Many of the workshops this semester are quite inspiring, especially this past week’s presentation by Dr. McGuire from LSU. Her foundational learning strategies can have a profound impact on struggling students, turning likely failure into potential success.

Earlier in the semester we had some debates in our seminars about the range of students we have in our classrooms and the inevitability for some of failure in an academic environment. Dr. McGuire challenges this inevitability, pointing instead to the underlying mechanics of the students’ approach to their academic work. Faculty take it for granted that students come to our classrooms with obvious academic skills and understanding how to apply the skills. When we see them struggle, our assumption is usually that a lack of effort or discipline is the primary cause. I am as guilty of this assumption as anyone.┬áDr. McGuire shows us, however, that we cannot make these assumptions. Instead, we must recognize the importance of teaching our students the underlying skills and learning strategies that can lead to clear improvement.

I was most struck by the now obvious power of talking to students about their own understanding of levels of learning, especially by presenting Bloom’s Taxonomy. Why should we keep our intensive discussions of learning process to ourselves? Along the long road of our students’ education, how many of their teachers shared the very pedagogical thinking/body of work that guides so many of the activities in the classroom? College is certainly a good place to lift the veil and share openly our pedagogical thinking to our students.

 

Sheepshead Bay Survey

Demolition Debris Still Litters Some Homes in the Neighborhood

This was a poignant and critical taste of academic service learning for me. I was trying for weeks to image from the comfort of my apartment on a hill in Manhattan that will never see flood damage (unless it is the end of times….) what the people of coastal neighborhoods went through. I never made the effort to swipe my metro card and go see for myself, until now. Seeing things for yourself and trying to find even a brief (15 minute) relationship with someone in the neighborhood (thanks to the local volunteers and very gracious home owners) ┬áplaces such a tragedy into your own sphere of reference, which is something to build upon to take positive steps for the future.

Most important to me was the time listening on the door step or in the foyer to the experience of that night in October, the strong belief that nothing was going to happen in that neighborhood, the sudden realization (to late) that it was happening, the fear and stress of water rising at your doorstep and not knowing when it would stop or go away. I definitely needed to hear this to have any sense at all what they went through and are still going through.

In regard to emergency preparedness for the future, communication of quality information, neighborhood by neighborhood, is the most fundamental requirement. The survey sparked strong and thoughtful responses from the residents as they turned their experience into a learning opportunity for everyone. This perhaps I appreciated most of all.