Wayfinding Academy – Why it has me excited..

So maybe its a midlife crisis, maybe its being an associate professor who at 42 is still paying her student loans, maybe it is the 21st Century masters and what I have been reading… . but I am worried about higher education and especially about some of our highest achieving students who get great grades but don’t really have a plan for what they want to do in life.

I am worried that there are lots of students who don’t know what they want to do and are going into extreme debt to leave college with a degree and still without a direction.

One Sunday morning as I drank my coffee to come to life I saw a story on CBS this morning  about Oregon Public House and one of the charities it was funding Wayfinding Academy.  A not for profit college that focuses on helping students find their way, their goal and mission and life before amazing a ton of credits and a ton of debt.

Here is the original story that Inspired me to get involved:

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/a-nonprofit-pub-thats-good-for-what-ales-you/

I am pretty questioning about charities, and I am pretty sure to check them out myself – so in April I went to Wayfinding weekend – I will share more of my experiences in future posts –

But here are some of the questions I am asking:
How can we help more students be successful in college?

How can we help them explore who they are and how they can affect the world without them going bankrupt in student loans?

How can we help students identify their goals so that college catapults them to success rather than lets them wait out 4 years until they start asking those questions?

I have decided to support Wayfinding Academy though my charitable giving and you can get involved to.   We are starting a Crowdsourcing campaign after Memorial Day to provide students with a great start to college.   Join me and make me do something silly for something I believe in.   So you can support me in their mission:  https://www.razoo.com/story/Rgjd5f

What it means to be an ADE

It is summer 2017 now and I am getting ready to attend Apple Distinguished Educator Academy as an Alum and I am excited to see my friends, colleagues and participate in one of the most vibrant learning communities I have ever had the joy to a part of..

I can a be a little slow on the uptake in new situations, and joining the Apple Distinguished Educators community can be an overwhelming experience.  But I wanted to share my take on the community, what means to be part of a community, and my fear for our community.

My take on ADE

I was not excited about becoming part of the ADE program at first. I was doing a new 1 to 1 iPad Program and I wanted to collaborate with others and I found it frustrating that I had to apply to do that, even going to my first institute, I still did not get it.   It really only became clear to me once I started to form relationships with people in the community, that it was so special. It was the time between institute where I was able to share my knowledge, skills, towards a shared mission and advocacy that the magic was released.

The ADE community is filled with people who are great at what they do, but they don’t know everything.  The group is comprised of teachers, leaders, and professors all of whom are exceptional in some way in their domains, but not always in specific technologies. Think a puzzle with many colorful pieces which creates an inspiring picture.  So when I went to my first institute (academy) I had a serious case of imposter syndrome, expecting the others to figure out I did not know what i was talking about. But I found, as any creative community,  the members of ADE respect each other for what they know, what they are learning, and what they don’t know..

After the institute is when the power of the network happened.  As a person who coordinates a 1 to 1 iPad program,  I had opportunities to bring in speakers from the group via distance technologies to talk to my faculty and students.  I was able to meet up with ADE’s in Europe and learn what they are exploring and share those experiences with my students.  I was able to brainstorm and bounce ideas off others to advance my own projects and help others with theirs.  I was given opportunities to serve schools who educate some of the highest need students in our country via ConnectEd.  All of these experiences have greatly enhanced my personal life and professional life.  It has brought new ideas into my teaching,  relevancy to my classroom, and friendships with other impassioned people.   But oy..it can be a lot of work..

What it means to be an ADE

Being part of a community of practice (COP) has been studied by many researchers, my favorite is Lave and Wenger. Wenger defines a COP as “groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.”  BOOM.. there it is, INTERACTING REGULARLY.

Being an Apple Distinguished Educator is about discourse and I know that there are people in the new class, who plan on going to the academy, adding it to their resumes, maybe even start consulting,  and then move on.. but that is not the point of this community.  This community is about discourse, sharing, and working together towards having teachers make meaningful use of technology.    Not all of this is public meetings like academy (in fact, most is not)  – much of this are DM’s and messenger conversations,  talks at conferences, and conversations in the online community.

Now I know that you probably know someone who is an ADE and maybe a consultant from your twitter connections or as a speaker at a conference, and those people are great, but know that they are the exception to the rule.  (and many of those people are amazing, but it is not the goal of the program)  The Majority of Apple Distinguished Educators are amazing teachers, leaders, and advisors, who have not left the classroom, but instead are soaking it all in to be able to reach kids and create meaningful learning through a supportive community.  It is my hope that you come to this experience with a similar approach, and not a consulting or work for Apple goal at the forefront.

My Fear

So that brings to my fear,  this is my first year as an alum to welcome a new class, and I now get the nervousness of being an alum.  There are many people that I met at my Academy in 2015, who I have never had contact with again.  They added it to their resume or added it to their collection of titles and moved on.   It makes me sad because they were selected because they had unique expertise to offer the community.

My challenge to #ADE2017

So I bring to you #ADE2017 the challenge… How will you engage in the community? What unique gifts are you bringing with you and how will you share them?    How will you contribute into the shared mission of this professional network and advance our shared goals and passion?  In the end, aren’t we here for the kids, or our students, or teachers, or to raise the profession and lead us into the next century of innovation.  We can only achieve that by working together.

I look forward your comments on this post, your engagement at academy, and maybe we can get a cup of coffee at #ISTE2017.

 

Creating a Culture of Innovation

I have been getting Tech and Learning sent to me for a while now, and I peruse it from time to time. In a recent issue – 37.9 available here:  http://www.techlearning.com/resources/0003/creating-a-culture-of-innovation-an-excerpt-from-tl-leader/70561

I have been spending a lot of time thinking about what it takes to create a culture of innovation and so this article attracted my attention.  I think the first thing that I noted was that the article was not saying a culture of technology – but instead innovation.  I feel as though we can often focus on technology as the innovation but instead we need to be focused more on the mindset.

As I read through the article, there were several things I noted about the examples they shared:

  • They allowed the teachers as learners to pick their passion projects and gave them time to pursue them.   This is an example of allow the culture to build with a carrot versus a stick.. Ie..  teachers were rewarded with time, resources, and professional respect to pursue the ideas that they were most passionate about.
  • Teachers were encouraged to form small groups around big ideas that interested them. They supported each other and built community. This kind of community supports a culture of innovation.
  • The leaders were facilitators and did not use top down methods to get change but instead trusted their professional staff and supported them.
  • Leaders engaged professional networks – there is an example of connecting teachers interested in robotics with other teachers using similar tools.  Again, leader as facilitator and connector not top down management.
  • It all came down the fundamental ideas of Diffusion of Innovations.   One of the tactics discussed was to go to the laggards – the latest of adopters and get them on the side of innovation, and seeing them change help move the process along. I might disagree with this a bit,  in that most diffusion research shows early or late adopters can produce this effect more consistently. However, I believe looking at the influential teachers, no matter their acceptance level of change, is worthwhile effort. Every friend you make, is someone who can drive the innovation process forward.

In the end the article stressed that innovation does not happen by itself and it requires leaders who are working towards creating a culture by trusting their team members and being open their ideas.  As servant leaders, they take roles to assist their team in pursuing their interests towards that goal, and the structure they provide creates a safe space for innovation to grow.

 

Remote Work – A Wife’s Perspective or He’s Always Here!

So I had a chance to visit the Super Secret iThemes HQ this week and I remembered that I owed  Cory Miller a Blog Response to his earlier post on working from home.    You can read his original post here http://corymiller.com/work-remote/

So when Cory’s post came across my twitter feed, I read it and laughed.. He spent all this time going over the pros and cons for working at home for an individual but he left off some of the challenges one might think about for family.

So in background I am a honeymooner who married in August 16 and lived with my husband for a year and a half before we married.   Still to this day, we live in the house I bought as a single woman and lived in by myself for 7 years.  

When we started living together,  he worked in OKC and it was  dream.  He was on a modified schedule, he left at 6:20 to get to work by 7..(because if he left at 7 he would get to work at 9)  He would get up, get ready, make coffee, and wake me up on the way out the door. Then I would luxuriate on the couch drinking the coffee he had made for himself and watch Gayle, Nora, and Charlie to get ready and go to work at 8.

Oh those were the days..

I love my husband dearly, but now HE is ALWAYS home!!

I actually think he talks to more people during the day now working remotely, he is constantly on the phone and Hipchat etc..

But when I get home, he does want to talk to me!!!  And sometimes after being a professor, I want to be home alone too..

I miss those days when I could sit on the couch, and do nothing or watch secret shaming tv during the day (you know like Fuller House or Hoarders on Netflix)

Sometimes when he has a local programmer meeting or is out of town, I feel as though I am running like Kate in The Cutting Edge to get to the ice first – and enjoy being in the house by myself.

However, I love my husband, I love that his current employer appreciates him and his love of learning.  I love that he is excited to talk about work and feels part of an organization.

That all said, it took some negotiation..  I asked him to quit planning his programming club meetings for days he knew I was already gone.  I have sent him out of the house once or twice to give me some home time.   He likes getting out and mixing with people, and I like the alone time.  For someone who works remotely, joining user groups and Meetups can be important social interaction and time out of the office/house.

Our routine has changed,  he does not have to get up before 6 to go to work, and I often make the coffee or if we are organized enough we let Mr. Coffee make the pot we set up the night before and he now makes us breakfast..(and making breakfast is his special gift).

Moving forward, we have started looking for a different house that allows him to work from home better.   He can have a work office (and we can claim it on taxes) but still have a “fun” office  at home like I do for my things.  The ideal situation would be a mother in law suite or an upstairs bedroom with separation from the hustle of the main living space.

I have had to adjust to his work schedule too.. I lack work life balance in my job,  and now that he works at home it is more important to have work life balance for him, and that affects me. Working from home, he has to work at it and creating clear boundaries.  We try to have dinner together and set a separation time for work.  Currently, this is my challenge, more than his. I have to learn to take the lead from him if he is successfully navigating work from home.  It is one way that I can support his work success.

In the end, like all good relationships, it takes negotiating.  He is so much happier in this job, and is a pretty good remote worker, as a couple we need to commit to this lifestyle and as he supports me in my professional endeavors, I need to support him too.

 

 

21st Century Masters Cohort 2 F2F Weekend

So one of the things that I am most proud of professional is our 21st Century Masters.  If you want to read more about it. go to http://bit.ly/21stcenturyteaching  

As part of this masters degree, students study the key ideas of 21st century thinking and innovation.  Each cohort has one face to face weekend and we are doing it this week. The goal is to build community and help the students know each other and the faculty.   We do a variety of activities to have students accomplish these goals.

Friday night we always try to have a public event. This year we watch Code: Debugging the Gender Gap and then had panelists from the The Div.org and iThemes to talk about out how getting kids  involved in computer science can be important for building our State.

We also did a variety of team Building Activities.  We did a break out EDU and then we designed a Cohort Logo and then made it into signs at the Fab Lab at the OU Innovation Hub..

If we are going to talk about communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity – then we have to practice. Our activities helped us to put these ideals into practice.

 

 

While I did not get a good picture yet,  we had cohort 1 (5 members) also attend Friday night..I really think we are creating a powerful community that can change Oklahoma and the education of our kids.  (and Texas and North Carolina)

Paying the Price – What is the role of Professors in College Costs

I was a bad Book club member ..(I should have looked at my schedule more..) but I wanted to share some ideas about the Book Paying the Price by Sara Goldrick Rab (I also saw her speak on campus).

Higher Education has me really worried.. I feel as though much of the angst that is upheaving our politics and communities is because we are making college the difference between the Have’s and the Have Not’s.

When I went to college – I remember it was a big deal that they raised our tuition to $52 a credit hour at Northwest Missouri State University – (from like 45 the year before) Here it is today.. (we did not have the fees like we do today)

If you look at this link http://www.collegesimply.com/colleges/missouri/northwest-missouri-state-university/price/ (which has face validity)

So in 1992 – it was 1,680 and now it is  6,770 (tuition and fees)

In all honesty, in 1992, my father (who made too much for me to qualify for financial aid) gave me a 20K promise for college – told me that if I had money left – It was mine.. I made it on that money, while being an RA and working as a custodian, tutor, house sitter, upward bound math and science assistant and earning scholarships until my student teaching semester (when I got pneumonia and it all fell apart)  I took out a loan from him for my final semester and paid it back.

I am not telling this story to say that I was privileged (but I know that I was) but to put in real perspective. Now the estimate for Northwest Missouri State University is basically 16K a year (on the books – actually cost is likely higher -see the book) .  I could have easily blown my whole funding a year now and it was generous support (I mean parents don’t have to pay for college and that was a quite a nice car in 1992)

So what does this mean for our students – college is out of reach for many of our students – the cost is prohibitive and their aid does not reach their need.

From the same Website:  Average cost is 15, 651 with age average of 7,769 – DOES NOT Compute.

Sara Goldrick Rab’s book goes into more individual stories but here are my first thoughts (for now)

  1. Student aid does not make it affordable for students to attend college – especially if they have need.
  2. Middle class students – especially those whose parents claim them but don’t support are totally skewered.
  3. There are hungry students on our campus (every campus) – and if we have rate of 22% free lunch in Oklahoma – once they graduate high school – where do all those kids go.. (hint: some go to college)
  4. A lot of retention – is focused on first year students – but I do think that we should focus on later year students more (they run out of money and beginning scholarships) and also graduate students – it is no longer the fun poor I remember.. (okay there is really no fun poor) 
  5. Financial stresses are one of the biggest stresses on students and keep them from finishing. If they quit before finishing they have the debt but no degree and are even more at a disadvantage.

So from these – here are my takeaways and action steps for professors.. 

  1. As professors we need to read books like this one, and others and we need to be aware of the financial issues facing our students.  We need to talk to them and we have a responsibility to understand what college costs for them.
  2.  Advocate for students – As OU is facing another budget cut after a 16% State cut last year, it’s  tough – lots of things getting cut -but honestly we are advocates for our students and we need to better understand their experience.   And we need to help them find resources (like the new OU foodbank)
    1. As advocates here are some things we can do:
      • listen – hear them – take real time to listen to their stories and their struggles.
      • Connect with resources – there are services through the provost office and the retention team to help students be successful.
      • Encourage students to apply for scholarships and assist our development people in raising money for scholarships.  Write letters of recommendation with a smile! 🙂
      • Consider students when writing grants and applying for funding. Could we create more student jobs both Grad and Undergrad – The Office of Undergraduate research and CRPDE could offer some ideas.
      • Think about our course materials in light of the bigger picture.  Can we use cheaper or Open Educational Resources to reduce student costs (most students don’t buy the expensive books anyway)  The OU Libraries will help.  http://guides.ou.edu/oer
      • Participate in your campus conversations about fees and try to use fees to greater benefit of the students if they exist.  (I have changed a class from Blended to weekend to reduce fees for students – each online class has a $40 per credit hour fee, and $20 for blended). If you are offering in these formats – ask yourself the questions – why?  Key skills? Online learning experience? Student needs? or my Convenience?

Those are my initial thoughts.. (I have more) but I challenge other faculty to advocate for our students.

Consider reading Paying the Price by Sara Goldrick Rab or College Unbound by Jeff Selingo they are good places to start.

I was reminded this week about first generation students.. (those students whose parents did not go to college). They often ask questions – but not the right ones.  I remember dinner conversation from my Dad about his stories about college – so I was at a distinct advantage to know what to ask.   As professors, we can help this situation by being informed and involved, helping our students to ask the right questions, and advocating for them when we can.  

 

 

Blending Leadership – My reaction

So I always try to read something to get me thinking over spring break..  (I was not good about blogging last year but I read Most Likely To Succeed by Tony Wagner and College Unbound by Selingo – books I suggest to everyone)

So this spring break I read Blending Leadership by Reshan Richards and Stephen J. Valentine.

First, I should say that I know Reshan through Apple Distinguished Educators – we have worked on a few projects at the same time but don’t know each other very well.  He is well known for his company Explain Everything but I will say by reading this book, I have definitely developed a great respect for him, his blended perspective (industry, K-12 and higher education). 

He was talking about this book in Summer 2017 at ADE Institute and I bought it online but never read it but picked it up as my spring break book. I am really glad I did. 

The overall premise of the book.. is that modern leadership requires us to think about leading in both the face to face and virtual world and that acts of servant leadership exist in online too.   I took notes as  I read the book, so it may seem kind of stream of consciousness but let me share some big ideas.

Truly Blended Scholarship

What struck me first about this book was truly the blended leadership and blended information seeking that is both spoken about in the book and practiced in it. In a higher education position being active on Twitter and interacting with blogs is not rewarded valued and questioned from any of the reasons that are discussed in the book (no peer review, no editing). 

However this is how I learned much of what I do, and my Professional Learning Community is in Blogs and Twitter So I was really excited when I saw that kind of reading combined with the reading that I do and the people that I know including Anne Ottenbreit Leftwich, Peggy Ertmer and wCharles Graham, people that I know professionally or went to grad school with.  These are well respected educational technologists and the authors of this book did a great job of weaving peer reviewed research articles with writings from business, and even blog posts. (I personally loved that they talked about the Agile Manifesto as I got my SCRUM certification this summer)   This book is very appropriate for someone who’s a professor in Education who is also engaging in the PLN that teachers are.  In fact I am going to encourage some of our educational readers to read this book to think about their role in both face to face and online spaces as leaders. This book is great and perhaps necessary read as we rethink scholarship and its value in academia.. This book provides a good example that someone can be engaging in reading peer reviewed scholarship but can also be informed by blogs. Which I personally feel are growing in importance as I have had “albatross” articles that have taken years to publish while their findings leak relevancy as each month passes by.

Practice what you Preach –

There was a lot in this book about the behaviors and habits of effective leaders in the digital age.   Some of the better ones included:

Be open in your communication and share your personal networks when it matches shared interest.. (Ie.. Don’t tweet a bunch of stuff on High School calculus to your network if it is all kindergarten teachers – but totally cool to talk about human development as it affects all ages.. (My example)

Be open with your tech use and share your experiences and be a participant leader working collaboratively with your team. (ie.. practice what you teach)

Consider taking care of digital spaces as servant leadership – ie.. if you would not let trash sit in a hallway, why would you let a Google Doc become unwieldy with comments and strikethroughs.

On being a flexible leader and tech user

Don’t get caught up on the tools for one purpose – remain flexible and know that the tool you love today could be gone tomorrow.    Use the tools, but we willing to pivot if something better comes along or it not longer meets your needs.

I totally love how they deal with SAMR – it drives me nutty that people use it as a ranking for teachers, when it was not intended to be that way..  I always think about it as varied stimulus. We all had teachers who used worksheets all the time, and never let you create something, and another teacher who was all into creation, that you never got through content.   There is a balance, where scaffolded learning helps learners learn both facts but also apply them and create with them.

Overall Takeaways

A blended leader is open and flexible and pays attention to the people they work with and allow them opportunities to grow and lead. They maintain online spaces to free people up to be creative and productive.

They also unplug when needed – being online is a choice and people are still key to the process.

Blended leaders choose the use of technology when it serves them well and are intentional to promote their organizations and their organization’s mission.  I really loved how they talked about companies that we love for their clear communication of their mission and how they asked – why aren’t schools doing more of that?  There are some really good ideas how every teacher or faculty member can participate in this mission.(which is a growing shadow work required of faculty in these rough budget times)

(on a related note: I LOVED reading this as a purchase from the IBooks Store.. I was able to highlight and transfer my highlights to Notes easily which made writing this blog post easy (even when I was on a plane or without network connectivity)  I only wish my highlighted sections could be more easily shown as complete – but I love that it will align them to printed page numbers.

Also I read this book in about 5 hours – in two sittings – a quick read and very useful.

Check out this book on the iBooks Store: https://itun.es/us/D6epdb.l

 

 

 

 

 

Being Politically Active on Twitter

So this last few weeks, I have very politically active on Twitter.  and well, I am actually not going to apologize.

I think there are some serious things going down and we should use networks, especially as professors,  to educate and inform.

I really hope our legislators listen to their constituents because much damage is being done.  I elect an official to represent my community and our ideas not those of the party or personally held.  And even if I did not elect them – I respect their office and know that they were elected to represent ME.  As a citizen, who believes in democracy, I will participate. It is my responsibility to democracy..

I hope we can engage in a dialogue but if you don’t agree with my perspective and are not open to dialoguing, I completely understand and encourage you to unfollow.

I own my tweets and take full responsibility for anything I say, even as if I were yelling it from a bull horn.

Creating Innovators: Is it really about teacher behaviors?

I have been catching up grading this weekend and have been reading my 21st Century masters students discussion posts on the first two chapters of Creating Innovators by Tony Wagner.

As I have switched to badging in my undergraduate course, I am little bummed that their great ideas are trapped in the Janux learning platform because they have great ideas.  (In fact, I invite them to copy and paste their posts to this post as a comment if they want to publicly share)..  I will say that in Summer (their semester 2) they will start blogs and so we realize that their ideas won’t always be trapped behind a paywall.

So in the first two chapters of creating innovators – we begin to ask the questions about learners and what do they really need to be innovative.

One of my students, Laura – Came to an interesting conclusion: “I do not have to change everything I am doing I just need to be creative in how I teach my lessons. I think students should be asking and answering questions.” And that is true, it is as much about changing our own mindset as it to changing the lessons.  Monica builds on that idea when she said, “I don’t think we should limit ourselves to asking “Who” should be asking the questions about innovative education, but perhaps we should look at all how students will answer their own questions? How will we as educators respond to these questions and guide them in their journey to find their answers?”  In the end, great student centered teaching is not about the students, its about us breaking of the safe and traditional ways of teaching that we are used to, and forcing ourselves out of our teacher centered experiences, into student centered teaching behaviors.

So just after reading their responses, this popped in my twitter feed.  Sherratsam wrote a blog post about guiding students in innovative practices.  http://linkis.com/wordpress.com/rhUJz  He talks about the sweet spot when you get students to go further =when you get them to work on their projects and the teacher is there as a coach to push them further.  He finishes his blog post with  set of questions.  I view these statements as a generalized scaffolding that we as educators can use to think about our role in the classroom.

Copied and Pasted From the Blog Post:  For modern, student-centred, inquiry-based pedagogy to even begin to dominate our weekly schedules, we need to help our students go through the following process quickly enough to allow them the time to start doing and to be able to go into enough depth with that for genuine and powerful learning to come out of it:

  • help them understand the context of the learning
  • help them think about the context in diverse, rich and deep ways
  • help them filter all of that thinking in order to develop their own interest area and focus
  • help them figure out what they want to achieve within that focus
  • help them get started in order to achieve it

What strikes me about this, is the scaffolding that he is providing is really questions to ask yourself and your own teaching behaviors – Am I helping them  to better understand the problem and getting out their way to push them further.

I find that when I am trying to force myself into more student centered behaviors, I set prompts for myself in my teaching – little reminders to myself.

For example, when I am teaching in our innovative learning classroom – I find myself asking myself whenever I want to do a demo – Do I have to be the one showing this?  Could a student be showing?  I try to leave my iPad closed all hour – because I can walk my students through the problem..  and if I can’t, then I explain that to them..  (Ie.. I am not sure how to do this,  let me show you how I try to solve a problem like this..)

So the question I got from reading the blog and my student response to the first two chapters of creating innovators – what kinds of questions of could I ask to achieve the goals listed above?

 

Assessment to Create Innovators or even Innovative Professors?

Again, I am responding to my student responses on Creating Innovators: (its kind of stream of consciousness but reading these books always gets me trying to make connections)

The first thing that strikes me about this book is that some of the politics that are going on with schools and even in the country are a question of innovation.   Is our education system about tests? or is our education system about creating opportunities for students to be innovative and finding new ways to assess them?   Should our assessments be about growth or benchmarks?  Should one assessment lead into the next project?

In the end, I found a lot of my individual comments to student responses being about assessment – because in the end that is the issue. If we allow students to define their own problems, what is the assessment? How can we show that they learned?  How do we avoid falling into that trap where everyone gets the “college of ed” clap because they met the minimum requirements. How do we drive students to go beyond where they are comfortable?
I would say that we need to look at assessment in new ways.  Is there such a thing as a participatory assessment? Yes, there are books written on them, but in practice there are not good guidelines.   They are very prevalent in business.  We ask people all the time to assess themselves, often in business before a raise or an annual evaluation, we ask people to do a self -assessment.   However, this activity has to be really scaffolded.

Looking at Assessment through my own Assessment as a Professor

Let me share an illustrative from my life as a professor.   We are currently doing faculty reviews, and I can talk about my own self assessment – instead of it being a truthful reflective goal setting experience, I will admit that mine is a whiny, justification, excuse riddled piece of work.. (My evals were not as a high as I would like because I was teaching too many classes.. etc.. )  However, in our own faculty reviews, we are not rewarded for honest reflection, and our responses are not reviewed from year to year.   And they should be. The assessment is structured to be an one time measure, and they don’t lead to any feedback on future projects and are not part of a holistic review.  Part of the reason, is  the prompt is backward facing and it is not guiding me to set new goals, celebrate successes and failures and talk about how I will become better in the coming year(s).  It is also focused on the professor as an individual not a community member and does not require 21st century staples to be highlighted such as collaboration, mentorship, empathy, celebrating failure.

So our current prompt is:

In light of the information provided in this annual report, please assess your contributions in the three areas of professorial responsibility. Include any factors or information Committee A should consider as it reviews your work in research, service, and teaching.

It is just screaming out for me to make a whiny justification – the prompt is incorrectly scaffolded.. 

What is we had a prompt like this instead: (3 parts for the 3 parts of my job – scholarship, teaching and service)

Given your last year as reported in this document,  where do you see your career going in the next year or 5 years?  Where are finishing projects and where are you laying groundwork for future work… (ie.. what are excited to be learning about and want to spend more on next year).  Where do you plan to spend your scholarly time in the next year? 

As a teacher,  how are you committed to students in formal and informal ways and where would you like to see to our students be in 1 year or 5 years. What are you doing or plan to do to help make that dream a reality? 

As a citizen, how are you contributing to our community?  How are you supporting others, their interests, and working to create a working and learning environment that will continue to grow, flourish and support its learners and fellow faculty and staff? 

Then I will be revolutionary – besides those awful evals with the bubble sheets – when do we ask students to evaluate us?  What if we triangulated (Yeah, I know using my own professional tools to assess myself) and shared my personal statement about my commitment to students with some…  … wait for it…   STUDENTS ..  Check to see if what I think I am doing, is perceived that way, and find out if students feel supported and mentored.. (Yep Participatory assessment)..

Now those of you that have ever touched a faculty review, then thinks.. are you kidding?  Do you know long those things take? Maybe the question is not do crappy reviews yearly, but meaningful, deep reviews every 3 years.  Faculty could be on a cycle (like post tenure reviews) where they do it every few years and prompts like this scaffold goal setting, reflection on their goals and the mission of the institution, and job satisfaction.

So hopefully from this example, you can see how scaffolding makes all the difference – so in the end good assessment comes back to the prompts and how we get students (or faculty) to think about the work they did.

Why scaffolded reflective assessment matters

I realize I got a little off my topic talking about faculty reviews, but honestly, don’t we want our faculty to grow as much as we want our students to. People engaged in meaningful work, are great colleagues, and raise the organization to new levels.

Now think about this – how could we frame questions for students to get them to be forward looking, self reflective, and use the assessment on one project to set their goals for the next one – what would that look like?  And how could we get community feedback on projects and make it participatory assessment?

My post show that good assessment is as important for the teachers/faculty as it is for the students – and in the end innovators are not inventors – instead they are people who are using creativity and critical thinking to engage in their environment every day.   This kind of thinking drives them forward and makes them better.

 

 

 

Associate Professor at the University of Oklahoma Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education

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