Cycle Two ~ Spring, 2003

 

 

 

 

Goal

Goal 1: Establishment of partnerships and successful completion of the first quarter.

Goal 2: Improved leadership skills seen in departmental meetings and project management.

Action

Setting up the partnerships

Three of the five partnerships (Sociology, History, and Biology) were established as projected. Applications went out the last week of the previous quarter. We received five for the sociology position and two for the history position. After reviewing the applications with me, the teachers selected their first choice. I notified the students (those accepted and those not) over break. Details of these partnerships as individual case studies can be seen under the OBSERVATIONS button at the left.

Art History: Faculty member chose the person she wanted as a partner after break started. I contacted the student over break and he agreed to the project. The faculty member did not have the project material ready until half way through the quarter. The faculty member and the student finally met eighth week of the ten week quarter. The student never accomplished anything; at that point in the quarter, he was too involved in final projects for his classes.

The fifth partnership was the for the Education Department. We sent out 30 applications and received no responses. The department even did some telephone follow-up and still found not Education majors interested in this opportunity. Several were interested, but unwilling to give up their jobs in Day Care to take this on. We are pursuing other alternatives, but this one may need to wait until next fall.

How we progressed

I met individually with the first three student partners the first week of the quarter. I also met occasionally with each of them individually on their partnership on an 'as need' basis. Usually, this was driven by the student.

We added a scope document, which the student/faculty partners drafted together. Specific documents are included with each case study. The students worked with their faculty partner on the details of the contract for the year.

As a group, we initially met over lunch in the pub. However, they wanted to utilize the time for learning, so we agreed to bring lunch to the training room and use that time as tech learning sessions. I planned to have them train each other on skills in which they each had more depth. It became evident that this would have to wait a quarter. They were not sufficiently advanced to train and were too busy launching their partnerships.

During the last three meetings I held informal training sessions for about 30 minutes. We touched on some basics of MS Word. Surprisingly, they found some functions were new to them. We also covered the outlining feature and its 'Send To...' feature to import the outline directly into PowerPoint. When we slid over to some PowerPoint topics, Ethan stepped in graciously with some tips and points that were new to me. The case studies document more thoroughly the progress of the faculty.

We have worked on how to approach the faculty members when they load the students with too many tasks. We have shared methods for helping the faculty member toward independence ~ a trip to the restroom is often helpful!

Final wrap-up meeting

Subs, sodas, chips, and cookies ~ modest fare for a small celebration for the four partners at the end of the first quarter of P4L. Though I planned a few remarks of thanks, the meeting immediately took off with a life of its own! The two faculty members were fascinated by what the other was doing. They saw and shared how what they were doing could help the other. The students were as active participants as the faculty and the exchanges were definitely close to four equals sharing results and successes. See the Data section below for results of the wrap-up survey.

Reaction

Art History and Education Stalled

Education was genuinely disappointed and surprised by the lack of response. The realized they need to recruit for the fall. They are determined to use this process to assist one of their faculty members. They are still strong allies for this faculty development effort.

The Art History professor was never really committed to P4L. Rather, she was interested in getting help with data entry for a database. She did not seem particularly concerned about the lack of progress. She felt continually swamped teaching in the quarter system. The student did not demonstrate any concern about not having the work. Nor did he do any follow during the intervening seven weeks to see about the job. The general lack of direction in his life was apparent.

Students ~ Biology, History, Sociology

Ella, who worked in the Sociology P4L, and Ethan, the History student partner were very engaged in our weekly meetings. Generally, they were enthused by the progress they were making with their partners. When they did run into problems, they brought them to the weekly meetings. Initially, the weekly meetings were just a formality. As they came across problems, they found these meetings a place to brainstorm for answers. Often, I could sit back as they shared directly with each other.

Stephanie, whose Biology professor was in Peru for the quarter, felt like she had nothing in common with the other two. Meetings were a waste of time for her. She and I agreed that we would meet as needed, but that she would not meet regularly with the other partners. Instead, she would continue scanning the professor's slides. A second frustration for her was space limitation for images she was scanning. We found a temporary solution until the space issue resolved. While Stephanie was always cooperative, her normal joyful demeanor returned when she made progress with the actual project. She is dedicated and motivated. In our final meeting, she noted that she appreciated the new image management software and the unlimited space. She reported that she had some problems with the stacker in the Nikon slide scanner, but that she had found a way to make it work.

Faculty ~ History, Sociology

Both faculty members were enthused about their student partners. They were delighted with their own progress as well. Batz left viocemail notes of enthusiastic progress about five times during the quarter. Glen surprised himself with how much he achieved in the ten weeks. Not only were his tech skills advanced, but they had immediate applicability to his courses.

Data

Web site viability ~ Sociology

Ella was interested in the student reaction to her web site. She designed a survey for the students to fill out along with their course evaluations at the final. Students generally rated the annotated links, navigation, and readability GOOD or GREAT, but most of them rated usability as only ACCEPTABLE. The results of her survey will help future web site development, but more importantly will assist Batz in rethinking both classroom activities and assignments. Discovering the reasons for the low usability next quarter will help focus on student learning and alternative uses of the web site. The goal is to provide viable resources to initiate research rather than to provide so many resources that they have no need to search on their own. A critical skill for students is the ability to locate and evaluate web resources.

Partner Evaluations

At the end of the quarter, each of the four partners filled out a Progress Notes. These were used to guide the partnership for the following quarter. The evaluation covered the following areas:

  • Mechanics of the partnership: The Sociology partners rated this area very high. The History partners found that they started off with regular meetings and good progress, but, as the quarter progressed and they both became busier, they met less frequently and progress slowed. "Need to stick to a regular day and time," noted Glen. Later he mentioned that they might need outside structure to ensure that this happens.
  • Project progress: All rated this very high and noted successes. The History PowerPoints and Sociology web site surpassed expectations. For Sociology, we opted to drop Blackboard and PowerPoint (see Reflection/Ella below).
  • Faculty skills: Glen learned Google searching, enriching the images for his Powerpoints and gaining new information. He found these helpful in reinforcing and gauging student retention of material. Batz can "now independently access [the] course website in class...[with] confidence." Ella noted, "he's begun to grasp electronic researching... and what technology is capable of doing in the classroom."
  • Student skills: Ethan learned Mexican history more thoroughly and was able to assist other students in class. Ella learned FrontPage. Both learned some additional PowerPoint skills. Most significantly, they both learned patience and began exhibiting good mentoring qualities, including a deeper listening. Both struggled at some point with the change in their relationship from teacher-student to equal partners, but in the wrap-up meeting were freely making comments and suggestions.
  • Evidence of progress toward goal: The comments from Glen at the wrap-up meeting noted that both he and Batz had moved significantly toward fluency with technology - that they had used different tools, but the result was the similar. Batz noted that he had lost much of his fear and was no longer stymied when technology caused a problem, especially in the classroom.
  • Suggested changes:
    Batz - none in the program. He is eager to move on to Blackboard.
    Glen - more regular meetings.
    Ella - more tech in weekly meetings, including Excel and Access.

 

Reflection

Applications
Student Employment suggested using applications and a mailing to all majors in a field. This provided the opportunity to all majors to apply. We investigated students we had not originally considered. We gained useful background information we would not otherwise have known. The applications need to go out three weeks before the end of the quarter. Students are often too busy the last week to give this opportunity careful consideration.

Challenges

  • The Art History professor was a poor choice on my part. My motivation was external to this project and the two goals did not complement each other. In my eagerness to solve her problems and to try to utilize this program as a motivational tool, I did not hear her reluctance. I was not alert to the signs, notably her slowness in getting the materials together. Also, I believe a critical factor may be that this was the professor's first year at Principia. Faculty often have a challenge moving from the semester to the quarter system.
  • Stephanie lost a great deal not being part of the team. Maintaining the value of the meetings for the each individual at the start needs better planning. Once committed, the students create their own value and the sense of community builds.
  • Ella expressed frustration about half way through the quarter. She was working with Batz on Powerpoint and saw no progress over several meetings. We looked at their goals and determined together that they were overly ambitious. We opted for dropping both the PowerPoint and Blackboard in favor of the equipment mechanics and a more solid functional ability with the class web site and the internet in general. This also allowed her to incorporate the library online databases as well.
  • The weekly meetings with the students need more structure. While these meetings need the fluidity that allows for their questions and concerns, if there is no direction, they can feel like a wast of time. The both agreed that the tech sessions were helpful and definitely wanted to continue them

Opportunities

  • The excitement of all four partners surprised me. Also, the enthusiasm generated at the wrap-up meeting is a point on which to build. The student partners were solicited for their views on what works from their perspective. The faculty wanted to know how their classroom approach could be different as well as what worked for student assignments and how to teach needed technology skills to the students. It was true collaboration that can be more ostensibly incorporated in the future.
  • Ella's workin P4L was included in her application to a summer internship with Cultural Survival advocating for indigenous people through their human resources and public relations departments. She will be working directly with individuals as well in resolving personal life issues.
  • Ethan fared far better in the Mexico History course through working on this project. While working on PowerPoints, he and Glen often engaged in side conversations covering material that was not necessarily part of the course, thus enriching his experience.
  • Glen led the group into an evaluation of the impact of the two approaches (PPT and Web) on student learning. It was encouraging to see them all share ideas and directions as well as what they will do differently in the future. Their comfort with the technology skills gave them a fluency to consider the pros and cons of these approaches and of technology in general. Bingo!
  • It is becoming easier for me to enjoy the silences and not feel the need to constantly direct the action. That showed in the wrap-up meeting - I stepped back and watched them lead each other to new ideas and opportunities.

Next Steps

Fall Quarter, I will start two more partnerships at the college and at least one at the high school. One faculty member has already approached me eager to take advantage of this program.

  • For the college, I have consulted with the Associate Dean of Faculty who works with faculty development to select several candidates to approach. We have a list of seven faculty to approach. Eventually, there will be an application process, probably managed by the College Computer Committee.
  • For the high school, I will work with the academic dean on the details of the program.
  • Consider 'touching base' meetings at mid-quarter to share ideas and encourage open thinking.
  • Consider carefully (avoid?) faculty in their first year at Principia.