February 21st Session Summary: Raising the Bar While Providing a Safety Net for Taking Creative Risks

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Click here to access the audio recording from the session!!

Our first Provisions session of the Spring 2017 semester explored the theme of “Raising the Bar While Providing a Safety Net for Taking Creative Risks.” Presenters shared experience and expertise with the various topics pertaining to the theme, in which sought to explore creativity and increasing student expectations. An audience of approximately 20 faculty and staff members attended to hear presentations by  Christina Pfizer from Teacher Education and Sophia Paljevic from New York City Public Schools, Dave Clark of the Criminal Justice Department, and Risa Faussette from the History and Political Science Department. 

Christina Pfizer from Teacher Education and Sophia Paljievic from NYC Public Schools, a graduate from the College of Saint Rose, presented on Using the Classroom Community as a Safety Net for Encouraging Students to Take Risks . Christina and Sophia began by explaining how they use literature as a basis for their approach to teaching, emphasizing the importance of care. Specifically, both use Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs framework as a foundation of support for what you believe, what community you latch onto and the need to feel safe in order to take risks and complete higher level work. Sophia discussed her experience in the Bronx with her third grade students. She emphasized that building a school community can be achieved despite the school being located in a  ‘bad community.’ Within her classroom, there are 29 students whom she is responsible for instructing. Both presenters stressed the importance of knowing each students’  individual strengths and weaknesses in order to know how to help them do better without pushing them too far (scaffolding). Christina then discussed her teaching experience and how she aspires to learn names quickly, usually within the first and second classes. Christina also uses scaffolding with her students by beginning with easier assignments to help her students feel that ‘they can do it.‘Additionally using groups as a way for students to get to know one another, creating opportunities for students to integrate prior knowledge, and emphasizing that it is okay t be wrong are a few strategies Christina uses with her students to maximize student success. 

Dave Clark began his presentation by expressing the importance of intrinsic motivation for student success. Dave stressed how students are afraid to take risks in learning and thus need to be stimulated with motivation and the desire to learn. One way Dave encourages creativity and motivation in his students is by using images to stimulate interest. He asks his students, what are you seeing in these images” through a partner activity where one students is asked to describe an image to the other. Dave expressed that these types of activities teach the students to see environment in their own way and that each person has their own perspective. This demonstrates to the students that ‘no one sees things the same way.’ Throughout work with his students, Dave has witnessed improvements in the ownership of student work, which thus raises the bar because the students learned that they have to produce good work for it to be displayed. In his classroom, Dave asked the students describe and talk about images because perspective is crucial in ethics. In doing this, students are able to find out about the subject matter, use a multidisciplinary approach, and demonstrate creativity. This method is designed to stimulate interest and to show students that they can be creative in school, rather than just regurgitating information they are taught. Exercises like these provide students with a safety net, as they are not graded and allow the teacher and students to take risks together. 

Risa Faustete discussed how she sets the classroom environment prior to the first day of class, which demonstrates that ‘this is a real course’, which is crucial for development as a student. A main component of Risa’s course is learning the rules and methods of argumentation. Risa explains to her students the downside of not being able to recognize the components of an argument in the real world (politician, salesman, banker, etc.) and how decisions in an argument can affect others. Risa emphasized that her teaching philosophy is to make sure that students have this skill and can use it in the world. She tells her students that they will be able to read and compose arguments by the end of the course, but they must first be able to read and understand what they have read. Additionally, engagement is a key component for successful learning. In her classroom, Risa does not let any of her students sit in the back row. Instead, all students are to fill in the seats in the front of the room. If you want participation in your classroom, you need to take away some of the fear that students experiences. Some do not feel familiar with reading text or comprehending text. By explaining to the students, here is what I mean by ‘reading’ the text, you can alleviate some of the fear of the unknown. It is also helpful to start by having certain assignments ungraded and explain that it is just for practice and constructive feedback. Here are some of the handouts from her course that Risa shared during her presentation:


Following the brief presentations, the floor was opened up for discussion and questions from the audience. Here are a few points and observations that arose from the discussion:

  • Failure is a part of learning- use it!
  • Students come in wanting one answer and need to be pushed to learn that there is more than one answer
  • Link to creating community in the classroom
    • Being vulnerable
    • A ‘real person’ with personality
    • Make community between students
  • Assignments are up ahead of time- bring your best game, extended hours, demonstrate a lot of examples
    • Use rubrics to grade samples
  • Teaching and learning is a developmental process
  • Time as an issue?
  • Accountability?
  • Teach skills that can be transferred across disciplines (core skills)
    • How do we ensure the delivery of those skills?

Please join us for our upcoming March 28th session on “Using SSC (Student Success Center) to its Fullest Potential.” Our esteemed presenters for the March 28th session include:

  1. Jess Brouker – Assistant Director of Intercultural Leadership & First-Year Programs
  2. Shirlee Dufort – Director of the Writing Center
  3. Marcy Nielsen Pendergast – Executive Director of the Academic Success Center

Provisions’ sessions are held from 12:00-1:15 in Standish A&B. All are welcome and no reservations are required. Free lunch and refreshments will be available! Hope to see you all there!🙂

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Announcement

Due to a conflict with the (re-instated) Advisement Day luncheon, the March 21st Provisions has been moved to March 28th


Please join us for our upcoming March 28th session on “Using SSC (Student Success Center) to its Fullest Potential.” Our esteemed presenters for the March 28th session include:

  • Jess Brouker – Assistant Director of Intercultural Leadership and First-Year Programs
  • Shirlee Dufort – Director of the Writing Center
  • Marcy Nielsen Pendergast – Executive Director of the Academic Success Center

Provisions’ sessions are held from 12:00-1:15 in Standish A&B. All are welcome and no reservations are required. Free lunch and refreshments will be available! Hope to see you all there!🙂

Raising the Bar While Providing a Safety Net for Taking Creative Risks: February 21st Session

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The topic for this month’s session, “Raising the Bar While Providing a Safety Net for Taking Creative Risks,” relates to various topics in the higher education world. The question has been debated: how can professionals in the higher education realm increase expectations for their students while providing them with a safety net?

In 2012, Blackboard released “NOW is the Time to Raise the Bar for Student Success: How Professional Colleges and Universities Can use the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Drive Change. This article was designed to give higher education professionals drive for raising the bar for student success. In our current time, it is often necessary for students to employ more than one degree to qualify for a specific position in the workforce. This factor has played an influential role in the high rates of unemployment. Many researchers in higher education argue that a shift in policy towards competency-based learning and instruction is necessary to ensure student success. It is suggested for colleges and universities to integrate professional skill development into courses to better prepare students for a more competency-based workforce.

“The same kind of “disruptive innovation” that fueled the online learning movement now should be applied to creating achievement-oriented higher-education policies that tie a student’s rise through an educational institution to competency and mastery of well-de ned critical skills.” – Professor Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School

A similar article,“Raising the Bar: Companies Up Education Requirements,” by Chad Brooks discusses the increased qualifications required for recent graduates to obtain a position in the workforce. The evidence presented by Brooks suggests the reason for raising the bar in higher education is to increase productivity. Within the past few years, employers have witnessed growth in the overall quality of work, communication, innovation, productivity, customer loyalty, and employee retention.

Steven Mintz, the author of Breakthrough Pathways to Student Successsuggests various methods for preparing students to become successful in both academics and professional competency. Mintz provides several suggestions for improving instruction, which include modularized curriculum, competency-based curriculum, alternate credentials, guided pathways, ‘learn and earn’ models, and pipeline programs. Additionally, he suggests that universities must be prepared adopt new policies, which include:

  • strategies to enhance student success through engagement and motivation
  • flexible instruction delivery methods to meet the needs of all students
  • integrated and proactive approach to skill building
  • data-based methods

“Because of mismatched expectations and divergent learning objectives in community colleges and four-year institutions; uneven academic preparation among many transfer students; poor alignment among community college and university courses; and curricular roadblocks and requirements that make it difficult for community college students to apply credits toward their major. To address these challenges, four-year institutions, community colleges, and military training programs need to work together to agree on learning objectives, coverage, and assessments. A step in that direction is for these institutions to work together to develop common competency and outcomes graphs.” – Steven Mintz

Overall, there appears to be much support in favor of a competency-based approach to higher education. Will this be the next shift in higher education??


Please join us for our upcoming February 21st session on “Raising the Bar While Providing a Safety Net for Taking Creative Risks” Our esteemed presenters for the February 21st session include:

 Dave Clark-Criminal Justice
Rita Faussette-History and Political Science
Christina Pfister-Teacher Education & Sophia Paljevic– NYC Public Schools

Provisions’ sessions are held from 12:00-1:15 in Standish A&B. All are welcome and no reservations are required. Free lunch and refreshments will be available! Hope to see you all there!🙂