Category Archives: Student Engagement

Educating the Whole Person

Educating the Whole Person

Depending on what brings you to work every day, this may mean something different to each of us. Counseling, Advising, Teaching, Coaching…..  What does this mean to you, and how do you help to make this happen? This post is less of a one-sided submittal, and intended to be more of a two-way exchange (or larger conversation).

Do you feel our job as community college educators, coaches,  and leaders is to ‘educate the whole person’?  Or, should we stick to the traditional ‘Three R’s’ mindset? And, why do you feel the way you do?

According to our last CCSSE & SENSE surveys (2011), over 76% of our students report never working with instructors or faculty outside of class assignments, 33% report never discussing career plans with their advisor or instructors, and only 50% of students reported discussing ideas from readings or class with others outside of class often.

Faculty & staff interactions provide an opportunity to educate the whole person, but my question is: if we buy-in to that premise, what can each of us do better every day to make that be a true statement?

I’m hoping we hold this discussion as a daily reminder of the importance of EVERY.SINGLE.INTERACTION. with our students and the impact we can make in educating the whole person.

Your turn………

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EDU 250 – More than what I thought!

In my ongoing journey of professional development to increase my knowledge and skills as an academic advisor I am currently in the process of working on the  Foundations of Student Services Certificate Program.  As part of the program I was required to take EDU 250 – Teaching and Learning in the Community College.  As an academic advisor I was tenaciously focused on delving into my craft and learning all I could about ADVISING students, so this class really wasn’t at the  top of my list.  As is goes, it has been the class which I was disinclined to take that has been the most useful! Little did I know that EDU 250 would provide me with some of the most essential skills I needed to serve students and help my team as we built the Gaucho 101 Program.

With the EDU 250 course under my belt I acquired a critical understanding of the many characteristics a community college student might have and the challenges some those characteristics bring.  I have a new respect for our students and what it has taken for many of them to simply walk onto the campus.  From the 1st Generation Student to the young parent who is balancing home, work, and school it is vital that each get advisement that suits their individual needs.

Then after examining the different learning styles of a student that awareness impressed upon me how important it is to build programs which incorporate different learning styles.  I now deeply understand that just talking at a student might not serve their needs and how vital it is to include visual and tactile moments of learning when possible.  Admittedly it takes time to add such elements to an advisement session but it gives the student more opportunity to truly learn.

What really rocked my advisor world was learning about course planning and design, as it gave me a good action plan for both advising students and building programs.    I have endeavored to make these four elements of course design part of my every interaction with students and to do my best to bring them into any program our team designs.

  • Knowing the aim, goals and objectives for the student
  • Finding clear ways to present the subject matter
  • Include learning activities
  • Evaluating

Beyond giving our instructors a solid foundation the EDU 250 course offers valuable knowledge at the heart of Student Services.  I highly encourage anyone who advises students or works on student programming to enroll!!

 

Learning is hard work!

In “Enhancing Rigor in Developmental Education,” the Scaling Innovation team discusses productive struggle: “the ultimate goal of instructional activities that require productive struggle is for students to develop a healthy disposition toward uncertainty in their pursuit of skills and knowledge they will later revisit and apply in other contexts.”

My favorite story of the week exemplifies productive struggle.

Students were to read about critical thinking and define the 15 critical thinking terms used in the article. My goal is to have them start using the language of critical thinking. Not surprisingly, they returned with 15 dictionary definitions that did not mean much! My next goal was to get them to use the dictionary to learn all they could about the words (as opposed to just copying down definitions they didn’t understand.) They read through dictionary entries and found new synonyms, learned how to use the pronunciation symbols to figure out “how to say it right,” discussed etymologies and how knowing the word history helped them remember and understand how the word came to mean what it does, realized how knowing the part of speech helped them use it correctly in a sentence, and argued about the “appropriate definition for the context” in the article.  Sounds boring but they were engaged and admitted that maybe dictionary.com is not always the best option for really learning new words.

When we were finished, a  student said, “Teacher, when I came in here I thought I knew everything but now I know I knew nothing!” I asked her how that felt and she replied, “It feels great! There is SO much to know!”

Learning is hard

Getting students to work hard is hard work! From the grumbling gentlemen in RDG081 who refuse to justify their answers to critical reading students who can’t write in complete sentences, it takes me several weeks to get them to struggle productively but it is beginning to surface that they are learning and that it feels good!

 

 

Exercise is Medicine for Stress

The people have spoken! According to the survey results from last week’s blog, the number one reason that GCC employees exercise is for…wait for it…relief from stress.

The stress relief gained from just one exercise session can last for 60-90 minutes! This is due to the release of endorphins – chemicals that act like pain killers!  According to WebMD, “…that feeling, known as a “runner’s high,” can be accompanied by a positive and energizing outlook on life.”

Just from reading some of the awesome Write 6×6 blogs, you get a sense of the anxiety and tension experienced by employees and students alike. You don’t have to read the blogs to know the amount of pressure we are all dealing with.

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One of the most common stress responses felt by students is test-taking anxiety.  You know…that feeling when you have stayed up all night to cram for a big exam, and realize the next morning that absolutely nothing was committed to memory. The exam paper staring up at you. Panic sets in. Eyes dilate. Heart races. Breathing increases. Sweat beads begin to emerge, but nothing coming from the brain.

As employees we may feel similar tension related to deadlines, presentations, forging through “red tape,” miscommunications, personality conflicts, cultural differences, personal beliefs…the list is endless.

So grab your work buddy and take them for a brisk walk around our beautiful campus! Encourage your students to move more every chance you get! Be the role model and show people in a positively active way how you handle your stress!

Don’t think you have time to exercise? Watch this video, “23 and 1/2 Hours,” and I promise it will make an impact on your decision.

Next week I will tell you about all of the wonderful on-campus opportunities to move more and have fun doing it. If you can’t wait ’til then, come find an exercise professional on the west side of campus! We are here to serve you!

Results from the survey “My Benefits of Physical Activity.

More energy (have enough energy to play with the kids after work, stay productive after lunch, take care of the house on the weekend) 75%
Less chance of colds and flu 75%
Relief from stress 100%
Increased productivity (feel confident that I can accomplish all I want to do and invigorated when I get things done) 75%
Clean thinking (able to concentrate, sort things out clearly, and solve problems) 75%
Healthy and strong bones, joints, and muscles (lower my risk of injury, tackle heavier household chores, and try new activities) 75%
Increased vitality (feel alive and full of energy, like I can take on the world) 50%
Better quality of life (stay active in retirement, keep up with family and friends on vacation or around town, do things for myself) 50%
Stronger, healthier heart and lungs (climb stairs without huffing and puffing; become more active and less fatigued around town or on vacation) 75%
Better sleep 75%
Decreased feelings of depression or anxiety 75%
Improved physical fitness 75%
More effective weight control (be able to reduce or maintain weight) 50%
Reduced risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes 50%
Brighter mental outlook (feel good about life, ready to take on the day, and confident that things will work out) 75%
Reduced risk of colon cancer 0%
Healthier and longer independent life (reduce my risk of disease and maintain my independence as I grow older) 75%
Improved self-esteem and self-image 75%

 

 

 

The Prepared Environment – It’s Not Just for Kids

While my kids were little, I volunteered in their Montessori school, and later on became a teacher there as well. One of Montessori’s first rules of engaging children in education is making sure the classroom is inviting and the materials the students need are readily available. This prepared environment encourages students to explore areas that interest them and learn the love of learning from an early age. Many Montessori teachers spend a large portion of their time arranging the environment to create that love and interest in learning.

Of course, here at GCC, we are not working at the elementary level or with children. The adult learner certainly has different needs than a child. But at what age does the physical environment stop being important in encouraging the love and interest in learning? I would like to argue that even as adults working with adult learners, we still are greatly affected by the space around us.

As a Geographer, I am always concerned with the spatial layout of things. We design cities with space in mind; we design airports for the best flow of traffic and comfort of passengers; we design the layout of retail stores to attract shoppers to make more purchases; we hire interior designers to make our homes inviting and useful, and we even design websites to be useful and to draw readers in. The best designed spaces are the ones that have the engagement of their users.

How we can make our classrooms more conducive to the educational process in the fifteen minutes between classes depends on what kind of tone you want set in your environment:

  • Do students need to see the board or screen? Is there anything obstructing that view? What about the side walls, is there anything they need to see there? Often desks or tables that are pushed all the way to the side walls of the room are obstructed by items on the instructor desk (like the computer monitor).
  • Do you stand behind a podium or in one place, or do you move around the room during class? Is there anything obstructing your movement in the classroom? Are you tied to the instructor PC to advance slides? Desks or tables arranged in rows tend to work best for standing in one place, and arranging them in groups provides more space for walking around.
  • Do you like students to be quiet and listening to your lectures, or do you have them interacting with each other during class? Again, the row arrangement makes for a quiet/listening class, while group arrangement allows for small group discussions and interaction.
  • Do you use handouts or other materials frequently? Is there anything that gets in the way of distributing things to students? Could there be a centrally located holding area for these materials? Is there an empty front table (because of course many students don’t sit right in front) that can be used for these materials?
  • How do you manage on test day? Are you concerned about cheating? Can table groupings work in this situation? Is there a way to separate them out enough for that day?
  • Are there permanent materials on the walls (charts, maps, etc.)? What kind of shape are they in? Are they located where students can see them?

I know, we generally only have fifteen minutes to get into a classroom, set up for the day, conference with students, etc. How possibly can we be responsible for preparing an environment, too? I usually employ the help of my students. This benefits the entire classroom environment by engaging the students in creating their space.  It also supports the idea of teamwork – we all are contributing to our class. Also, students are moving around a little before class starts – hopefully that gets the cobwebs out of their heads to get started on the right foot.

The other concern with this is that we should really be returning the classroom to its original condition when we leave. I always try to meet the person in the room after me to see what he/she wants before I rearrange and then have to move things back. Often, the person after me is open to the changes I’ve made because the flow of energy in the room works better for their classes too.

We plan and arrange space in cities, airports, retail environments, and even websites.  A classroom environment is no different – arranging the space to meet your teaching style and the students needs can make a big difference in student engagement and retention.

 

Coke and a Smile

I’m a bit of a Coke-Cola nut and one of my favorite ads of all time is begins with, “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke”.   As a kid listening to that song I couldn’t think of anything nicer than to share my favorite beverage, sing, and do kind things for other people.  Yes, yes as a child you can see that I had some “coke bottle” thick, rose colored glasses, but really what would our campus look like if each of us were intentionally more kind?  If we started going above and beyond to spend our days showing kindness to each student, staff, faculty, and administrator we come into contact with, what would the possibilities be?  Would we see more smiles, more openness, and even more successes!721382f18bc997290421999a15d6cdfd

If you’ve taken time to read this post I challenge you (as I’ve challenged myself) to focus each day to be kind to those you encounter.  I’d enjoy hearing about your experiences over a Coke…on me.

 

BTW I like chocolate chip cookies…

Academic feedback and chocolate chip cookies…hmm…quite a story here!

I allow my RDG 091 students to form novel study groups based off their own personal interests. This has been a huge success, as many of my students coming in to my classes HATE to read.  The fact that they are provided some choice in what they read, discuss, analyze, and evaluate goes a long way for the overall buy in.

What surprises my students is I let them know that I am also reading their chosen  books…yes all 15 novels for both of my RDG 091 classes. They are asked to create a schedule over a six week time frame. I then model a lesson on what active reading is, and allow them to practice in class with a selected article. For many students they don’t understand active reading because they read something  and can’t remember what they read five minutes later.

For their first seminar meeting they bring their Active Reading Journals to class. I enjoy flowing in and out of the groups, listening to them discuss the seminar prompts. I love when they “test” me to see if I have really read the same assigned section! By the second seminar meeting it is a given:)

The students then always ask, “Are you really going to read all of our responses?” Actions speak louder than words. When they receive their graded journals back with written feedback they have their answer. It is a true pleasure to have a student come back and respond to a question I wrote on their paper, or to make a connection to one of my responses. This type of academic feedback leads to an important aspect of teaching….the connection you have with your students!

You always get one though….which leads me to, “BTW..I like chocolate chip cookies.” This was randomly written in the middle of one of my student’s responses. He laughed when he read my response. He told me “Ms. you are the first teacher to catch this. I do this every semester to see if the teachers are reading what I write.”

This student came back to me the following semester, and I take that as a compliment, and affirmation that as an educator making that connection is what matters the most!

 

 

I believe in you.

6th grade. I don’t even remember her name, but my 6th grade teacher commended me on using the correct too (two/to/too).   It was at that point I felt that what I had to say (and write) in class mattered.  It set a standard for me academically; and I didn’t want to be less than what the teacher said I was (smart!).

I wish I could remember her name and thank her for believing in me more than I did.

 

Who is More Nervous on Test Day — The Teacher or The Students?

You’ve created amazing and interesting lectures, outlined clear objectives, assigned appropriate reading, used technology in creative ways, conducted review sessions – you may have even told the students what will be on the test. That should be enough to ensure they will succeed on test day, right?

Much to your dismay, scores were not what you had hoped. What went wrong? Do the students just not study, do they not care? What was missing?

After my first experience with this, I started looking into what could be done to identify the needs of the students better. This is where I began learning more about using informal assessment tools.

Informal assessment is a way of determining what students are learning and where they need more guidance by interacting with them without using a “test” or “quiz” to find that result.

I began by using the 321 Summary at the end of each class. It is a simple questionnaire:

  1. Write three things you learned today.
  2. Write two questions you have.
  3. Write one thing that was helpful today.

This tool provides feedback both ways – for students to assess how I did in helping them learn the material, and for me to answer any unresolved or confusing points. It also helped me learn what teaching style I should use for certain individuals to get the most from the lecture sessions.

Asking students to reflect on the class period and ask meaningful questions about it gave them the potential for better retention of the material. It also provides them with the opportunity to practice their critical thinking skills.

I generally use Canvas to respond to their questions before the next class. If there is a common theme in the questions, I know I need to spend more time on that in the next class.

As an Adjunct Faculty member, I do not have an office or office hours, and therefore, students really don’t have the opportunity to come and see me individually without making an appointment and finding a private place to meet. It’s been a great way for students to communicate important personal or other issues they have that would normally be covered during office hours.

I have found that by communicating with the students in this fashion, they become more comfortable with me and the class earlier in the semester, and I learn more about the students that can help forge a better experience for us all.

Oh, and by the way … The first semester I used this tool, average test scores went up by 8-14 percent. Students were surprised at how “easy” the test was. While the students didn’t realize they were being “assessed,” they were able to master and retain the material more effectively.