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Trans* in College

Z Niccolazzo memorably opens hir book with this description of hir tumultuous feelings as ze summoned the courage to reveal, for the first time, the gender identity ze was hirself struggling to understand:

I can still remember the first time I told someone, out loud, “I am transgender.” The memory is forever etched in my mind as if it happened yesterday. I was sitting outside of a coffee shop along a busy thoroughfare in Tucson, Arizona. In my right hand was my phone, pressed to my ear, and in my left hand was a cigarette, shaking with nerves. I sat staring at my iced coffee, condensation beading up and dripping off the plastic cup in the dry desert heat. I felt alone. I felt nervous. I paused mid-sentence, momentarily worrying that my words would be met with resistance, with the comment, “No, I don’t think you are” from the other end of the line. It was a silly worry, but it was present nonetheless, which then made me wonder what it meant to be transgender. Did I want to biomedically transition? What would that mean for me? What would that mean for my job? What would that mean for my family, for my friends, and for my life? And what if I did not want to transition? The few transgender people I knew were all transitioning, so I did not have a sense of what it meant to be transgender and not transition. That pause seemed to stretch out interminably. I brought the cigarette to my lips, took a drag, let out my breath, and said into the receiver, “Chase, I think I am trans*.”

This is a book that elicits, indeed demands, a personal response. It’s a book that has moved me, taught me much about a community about which I had many misconceptions and deep ignorance, provided me – a cisgender heterosexual male – with a framework for understanding the complexity and multiplicity of potential expressions and outward representations of trans* identity, and given me a window into the lived experiences of trans* living in a word that assumes binary genders as the norm.

Z’s book is as much addressed to trans* students themselves, offering them a frame, in Z’s words, to “understand the genders that mark them as different and to address the feelings brought on by the weight of that difference”; as it is to the cisgendered – whether friends and fellow students, faculty, student affairs professionals or college administrators.

There’s much to learn and ponder about. In concluding hir book, Z eschews simplistic “best practice” approaches to postulate what ze terms “implications” that can promote genuine gender equity and trans* inclusion.

-Stylus President & Publisher, John von Knorring

Trans* in College
Transgender Students’ Strategies for Navigating Campus Life and the Institutional Politics of Inclusion

Z Nicolazzo
Foreword by Kristen A. Renn
Afterword by Stephen John Quaye

For a Sample Chapter, Table of Contents, reviews, and more about Trans* in College, please visit the book page.


About the Author
Z Nicolazzo
is an assistant professor in the Adult and Higher Education program and a faculty associate in the Center for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, both at Northern Illinois University, DeKalb. Z’s research agenda is focused on mapping gender across college contexts, with particular attention to trans* collegians, as well as the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and disability. Prior to becoming a faculty member, Z worked as a full-time student affairs professional experience in the functional areas of residence life, sexual violence prevention, and fraternity and sorority life.

You can follow Z on hir website at or on twitter at @trans_killjoy.


Why Grades Aren’t a Valid Measure of Student Learning

ct0r9901_linkedinShould student attainment of learning outcomes become the coin of the realm?
By author Ron Carriveau

The answer to this provocative question may lie with the use of the word “outcome” itself. It could be argued that everything in life has an outcome that results from an action that has occurred, or has an expected outcome that is dependent on certain actions taken. If we don’t obey the sign that says “stop” when we are driving, then the outcome may be a traffic ticket or a trip to the courthouse. Could this consequence also have been an expected outcome? In terms of probability, the answer would be yes.

In education, there is an abundance of student learning outcome expectations, often stated as the student “will” know or “do” something or think in a particular way, or “will be able to” meet these expectations. Learning outcome statements read as though 100% attainment is expected, but in reality the expectation is that students will attain the outcomes to some degree. So it is paramount that a valid measure of the attainment of the outcomes can be calculated.

In the education world, outcome statements are created by course instructors and by various types and levels of organizations. Outcomes can come from a program, institution, professional organization, regional accrediting body, and state and federal departments of education, among others. Additionally, large and highly influential educational organizations publish what outcome expectations should be met for anyone who goes through an educational system and receives a document that validates their learning.

To get a measure of the students’ attainment of the outcomes, assessments of various types are used, and the student receives points on the measurement scale used for the assessment. What makes the scores “outcome attainment measures” is that each item used in the various assessments, whether selected response items (like multiple-choice) or constructed response items (like writings, performances, and projects) is directly linked to an outcome statement.

If it is agreed that assessment items should be written to “specific” learning outcome statements, then what should be used to report student attainment of the outcomes? Furthermore, what should be used to evaluate and report the degree of attainment of the outcomes at the course, program, and institutional levels, and beyond to outside organizations?

In Connecting the Dots, I suggest a three-level model to accomplish these tasks:

  • Attainment of the specific learning outcomes (sLOs) is derived from the percentage of items correct that are directly linked to the sLO statements and thus is useful to the instructor for making instructional and course design decisions.
  • The sLO attainment values aggregate to a broader level, called the General Learning Outcome (GLO) level, useful for reporting at the department and program levels.
  • The GLOs aggregate to the broadest level, called GOAL, which is useful for reporting at the institutional levels.

The attainment values can also be assigned to outcome statements from outside organizations when there is an outcome statement match. Thus, we have a structure for calculating attainment of outcomes at all levels and a way to communicate the attainment to all stakeholder levels, including the individual student level.

Should an outcome attainment measure challenge the traditional coin of the realm – grades – for making valid decisions about students, courses, and institutions? The answer is yes, and rightly so.

The validity of grades awarded has been questioned for many years by measurement experts and by educators (Haladyna, 1999). The issue is that with traditional grading, the total points that can be attained for a course includes points for actions that are not directly related to learning outcome statements or the calculation of outcome attainment values, actions such as attendance, attitude, class participation, extra credit, neatness, participation, and violation of deadlines to name a few.

Some educators support giving grade points for some or all of these actions, some do not support giving points, and some say it is open to argument or discussion. Giving points for these actions can cause grade inflation (even when outcome based assessment results are included in the total points earned) or can lower grades that would be awarded if based on outcome-attainment values only, and thus can significantly affect the validity of the grades awarded as measures of student attainment of the outcomes.


Connecting the Dots
Developing Student Learning Outcomes and Outcomes-Based Assessment
Second Edition
Ronald S. Carriveau

This book is designed to help faculty and institutions of higher education meet these demands by obtaining, managing, using, and reporting valid outcome attainment measures at the course level; and mapping outcome attainment from the course level to departmental, degree program, and institutional levels, and beyond. It demonstrates how to communicate clearly what students are supposed to know and be able to do; write assessments that measure the expectations; and produce test scores that are valid for their intended use and interpretation, so that valid inferences can be made about students and programs.

It is a “how-to” manual that is rich with guidelines, model forms, and examples that will lead the reader through the steps to “connect the dots” from outcomes assessment to outcomes-based reporting.

About the Author
Ronald S. Carriveau is the Outcomes, Assessment, and Measurement Specialist, and QEP Assistant Director, At the Center for Learning Enhancement, Assessment, and Redesign, University of North Texas, and is the assistant director for the university’s Quality Enhancement Plan for accreditation.

Dr. Carriveau earned a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology. He has taught in the public school system, held the position of associate professor at the university level, served as director of assessment at a large school district and at the state department of education, and was a test development manager for a national test publisher. He has consulted nationally and internationally.

For more information about Connecting the Dots, sample chapters and book reviews, visit the book page.

Your Student Affairs Environment


Student Affairs Leadership
Defining the Role Through an Ecological Framework

Linda Kuk and James H. Banning
Foreword by Cynthia Cherrey

The goal of the book is to help advance our understanding of student affairs leadership. Research and modern theories of leadership have focus on “context” as a central component of effective leadership. This work focuses on leadership in the context of higher education.

This has not been a real focus of works in this profession in the past. The book is focused on helping both leaders and aspiring leaders understand the importance of context and how it works to shape effective leadership. We take the findings from the exploration of the leadership-environmental interaction of 24 highly successful Senior Student Affairs Officers (SSAOs) and apply them to guiding others in understanding how leadership can be enhanced.

Other works have used individual stories to speak to leadership, but none have actually studied a number of leaders in different types of institutions to present a descriptive portrayal of how leadership actually works in student affairs organizations.

What different “ecological contexts” are explored? The book studies student affairs as a cultural environment, a social environment, a physical environment, a political/legal environment, a resource environment, and an ethical environment.

From the Preface:

Specifically this work was designed to be distinct from other works by exploring leadership as viewed through a lens of ecological theory, and applying it to everyday leadership practice. (The ecological perspective will be explored more fully in chapter two). From this ecological perspective we view leadership as a transaction that involves leaders engaged with both the members of the organization and the existing contextual environment.
Each of the players within higher education organizations, including the positional leaders and other organizational members, have different roles but all of them have an influence on how leadership is perceived and addressed within the ecological context of the organization. Leadership effectiveness emerges when the interactions between the players and the ecological context are in harmony as they interact with the leadership process.

About the Authors

Linda Kuk currently serves as the Program Chair for the Higher Education Leadership Program in the School of Education at Colorado State University and is an Associate Professor of Education. Within her work, she continues to prepare leaders for roles in Higher Education Institutions. She has published three books: Positioning Student Affairs for Sustainable Change (2010), New Realities: Emerging Specialist Roles and Structures in Student Affairs Organizations (2012) and The Handbook for Student Affairs in Community Colleges (2014).

James H. Banning, Professor Emeritus, Colorado State University, is an environmental psychologist and studies institutional learning environments from the perspective of campus ecology. Jim holds a Ph.D. degree in clinical psychology from the University of Colorado – Boulder. In the student affairs field, he is seen as a pioneer in the campus ecology movement. He has co-authored several books: Educating by Design: Creating Campus Environments that Work, Positioning Student Affairs for Sustainable Change, and Designing for Learning: Creating Campus Environments for Student Success. 

For more about Student Affairs Leadership, including a sample chapter and table of contents, visit the book page.

5 Things to Know About Blended Teaching & Learning

For anyone new to blended teaching and learning, it can be hard to know where to start. Many instructors might feel overwhelmed by the technology components that they envision as central to the modality. Others may not know how to transition an already existing course to have more elements online. Administrators may have questions about how best to support faculty as they engage in more blended teaching experiences.

 I created The Blended Course Design Workbook: A Practical Guide to help instructors and administrators by providing a step-by-step process of creating a blended course that’s student-centered and designed using evidence-based best practices.

If you’re still on the fence about whether to dive in to blended course design, here are five important things to consider:

  • We know it works. When designing a blended course, using evidence-based best practices is key. Several studies support the efficacy of blended learning when it is well-designed and student-centered. Some of the research has actually found better learning outcomes in blended environments when compared to face-to-face and fully online classes. All of this research is outlined in The Blended Course Design Workbook and each chapter also includes a literature overview for each topic in the book so you can be sure that your course is based on best practices that are supported by the most recent research on blended environments.
  • It’s not just a trend. Although it can be tempting to “wait out” the latest technology-driven trends in higher education, it’s clear that blended learning is not a trend, but becoming the norm. Technology is now a part of our day-to-day lives, so it makes sense that we would incorporate it into our classrooms, and to aid our students learning, in intentional ways. That intentionality is key, and The Blended Course Design Workbook can help you to make choices about which technology tools to include in your course based on your intended outcomes, discipline, and your student audience.
  • Alignment is key. One of the most challenging components, and one of the most crucial, for blended course design is the alignment between face-to-face and out of class activities. This alignment must be purposefully embedded through the creation of course outcomes, during assignment design, and while course mapping. Several activities in The Blended Course Design Workbook will walk you through the alignment process to ensure that you, and your students, know how the various elements of your course connect and build on one another in support of student learning.
  • It’s not easier. Although some students might assume that a blended class is easier than face-to-face learning, for many that’s not the case. In fact, some students may find blended courses harder because of the time management skills, independent and autonomous thinking, and active engagement that is required for them to be successful. Also, because of the increased out-of-class work, there is a danger that students can more easily fall behind if they aren’t careful to complete their activities and assignments on time. Although creating an environment for student success is interwoven throughout The Blended Course Design Workbook, the final chapter includes specific methods to help prepare your students to do their best work in a blended classroom.
  • The technology is not the most important part. While technology is certainly an important component of blended courses, the central element to keep in mind is student learning. The technology tools an instructor chooses to work with should always be selected for the purpose of aiding the course learning outcomes. If you’re nervous about the technology components, check around your campus to see who can help you. At the end of each chapter in The Blended Course Design Workbook, guiding questions will assist you in finding campus-specific resources that will enhance and strengthen your blended course design experience.

Creating a new blended course, or transitioning a face-to-face course to this new modality, doesn’t have to be a burden—in fact, it can be quite fun and invigorating! Having a step-by-step process to follow makes it easier to focus on the most important part of course design: student learning.

The Blended Course Design Workbook: A Practical Guide is all about helping instructors create the best learning experiences possible for their students. I hope you’ll check it out to see if it might be a helpful resource for you.

Happy blending!


Coming November 2016

A Practical Guide
Kathryn E. Linder

The Blended Course Design Workbook meets the need for a user-friendly resource that provides faculty members and administrators with instructions, activities, tools, templates, and deadlines to guide them through the process of revising their traditional face-to-face course into a blended format.

Watch the book trailer and read sample chapters and handouts on the Stylus book page. Additional materials and resources can also be found on the author website,

Kathryn E. Linder is the Research Director for Extended Campus at Oregon State University. Katie is also the author of Rampage Violence Narratives (2014). Some of her more recent journal publications can be found in Innovative Higher Education and the Journal of Open, Distance, and e-Learning.