Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Designing SUSTAIN-The questions

At the beginning of December 2011, a mixed group of community members, students and faculty got together for the third design meeting for the SUSTAIN launch. They created a sticky wall of questions that they are asking as part of SUSTAIN.

There questions fell in four categories and are presented here:

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Feedback from our National Science Foundation program officer

Here is the text of a letter that our NSF program officer gave us after visiting in Oct. 2011:


I wanted to share some observations and thoughts while they were still fresh in my mind and before I get distracted with the next objectives of my trip.  Please feel free to share these in toto or selectively with anyone you choose.  Also note that these observations are made in the role of your NSF program officer.

First let me state that I am impressed with both the scope of what you are trying to accomplish as well as your actual accomplishments.  You are trying to fundamentally change faculty perspectives, and this is a critical and poorly understood step in improving our educational system.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

We're not alone in these radical ideas of education

Sometimes I get the feeling that our vision for education is "off base."  It's rare, but it is always nice to hear others advocate for the same kinds of things.  Here is an example, compliments of Ruth Rominger:


An excerpt:
"To succeed in our fluid/agile world, we need to think less about defining/measuring a fixed content/curriculum, (less about worrying and playing defense), and more about creating some overarching patterns evidenced in the process of learning to learn. Not only does that make learning/life more fun, intellectual learning and affiliated capabilities are amped as the motivation is intrinsically driven by the pleasure of finding things out and by understanding wicked problems."
Four suggestions for what they call "detox"...1. Notice the unlikely; 2. Dream boldly; 3. Connect to people/info and ideas; and 4. Do what matters most. 

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

"If colleges want to justify the value of their degrees in the future, they better start creating learning environments where their students can be creative, try things out, and on occasion fail without being penalized. Where should they begin?"

"Don't Lecture Me" - articles on college learning today
Disruptive Innovations in the Classroom
Inquiry-based Learning for mathematics

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Community steps toward the Project Fair

On August 15, the faculty collaborators gathered together with community partners to essentially "learn by doing" a pseudo project fair. We only allowed ourselves about 30 minutes for the faculty to rotate to different tables in a kind of "speed dating format," with faculty asked to manage their own time.

We first describe to the community members that the SUSTAIN-SLO inititiave is really inside of a larger, 15 year effort of change. Through this effort, we have discovered that some types of projects are less suited to what we want to do.

We have found that projects can focus on the relationship between the community and the Cal Poly partners, or can focus on the transaction that needs to be completed.  In our experience, projects that have a focus on the transaction can lead to unintended consequences, such as students' and faculty members' attention on completing the project for a grade, rather than meeting the community agency's needs. This is what can often happen in traditional service learning.

We are seeking projects that focus on the long-term well-being of the relationship between participants. Some agencies have a simple need for arms and legs to get something done (a transaction) and these projects can be enabled by VolunteerSLO (http://slovolunteerworking.wordpress.com/ ) or other volunteer matching services.

After our pseudo project fair, we did an after action review and learned the following:

Community Partnerships
They called for a means to craft and scope projects that are the kind of relational projects that have a high overlap with our learning objectives. They also want to have a better understanding of the other agencies involved.

Faculty Partners
They recognized that the projects can serve as powerful learning tools for the material that the students are to lear. However, we need the time and space for faculty to understand the depth of projects enough to see into the layers of different disciplinary involvement. We expect this to be an iterative process of project scoping with potential community partners to tailor projects to meet the needs of all involved (students, community partners, faculty).

Suggestions: workshop with faculty and students; office hours with faculty to enable iterative project scoping; Pre-workshop communications; web-based information clearing house prior to project fair; making learning objectives clear.

Next steps: By September 1, the SUSTAIN group will send to the community members a project template that helps community members develop an appropriate project scope. The SUSTAIN folks will also create a means for all to see learning objectives and community agency "drafts" for the project fair. They will also identify and time and place for either a workshop or a kind of office hours for community members to iteratively and collaboratively scope their projects.

We will also set a date and venue for the project fair, which is likely to be ON CAMPUS and near the end of September.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Day 3 & Day 4: SOAR-discovering what we didn't account for

On days 3 and 4, we had no one come to the sessions. Nick and Nina heroically went out and found groups to talk to.  The good news is that roughly two of every three freshmen we speak with are interested in participating.  Of course, we don't know what this will translate into in terms of actuall "enrollment," but it seems that there is enough in the description that attracts students.

What we didn't account for was that we are not actually on the SOAR schedule for the students. Nick discovered that although students get a sheet of workshops, the formal SOAR agenda has every minutes "scheduled" for the students and the workshops are not actually on the schedule. The only way in which people show up to the workshop is if something went wrong in the timing of their formal schedule or if they are sufficiently bored by the formal activities that they abandon them and their SOAR leader happens to drag them to our workshop.

Also, of the 200 students who visit the campus each SOAR day, 100 are whisked away somewhere, so we only have a chance at the 100...again, only in the circumstances that something goes wrong in their formal schedule. 

Attempts at more visibility are turned down. Nick discovered that there is a morning "fair" where students learning about all the activities on campus. The SOAR people would not allow us to be there and set up an information booth. 

More to come.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Winter & Spring '12: Areas of opportunity & risk

Here is what we have in the way of commitments and partial commitments. The red areas represent uncertainty.  We can treat these as areas of opporutnity/risk.  Right now, a primary area of risk is that if we have 100 students, we may not be able to accommodate all course needs.  To compensate, we could:
1. Let go of the criteria that all courses be in the SUSTAIN "grouping".
consequences: Students are likely to be more and more fragmented in competing course formats. 
2. Create an elective 270/470 course that relates to the project.
consequences: There will be a handful of majors that do not have free electives, so will not be able to participate. 

Details of the Winter'12 and Spring'12 schedule

After meeting with the good folks in scheduling and registration, this is what we are looking at in terms of the winter and spring schedules for the SUSTAIN courses.

Notice the "Major orientation" listing.  This came about at Kathryn's suggestion. Many majors have freshmen courses that meet once per week and are 1-2 units.  This may not be needed for all majors, or may even be waived for some majors.