October 20th Provisions Session Summary: Teaching First Generation Students

**To access the podcast, click here!!**

Our second Provisions session of the year explored the theme of Teaching First Generation Students. Presenters shared previous experience with teaching first generation students, and effective strategies for improving success for first generation students. An audience of approximately 35 faculty and staff members attended to hear presentations from Lai-Monté Hunter, Director of Intercultural Leadership, Gina Occhiogrosso, Associate Professor of Art and Foundations Coordinator, and Jeff Marlett, Professor of Philosophy/Religious Studies.

Lai-Monté Hunter started off the session by introducing the ALANA is Leadership mentoring program. This mentorship program was developed to help and offer support to first generation and first year college students. Comprised of a cohort of 60, ALANA is Leadership focuses on what these students are coming to college with, and in most cases what disadvantages the students are starting off with.  Most of these students experience a lack of support from home, a lack of financial information, and a general sense of being unprepared. First generation students face numerous challenges, including: a lack of support, pressure to succeed, role reversal (students are now more educated than their parents), and a lack of information about the accessibility of help. Peer mentors offer support and guidance, and students are typically more receptive to information from peers. Lai-Monté mentioned that he receives messages from the First Alert System when students are performing lower than they should be. This system allows for Lai-Monté and other faculty members to intervene early on, in order to prevent failing and drop out. Lai-Monté said that in order to help these first generation students achieve success, ALANA is Leadership provides a variety of sources for information. Some examples of what ALANA is Leadership can provide a student with are:

  • information about managing finances
  • learning to juggle a full-time job with a full-time student schedule
  • learning to become integrated in the school community
  • an outlet for professional development
  • peer mentors leaders
  • prevention of dropping out or leaving without a degree
  • learning to deal with feeling marginalized at both home and on campus
  • learning to deal with cultural difficulties on campus
  • ways to develop self-advocay skills

In addition to ALANA is Leadership, it is important for professors to be available and accessible to students. First generation students are often unaware that professors are there to help them succeed. They typically do not know that it is “okay” to ask for help. Lai-Monté included the following list of what a professor should provide for their students, especially first generation students.

  • accessibility/availability- make yourself available
  • ability to listen- give your full attention
  • support- encourage students to learn and improve
  • practical- remain on task
  • guidance- give direction without pushing
  • insight- share personal experiences to show students that you’re human
  • specificity- what needs to be done, what has been done well, & what needs to be corrected
  • education- how you got to be where you are now
  • ability to foster success- have encouraging conversations beyond academics

Second to present was Gina Occhiogrosso (powerpoint presentation will be available soon).  Gina started off her presentation by explaining the Art 100 Foundation Seminar, which is a 1.0 credit (approximately 15.5 hours) course. She discussed the course requirements and said that the assignment for the course was to create a public art piece to be displayed on campus in the empty space next to Massry. In the beginning of the course, as Lai-Monté suggested in his presentation, Gina and her colleagues discussed their own college experiences. Explaining how they got where they were showed the students that they too faced challenges in the process. This course allowed for students to become acclimated to the campus, as well as to other students and faculty.

Eight groups of five were randomly formed based on students’ talent areas. For example, she picked students talented in photography and placed each one in a separate group. This way each group had someone talented in photography, writing, drawing…and so on. In the groups, students were able to discuss their common interests. There were some restrictions placed on the class assignment, but the students also had plenty of room to be creative with their ideas. At the end of the semester, the groups presented their public art pieces to the class. Each group member was required to speak at least once during their presentation. Last year’s winning public art piece included a swing-set and a musical stage for performing. Gina said that for next year’s class, she should add more restrictions to the assignment. Her students thought that more restrictions would make creating a public art piece easier. Gina mentioned near the end of her presentation, that she also receives messages from the First Alert System, which allows her to intervene before it is too late for a student.

Last to present was Jeff Marlett. Jeff started off his presentation by explaining that, in contrast to Lai-Monté and Gina, he works with students of all majors and he gets to see all students on campus, even though it may only be once. He refers to his department (Ethics, Values, & Religious Studies) as the “Iceberg Department”, because there is a little bit above the surface, but a lot more underneath. Jeff mentioned that in 2008, he was asked to give a presentation for a previous Provision’s session, Teaching First Year Students. He spoke about an academic student and learning outcome assessment program that he and some colleagues started in 2008. Jeff’s main focal point of the presentation was about bridging the gap between instructors and their class material. Through the use of humor, personal narratives, and popular culture,  Jeff believes he can help bridge the gap. He said he shares his own narratives, sometimes with the use of profanity, to show the students that “he is alive.” He believes that use of his own narratives will encourage students to find and tell their own, in order to connect with the material.  Popular culture and social media serve as a framework for first year college students because it shows the similarities between the students. He said that it doesn’t matter where the college students come from because they have the same technology to “level the playing field.” The leveling experience of all student’s being subjected to the same expectations shows them that “we’re all in this together.” Regardless of which generation a student is, Jeff ultimately wants his students to be connected with the material and to be able to discuss the material appropriately.

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

  • It is not uncommon for first year/first generation students to be unaware of the expectations and responsibilities of college.
  • Self-regulation and autonomy skills are essential for college success but often require improvement.
  • Bridging the gap by clearly defining expectations of college, and by being aware of assumptions.
  • There is a need for improved communication among faculty, and among the campus as a whole.
  • Faculty need to communicate their accessibility and availability to students, and also make sure to be flexible in the process.
  • Should professor expectations vary for first generation students?

Please join us for our upcoming Tuesday, November 17th session on “Teaching Non-Traditional Students. Provisions’ sessions are 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!!

April Provisions Session – Teaching First Year Students: Provisions Fellows Present

To listen to the podcast from the session, click here

Our final provisions session of the year explored the theme of ‘Teaching First Year Students’. An audience of 25 were in attendance to hear a joint presentation from Provisions Fellows Peter Koonz, Serials and Electronic Resources Librarian and Jennifer Marlow, Assistant Professor of English (Composition and New Media). Koonz and Dr. Marlow had spent the last year collaborating together on a project to bring information literacy to Dr. Marlow’s first-year writing class, and this is what they had to share:

Koonz kicked off the presentation by explaining the pair’s process over the past year. Koonz and Marlow set up bi-weekly meetings where they would get together to discuss the common readings they had assigned each other, and share their thoughts and ideas.  Among the concepts that the pair had researched were the transfer of knowledge, how expertise is achieved within a domain, theories of human cognition and memory, and composition theory in first-year writing.

Dr. Marlow then took to the floor to provide the audience with details about her first-year writing course. Dr. Marlow explained that she considers the first-year writing classroom as an environment where students can be both welcomed to the college and provided with essential writing skills that will serve them well throughout their time at college and in their future endeavors. Dr. Marlow began her journey in this collaboration by addressing the research question of “Does a flipped first-year writing classroom help facilitate transferable knowledge of the writing process?” In her research, Dr. Marlow found that leading scholars on the subject attest that transfer is indeed possible and that teaching for transfer was a realistic goal. In the field of rhetoric and composition, Dr. Marlow discovered that there was a dearth of research when it came to its connection with transfer. She continued by detailing the concept of the flipped classroom. Dr. Marlow explained that, in a flipped classroom environment, the teacher acts very much as a guide on the side rather than being the central focus of the class. Another difference is that activities and assignments that are usually done at home are instead carried out in class. Outside of the classroom, students engage in watching online lectures, discussions and other multimedia based activities. In Dr. Marlow’s first-year writing class, this was the case too; the act of writing was saved for the classroom, while discussion and delivery of other course-related material was worked on outside of the classroom. Dr. Marlow used the web-based writing program 750words.com in each lesson to encourage her students to write a minimum of 750 words per class, on top of the essays and other writing projects that the students had. The online peer-review platform ‘Elireview’ was also used in the classroom. Dr. Marlow explained that this website was useful in the respect that it helped her students to become more critical thinkers and better writers after having revised their work based on peer feedback. The process helped Dr. Marlow’s students to become more effective metacognitive learners. By inverting the classroom, Dr. Marlow hoped to create a distraction free writing zone for her students. In the spirit of flipping, Dr. Marlow also changed the order of the assignments and projects. Normally, the students start with what are considered to be more personal and exploratory pieces, before eventually ending with a researched essay. However, in the flipped classroom, the students were set the researched essay at the beginning of the semester. One of Dr. Marlow’s main objectives were for her students to learn how to ‘follow a citation trail’ from the bibliography of a previously assigned reading.

Koonz stepped back in to detail his findings from a report that shed light on students’ struggles with research. There are a whole of issues that students encounter when making the leap from high school research to college resarch: students can have trouble coming up with key words, they can find it difficult to winnow out the good research from the bad research, and there is, as well, an over reliance on using Google and Wikipedia as search tools. Koonz found that students do, however, make their own adaptations when confronted with their first research assignment at college: many students start to use Google Scholar, which is a more appropriate academic resource, they learn to read abstracts to decipher the value of articles, and they also follow the citations in their articles to find other, similar resources.  Koonz admitted that he was impressed with these self-made adaptations, but affirms that the process is still disjointed and uncoordinated without expert help (which librarians can provide).  Koonz continued by explaining that during research assignments, the teacher will contact the library and often set-up a meeting between the students and the library instructors. This can be a difficult process because the librarians often have no prior relationships to speak of with both students and teachers. There is also the issue of trying to provide the most useful, relevant library instruction within the limited timeframe. Another aspect that is problematic for library instructors is that of assessment; it is particularly difficult to get assessment data back with this model.  Koonz went to say that, after reading for ProVisions over the summer, he concluded that the concept of flipped classrooms was the perfect model for library instruction. After having contacted Dr. Marlow, it was decided that the pair would test the model in her first-year writing class. For Dr Marlow’s class, Koonz explained that he, first, familiarized himself with the students’ assignments, and then proceeded to create a series of instructional videos to help those students make use of the library resources. After the students had watched the videos, Koonz came to the classroom where he helped to answer questions and offer suggestions while they worked on their assignments. Through this opportunity in Dr. Marlows’ class, Koonz stated that he was able to resolve those previous inherent challenges of library instruction: for the students, the videos helped to create a familiarity with Koonz before entering the classroom, there was also now ample time to relay instruction, and assessment became all the more straightforward with Koonz able to see, in person, how the students were faring, and in what areas they needed help. Koonz concluded by explaining how positive the flipped classroom experience was, as well as sharing his optimism that the model could work in a wide range of different course in the future.

In the final part of the presentation, Dr. Marlow returned to the floor. She resumed by spelling out the importance of teaching for transfer. Dr. Marlow explained that transfer is not a spontaneous process, and that it is crucial that faculty facilitate and foster transfer by creating an environment of well-designed instruction. Within the field of rhetoric and composition, it is important for the students to gain a level of ‘general/local’ knowledge. Presenting research that she reviewed, Dr. Marlow explained that, in order to try to achieve this knowledge, many colleges have a first-year general writing course, followed by a writing intensive course later in their major. However, Dr. Marlow’s research stated that it would be more effective to add a further course in between the general and intensive classes. It is also recommended that writing is integrated into all coursework and across the curriculum. Lastly, it would be helpful for faculty from all disciplines to collaborate with the first-writing program instructors. Dr. Marlow went on to explain that a writing curriculum that teaches for transfer would have more writing in the early stages of the students’ time at college, as well as a Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) program that offers faculty the opportunity to collaborate, and incorporate discipline specific instruction. To conclude, Dr. Marlow clarified the differences between flipping instruction and flipping the classroom. In the flipped classroom, the in-class content is moved outside of the classroom, while homework moves inside. Flipping instruction, on the other hand, is more of a singular teaching experience like Dr. Marlow’s and Koonz’s collaboration. Lastly, on the topic of student feedback, Dr. Marlow disclosed that a high percentage of her class regarded both 750 words and flipped library instruction as having made a big difference in enhancing their learning experience.

After the presentation had concluded, the floor was opened up for questions and discussions. These were a few points and observations that arose:

  • It is common for students to be more preoccupied with simply producing and finishing the work, and not metacognitively analyzing their learning process.
  • Faculty collaboration is crucial; the process can provide valuable insight into their students’ academic progress and performances.
  • It is important to develop a ‘writing habit’ in students.
  • Students enjoy and benefit from working in a distraction free space.
  • Further links must be established between librarians and professors and collaboration opportunities should be explored.
  • It would be beneficial for students to be explicitly aware of the writing objectives required of them in each discipline.

To listen to the podcast from the session, click here

To view Dr. Marlow’s handouts from the session, click on these links – DEW midterm project & Citation Trail library worksheet

September Provisions: Teaching First Year Students

Our first Provisions session of the year kicked off with the topic of “Teaching First Year Students.” The presenters, who so kindly volunteered to impart their knowledge to the 38-strong audience, were Dr. Jelane Kennedy, Counseling and CCSA, Mary Fitzsimmons, Director of HEOP (Higher Education Opportunity Program) & AOE (Academic Opportunity Experience) and Dr. Shirlee Dufort, Writing Center Director.

Jelane Kennedy was the first to present. She chose to talk about Arthur W. Chickering and his theory of identity development. Chickering’s theory features seven vectors of development:

  • Developing Competence – Intellectual, Physical and Interpersonal
  • Managing Emotions
  • Moving through Autonomy toward Interdependence
  • Developing Mature Interpersonal relationships
  • Establishing Identity
  • Developing Purpose
  • Developing Integrity

These vectors or stages all make up how one’s identity is developed, particularly throughout a student’s life in higher education. After giving a brief run through of each vector, Dr. Kennedy focused in on three that are of the most significance for First Year Students:

  • Competence – Trying to adjust to the realities of college life. There are many new obstacles and transitions that High School Students must face when making the leap to college. There are so many new tasks and experiences that they may have not encountered before. They may have to deal with basics such as making their own dinner, doing their own laundry and more demanding homework. On top of that, they must learn how to find time for their personal leisure activities, and get along with roommates and professors, as well as learning a new academic schedule.
  • Managing Emotions – There are a lot of emotions in those first few weeks of college: How do I connect to people? How to make new friends? Feeling homesick (leaving behind friends, family and partners). They have to be able to cope and deal with a range of emotions and the questions that emanate from them.
  • Moving through Autonomy toward Interdependence – A need for approval and feedback. Academic feedback is regular from K through 12 but may be less abundant in those first weeks in college. There is also a desire for personal feedback: Do people like me? They may have yet to reach the point where they don’t care about what people think and are comfortable just being themselves.

Dr. Kennedy provided a handout that followed up on the stages faced by students as they continue their academic journey – Chickering

Up next was Mary Fitzsimmons, who, as well as being the director of the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), teaches English 105 (a First Year Program).  She began her presentation by commenting how different St. Rose can appear to students who are not from the local area. For example, students from New York City had commented that the campus seemed like a park to them. Another girl shared that it was the first time she had had to cross four lanes of traffic.

In English 105, Fitzsimmons said that she liked to communicate individually and privately with her students. One way she does this is through the form of an online assignment; the students do a journal and are also asked a check-in question such as, “Is everything going okay in the program?” Fitzsimmons feels that by initiating direct communication with her, the student starts to feel more comfortable. She mentioned a student who came up to her after class and posed  the question, “How do I make friends?” – A question that really emphasizes the struggle, for some students, during those initial weeks at college. Through her dual role in student affairs, she said that it is easier to be more of an ambassador of the college for students. Fitzsimmons encouraged other members of the faculty to do the same by knowing who their partners are on campus, and in turn, knowing where to direct any in-need students. In her role as Director of AOE, Fitzsimmons invites students to attend a presentation that gives advice on how best to adapt to the standards they have to live up to at College.

Fitzsimmons continued by introducing the role of the AOE, where 1st year students are able to get assistance in making the transition both academically and socially. The students have a well planned schedule which allows them to attend workshops, get tutoring, and have structured study, as well as to gain help moving in, and to enjoy a celebration dinner to welcome the new arrivals. Fitzsimmons sees this early start orientation as a way to create community, comfort, and a challenge.

Last on the floor was Shirlee Dufort, director of the Writing Center. As part of her work with the AOE, she assigned students to write a research paper in five days. The main goals of this process were to walk through the stages of writing the paper, make it virtually impossible to plagiarize, and to collaborate academically. Over these five days, the students learned a lot about college writing, and the experience would no doubt hold them in good stead for future challenges. Here is Dr. Dufort’s handout from the presentation, which goes into detail about the five day experience – Shirlee Dufort Handout

After the presentations, during the Question & Answer session, some interesting points and observations were made by various members of the faculty:

  • Faculty should recommend help from specific individuals to struggling students, to add a personal touch.
  • Having academic coaches check up on students would be beneficial.
  • Students need to know where help and resources are for them on campus.
  • Self-motivation is key; while professors may provide inspiration, students are ultimately responsible for their personal growth.
  • Faculty should strive to put themselves in their students’ shoes, and try to remember what it’s like to be a beginner.
  • Make deals with students; give them the opportunity to improve. For example, a student given a poor first grade on a paper was given the chance to rewrite it in the office of the professor, and the new grade was averaged with the initial grade.

To listen to a podcast from the session, check out our soundcloud page at http://www.soundcloud.com/stroseprovisions