Faculty Highlight: Shea Faulkner Fosters Connection and Reflection Inside and Outside of the ClassroomShare
Thursday, January 27, 2022
By Jennifer Keefe
For East Campus Professor of English Shea Faulkner, connection comes in many forms.
“Connection and connectedness are at the forefront of my teaching philosophy,” she explains. “I want my students to build relationships with me and with other students in the classroom.”
She says it’s also important to her that her students see themselves reflected in the content of her classes.
“When it comes to building connections with students, I like to build them through their writing,” Shea says.
Her ENC 1102 classes are mostly literature based, and students write reflections in a journal about how they connect with each piece. Then, Shea responds to the student reflections in Canvas and the students can answer her back. Those exchanges often lead to Zoom meetings to discuss the students’ writing and the pieces they have read.
But Shea doesn’t wait for her students to turn in papers to start building connections. The first day of all of her classes is full of ice breakers where students “tell serious and silly things about themselves.”
Knowing something about one another helps the students to relate to one another when they talk about literature pieces with more serious content, she says. Shea also plays music at the start of her face-to-face classes, and she checks in on students who miss face-to-face class or fail to turn in online class assignments.
Shea is in Year 5 of the tenure process and expects to be awarded tenure this spring. She teaches predominantly ENC 1101 and ENC 1102 classes.
Her action research project actually started before she began her quest for tenure.
In her first semester of teaching, at the Lake Nona Campus, Shea noticed her students were struggling in the same key areas of writing and revision: MLA and writing good thesis statements and topic sentences. Looking for a way to help, she created a self-reflection form for students to complete after each assignment.
Shea would review the forms after she graded the assignments and would then have the students look at the grades they actually earned in comparison to the one they noted on the form that they thought that they deserved.
Once she started the tenure process, Shea expanded on this idea. “I thought, what can I do with this to help students really start working on these weaknesses?”
She adds, “They [the students] were self-assessing and self-reflective, but it wasn’t enough. They needed to also be looking at what they would do to fix the issues in their writing.”
During her action research, Shea redesigned her original form into a reflective feedback process to include a checklist, a reflection and a commitment to an action plan.
After completing their first writing assignment, the students choose two options for their action plan that include either meeting with Shea, a consultation at the writing center or taking advantage of the online academic refresher classes geared toward improving student writing. The students have until they turn in their fourth writing assignment to complete their action plan. Then, they compare their weaknesses in the first essay to how they have improved in the fourth essay. At the end of the semester, the students then reflect upon how their writing has changed.
Shea first implemented her action research in two ENC 1101 classes, finding that out of 38 students, about 13 mastered their weakness and only one gained no additional credit from assignment one to assignment four.
Reflecting upon her own experience, Shea found, “I learned that while it was successful, it was time consuming on my end and on students’ end.”
She plans to scale the project back in future semesters while still creating a valuable opportunity for growth and reflection for her students. Shea has also found that her project works better in face-to-face classes than it has online.
Shea also has a best practice she uses in her online classes. In discussions, she makes sure she is posting comments on her students’ responses to assigned prompts in ways that model the kind of discussion posts she is looking for.
She does this because “leading by example is the most effective leading one can do.” She says, “Whenever I have an opportunity to lead by example, I should.”
Something else that’s unique that Shea does in her classes comes from her own experience in the SEED program. Her variation on the emotional check-in introduction from SEED is to ask her students what they are feeling good about or what they are proud of themselves for. She says that’s another way she starts class on a positive note.
Do you know a faculty member doing great work? Or, perhaps you’d like to share the work you’re doing? Send the colleague’s (or your) name to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu and include Faculty Highlight Nomination in the subject line of your email. We might just feature your colleague (or you) as an upcoming Faculty Highlight.