Diane Rubino
Diane Rubino
AUBG Department of Journalism and Mass Communication Instructor

“Teaching is my job. Being a student is your job,” Lynn Mann said to me in a recent phone conversation. “You come to work every day; you make sure you’re doing your job the best you can.”Mrs Mann.jpg


Clearly, times were different when I was coming up because Mrs. Mann, as she will always be known to me, was my third-grade teacher. I looked her up during Women’s History Month when I was thinking about the women who influenced who I am as a teacher.


It may seem like a leap to connect my university-level teaching to lessons from grammar school. But after finding Mrs. Mann in the Southwestern community where she retired to talk about teaching, I realized there were more similarities than differences.


With quiet authority, she set clear expectations about how I should comport myself and the high quality of work I should deliver in her class. This is the dynamic I strive to achieve with my students. But until we spoke, I didn’t realize how long ago this attitude was instilled.


I recall being conscious of wanting to reach Mrs. Mann’s standards and the upset I felt for failing to do so consistently. She somehow impressed upon me that not only was the work my responsibility but being able to manage my feelings was also mine to address. As a teacher, I’ve yet to master that boundary. When my students are distressed, I still take on their emotional burden as my own on occasion.


The 34-year teaching veteran set equally high standards for herself. “My goal was to ensure that ‘my children,’” as she called students throughout our conversation, “would remember the school year as the best year they ever had in school.”


Doing What Comes Naturally

A lifetime before “flipped classrooms” became part of the pedagogical lexicon, Mrs. Mann engaged us in the process of learning through doing. We didn’t just read about social studies; she used real-life stories about people in other lands that made the world knowable. And, using techniques that were unusual at the time, she taught us about science with a classroom
snake and brought in fertilized eggs, so we could watch chicks emerge from their shells.


In the university programs in which I teach, the ability to draw on my professional experience to connect course lessons to careers is valued. From the other side of the desk, I know those personal examples do, in fact, make learning memorable. Mrs. Mann was the first person I knew who traveled internationally. She shared pictures and objects and stories from her
trips that exposed me to cultures from Ancient Mayans to contemporary Europeans.


Etched into my mind is her tale about being scrutinized by Checkpoint Charlie in East Berlin and how the guard studied her face to ensure it matched the passport image. She was asked to pull her hair back to ensure that it was her travel document. Twenty years later I was given the third degree the first time I traveled abroad. I volunteered to pull my hair back in silent homage to my former teacher.


Having an active classroom, which is what I strive for, also allowed learning to be fun and creative. I remember acting in my first play as a lady ghost in her class and meeting her Great Dane during a lesson on Switzerland. No other teacher engaged our imagination as she did with high-quality children’s literature like Roald Dah’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach.


In my courses some active sessions are successful. To illustrate a project developing a PR fundraising campaign for Syrian refugees, I brought in quotes from a relevant New York Times article. I had the students read the lines aloud to construct a “found poem.” (The American Academy of Poets describes this form as: “Found poems take existing texts and refashion them, reorder them, and present them as poems.” The result of this exercise was breathtaking.


Don’t Ever Say “I Can’t”

I learned during our recent conversation that I was in Lynn Mann’s first class. That year she recalls being unnerved by a pair of boisterous boys, but her path took a darker turn several years later. She was in a car accident that left her permanently paralyzed on one side of her body. After two years of physical therapy, she returned to the classroom. Doing everything
with only one hand was just one of her difficulties.


“I had a head injury. So I forgot a lot of things and had to re-learn teaching materials,” she explained.


Mrs. Mann embodied what she taught. She repeated to her children the life lesson learned from an inspiring woman in her life, an occupational therapist. “My therapist told me, ‘Don’t ever say I can’t. Say I’ll try. No matter how tough it is, you find a way to do it. Work at it until you succeed.’ Those words became our classroom motto every year.”


“An able-bodied person can do things without thinking, like putting papers into a filing cabinet. But I had to hold the papers in my mouth and open up the file. [My children] saw me struggle to do things, but I found a way to do them.”


Think of a Woman

Conjuring up an important teacher from one’s early days will often evoke a female. “When I think of a teacher I think of a woman,” Lynn Mann
says. She’s right. Nearly 8 out of 10 public school teachers are women.


In future Women’s History Months perhaps someone will reflect on my courses. I hope I have as big an impact on my students as Mrs. Mann had on me. What she left with me is the importance of hard work, discipline, and excellence. In short, she helped foster a positive attitude for learning that stays with me to this day.


Photo credit: Lynn and Paul Mann

    Kyle Anderson
Kyle Anderson
Lecturer, Clemson University





How we communicate has evolved since the 80’s and, while it is great to connect easily, it can be difficult to connect effectively. I find that e-mail and text communications are inefficient for myself and my students.


My syllabus for each class includes the statement:


I provide office hours on campus and expanded phone/virtual office time 5 days a week. In all cases, if you have questions, ask me before or after class or call me during my available times.   E-mail & texts are your last resort for communication provided you have contacted me during my scheduled office times. E-mails & texts sent outside of my scheduled availability will be deleted. They only create additional work and are ineffective and inefficient.


Face-to-face (F2F) office hours are on Monday/Wednesday between 1:30pm and 2:30pm or you can call my cell phone between 9:00am and 1:00pm on Tues, 9:00am and 4:30pm on Thurs or between 1:30pm and 4:30pm on Mon/Weds/Friday. If I am unable to take the call, text me your name & brief question and I will call you back as soon as possible!


Please respect these times, contacting me outside of these times is unproductive, creates extra work, and I will not respond.


Course Questions should be posted in the Q&A Forum after checking the Course Announcements. I will not respond to course questions via text or e-mail that 1: should be posted in the Q&A forum, 2: have already been answered in the Q&A forum, or 3: have already been answered in the Course Announcements.


As a last resort after trying above, you can e-mail me directly for personal questions. NOTE: I do not use Canvas Inbox.


You must include "202" in the subject line, your name & phone number in the body of the e-mail and a brief description of your question. Failure to include this information will result in a  delay in response.


In the vast majority of the cases I will call you by phone to answer your question rather than respond via e-mail.


birds-high-fly-flying-migrating-62667.jpgI realize this might seem harsh, but I provide availability to students via face-to-face meetings, telephone, and/or virtual office just as if I ran a business for 20.5 hours per week.


In my first semester of teaching, I averaged 15 to 50 e-mails a day from approximately 250 students. They were sent 24/7. The majority of the questions had already been answered in class or covered in my course announcements posted in the LMS (Learning Management System). Today I receive one to five e-mails a day from my 300 students and most of those are returned with a copy of my communication policy. There are several concerns we hear from our students’ employers that have led me to this change in policy and its strict enforcement.


First, allowing students to contact us anytime via e-mail is detrimental to developing their ability to effectively communicate in the workplace. Sending an e-mail or text at 3 AM or on a Sunday may be convenient, but allowing it fails to teach the student how to effectively communicate with a supervisor or team. The consistent feedback is that students go on to have poor communication skills at work.


Second, this system does not hold students responsible for checking for available information before asking their questions when most of their questions have already been answered in the course materials. In the workplace there are systems for workflow, and employees must be able to utilize those systems before expecting their supervisors to repeat the information.


Third, it is important that students learn to communicate orally via the phone or in person. I am amazed when a student sends me an e-mail stating they are uncomfortable talking in person or by phone and prefer to correspond via writing. I’ve encountered those same types of people in the workplace and it takes much longer to accomplish tasks trading multiple e-mails when a single phone call would suffice.


Fourth, it is not an efficient means of communication compared to other options.


But enough complaining. Here are alternative options I use to resolve these issues:


1. Talk with students by phone. As a CPA, I learned I could respond to clients quickly by phone and that doing so created good will. With students, I establish set phone times to answer questions. This helps my students learn how to communicate in the workplace. It makes no sense to call when I am in class or after hours and expect a reply. None of us expect our banker, lawyer, mechanic, or drug store to take calls after hours.


2. Establish a Q & A discussion board that is available 24/7. This is the game changer. I require all course-related questions to be posted after students have looked for prior posts with the same question. Often other students answer the questions! This is also a way to foster communication between students about homework assignments. This requires that you clearly state that students must use the forum rather than send e-mails or texts. Workplaces commonly utilize community forums, Q&A videos and so on. We need to teach our students that this is the first place to look for answers or post a question.


3. Use Google Docs, Dropbox, or Box cloud-shared files to create collaboration among students. Many companies create workspaces where teams contribute and comment on work being completed. I use Dropbox-shared files to review questions and exercises and share my comments. This allows my team members to see the changes and share their comments as well.


4. Use Virtual Office Hours: Adobe Connect, GoToMeeting, Skype, Hangout, and Facetime are great ways to meet with students without going into the office. I use Adobe Connect since it is part of the university’s system and allows me to use the video camera, talk through the computer, share both my screen and the student’s screen, and record the session. It also reduces the confusion that can arise using several applications. This also means students do not have to get another program, but can simply click on the link in my Canvas course. It is important to have F2F meetings, but virtual meetings save travel costs and time.


5. Yes, use e-mail and text. E-mail or texting is efficient when used properly. My course announcements are automatically e-mailed to students (unless they opt out) and are a great way to keep students on task with reminders. E-mail makes it easy to send documents regarding personal issues or to communicate with the hearing impaired, for example. E-mail is also a means to document communication when important questions or issues arise. When using e-mail or texts, require students to use proper etiquette, grammar, and spelling. This includes informative subject lines, writing in complete sentences, clearly stating the purpose and identification of the sender, and providing the sender’s phone number.


It is beneficial for students to learn effective communication skills and each faculty member contributes their own communication framework in their classes. Exposure to this variety not only allows students to adapt to different requirements, but to form coping skills to communicate in the workplace regardless of their employer’s preferred communication system.


How do you best communicate with students? Share your tips in the comments below.


Image credit: pexels.com/pixabay.com

    Diane Rubino
Diane Rubino
AUBG Department of Journalism and Mass Communication Faculty

“Do you know any Chinese people?” I asked in a sarcastic stage-voice.


I was play-acting, pretending to talk to an imaginary American colleague who had trouble differentiating one Chinese student from another.


Hamming it up got a laugh from my Chinese students: one is an excitable world traveler; another a demure bon vivant; and the third, an exuberant woman, bursting with warmth and kindness. My comment was amusing to the four of us because of the marked differences between these women. The trio is worlds apart in behavior, personality, skill levels, and style.


But this type of confusion happens. Further, the phenomenon is not restricted to teachers. A young woman of color in another course declined to be the session’s comments-keeper. (This task requires tracking class participation, so volunteers need to identify classmates to record involvement). She struggled to tell her peers apart.



Why You Might be Struggling 

I was play-acting with my students for dramatic effect. In reality, it’s unremarkable that Chinese students get lumped together. A scan of the peer-reviewed literature reveals stacks of studies about “own race preference,” or “cross race effect” (and other synonyms). Research shows we’re more likely to recognize people of our own race than of others from the earliest ages. In one study, “3-month-old infants demonstrated a significant preference for faces from their own-ethnic group.”


Fold in a meta-analysis documenting it’s easier to recognize someone of our own age, and there might be mayhem, especially when experienced professionals teach in majors or schools with lots of young Chinese students. Male instructors face an even greater challenge. Research on gender difference in facial recognition documents they’re less likely than females to remember faces.


Actions to Take

But the conversation needn’t end there. I’m no cross-cultural genius, but I’ve been reasonably successful in getting to know students as individuals. This is due, in no small part, to working for well-resourced institutions with manageable class sizes that facilitate relationships. I’ve also been able to learn who’s who using tips borrowed from pedagogy pros. In fact, these strategies help me master names and personalities regardless of race or ethnicity, which becomes more important the longer I teach and as the number of courses I’ve taught grows.


  • Use tent-cards that students set up on their desks every session. I chop off the tabbed edge of recycled folders and pass them around with a magic marker. I ask everyone to write down the name they want me to use. Nothing could be simpler to reinforce my learning. I know who I’m talking to from that moment forward. Asking for a preferred name is key because many Chinese students choose American nicknames. This is handy for memorization because unfamiliar words, even simple ones, are difficult to pronounce and remember.


  • Avoid relying on the pictures in the learning management system. Chinese students in particular often post generic-looking portraits with neutral expressions. theory, student photos are intended to help, but often don’t when they are generic. Ask for a short narrative profile with a selfie cut and pasted into the text before the first class. No one uses standard-issue pictures for this task. Consequently, the image looks like the person you’ll see in class.


  • Students bring me hard copies of their bios I can review between classes. I’d even brought the profiles as cheat sheets to review discretely if I didn’t have everyone’s name “down.” The added benefit of the profiles is I can ask questions to assess subject-matter knowledge as well as acquire bits of quirky, interesting, even touching information.
  • I recently tried something new: in-class one-on-one conversations while the rest do project work. I found this technique to be rewarding and helpful for providing feedback, answering questions, and getting to know everyone.


  • I use short icebreaker questions at the beginning of every class if time permits. I ask about nonacademic issues to get participation juiced a la: What’s your go-to relaxation technique? What are you really good at? This provides unique info to help me learn about people and gives the class regular practice in impromptu public speaking.


  • I also provide students opportunities to get to know each other. On the first day, everyone interviews someone they don’t know with a short list of questions. They then introduce their partner to everyone else.

I take advantage of in-class group exercises or pair-and-shares, directing students to partner with those they haven’t worked with yet. They report in evaluations that they appreciate hearing other people’s perspectives.


Building Mutual Understanding

Being recognized as an individual is better for everyone involved. As a life-long learner, I certainly want to be recognized by a teacher as being different from the rest of the students. As a teacher, the more I know about a class—regardless of ethnic makeup—the more equipped I am to address problems, teach to specific interests, and, on my end, learn from their experience and contributions.


Thanks to NYU’s Elizabeth Izaki, Shuaxian “Phoebe” Li, Craig Mills, and the Center for the Advancement of Teaching, American University of Bulgaria’s Jesse Scinto, and Laurie Tvedt for their insights and thoughtfulness.


Image credit: pexels.com/Manuel Joseph


    Kyle Anderson
Kyle Anderson
Lecturer, Clemson University

To get started, several rules for Faculty:


  1. Stop answering questions
  2. Stop lecturing in class
  3. Provide meaningful tasks for students to complete in class


Stop answering questions!


As I traveled through 12 states over several summers conducting 8-hour continuing education seminars for CPAs in public and private practice on Accounting, Auditing, and Data Protection & Privacy, I was often asked questions I had no clue how to answer—or more often, questions that had many logical options that could be the correct answer. My response was to turn it over to the group by asking “What do you think?” or “What would you do in this situation?”


This approach turned my 8-hour day into an engaged learning session where I not only learned from the knowledge of my attendees, they learned from each other, and the day passed quickly with conversations continuing through the breaks. The collective knowledge of the group was fun to tap into, and even though the material for each seminar was the same, each day was different.


I started each session with a group discussion of the concerns, issues or questions the attendees had regarding the topic. Then, after covering the materials, we had a conversation about what changes they would make in their CPA practice or workplace as a result of our discussion.


I continue to use this model in my classroom by briefly introducing the concept for the day and then presenting a question or problem the students need to solve. They are asked to discuss this for around 5-10 minutes, and then each group presents one aspect of their discussion to the class.


Most important for this process to work effectively is that when the groups or individuals ask for my answer or opinion, I ask them, “What do you think?” or “What does your group think?” The result is that the students begin to learn from each other and form friendships in class that extend outside of class.


Stop lecturing in class.


An unfortunate problem we all face today are distractions in our lives. I am just as guilty as my students of losing focus from time to time, and I understand it takes effort to stay on task along with activities that encourage engagement. So, my advice is to stop lecturing in class unless you are really good at it and it works for you and your students. I personally find it boring and it just does not work for me.


I deliver my Concept Lectures via KyleTV videos to cover the key topics that students should learn prior to attending class. There is a concept video for each chapter that is available 24/7 and can be watched on any device. They range from 15 to 35 minutes and cover five to seven learning objectives in the chapter. I make sure these videos contain not only learning objectives, but changes in scenery (i.e., not just a power-point with voice) and myself either in full screen or in a box in the video. I do not advocate breaking the chapter content up into separate short videos for each learning objective. The students need to learn to use the pause button if they lose focus during the video.


In class, I introduce the topic or concept for five to eight minutes and then have students form groups of three to five to complete a discussion or online assignment related to the topic. The toughest part of this process is that I need to refrain from assisting the students and instead encourage them to use each other to answer questions during the process. The next toughest part is that I need be sure to allow them enough time to discuss the assignment, but not so much time that it degrades into just talking or searching the web on their phone. Finally, I make sure that I have each group present their idea, solution, and/or questions to the entire class and hold all groups accountable for contributing to the class discussion.


Give meaningful tasks for students to complete.


Discussions and assignments should carry a reward for each student. Although my course is based on 1,000 points, the one to two points they can earn completing an in-class discussion and/or assignment is important to them and adds up to approximately 40 points a semester.


Relate the assignment to students’ everyday lives.


Managerial Accounting courses lend themselves to practical applications such as calculating the cost of various activities, quantifying purchasing decision options, creating budgets, analyzing trends, and covering the qualitative aspects of every decision. A fun assignment involves students learning how businesses create budgets by creating their own personal budgets that focus them on preparing for graduation by calculating expected salaries and costs of living for their first job and by creating a five-year timeline of income, expenses, capital purchases, and borrowing.


Utilize discussion boards in your LMS (Learning Management System). 


In a class discussion, I have each group post their comments into the discussion board so everyone can read and learn from each other. This does require grading but is easy to complete if you grade based on effort and remember it is just one or two points.


Utilize online assignments.


These are great because they are automatically graded and they give you a starting point for teaching your students how to go beyond the “answer” and think critically about the assignment. I use Excel in class and I completely copy the online assignment into Excel to avoid flipping back and forth between sites. This also eliminates students having to type in data, provides an example of different layouts for calculating the answer with support for the result, and provides a ready-to-present report. Yes, calculators are banned in my class (and are referred to as the student’s worst enemy).


The answer required in the online assignment makes up approximately 20% to 40% of what I want the student to learn from the task. This is a great opportunity to add prior tools or analysis or introduce new tools into the problem. For instance, when we use the Contribution Margin statement to analyze various change options, the online homework requires the students to input an answer of the final result for the new Contribution Margin statement. I require the students to add Vertical and Horizontal analysis, Margin of Safety, and Degree of Operating Leverage. This ensures they have the tools for each group to argue which option is best based on a broad view incorporating risk and qualitative factors. As each chapter adds new tools, we incorporate those into our analysis to reinforce learning, understanding and retention.


In conclusion, always have fun in class, take your students out of their comfort zone with the new tools and topics from your course, and hold them accountable for contributing to discussions and problem-solving. I really enjoy walking around the room and talking with each group about their ideas and results. It is very rewarding to observe their improving ability to think critically and express themselves using the new tools they learned during the semester. These same students often tell me how the course helped them be successful in other courses!


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