Monthly Archives: December 2015

Work Life Balance!

Recently hashtags such as #Find_Away and #EscapeNormal have recently became inspirational hashtags for taking a break, doing something new, and breaking the routines. Reading a blog post on the Inside Higher Ed reminded me of how my work-life balance in grad school is also largely dependent on the stage of degree that I am in. To maintain your work-life balance, try to remember the following tips:

-Prioritize your time and say no.

-Mix up your routine to reset and recharge. Start small with mini goals and deadlines, as well as mini rewards and breaks. See #EscapeNormal.

-Surround yourself with people who also aim for a balanced life.

-Get outside. Exposure to nature can improve memory and attention, among numerous other health benefits of nature and being outside.

– Be nice to yourself and take care of yourself.

This is your life right now. Work-life balance is not only important to avoid burnout in grad school but also your future career(s). Practice makes perfect!






Leave a Comment

Filed under PFP15F

Redesign Your Syllabus!

I think that many of us have experienced the frustration of reading a course syllabus. Why not make it more readable, interactive, and visually engaging?  A very interesting Blog Post from Inside Higher Ed mentioned the following techniques for integrating our teaching style into our syllabus.

Having Your Syllabus Reflect What You Value Most

  1. Foreground what’s essential by asking ourselves about the most important thing that we want our students to get out of our class.
  2. Anticipating pitfalls and designing around. An example of this is writing about levels of class participation in a narrative that was set against the metaphor of “diving deep” which helps with putting expectation for participation in very concrete terms and assisting students in understanding how this translated into a grade.

Other great practices can include:

1. Starting from a Template: There’s no shame in using a template in order to start your new syllabus with a solid layout. I’ve personally had a lot of success adapting two-column newsletter templates in Microsoft Word and Pages (Mac). Templates can include great options like a table of contents to make your syllabus easier to reference.

2. Getting Visual: To the right is a page from my redesigned syllabus explaining my grading philosophy and expectations for class participation. Since my writing class factored participation as a significant portion of student grades, a visual metaphor (in my case, a scuba diver) helps to reinforce the larger outcomes of the class, especially in how students were expected to collaborate in peer review. A visual doesn’t have to be elaborate, but strategically using images, shapes, or flow-charts can be an equally effective way of drawing attention to the most important parts of your syllabus.

3. Being Accessible: While it’s great for your syllabus to make an impression, you also want to make sure it’s readable for all students. This can include providing your syllabus in multiple formats (both analogue, digital, color, and grayscale), and also using easy to read fonts and high contrast colors. If you don’t have the resources to spring for color printing, make sure to preview how your syllabus will look in grayscale.

4. Building Your Design Knowledge: Taking on a design project can be a great way to educate yourself on effective design practices and visual rhetoric. If you’re just starting to dip your toe, you might want to consider taking a look at The Non-Designer’s Design Book and Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students.

Beyond the First Day of Class
If you devote time to making a thoughtfully designed syllabus, make sure you keep using it after the first day of class! Below are two suggestions that can help you reference the syllabus so you can keep driving home important concepts and outcomes.

1. Using the Syllabus at Key Moments: A great time to ask students to take out the syllabus is when you transition between major units or assignments of the course. You can lead students in a conversation about ways the work they just completed addressed some of your broader course learning outcomes. You can even turn this into an in-class activity such as having students write a short reflection about how their work in the previous unit helped them develop competencies or achieve course outcomes.

2. Reinforcing Concepts from Your Syllabus in Assignments and Grading: You can reinforce the concepts from your syllabus by using them consistently in other course documents including assignment prompts and grading rubrics. For example, it’s great to reiterate course outcomes, especially as it provides context and purpose for the work students will be doing. In my case, I reused my “diving deep” metaphor when I wrote my grading rubrics.


Leave a Comment

December 22, 2015 · 12:00 am

How to Automate Your Teaching

A very interesting blog on Inside Higher Ed regarding automation in teaching mentioned the reconsideration of grading practices, hiring your own TA, and though-full use of technology as areas that can be improved using automation for increasing the class effectiveness.

1. Three methodologies have been presented for reconsidering some of the current  grading practices:

  • For large writing assignments, rubrics are helpful (as are Travis Grandy’s suggestions for how to prioritize your feedback). You can also save time by keeping a Microsoft Word document of the comments that you most frequently use, so that you can copy and paste your feedback to students instead of transcribing longhand it every time.
  • For multiple-choice quizzes and other straight-forward assessments, like reading checks, have students grade their own before giving them to you. They get instant feedback on their performance and you save a lot of time, even factoring in the extra minutes you’ll need to give them a once-over to ensure students’  honesty.
  • You can even optimize how you grade class participation: for example, in my language classes, instead of relying on more subjective evaluations of class participation (some of which are inevitably skewed towards more talkative students), I use random cold calling and group activities almost exclusively. My classes are small enough that I can make sure that I call on all students in a single meeting, but if you have very large classes, you can use an app to keep track of who you’ve called on. When I call on students, I expect a good faith attempt to answer the question accurately; as long as students make a concerted effort in that respect, their participation grade doesn’t suffer. In my years of teaching, I’ve never had a student abuse this policy, and it makes my evaluations of their class participation much more straightforward and less time-consuming, since I don’t spend hours racking my brain to figure out how often each student has contributed to class discussions.

2. Consider appointing one student per section to serve as your TA in exchange for extra credit. “This student can do a number of tasks that will streamline your administrative work: take attendance, alphabetize any papers that students hand in (or organize them by randomly-assigned ID number) to speed your grading process, and hand back graded work. Having your TA take over these tasks, provided that he/she is reliable and trustworthy, frees you up to spend the first few minutes of class developing your relationships with students by greeting them and checking in, instead of wrangling papers. Hint: some especially kind students will do this even without receiving extra credit. It’s worth asking.

3. At last the use technology for optimizing classroom time can be addressed by adopting the three practices mentioned below:

  • Buy a large accordion file (or two). Create in/outboxes for each day and each section that you teach, and keep students’ papers in those. Never spend time rifling through your bag/briefcase again.
  • Free up mental energy by creating checklists for anything that you (or your students) need to do for your class on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. You can thank Atul Gawande for this suggestion.
  • Employ social media/apps to remind students of upcoming assignment due dates or exams to study for. Remind and WhatsApp are highly recommended to send group texts. You can also create Facebook groups for your students and have them post questions about assessments there. They can even answer each others’ questions—and you’ll never have to spend five minutes of class time reviewing due dates again.


I think that it is obvious that more technology will be invented. However the most important factor is how this technology will be used to improve the learning experience for the students. The main challenge for the future faculty the effective use of technology. We all know how technology can enhance or worsen the learning process. Moreover, we all know professors that use their slides very ineffectively by either reading directly from the slides or presenting concepts that are not aligned with the slides. I believe that technology is not always beneficial, depending on the type of course that we are teaching. As an example I think that Ted Talks are very much effective because the presenter is directly in contact with the audience and the slides are just in the background for showing some related pictures or content. This also applies to teaching…The future faculty should not be resistant to change. The other factor that will impact the future faculty, is globalization and the fact that universities will not be localized anymore. For this reason faculty should be prepared for designing online courses. This will change the structure of the class and how the in class activities etc. are designed since we need to make sure that we are keeping the participants engaged. In online and broadcasted courses the possibility of losing the listener’s attention is very high due to the lack of physical presence of the professors in class.



1 Comment

Filed under PFP15F, Uncategorized

The Correlation Between Higher Education and Salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics within the United States Department of Labor has conducted a study on persons 25 an over with respect to full- time wage and salary workers.  It should be noted that this analysis was conducted in 2014 and does not take into account the completion of training programs in the form of apprenticeships and other on-the-job training. The results of this study show that the weekly earnings and the unemployment rate relatively increase and decrease as the educational degree enhances.

Moreover U.S. News and World Report have stated that those holding a bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and professional degrees relatively earn $2.27, $2.67, $3.25, and $3.65 million during their life time. People with bachelor degrees regardless of their fields earn considerably more than people with college or higher diploma degrees which relatively earn $1.55 and $1.30 million in their lifetime. This means that regardless of the level of attainment and the files of study, earning a four-year degree will potentially lead to a financial success later in life (U.S.News and World Report, 2011).

They also mentioned that all ethnic group minorities’ earnings were less than that of Caucasians in career earnings. Except for Asians with masters, doctoral, and professional degrees which outpaces white workers with the same level of degrees. Moreover Latinos and African-Americans with master’s degrees earn roughly the same as white workers with a master’s degree. This report also reveals that women have to attain PhD degrees in order to earn than men with bachelor degrees. Women with a PHD degree on average earn $2.86 million in their lifetime while men with a bachelor degree earn $2.60 million. Women with bachelor degrees earn about $1.9 million over their lifetime which is the same as men with no degree (U.S.News and World Report, 2011).

Considering these unbalanced paying fields the Professor and Director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and Workforce stated that women who want to earn more than their male counterparts will need to attain more degrees or select a higher paying industry. “You can close the gap by getting more education, and that does seem to be the strategy, at least implicitly, that women are following,” he says. “If you want to make more than lots of men, and you’re a woman, then go into engineering (U.S.News and World Report, 2011).” In additional studies the mean wages of adult employment has been found with respect to educational attainment. The results of this study reveal that the mean wages increase as the educational degree improves (Grahan & Paul, 2002).  Studies from other researchers reveal the same results stating that more education increases the average income (Strauss, 2012; Fry, 2013; Cheeseman Day & Newburger, 2002; Blaug, 1970).


Leave a Comment

Filed under PFP15F

Scholarly Integrity

Looking at some of the cases from the Office of Research Integrity (ORI), I decided to share three of their cases in this blog post. First I should mention that all three cases were engaged in data falsification. The first case is from the department of Health and Human Services. Based on investigation ORI has found that one of the a former Associate Professor of Medicine in Duke engaged in research misconduct by including false research data in published papers , submitted manuscript, grant application, and research record. Three misconducts has been reported:

  1. Respondent stated in grant application 1 R01 CA136530-01A1 that 6 out of 33 patients responded positively to dasatinib when only 4 patients were enrolled and none responded and that the 4 CT scans presented in Figure 14 were from the lung cancer study when they were not.
  2. Respondent altered data sets to improve the accuracy of predictors for response to treatments in a submitted paper and in the research record by:
    • reversing the responder status of 24 out of 133 subjects for the adriamycin predictor in a manuscript submitted to Clinical Cancer Research
    • switching the cancer recurrence phenotype for 46 out of 89 samples to validate the LMS predictor in a file provided to a colleague in 2008
    • changing IC-50 and R-code values for the cisplatin predictor in a data set provided to NCI in 2010
  3. Respondent reported predictors and/or their validation by disregarding accepted scientific methodology.

Respondent has entered into a Voluntary Settlement Agreement with ORI. Respondent neither admits nor denies ORI’s findings of research misconduct; the settlement is not an admission of liability on the part of the Respondent. The parties entered into the Agreement to conclude this matter without further expenditure of time, finances, or other resources. Respondent has not applied for or engaged in U.S. Public Health Service (PHS)-supported research since 2010. Respondent stated that he has no intention of applying for or engaging in PHS-supported research or otherwise working with PHS.

The second case is from the department of Health and Human Services. A former postdoctoral fellow in University of Maryland in Baltimore engaged in misconducting research by falsifying graphs supported by National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), National Institutes of Health (NIH), grant R01 DC010110. The “Respondent neither admits nor denies ORI’s findings of research misconduct; the settlement is not an admission of liability on the part of the Respondent”.

The third case is from the same department in University of California in San Francisco. A graduate student engaged in research misconduct in research supported by National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), National Institutes of Health (NIH), training grant T32 GM007810 and grant R01 GM109176. ORI found that the respondent falsified data in two publications.

The graduate student has entered into a Voluntary Settlement Agreement and has voluntarily agreed:
  1. to have his research supervised for period of three (3) years beginning on August 4, 2015; Respondent agreed that prior to the submission of an application for U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) support for a research project on which his participation is proposed and prior to his participation in any capacity on PHS-supported research, Respondent shall ensure that a plan for supervision of his duties is submitted to ORI for approval; the supervision plan must be designed to ensure the scientific integrity of his research contribution; Respondent agreed that he will not participate in any PHS-supported research until such a supervision plan is submitted to and approved by ORI; Respondent agreed to maintain responsibility for compliance with the agreed upon supervision plan;
  2. that for period of three (3) years beginning on August 4, 2015, any institution employing him shall submit in conjunction with each application for PHS funds, or report, manuscript, or abstract involving PHS-supported research in which Respondent is involved, a certification to ORI that the data provided by Respondent are based on actual experiments or are otherwise legitimately derived, and that the data, procedures, and methodology are accurately reported in the application, report, manuscript, or abstract;
  3. to exclude himself voluntarily from serving in any advisory capacity to PHS including, but not limited to, service on any PHS advisory committee, board, and/or peer review committee, or as a consultant for period of three (3) years beginning on August 4, 2015; and
  4. to retraction or correction of the following papers:
  • Science Signaling 7:ra114, 2014
  • Chemistry & Biology 21:453-458, 2014




Leave a Comment

Filed under DataFalsification, PFP15F, ScholarlyIntegrity