Category Archives: Write 6×6

One Last Write 6×6 Post

My last and final Write 6×6 post of 2017 goes out to Alisa Cooper and everyone at the Glendale Community College Center for Teaching, Learning & Engagement (CTLE).

Thank you all for encouraging us to write about our educational experiences not to mention offering all the other amazing activities and events you do throughout the year. You have made a difference for me and always set a good example for others to follow. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for enriching the culture of Glendale Community College.

Signing off for Write 6×6 2017!

Sincerely,
Kristin

 

 


Filed under: STEAM Tagged: Write 6X6

What Really Matters

Academic advisors on our campus work under a great deal of pressure and for the most part go largely unrecognized for the good work they do. There aren’t enough of us to go around, and very few on campus understand the volume of information needed to be an educated and effective advisor, not to mention the breadth of skills we must hone and use on a daily basis. Research indicates that the relationship between students and advisors has a significant correlation to student success, nonetheless, academic advisors at GCC are  not sufficiently appreciated.

With waits frequently exceeding an hour or two to see an advisor, everyone does their best to help students in the shortest time possible. Despite the challenge of time constraints, it is my belief that the most important part of an advisement conversation begins with an understanding of each student’s motivation for being in college. If you want them to be successful, you need to know where they are coming from and where they want to end up.

My advice to those new to academic advisement is to start advisement sessions with a few important questions. It isn’t enough to simply ask what you can help them with today, they often don’t really know what they don’t know. For example the young woman who came in to ask for Nursing courses. I could have given her a schedule of classes and never known that the student really loved Math but was going into Nursing because her mother thought that would be the best and most secure career. It took quite a bit of effort on my part to encourage this young woman to explore another possibility and to discover that most people with a degree in Mathematics make more than nurses and love their work. In part, because I took the time to ask and to listen, that student is now at ASU and a very happy Math major.

Students need someone in their corner. It isn’t easy to understand higher education pathways especially when students tend to be given inaccurate or incomplete information at almost every level of transition. Most are confused and not sure who to trust. As a result, I do my best to teach advisees how to verify information I offer and to show them options so that they can make an informed choice that reflects their own best interests.

One last thing, I’ve found that treating students as if they were a friend or family member allows me to keep focus and do a better job advising. I try my best to give them all a VIP experience. Going the extra mile does not make me the fastest advisor on campus, but I see my fair share and know that I’m helping in a meaningful way. Even if others on campus haven’t a clue how hard I work, I know for sure that my students are aware and appreciative.  And isn’t that what really matters? Go Gauchos!


Filed under: STEAM Tagged: Academic Advisement, GCC, What really matters, Write 6X6

Guided Pathways and Collaborative Advising

In the spring of 2015,  GCC advisors were asked to develop proposals for new models of advising we believed would improve our services to students. To my knowledge and dismay, none of the models gained any traction. It was an extremely valuable exercise that allowed us to reflect and determine how we would change advising at GCC if given the opportunity.

The group I participated in developed a proposal for a new model called Collaborative Advising. The model centers around stronger connections between advisement and academic departments, specialized advising, and strategic use of technological resources.

Along comes Guided Pathways, a growing national conversation in community colleges about improving student experience and completion.  Everything about Guided Pathways strengthens the case for Collaborative Advising. Maybe the model deserves a second look.

Read more about Guided Pathways and Collaborative Advising here. I’ll be happy to hear back from you if you want to talk.

Kindly,
Kristin

 

 


Filed under: STEAM Tagged: Academic Advising, Collaborative Advising, Guided Pathways, Write 6X6

Get to Know What You Don’t Know

Back when I taught computer graphics and web design courses, I would introduce my students to this concept by drawing quadrants on the whiteboard during the second week of class:

4 Quadrants: Unconscious Incompetent, Unconscious Competent, Conscious Incompetent, Conscious Competent

I was trying to introduce them to the idea that sometimes you aren’t aware when you don’t know something. And that in class they should work to become aware of what they don’t know (conscious of incompetence), and then practice until they became skilled at something previously unknown (conscious & competent).

One student’s explanation of unconscious incompetence: “When you didn’t even know something was a thing.”

When I am in a situation I find difficult, if I’m honest, there is usually something I don’t know, and it’s impacting my ability to skillfully handle the difficulty. I find it useful to try and identify what I’m unconscious of and see if it’s a skill I need to build. I’ve started thinking of the quadrants as a model of learning progression, starting with ignorance and ending with the mastery of a skill:

  1. Unconscious Incompetence: You are unaware of the skill and your lack of proficiency
  2. Conscious Incompetence: You are aware of the skill and your lack of proficiency
  3. Consciously Competent: You are able to use that skill, but only with effort
  4. Unconsciously Competent: Performing the skill becomes automatic

Learning model illustration by Matt Kissick

If I can become aware of a skill that I lack, this model is the way out of a difficult situation, though often over time, since practice is usually required to become consciously competent. Still, it really helps in terms of moving forward. Maybe you can use it, too.

Dreams of Improving Maricopa Teamwork

a team huddles for a sync-up

OK, they’re all standing, but you don’t have to. This is what a Sync-Up looks like.

When I first accepted my job as an Instructional Media Developer at GCC, I was coming from a web development environment that had embraced the idea of the Daily Stand-Up. Nothing did more to help me feel like I was part of something bigger than myself than those daily, lightning-fast meetings my team held to check in with one another. In my new role, I immediately missed this sense of working together toward a shared goal. I felt alone in a silo.

If I could bring anything from the outside world into the Maricopa Community Colleges, it would be a regular Sync-Up. (Literally standing up is difficult or impossible for some people, so I don’t want to call it a Stand-Up. And for some of our teams or committees, daily is too much.) But being truly accountable to and in sync with your coworkers is something I still miss from my last job.

So what is a Sync-Up? It’s a very short meeting, no more than 15 minutes. The people doing the work are the ones who speak, though interested parties might attend as observers. Each contributing person provides 3 pieces of information when it’s their turn to speak:

  1. What they’ve accomplished toward shared goals since the last Sync-Up
  2. What they commit to accomplishing between now and the next Sync-Up
  3. Any obstacles they foresee that could get in the way

When not speaking it’s everyone’s job to listen closely. Specifically, to listen for points of connection to your own work, and for areas where you may be able to help. If you can help remove someone else’s obstacle you let them know, and then you’ll both collaborate after the Sync-Up – you don’t derail the meeting discussing the solution while everyone waits.

This is not a status report. Each person considers the audience – the rest of their team – and makes sure they discuss accomplishments, plans, and obstacles in a way that is meaningful to their team. The purpose is to assure that each team member’s activity is aligned and progressing the team as a whole toward successful and timely completion of their goal. In my experience, it’s empowering to Sync-Up daily when a team is working together on a well-defined project. 

This is not a planning meeting where a team breaks down all the steps to complete a project. That type of planning meeting usually needs more than 15 minutes. But once you’ve laid out the tasks that need to be done to achieve a goal, regular Sync-Ups are magic for keeping your group energized and on task.

This is what regular Sync-Ups can accomplish (from Bill Hoberecht of Pinnacle Projects in his post The Daily Stand-Up Meeting – A Core Practice for Self-Organizing Teams):

  • An explicit reinforcement of the commitment by each team member to accomplish a goal
  • A means of dynamically adjusting the work by each team member to accomplish the goal
  • A daily synchronization between team members, informing team mates of work activities, progress and issues
  • A method of cross-checking progress with team mates
  • An accountability mechanism that has each team member accountable to other team members for their responsibilities
  • A visible demonstration of the ability of the team to self-manage their project responsibilities

The main benefit I experienced from the Sync-Up meeting style was confidence. I was confident I knew what was going on with my team and our shared goals. I was certain what I should be doing next. I knew who could and would help me out of a jam. I knew how my efforts fit into the whole. I was positive my workgroup would succeed, and I usually knew exactly when we’d achieve our goal. I knew my work was valued. I knew what my teammates needed and how I could help. 

I miss feeling this way every week and hope to find ways of recapturing this sense of shared purpose within my GCC community of collaborators. 

Simple, not easy

Since my hero Austin Kleon writes in bullet points, I think I will too. Here are a few thoughts about dealing with difficult situations in a positive way.

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

  • The Four Agreements is a tiny book filled with enormous wisdom.
  • Take Away Message: Don’t take anything personally.
  • “Personal importance, or taking things personally, is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about me.” Great quote from Chapter 3, page 48.
  • Avoid the urge to be right and make everyone else wrong.
  • Bottom Line: In a difficult situation, don’t take it personally because everyone lives in their own reality. Their anger is about them, not you. Even if they say something ugly, that’s their ugliness. Don’t make it yours too.

Unconditional Positive Regard, a concept developed by the humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers.

  • Try to accept and support others without passing judgment.
  • Starting from a point of unconditional positive regard will probably improve any situation.

If all else fails, lighten your mood.

  • Imagine your current difficult situation is happening in a sitcom.
  • Think about a silly sign. Here are a few examples:

 

MEAGs & Innovation of the Year

This week’s writing ideas for Write 6×6 center around how we as members of the college community have worked to improve student learning or ways we improve our own work with students or colleagues. A nomination for the Innovation of the Year award was submitted for the Maricopa Engineering Advising Guides. An official announcement should be out next week to learn how our nomination fared.

Maricopa Engineering Advising Guides

During and after the great recession, I got more serious about my role in advisement and how to better help students looking for secure and meaningful careers.  I made an intentional choice to improve STEM advising because I researched and learned the increasing need for a modern workforce well versed in science, technology, engineering and Mathematics. It was important to me that our students had the best possible advising to aid their success in achieving jobs that would sustain them in the future. One of the better ways I knew to magnify the quality and quantity of advisement was to streamline advising for engineering students. Engineering pathways are among the most complex and lengthy educational paths our students navigate. Mistakes, which are frequent, cost students and advisors time and money. Trust me when I tell you how much time it used to take to get it right.  Advisors had to use multiple source documents to provide accurate information and that took time and lots of print outs. Building on the work of Paula Cheslik, GCC Engineering Faculty who had information sheets that showed students how their GCC classes transfer to ASU, I built a 2-page “Advising Guide” that efficiently combined four distinct source documents into one. Enhancements included information on course sequences, prerequisites, GPA requirements, and options for concentrations that maximize transfer success and keeping students on track to graduate. The guides were used at GCC, reviewed by a host of people, and refined for three years before launching them Districtwide this past summer with the help from faculty and staff. Now every engineering student at any of the Maricopa Community Colleges has a guide they and their advisor may use with consistently accurate information. The companion “Tips for Success If You Want to Be an Engineer” helps students as early as high school be informed and ready for our engineering pipeline to ASU. Hooray! I feel really good about creating a new, highly- beneficial resource with help from a diverse group of dedicated individuals committed to student success. Special thanks to all those who took time to be involved improving and implementing the guides and resources, especially Paula Cheslik, Bassam Matar, Dr. Karen Conzelman, Dr. Ibrahim Naim, Kathy Silberman and Jay Franzen. You can view the Maricopa Engineering Advising Guides here!   Filed under: STEAM Tagged: Assessment, Write 6X6

Video Investigations as Assessment

Photo by Cheryl Colan

Sian (left) and Merry (right) at SCC Tech Talks 2017

On January 27, I attended TechTalks at SCC and watched Geology faculty Sian Proctor and Merry Wilson present their talk Video Investigations: Students Presenting Their Understanding of Our World. From their abstract (scroll down the linked page a bit to read it in full):
Video investigations are a unique way of having students demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of complex topics and establish accountability in an online learning environment.
I love this idea for assessment in an online class. Merry assigns 4 video investigations per semester, while Sian assigns them weekly. Their students:
  • receive specific guidelines for each assigned video investigation
  • see an example video made by the instructor
  • get a link to the free Screencast-O-Matic.com
  • do not need to be given instructions on how to make a screencast – they figure it out on their own
  • create 1- to 5-minute videos to show knowledge, demonstrate mastery or reflect on course topics
  • embed their videos into Canvas Discussions to share with the rest of their class

Photo of presentation slide on the Design of Video Investigations

Sian and Merry had some goals in mind when they designed the video investigation assignment. One goal was having a way to be sure the students were actually the ones submitting the work in an online environment. A video submission goes beyond plagiarism detection via Turnitin, because you are hearing the student’s own voice, and possibly even seeing the student via webcam. Another goal was to cut down on grading time. You can grade a 5-minute video in 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how much feedback you write per student. Other goals included increasing student engagement and learning retention. Being top-notch scientists, Sian and Merry gathered data about their students before and after introducing video investigations into the courses they teach. If my memory is accurate, they found students tend to report they enjoyed the topics where video investigations were assigned more than the topics that did not involve a video investigation. Students also felt more of a sense of community, because they saw and heard each others’ faces and voices as they shared their videos. The process of creating video also built up the students’ information literacy skills over the course of the semester.

Photo of presentation slide on Engagement and Literacy

I’ve used video in the classroom as a student and as an adjunct, and I can confirm that having students produce short videos is an excellent learning and engagement tool. If you would like to learn more, reach out to Sian and Merry, or contact me in the Center for Teaching, Learning and Engagement for more information.

Choosing Your Side – Everyday

Never give up. Never surrender.

Still behind on Write 6×6 posts, but not giving up.

People this past week have been writing about kindness, and the opportunity to be vulnerable, as it relates to their work in teaching and learning. Ann Riley wrote about noticing the connection between kindness and vulnerability and challenged us to be the first make eye contact and to say hello as we walk around campus. That’s a challenge I issued to myself at the start of the semester this year. 

Often when I smile and say hello to someone I don’t know, I am ignored. And that’s ok. It doesn’t feel great, but I know that I tried and will try again.

Just as often, I receive a silent smile back, or maybe a returned “hello” or “good morning.” That’s nice and makes me smile.

But I feel like the real opportunities are when I see something I can do. When I ask someone with a confused expression if I can help, and I end up spending five minutes walking them to the right building and finding out someone’s name or what they’re here to study. Or when I open a door for someone loaded down with books, and see that they look surprised and grateful.

A lot of students tend to open doors for me, and I always express my gratitude. But I am really enjoying when I find a true opportunity to be on a stranger’s side. I feel like I have to be very observant and alert in order to make it happen. 

So far this semester, instead of just helping students find the room they say they’re looking for, I’ve made sure several of them know how to search the GCC website to find their teachers’ office location and office hours. I taught one student how to read the campus map. I helped a Muslim woman locate a few private options for one of her daily prayers. I made time to get to know an older gentleman who I see regularly on campus. 

I’m feeling that so much of the time, it’s easy to focus on my own immediate goal, where I’m going, what I need to do next. But it’s so much more rewarding to observe the people in close proximity and look for opportunities to be on their side for a few minutes. And this is a daily choice. Whether I’ll be on my side only, or let go of what I need at a certain moment to make sure I’m on their side when they could use a hand. Focusing only on myself makes me feel like a drone. Being on their side makes me feel like a human being.

 

The Power of Kindness

When you speak kindly

The words never disappear

Their light surrounds you

~author unknown

Argh! I have written and discarded many drafts now on the topic of kindness in the workplace. It appears this is my week to deal with ideas of compassion and leadership through a lens of turbulence if I want to write anything meaningful. I’m having a hard time of it, but perhaps writing will help me sort through my conflicted points of view.

In my world, Trump is raging like a temperamental two year old on Twitter, my HOA thinks state laws don’t require compliance, and recent changes on campus have left me wondering about college priorities and a changing vision for the Maricopa Colleges that doesn’t seem well thought out or defined. I know my concerns are valid and other than moving to Canada, I need to find a response to deal with all of instability around me, … but through kindness? Really? Maybe. Perhaps I still need convincing.

People mirror emotions of their leaders and more and more people in power right now are sending the wrong message. Violence and hate crimes are on the rise and normalizing “alternative facts” is part of the daily news. It is heart wrenching. But every so often amidst all the ugliness, a glimmer of humanity is sighted and you realize that compassion in troubled times is a thing of tremendous beauty and power … and suddenly you have hope again.

Right now, a little more kindness on campus will do great things for lifting me up and reminding me what a good community we share. Bring it on! I’m ready to share the good vibes right back with you.

Kindly,
Kristin


Filed under: Arizona, GCC Tagged: kindness, Write 6X6