim is for students to mentally visualize themselves carrying out a task or solving a problem. The process of visualizing helps to make this knowledge automatic by storing it in long-term memory. For example, imagine a teacher has spent considerable time taking students through the process of answering a 6 mark question in PE. The subject knowledge has been taught as well as the steps to answering this type of question, and this has been practiced many times. With visualization, the PE teacher may present the students with a new 6 mark question and ask them to imagine every step they would take to answer the question. This strategy can be an effective way of gradually removing guidance on the way to independence.