Friday, August 23, 2013

The Key to Models for Completion--Institutional Urgency

Back in the news is the national charge to support post-secondary degree completion, led by President Obama. And the post from the Chronicle of Higher Ed ( reminds us these are existing efforts re-visited.

Reminders are not a bad thing, necessarily. Financial aid policy and tying institutional funding to awards are more carrot than stick incentives, though there is no shortage of arguments to be made for  cutting awards that don't move a student toward some meaningful learning achievement.

There is promise in freeing the tyranny of the credit hour with several mechanisms: competency-based course and degree models, the acceptance of ACE determined credit for successful MOOC completion, PLA (credit awarded for prior training or other learning as demonstrated by exam or portfolios submitted by learners). 

A colleague of mine remarked "that higher ed culture functions on urgency," such as at the beginning or the end of the term, or in the year before the accreditation review.

Like climate disbelievers, we seem to be in a state of denial about the urgency for shifting the model. Included in the shift is the need to advise and orient students to the expectations that go with the opportunity (study skills, and decision-making), to make the college experience more goal-oriented (which we as faculty might consider both limiting and painful). Required advising, "intrusive advising" and the development of degree-maps to help students move from point A to certificate or degree most efficiently, are example of those efforts. (The FIPSE Project Maps-to-Credentials is one such effort on behalf of US military.)

In order to become conversant in the models, and competent negotiators of alternative learning models, various contingents of institutions need training and need to move beyond, "if it isn't ours, it isn't worthy." I can remember sitting in meetings in the nineties where institutions proudly proclaimed they would not accept any credit in transfer for distance delivery. Also in evidence, is how scores on AP and IB exams can be used to limit or undermine the transfer of those credits by incoming students. And the same goes for ACE credit wards. Because though trained faculty come together from various institutions to evaluate the award for a training or military experience, for example, it is still up to the local institution to decide if and how many of the recommended credit will be accepted, and whether they will be applied to a particular degree requirement, or only as an elective.

Are fear of loss of control, lack of knowledge in other instructional models, loss of teaching opportunity some of the equation? Yes. Like other curricular changes in the past, addressing these are part of the way forward. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Sessions for Another School Year and Life Generally

Tomorrow I’m going to visit Upward Bound students and share a couple strategies I’ve shared past in academic success courses. I was impressed with how many colleges listed one of the two, SQ4R on the web.

The Session Descriptions
SQ4R for Reading and Study: SQ4R is a reading and study method for informational or textbook reading. It can be expecially helpful when we are faced with reading in a topic we aren’t very excited about or find challenging to get through.

Making Decisions You Can Live With: Sometimes a person can have a tough time making a decision. We may know we have more than one choice, but still aren’t sure about it once we’ve made a choice. This model helps us see beyond the solution to the result of that choice. And that is where we might just see which choice is a better fit for us.

SQ4R Resources
This short video (less than 6 minutes) explains the elements of the SQ4R method.
The link which immediately follows contains a text-based explanation of SQ4R, a worksheet to guide a learner through using the method, the link to the video, and an additional resource for note taking:

Resources for Making Decisions You Can Live With 
Here is the link for a worksheet for the decision-making model. I started using this model with academic success students after reading a technical writing article using this model many years ago. My apologies as I no longer have the source citation.

As the title of this post suggests, given our life-long learning challenges, both of these strategies have use well beyond the sessions for which they were prepared.