On “wishing” students “good luck” on their exams and instead encouraging to empower themselves

Since I have worked (particularly with undergraduates) these last few years as a beginning research professor, I have caught myself automatically wishing them “good luck” when they tell me they have an exam/final/big project due. Maybe it’s pedantic, but I don’t want them to feel like their success is an issue of luck (a.k.a. random chance, circumstances out of their control, etc.), no matter how much of that success may actually be due to whether their class leader knows how to design an assessment that actually assesses anything resembling a student’s actual facility with the topic.

So I’ve been wracking my brain off and on for an acceptable alternative. “Work hard” or even “work smart” seems stilted and too far the other way – even though that is what they can control. Plus, work at what? Cramming last minute? So today I searched the internet for alternatives to good luck. For a good couple of laughs/cringes at “discussion” on the internet, check out this xkcd forum and this ask reddit.

Alternatives such as “I know you’ll do well” seem overly confident in my foresight and may backfire if (ok, this is overestimating my influence a teensy bit) the student decides not to work as diligently after my pronouncement.

I don’t have any definitive answers yet, but “I wish you well” seems closest to more acceptable. Maybe it strikes a balance between those things in and out of our control. And it’s not too long and complicated but hopefully doesn’t convey any unintentional context either way.

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GEO students present research at local undergraduate conferences #nsf #ugresearch #geoscience

Two of our Santa Fe College undergraduates from the 2016 Geoscience Engagement and Outreach program (joint SF/UF/Orlando Science Center, NSF awards 1540724 and 1540729) just presented their research at local conferences:

Diego Sanchez, my mentee, presented a poster at the Santa Fe Research in Undergraduate Education festival. He took second place. DiegoREU2017_ 2

Samantha Allen presented her work with mentor Cori Matyas in a poster at the Southern Regional Honors Council.


Samantha and Diego are finishing their studies at Santa Fe and transferring to four-year programs. They also continue to work with this year’s cohort of students. Great job!

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New TIDESS project website!

We are rocking and rolling now on my NSF AISL project, now called Touch Interaction for Data Engagement on Spherical Screens (formerly Think Globally, Interact Locally). So we have our own website for it, with blog posts from many of our six (!) students working on the project.

Here are a couple of earlier posts on the project before the new site launched:

Our related tabletop study – posts by Annie Luc, undergraduate researcher

some of our pilot work – post by me and Lisa Anthony, co-PI from Computer Science

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A grad student collaborator’s conference update – from last summer (oops) #proflife

As I get started in my career as a professor (ok, it’s been almost 4 years but it’s a little different as a research prof than someone on the tenure track), I have been starting to work with some graduate students when I have the funding. I encourage them to write blog posts to share the work we are doing. And … then I fail to post them. So this is a post from last fall from Heather Keown, AEC Master’s student, who went to the Rural Sociological Society conference in Toronto last summer. She shared a poster of our work on social network analysis with regional farmers. Here is her post:

“What an experience this has been! Early this week, I had the opportunity to travel to Toronto, Ontario for the 79th Annual Meeting of the Rural Sociological Society to present a portion of our Who’s Connected research in the form of a poster. I talked about how the producers who came to our focus groups define sustainability and how they believe sustainability could be accomplished. I also talked about how we saw regional differences when it came to these two topics. 

I was inspired and overwhelmed by the amount of positive feedback our research received while talking to attendees that stopped by the poster session. I talked mainly to sociologist from other universities around the States and Canada. I found that most everyone I talked to was excited to hear about how the producers themselves defined sustainability. It was stated many times that there is no one good definition for what sustainability means, and we were praised for going to the producers rather than using a “book” definition. Another general theme I saw was everyone’s interest in the regional differences we saw within the one system. A couple of questions that were asked were: “Why do you think these differences are occurring?” and “Why do you think the Gainesville area is rejecting the ideals of traditional sustainable farming practices (or co-oping) ?”

I also talked a bit about how this part of our research was used to create a social network analysis survey in order to allow us to actually see how producers in the system were talking to each other and to identify the key figures within the system. This again was another area everyone seemed to love! They were excited to hear about a network that could potentially be sustained by the producers and were interested in how extension would play a role in this. A few faculty members stated how their states seemed to have a similar program but most were led by industry companies who still had an “agenda” while helping the producers.

While it was awesome to receive so much positive feedback, I believe the most interesting conversations I had were about the cultural aspect of these producers. The producers we talked to only mentioned the environmental, financial, and human aspects of sustainability, but none mentioned how being a sustainable farmer culturally affected them. It was suggested by two people that if we were to further this research that we look into this component. They suggested that this may have to do with the regional differences as well.

All in all, this was a great conference. I was nervous going into it, especially since it was my first research conference, but I loved talking to everyone about the research we are doing. I knew our research had great significance, but I am even more excited to finish out our social network analysis and receive feedback after our event in September.”  

Funding for the project from the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Foundation ended in October, and I have been working on publishing the results from the focus groups and social network analysis. Heather finished her classes and has been student teaching this semester. She will graduate at the end of this month.

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The joy of results (and thank you conference deadlines for making us analyze data) #research #science #littlethings #ftw

Today was a joyous day … after a painful realization that failing to unhide rows in Excel and failing to uncheck the box in SPSS to ignore hidden cells meant I had run data on only 2 of 85 participants in one of my groups. Once I got that fixed, reset all the SPSS variable types to numeric despite changing the data in Excel to numbers, AND renamed all the SPSS labels (not just variable names), I finally hit the magic OK button and had interesting results! Hooray! This is the way real science research works, folks …

This wrapped up a nice day of revising a paper based on reviewer comments and several student meetings that got other projects kicked off or also found interesting data and minimal email hassles.

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Free-choice learning/informal education journals #sciengage #infscience #scicom #scicomm

Here’s a sometimes-updated list of journals I use for Free-choice learning and informal (science) education. AKA nonformal education (See my article Stofer, 2015 for more info on these terms) in the Cooperative Extension world. Please share and/or comment with suggestions!

Public Understanding of Science

International Journal of Science Education, Part B

Science communication:

Science Communication

Journal of Science Communication


Visitor Studies

Science Museum Journal

Museums and Social Issues


Journal of Museum Education

Broad Science Education:

Science Education

Journal of Research on Science Teaching


Afterschool Matters


National Science Teachers Association: Journals for teaching Children, Middle School, High School, and College Students

Science Educator

The Ag Ed Magazine

Agricultural Education and Extension:

Journal of Agricultural Education

Journal of Human Sciences and Extension

Community Engagement:

Journal of Higher Education and Outreach

Journal of Community Engagement

Environmental Education:

Journal of Environmental Education

Experiential Education:

Journal of Experiential Education

Inspired by these lists of Science Education Journals:




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