Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Day 1 of SOAR

I'm happy to report that Day 1 "recruiting" gained us some new insights. Joy, Nick and I worked with a group of 15 students. 

The plan was to answer any questions for those who came, assuming that they came after reading about it. We were also going to use the time to do a "sticky wall" activity based on "What would make the 100-freshmen  learning initiative valuable to them?"

15 students came because their SOAR host "dragged them there."
We *thought* people would be self-selecting to come to our session based on the description we provided. We found instead that all students had been dragged there by their SOAR host, that none of them knew anything about SUSTAIN-SLO. 

All students were interested in the initiative after we described it
Each of the 15 students said they were interested in the 100-freshmen learning initiative when hearing a 2-minute description of what we are envisioning. 

Sticky wall results: What would make this a valuable experience?
relationships: The chance to make significant connections with students and professional connections
engaged learning: The opportunity for hands on learning and learning from others in the projects
meaningful activities:The potential to impact the disenfranchised
freedom from burdensome assessments: No tests. Some identified these as pressure inducing without yielding a real measure of what one knows

Suprise: Strong enthusiasm from upperclassmen 
The SOAR host spontaneously began advocating for the initiative, saying she felt this was an exciting way of learning and she thinks it will be a lot more engaging and meaningful than the "traditional" classes. 

What we learned and need to adjust (make it concrete; don't lose sight of sustainability):
1. Near the end, a student said "Is this real or just an idea?" When they discovered it was happening, and when it was happening, their questions were more focused.  We need to make clear that it is happening, when it is happening, when the application period is, how to get more information. 
2. The "sustainability" part keeps getting lost in the conversation.  We need to find a way to communicating this in non-politicizing language. 

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