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!🙂


September 20th Provisions Session Summary: “How To Incorporate Mission Into Our Pedagogy”


** To access the audio recording of this session, click here! **

Our first Provisions session of the 2016-2017 year explored the theme of “How We Incorporate Mission into Our Pedagogy. Presenters shared experience and expertise with the various topics pertaining to the theme, in which sought to improve success for a diverse range of college students. An audience of approximately 25 faculty and staff members attended to hear presentations from Sean Peters, Director of Mission Experience, Angela Gordon, School of Business, and Jeff Marlett, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies.

Sister Sean Peters, the Director of Mission Experience, kicked started the session by discussing a brief history about the College of Saint Rose. Sister Sean discussed how the college is essentially an organization that is about 360 years old, which began when it was founded by the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet. In 1650, the 6 sisters gathered in France and started a hospital (social services in those days). During this time, there were some wealthy people but the majority of people lived in poverty, experiencing illnesses like the plague. The sisters were concerned with the “needs of the times” and convened to discuss the resources they had and what they could do to respond to the needs of the community. During this time, lace was worn by all (men, women and children) so the sisters decided to teach young women how to make lace, thus making enemies of the wealthy. Following the French Revolution, religion was suppressed and the sisters were split up. In 1810, Mother Saint John sent the sisters to the United States, where they started a school for deaf children in Carondelet, Saint Louis. Sister Sean ended her presentation by reiterating  the theme that “we can do better together than we can do separately” which encompasses the values of the college of Saint Rose. “We have the resources to respond to the needs of the time, to educate the whole person, and we can always to things more effectively and efficiently together.”

Nest to present was Angela Gordon from the School of Business, on “Incorporating Mission into the First Year Experience.” Angela began by discussing the first assignment in the  ‘Business 101’ course, which requires the students to connect with the values of Saint Rose’s mission statement in a one-page essay. Angela then discussed a semester long assignment  in which students construct their own business plans using organizational awareness.  As part of the course, the students are taken on a field trip to downtown Albany (Pearl Street, State Street, Broadway), where they are instructed to “think of the population” and decide “what does this population need?” The students are then asked to create a developmental business plan that allows them to engage with urban environment. In doing this, the students will create a document proposing the set-up of a their businesses. The students will then be able to present their business ideas (on November 30th) to faculty and staff of the college, thus promoting involvement in and connection with the community.

Jeff Marlett, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, wrapped up the presentations by discussing his experiences with incorporating mission into teaching. Jeff discussed how he incorporates the values of the mission statement indirectly by teaching principles of catholic social justice-human dignity, common good, and solidarity (we are all part of the human family). Jeff emphasized the importance of solidarity and helping out others in need. In using the example of the flooding in Louisiana (“we are in solidarity with them”), Jeff described the overall principle of how local solutions work better first, and then larger services can be sought out when necessary. Jeff discussed how these principles then become the foundation for talking about the mission statement across disciplines. Jeff ended with emphasis on how it is important for educators and students to know the identity of Saint Rose, and why Saint Rose is different than other catholic campuses.

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:

  • The architecture that make a community are meaningless without understanding the core values
  • How to get students to consider how they fit at the college
    • Visit buildings to know what resources are available
  • Encourage students to understand the connection between mission/values and why they are attending Saint Rose
  • Research is important in deciding if you’re a good fit for a particular job/organization
  • How to foster an inclusive community

September 20th Session: “How We Incorporate Mission into Our Pedagogy”

“How We Incorporate Mission into Our Pedagogy”


“The College of Saint Rose community engages highly motivated undergraduate and graduate students in rigorous educational experiences. In the progressive tradition of the founding Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, we welcome men and women from all religious and cultural backgrounds. In addition to developing their intellectual capacities, students have the opportunity to cultivate their creative and spiritual gifts in a diverse learning community that fosters integrity, interdependence, and mutual respect. The College delivers distinctive and comprehensive liberal arts and professional programs that inspire our graduates to be productive adults, critical thinkers, and motivated, caring citizens. Our engagement with the urban environment expands the setting for educational opportunities and encourages the Saint Rose community’s energetic involvement and effective leadership in society.”

-The College of Saint Rose

The question remains… how do we incorporate mission into our pedagogy?

The article, “Supporting Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Learners in English Education,” explains various methods for creating a supportive learning environment for a diverse range of students. The article provides specific beliefs that contribute to creating  a supportive context for diverse students within the classroom. To create a supportive leaning environment, educators must be prepared to:

  1. Respect students of all races, cultures, and ethnicities, while continuing to  respect their own cultural beliefs and practices
  2. Find ways to incorporate each students’ “funds of knowledge”, otherwise known as student knowledge learned from their communities that can be connected to course content
  3. Learn about their students through formative assessment in order to modify their instruction to best fit all students within the classroom
  4. Empower students to learn through encouragement, opportunities for engagement in the curriculum, and providing meaningful activities
  5. Model ways of examining one’s own learning using self-regulatory skills, such as self-evaluation and self-monitoring
  6. Allow students to maintain their own languages while teaching various aspects of the English language
  7.  Advocate for equality and social justice for all students

InHow to Become and Remain a Transformational Teacher,” David Cutler describes several methods for improving teaching and student-teacher relationships through professional development. To remain an effective and transformational teacher, David suggests to:

  • Share effective practices with colleagues
  • Choose a successful colleague as a mentor
  • Observe fellow teachers’ instructional strategies
  • Find new routines to avoid burnout
  • Model the practicality and usefulness of what you are teaching
  • Demonstrate care for your students beyond the classroom

Please join us for our upcoming Tuesday, September 20th session on “ How We Incorporate Mission into Our Pedagogy.” Our esteemed presenters for the September 20th session include:

Angela Gordon-School of Business
Jeff Marlett-Philosophy and Religious Studies
Sean Peters-Director of Mission Experience

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!! 🙂

Reflecting on Flipped Library Instruction, Part I

A recently published article develops several design principles that can assist in planning for a flipped classroom:

Kim, M. K., Kim, S. M., Khera, O., & Getman, J. (2014). The experience of three flipped classrooms in an urban university: an exploration of design principles. Internet & Higher Education, 2237-50. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2014.04.003  [Read this article]

These nine principles, listed below, though somewhat commonsensical, serve as useful touchstones as I reflect on several months of work in flipping my own library instruction.

  1. Provide an opportunity for students to gain exposure prior to class
  2. Provide an incentive for students to prepare for class
  3. Provide a mechanism to assess student understanding
  4. Provide clear connections between in-class and out-of-class activities
  5. Provide clearly defined and well-structured guidance
  6. Provide enough time for students to carry out assignments
  7. Provide facilitation for building a learning community
  8. Provide prompt/adaptive feedback on individual or group work
  9. Provide technologies familiar and easy to access

I have had the chance to work with three faculty this year to plan for a flipped library instruction component in four separate classes.  So while my experience in the flipped classroom is not extensive, I have had enough experience to have formed initial opinions and I have begun to generate ideas about how I might improve this model in the future.

#1 – Provide an opportunity for students to gain exposure prior to class

For library instruction, this is key, and perhaps represents the most radical change from anything I have done before.  Library instruction seldom offers the chance for the librarian to get materials to students before the class.  We are not in position to assign “homework” that can be discussed when we meet.  But in a flipped classroom, this exposure to material before we meet opens up the class to new possibilities.  Most exciting of these new possibilities is the chance to move away from lecture and demo and spend time instead exploring higher level concepts and strategies and serving as “guide by the side” during hands on work in the classroom.

 #2 – Provide an incentive for students to prepare for class

It did not take me long to realize that students do not always complete their homework!  Making my videos available on Youtube allowed me to get data on how many times each was watched.  In four flipped classes, the number of watches was always lower than the number of students in the class.  In an attempt to combat this, most recently, I worked with the classroom teacher to have a list of questions distributed well before the class visit.  These questions essentially restated the goals I had for creating the video.  Students knew these would be addressed at the beginning of the class, and I hoped — as a secondary benefit — they would provide some focus for these students as they watched the video.

Improvement?  Yes.  Perfection?  No.

#3 – Provide a mechanism to assess student understanding

Assessing what we do in library instruction has always been problematic.  For one-shot instruction, it is difficult to add formal assessment into an already tight class schedule.  However, flipped library instruction did provide a type of informal assessment that had previously been impossible to implement.  While working with students, observing the specific difficulties they might encounter, I was able to see where they were having troubling applying concepts and strategies, covered in the video/s, to their actual searches.  Since the goal of assessment is to improve what we do, I am able to work on materials that help address the more common shortcomings I’ve been able to observe.

 #4 – Provide clear connections between in-class and out-of-class activities

In regard to this principle, flipped library instruction truly has been “flipped.”  In traditional library instruction, we do our best to understand the assignment/s and general needs of the students, plan our instruction around our understanding of these needs, and then hope that this prepares students as they begin to work through their assignments and research.

In the flipped classroom, the out-of-class activities come first and there is the chance to provide direct help and clarification as the in-class work takes place.  As noted above, this model provides a chance for reinforcement and intervention as we work in a hands-on environment with students.

Certainly in both models, strong connections between in- and out-of-class activities is vital to effective instruction, but the flipped model provides me with a better understanding of both desired learning outcomes and a way to really determine if I’ve made the necessary connections with the materials I’ve assigned.

#5 – Provide clearly defined and well-structured guidance

The very act of planning for, recording and editing videos has improved the structure and delivery of content in comparison to the same lessons I had previously presented “live.”  Working and reworking the material serves to better focus the presentation and allows for a more narrow focus (perhaps representing a larger presentation broken into component parts).

However, I came to understand that in the class meeting itself a similar level of planning and structure is necessary.  Simply releasing students to their task at hand and roaming as “guide by the side” is not enough to ensure effective learning.  It is critical to set the context at the beginning of the class through a series of questions and discussion.  Interestingly, I have found that the flipped model is helpful in generating a discussion, as students have an introductory knowledge of the subject.  These first few minutes can be spent clarifying points that arise from the out-of-class activities, developing a broader or more conceptual framework.  This allows students to take greater responsibility for their learning and helps build attitudes (for example, persistence, flexibility, patience, curiosity) that are no small part of successful learning.

In the follow up to this post, I will continue with an examination of the principles suggested by this article, as well as discuss changes I hope to make based on these reflections on my initial experiences with flipped instruction.