#TeachingTuesday Featuring Dr. Filback

What’s Working

by Dr. Rob Filback

A significant hurdle we teachers must cross in order to have impact involves a shift of focus. It’s the move from focusing on ourselves – our performance, our goals, our adequacy as instructors – to focusing on our students – their goals, their learning, their development. Carol Rodgers (2002) calls it “seeing student learning,” which requires “slowing down” and “attending to” our learners in deeper ways. For Elizabeth Paley (2007), this shift involves enhancing our “curiosity” about our learners and doing more listening in order to gain a richer and more accurate understanding of our students. Attaining a student focus can take time, but it’s not an option. We have known for a long time that a key ingredient of effective teaching is a commitment to understanding one’s students in order to modify instruction and help them learn better (Fuller & Brown, 1975; Maynard & Furlong, 1995).

A small step we can take to shift our attention toward our students is to increase our practice of gathering and utilizing learner feedback. Routinely collecting and analyzing student data about their learning and about our teaching helps us differentiate between “what we think we are teaching” and “what students are actually learning” (Rodgers, 2002). A place to start experimenting is with informal formative assessments. Informal means using tools other than formal quizzes or exams or other standardized tests – these can be quick writes, entry/exit tickets, Twitter summaries, polls or any other number of techniques. Formative means gathering feedback during the learning process so we have time to adjust our instruction in response to what we learn.

TeachingTuesday_what's working image

At the end of a recent class, about a third of the way into the semester, I drew three faces on the board: happy, sad and confused (pictured above). I asked the students to take out an old-fashioned piece of paper and tell me one thing about the course or my teaching that was working for them, one thing that I should change help them learn more and one question that they had. This is just one tiny example – but this quick, anonymous exercise produced input that resulted in a few minor but tangible adjustments in my work with this particular group of students.

Turning more of our attention to our students’ learning is a good thing. One way to begin is by exploring the use of informal and formative assessments to collect and analyze a range of student data. There are myriad ideas in the cloud that a few simple searches will turn up. The technique is less critical than the commitment to be more curious about our students, to slow down and listen to them more and to begin to see their learning. Doing so will help us teach with greater empathy, relevance and success.



Fuller, F. & Brown, O. (1975). Becoming a teacher. In K. Ryan (Ed.), Teacher education. Chicago: National Society for the Study of Education.

Maynard, T. & Furlong, J. (1995). Learning to teach and models of mentoring. In Kelly, T., Mayes, A. (Eds.), Issues in mentoring. London: Routledge.

Paley, V. G. (2007). On listening to what the children say. Harvard Educational Review, 77(2). 152-163.

Rodgers, C. (2002). Seeing student learning: Teacher change and the role of reflection.  Harvard Educational Review, 72(2), 230-253.



Start your Journey – Apply to be an English Language Fellow!

Priority Deadline: November 30, 2017

Interested in teaching overseas? The time to apply is now! The priority deadline for the 2018-2019 English Language Fellow Program application is coming up at the end of this month. In order to be considered for all available projects, you must submit your application online by November 30.  Learn more and start your journey today!

To help celebrate International Education Week the English Language Fellow Program has shared a by-the-numbers display of where our 2017-2018 Fellows are. Head to our website to see the locations of 135 projects in 70 countries. We also share the top 12 Fellow-producing universities for this year. Congratulations to Teachers College, Columbia University, for being number one!

Professional Development: WriteGirl seeking Women Writers!

Women Writers Needed!

Volunteer to be a creative writing mentor to teen girls and join a growing network of women writers.

WriteGirl (www.writegirl.org) is a creative writing and mentoring organization that empowers underserved teen girls in Los Angeles through mentoring relationships with women writers, hosting large-scale writing workshops at such places as the Huntington Gardens and the Autry. Since 2001, WriteGirl has maintained a 100% success rate in guiding girls to not only graduate from high school but also enroll in college.

WriteGirl is seeking women writers in all genres including novelists, poets, journalists, songwriters, copywriters, legal writers, and more to help lead workshops and inspire girls to express their creative ideas. Weekly and monthly mentoring opportunities available.

WriteGirl is also seeking professional women to volunteer behind-the-scenes with events, public relations, fundraising, and partnerships. (Strong communication skills required.)

Women should apply by September 20th, 2017 at www.writegirl.org/join-us. For more information, sign up for our newsletter at http://bit.ly/2tK9WUr. For questions, contact WriteGirl at membership@writegirl.org or call 213-253-2655.


Professional Development Event: Summit on (De)Institutionalizing Islamophobia on College Campuses

Join us on Friday, September 8th at USC

The Center for Education, Identity and Social Justice at the USC Rossier School of Education is pleased to announce our first official event: Summit on (De)Institutionalizing Islamophobia on College Campuses. The Summit will feature:

-Parwana Anwar, JD: Trial and Criminal Defense Attorney
Zulaikha Aziz, JD: Human Rights Attorney
Shabana Mir, PhD: Assistant Professor and Coordinator, General Education at American Islamic College
Marwa Rifahie, JD: Civil Rights Attorney at CAIR-LA
Najeeba Syeed, JD: Associate Professor of Interreligious Education at Claremont School of Theology

The Summit will address the legal issues and policies affecting today’s Muslim college students. It will explore thoughtful and empirically based understanding of the diversity and intersectionality within the Muslim community. Topics will include how the institutionalization of Islamophobia under the guise of national security is negatively impacting today’s Muslim college students, as well as discuss:

-Muslim ban
-Monolithic portrayals of Muslims
-Racialization of Muslims
-Violence directed towards the Muslim community

This one-day event on Friday, September 8th, 2017 will take place on USC’s campus. The Summit is open to higher education and student affairs professionals and scholars as well as student leaders. Continental breakfast and lunch will be provided to attendees. Space is limited – you can register for the event here

Early bird rates are in effect until August 18th, with a limited number of student leader rates available at $50 and general admission rates at $150.  After August 18th, the limited student leader rates will be $60 and the general admission rate will be $175.

Please contact us at socialjustice@usc.edu if you have any questions or visit bit.ly/sept8summit.

Professional Development: 2017-2018 Mandarin Teacher Leadership Institute

California needs well-qualified language teachers in its classrooms to ensure that students gain the proficiency and confidence to use their Mandarin language skills in real-world situations.  To address this growing need, The UCLA Mandarin Teacher Leadership Institute (MTLI) is providing Mandarin teachers with the tools they need to become master teachers of Chinese language and culture, and to serve as leaders in the K-12 Mandarin teaching community.

As a participant, you will learn fun, creative strategies for developing lesson plans that emphasize exclusive use of the target language while also fulfilling California’s Common Core language, culture, and content standards. You will also learn how to effectively incorporate authentic materials and technology into your classes.

Application Process

  • All applicants are required to complete an online application and send a copy of their resume to info@confucius.ucla.edu by December 4, 2017.
  • Admission to the program is by invitation only. Selection will be based on a number of factors including teaching experience, educational background, and professional references, online application content, as well as geographic distribution. A goal of our program is to produce a cohort of trained teacher-leaders who will be able to serve as language teaching mentors in diverse parts of our state.

Program Cost 

The total cost of the program, including tuition, fees, and lunch, is $695.00. Scholarship support is available through the UCLA Confucius Institute. Teachers needing scholarship support should email: info@confucius.ucla.edu. Those receiving scholarship support are expected to attend all class meetings.


December 9, 2017
January 20, 2018
February 10, 2018
March 17, 2018
April 14, 2018


Occidental College
1600 Campus Rd., Los Angeles, CA 90041

Conference Opportunity: MECA in Anaheim August 19-20, 2017

Academia Foundation would like to invite you to MECA (Multicultural Education Conference in Anaheim).  This multicultural, education-focused conference is free to attend and will be held Saturday, August 19 – Sunday, August 20, 2017 at the Anaheim Convention Center.

The conference will feature presentations from some of the world’s leading linguists as well as intercultural communication experts.  We also invite teachers to give presentations in any of the following themes:

  • bilingual education
  • TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages)
  • intercultural communications
  • school leadership and classroom strategies
  • international film and culture
  • initiatives for peace and sustainability

Key speakers will include Dr. David Nunan and Dr. Kathleen Bailey: world renowned linguists in the field of TESOL.

REGISTER TODAY! One-minute online registration:
There is no charge to attend. Registration form must be completed for each attendee. To register, please fill out the form from here.

If you are interested in presenting at MECA:

Teachers interested in presenting at MECA can visit the website for instructions in how to submit their materials. The deadline to apply is June 16, 2017.

Please visit www.academiafoundation.org for more information and to register for MECA.  We look forward to seeing you in August!

MECA -Conference flyer here

“Your Values Must Be Crystal Clear”



Former superintendent and Harvard Graduate School of Education Professor Deborah Jewell-Sherman offers advice for school leaders to dismantle bullying and create a culture of kindness and inclusion.”Bullying and harassment are just not acceptable,” says Jewell-Sherman. “And as educators, we are powerful in shifting that narrative.”


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