All posts by Jenna Duncan

Assessment Matters!

Sometimes when I think of assessment, I think of business regulations and why they are necessary for free trade. I like to hear different viewpoints on regulation and take them into consideration. For example, I was once working with a colleague from MCC’s business department who really felt that fewer regulations were important to more successful international import/export trade. It was her viewpoint that the more we could free up channels and remove blockages, delays, etc. the more the economy could grow through the exchange of trade. Seems simple, and I see her perspective. However, I also believe that some regulations are important because they provide critical protections to consumers. For example, the ban on using lead paint in children’s toys. That just seems like common sense, but without regulation, who/how can it be monitored?
I think of assessment in a similar way, as far as, yeah, sometimes it seems like an inconvenience or a little extra work, but on the other hand, if we never checked in with ourselves and each other regarding our work, how could we possibly ensure that effective teaching & learning is going on within our classrooms? (That sentence contained a lot of prepositional phrases… I apologize!).
But what I’m getting at is, basically, effective assessment ensures accountability.
I don’t want to become one of those workers who just chugs along, performing at “status quo,” and frankly, I have an expectation of our college that as an institution we, as a whole, regularly challenge our own performance and standards, and routinely strive to do better.
This reminds me of a line from the old comedy series, “Reno, 9-1-1”: “We aim to try.”
I want to revise this and turn it into a motto: “We aim to try harder and do better.”
I think assessment is a meaningful process that helps us reflect regularly and start to attempt to answer the question: “HOW should we try harder, next time?”


Is it our job to teach students responsibility?

I may be a week behind (almost)… I blame login challenges. I think I’ve got it now.
I want to respond to the question about teaching students responsibility. I have been reading a lot of Aristotle lately for a philosophies of higher education course, and I feel like I’m seeing different sides to this concept–perhaps, different applications of ethics.
What is fresh in my mind is the idea that yes, we should be helping our students build character and prepare for “the real world” in as many ways as we possibly can. This means holding them accountable for things like turning in assignments, and getting them in on time. We should also hold students accountable for paying their tuition and fees and taking care of holds on their accounts, etc.
On the other hand, I feel like there are right and wrong applications of upholding this standard of accountability. At a recent day-long training session I attended, I heard from many different administrators from colleges all around our district about account holds, financial aid conditions and other related student finance issues. It seems that we have some policies in place that actually counteract or contradict our goals to increase student enrollment and better aide students in signing up for their class schedules. I understand we need students to figure out for themselves how to fund their education, but punishing them by dropping them from all their courses or not allowing them to add and plan a schedule for next semester based on some small library, lab or parking fine seems to me to be counter-intuitive to the greater goal, which is student success (whether that be defined as retention, completion, or the student’s individual, personal growth).
I’m neither an anarchist nor a lazy-student apologist, but I don’t want to be a hypocrite, either. I’m still not over the time when I was 17 years old and my math instructor at MCC dropped me from class on my 3rd absence,even though I was getting a B and had no missing assignments. I had paid for that class out of pocket, and getting dropped knocked me to less-than full-time enrollment and messed up my financial aid for the next semester. It was a hard and costly lesson to learn. I think of that moment every time I’m faced with issuing a W for non-attendance, and I try to reach out to the student before making that move.


Getting Started with Write 6×6 Challenge: Teaching, Learning, & Student Success

Greetings, readers!
Thanks for checking out my blog. For years I have been reading emails about the Write 6×6 Challenge and wondering what it’s all about. This semester, I decided to “take the plunge” and actually participate. (Wow, I often discourage writing students from using cliche and I just used one… hope this isn’t a sign of burn-out!)
The timing seems right for me. I am in the second year of my EdD program in Higher Education Leadership through NAU and this semester in my Philosophy of Education class we are talking an awful lot about the common good, what is “student success,” and who gets to define it. Similar conversations have been arising when I’m in the room working with the GCC Academic Strategic Plan Bridge committee. What contemplating these questions has forced me to do is review my time here at GCC, the things I’ve learned (and am in the process of learning), what I hope to accomplish, what I still wish could be changed, and from what position I stand to try to affect positive changes to better serve our students.
To me, in my personal thinking, our students are the entire reason all of us are here. This is a public institution of teaching and learning–these things should be at the core of everything we do. Best, better, more innovative, and more effective practices and processes should be what we seek (uh-oh, now I’m sounding like Yoda!).
Anyway, those are some of my thoughts as I set up this blog and get ready to take this challenge. Won’t you come along with us on this journey? 🙂