I was able Last week UNT hosted the annual University Forum on Teaching & Learning:
UNT’s University Forum on Teaching & Learning (UFTL) is a one-day annual event that enables faculty, graduate teaching fellows, and staff involved in supporting teaching and learning to share ideas and practices that motivate learners, promote critical thinking skills, engage in real-world problems, and better prepare students for life and work in the 21st century.
This year’s #UFTL13 focus, “Supporting Student Success,” helped initiate the conversation and help our campus understand how to support our students. It also shed some light on what success is and what it REALLY looks like for our learners. In moving beyond the dirty R-word (retention), it is critical to think how the meaning of the word success varies for our students. Our planning of “good” teaching and learning practices may need to extend beyond a course credit, a classroom setting, or a syllabus requirement for our students to be truly successful.
During the morning round table discussions, we chatted about reaching students beyond our state mandates or the general push to graduation, and thought more about how to connect with our learners to better understand their needs and purpose for being at the university. It was clear that success means many things to many different people. Our small group identified different things that signify success (in general) including promotion, failure, self-discovery, overcoming challenges, and such. The key issue we had in talking about “success” for learning is the divergent goals that formal education require specifically in terms of assessment, evaluation formats, and individual competency reviews.
Later in the morning Dr. Cassandre G. Alvarado, from UT Austin, asked “What is student success really?” in her keynote address. In Dr. Alvarado’s opening statements, she shared how higher education is broken with the “universal problem” being = too many students are not successful. [I will get into the “broken higher education” discussion in a future blog post- note this for now].
First we talked about the definition of success, brainstormed a few ideas, and chatted about how we might need to redefine success in our classroom and on our campus. Here is what success meant to our small group and from the speaker’s point of view:
- effecting people in a positive way
- being an inspiration
- impacting others around you
- having a goal, working hard & making sacrifices to work towards that goal
- passion for what you are doing or how you are working with others
BIG IDEA: Success is more than content knowledge.
Key Goals for Success & to Be Successful shared by Dr. Alvarado in her keynote:
1. Perseverance – “Nearly every man who develops an idea works at it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then gets discouraged. That’s not the place to be discouraged.” ~ Thomas Edison
- We need to share with our students our struggle so they can learn
- Model for our students our own struggles
- Reward effort as well as correctness, e.g. rewarding effort on homework and tests, using innovative assessment methods produced almost triple gains
2. Community – “My model for business is the Beatles. Total is the sum of the parts… Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.” ~ Steve Jobs, 2003
- Community happens inside and outside of the classroom
- Is about understanding our role
- Is more than just friends, e.g. Creation of learning communities increase ention through Drop, Fail & Withdrawal rates stayed the same; cluster of courses
3. Imagination – “The value of an idea lies in the using of it.” Thomas Edison
- Discovery is imagination
- Ask students to solve problems that don’t yet exist not ones that have already been solved
- “See yourself on the other side.” Dr. Marcy Haag’s mantra 4 breaking a board in a Taekwondo class and she shares this for learning/perseverance
Finally, I was asked to join a student, staff, and faculty panel (I fit a couple of these roles) to talk more about student success at UNT. Here are the questions posed to the #UFTL13 panel:
- How do you define student success? Can you share an example of or tell a story about student success at UNT. (This could be a personal story, one of a colleague, classmate, friend, etc.)
- From your perspective, what do students need to experience success at UNT? Do you have any examples to share?
- What types of partnerships make student success a reality at UNT? Do you have any personal experience with partnerships?
- From your perspective, what can staff/instructors/students do to enhance student success?
Of course, I took a few notes and tweeted during the panel, so here are a few themes that emerged from the our responses:
How do you define student success on your campus? What student success stories can you share? Think about it, and let me know.