Friday, June 29, 2018

Make-up: Carmindize or Contour?

Are you living in a three dimensional world?
Does anyone remember Carmindy from What Not to Wear? She always exuded an easy-peasy confidence and an easy-breezy style. This translated, too, to the way she taught her makeover guests how to do their faces. Emphasizing what made a guest already beautiful was her thing.

I was so completely impressed with her and her "5 Minute Face" that I practiced it until I perfected it and could list all my favorite products and their shade numbers by using only one hand. When and if I received a compliment on my makeup, I proudly told the complimenter that I "Carmindized."

Fast forward five years, since the show went off the air, and I haven't worn makeup but a few times in all those years. I've been sick, really sick, and it just wasn't something I had the energy or inclination to do. Now that I'm feeling better and interested in wearing a little makeup, again, I'm absolutely horrified by new makeup trends. They're scary, created by celebrities I don't respect very much, and complicated. More than that, though, these new trends mimic a troubling trend in the way people think about their own faces and their own lives.

Why do women demonstrating makeup on YouTube look dirty, like an online army of  Mary Poppinses and their sooty rooftop compacts? Some of them look green, some purple, and most look startlingly grey. Yes, I've heard of contouring, and I'm good at it because I was trained in stage makeup and did an A+ Mad Hatter and an extreme aging sample for my final exam. It's not something I would wear to the local Mexican restaurant for enchiladas rancheras and a side of guacamole, however. What about when people look at the side of such a face from as close as the next table instead of the fourth row of a theatre? Dirt: It looks like dirt. In real life we don't just get frontal views of one another, but this look wasn't really meant for real life or anything other than frontal views, was it? I don't think it ever was.

In an age where each second of each minute of each hour of each day is captured by photographic evidence, people are thinking about faces in a frontal photographic way. They are thinking of themselves in two dimensions. Today's makeup is photographic makeup sans a lighting designer, talking head video makeup, social media makeup, character makeup - albeit not quite as extreme as the Mad Hatter. It's makeup for people hitting the clubs and taking duck-face Instagram images. It's not the easy-breezy "5 Minute Face" we saw practiced from 2003 to 2013 on TLC. It's not even about getting out into the world and being true to oneself, which is what Carmindy constantly emphasized. Is that advice to be oneself really that outdated?

Give me back my "5 Minute Face," my naturally dimensional face, please.  Being a naturally multidimensional person and putting on a face that shows others I want to be in the world, the real world, is so much more my style than putting on a face that's meant only for living a series of two-dimensional photo ops.

Want to read more? Try 

Stitch Fix Review: Styling at 40
Product Review: MICA Beauty Cosmetics Vita-C Exfoliating Peeling Gel
Hair Accessories to Finish a Professional Hairstyle

Thursday, May 17, 2018

What if . . . ? A Brief Case for Learning Community Classroom Design

What if . . . we designed active learning spaces with collapsible walls?

Learning communities can take many forms. Some are based on grouping students by extracurricular activities and interests, some are based on course or disciplinary groupings, and some are based on the teaching philosophies and pedagogical methods of groups of faculty members.

No matter how a learning community is created, however, something that remains consistent is the need for those students in that community to learn together.  That need requires a space, and a space designed for learning communities will facilitate that sense of, well . . . community.

What if  . . . collapsible walls allowed for the expansion of learning communities, team teaching, and cooperative learning?

What if more institutions adopted the structure of learning communities, team teaching, and cooperative learning?  What would that look like?  One idea is to utilize one specific design element, the folding wall room divider, and one specific logistical consideration, block scheduling of students and faculty.

This solution requires each participating faculty member, in this case two, to teach two back-to-back sections of their class while their partner does the same. Classes happen concurrently. Students take one class, then the other, while their counterparts take the same classes in reverse order. As the semester progresses and the course materials begin to merge, the room divider can be opened, allowing for the faculty members to team teach for the day, both class blocks, perhaps offering lecture materials to the entire group, or perhaps allowing students to merge into large groups to brainstorm or collaborate on project-based learning assignments. The room can be arranged into areas that allow for faculty to mentor, meet, or otherwise assist individuals or groups of students. The room would allow for visitors, including community members and guest speakers, panel discussions, debates, and a whole host of collaborative learning activities.

What if . . . we opened our classrooms to community members as guest speakers?

The possibilities greatly expand, in this scenario, for facilitating the creation of working relationships among students, among faculty, and between students and faculty. These types of relationships increase engagement and student achievement, as faculty are able to become part of students' figurative and quite literal, circles.

What if . . . this is an option worth exploring? 

To read more about teaching and learning, try

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Active Learning Classroom Design and Pedagogy

Lithograph of Faraday delivering a Christmas lecture at the
Royal Institution. 
Maybe we've been doing things this way for too long? 

Active learning classrooms are spaces designed with student achievement in mind. As active learning is student-centered, so must the classroom reflect that orientation. The furniture is often mobile, designed with castors, making it possible to easily create tables for small groups of students to work together on projects, or to rearrange the set-up quickly for one-on-one meetings, speakers, or class discussions. Active learning classrooms are also equipped with all the technology necessary for faculty to seamlessly monitor student work, and for students to have at their disposal the tools and technology they might need to complete cooperative learning, experiential, service, project-based, or problem-based assignments. Active learning classrooms help shift the focus from the professor and the traditional lecture to the students and their peers.

To Assess by Sitting Down Beside

One key idea is to assess student learning and student progress from close up, as opposed to from "Faraday's stage," and as Dr. Ronald Purser reminds in his Problem Based Learning overview (n.d.), that requires sitting down with the students and observing them sitting down with one another. “To Assess,” he begins: “The Latin origin of this term, assidere, literally means to sit down beside. Another way of thinking of assessment is to use careful judgment based on the kind of close observation that comes from ‘sitting down beside.’” As opposed to outcomes-based assessment or assessment for the purposes of accreditation or program review, which too often ties faculty to sitting down with data instead of students, this real time assessment helps faculty keep students on track throughout a semester. This allows for real time improvement of the curriculum, and therefore greater engagement and student achievement.

The Learner-Centered Teaching Philosophy

Well known for her expertise in the field of active learning and active learning spaces, Diana Oblinger explains the importance of the pedagogy-design connection by simply stating that “Learning spaces convey an image of the institution’s philosophy about teaching and learning” (2005). These spaces are particularly important, then, for institutions looking to focus on learners and to engage underserved populations and minorities, as research made popular through the Yale Center for Teaching and Learning clearly shows. For example,

  • Active learning "has been empirically shown to decrease the achievement gap for underrepresented minorities and first generation college students, particularly in STEM fields; to reach 'a diversity of students'; and to build 'higher- order thinking skills' across engaged student populations" (Handelsman, et. al, 2007). 
  • "Active learning therefore can help improve class climate by promoting interconnections between students, which can enhance the sense of belonging and motivation for marginalized students and those with differing levels of academic preparation."
  • "Early quasi-experimental research revealed that teaching in an ALC can improve student attitudes, conceptual understanding, and passing rates, especially for female and minority students" (Baepler, et. al., 2016, Beichner 2007, Walker 2011).

Service and Experiential Learning

Benefits related specifically to service learning are reported by Yeh (2017) in Service-Learning and Persistence of Low-Income, First-GenerationCollege Students: An Exploratory Study. Her interviews with students gave “insight into the efficacy of service learning as a tool for improving college persistence,” which her framework equates with retention. Benefits related specifically to experiential learning are reported by Thacker, Berna, Torr, and Walsh in Experiential Learning: Benefits for Hispanic and First-Generation College Students (2017). They found that students in the studied experiential learning courses “report increased confidence, greater accessibility to and understanding of application of course concepts. And, perhaps of utmost importance, these pedagogical tools offer Hispanic, first generation students a lens through which they are able to view themselves as personally successful, intellectually empowered, and as productive community members.”


A shift from a  traditional lecture format to an active learning format of any type can often be challenging, but the benefits are innumerable. Active learning and active learning spaces often engage all students, including underserved populations, by offering them a chance to use soft skills and abilities that reflect the need for these same skills post graduation. Having spaces designed for this type of learning can make a great difference in bridging the gap between the two pedagogies, while at the same time proving an institution's commitment to student-centered learning.