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Archive of Academic Platform Professional Development/Equal Opportunity e-mail

December 2016



October 2016




August 2016

  • ETH Ferienplausch Angebote für Kinder (in German):

June 2016

  • The IoP (Institute of Physics) twitter feed, asking physicists to tweet photos of themselves doing physics, to showcase the diversity
of people and kinds of work that make up physics:
  • What are the career prospects for Solar and Space Physics PhDs?
  • How persistent are Solar and Space Physics PhDs to pursue a research career?
  • Open letter about the hiring of French astronomers (in French):

April 2016

New articles of interest:
1. Less women in fields where “raw talent or brilliance” seen as important for success:

2. Importance of civility in academia:

3. How to learn positive critical feedback for others’ work:

4. Five mistakes we make when we read different sources:

5. What Google learned about teams that work well together:

6. How our definitions of success can cause problems:

Men, Women, and Our Limiting Mythology of Success

From UZH



February 2016

Welcome to the new year. We are re-booting this e-mail in two major ways:

(1) we will be sending it, every other month, to everyone in the NCCR PlanetS, and (2) it will include topics in Equal Opportunities, Professional Development, and Teaching. We hope you find at least one item of use.

Equal Opportunities

1.  “Girls should expect poorer physics grades”

Secondary school physics teachers with little teaching experience handed out significantly poorer grades to girls than boys for the exact same performance. This was the conclusion drawn by an ETH learning specialist from a study she conducted in Switzerland, Germany and Austria.

2. A new report about women postdoctoral students with children, their supervisors,  and work-life balance comes out:

3. ETH workshop: Gender Diversity at ETH: How to create an inclusive environment 10 March 2016

4. Equal Opportunity events in Geneva:<>

Professional Development

5. The slides for both the Implicit Bias

( and Career

( workshops at the General Assembly are now up. Go look at them, relive the moments, and let us know what you thoughts – what was useful, what was not, and what you would like to see in the future…(

This third topic is related to instruction, specifically to methods that have been shown to engage learners more deeply in a classroom setting, which, in turn, can help a more diverse range of learners participate.

Sometimes we will post an article or blog entry here, but in recognition of the new semester starting soon, today we begin with a few simple tips.

6. Getting students to speak up:

A talking student is an engaged student (and rarely a sleeping student). However, everyone who has ever stood in front of an audience and said “let me know if you have any questions” knows that this rarely produces the results they hoped for. But there are some simple tricks for getting a class of students talking:

a.      Start from the first day. This is the day where the rules and expectations get set, for instructor and students, and it is the best chance you have of getting a more active class. The students come in to the class not sure of how anything will work and you get to set the tone. So, if you want people to speak regularly in class, say it on the first day, and then say that you actually mean it, and then act in a way that backs this up.

b.      Ask your first question to the class early in the hour and then tell them you will wait until at least 3 people have spoken up. And then wait. Human psychology means that people tend to get nervous with too much silence, so wait for 15, 20 or 30 seconds at least. Count this on your watch. If no one speaks, smile, and reiterate that you’ll wait.

c.       Take at least 3 responses and don’t single out ones you consider “wrong.” And don’t stop as soon as you get a “right” answer. Let students come up with many ideas first and don’t judge those answers until a number of people have spoken.

d.      Ask open-ended questions, that require an answer more complex than “yes” or “no.” The hidden contract that most of us learners follow is that the instructor wants us to understand what he or she just said. So the answer we think we are supposed to give to “Are there any questions?” is “No.”

e.      Student engagement and learning increase with any kind of talking, not just when they speak to the whole class and instructor. This means that the much less intimidating experience of speaking to just one person sitting next to you is also a good way to get a class to speak. Ask an open-ended question to the class and then tell them to discuss with the person next to them for 2 min. And then tell them you expect the room to get loud. At the end of the time (or when the noise starts to die down) you can ask for questions from the room or continue your lecture.

If you have any questions, or would like to share your experiences with these tips, please let us know by e-mail or post on the PlanetS forum (


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