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I’m More of a Thought Collector than a Thought Leader, Okay?

As I listened to President Swenson’s afternoon keynote with the challenge to think about the process of learning rather than just focusing on the process of teaching, I realized something significant that I probably wouldn’t have keyed on so specifically without his prompt: It seems like these TLC 2019 conference presentations showed a marked shift from thinking from the instructor’s teaching perspective towards thinking from the student perspective. Is it my selective attention? Over-interpretation? A real difference from previous years in how we spoke about practices in our learning contexts? Do other conference participants notice our shift? I have a feeling it’s “all of the above.”

The student perspective was in our presentations in previous years, but we were more interested in how the instructor could perfect their attitudes, philosophies and communication processes to get the student outcomes we were seeking…rather than addressing why it seemed the student outcomes were not showing as much impact as we hoped to see.

This year we unequivocally addressed the process of learning from the student perspective…and these presentation proposals were written long before the Halloween restructuring news. We’ve been evolving in our perspectives to start questioning the dynamic elements in the learning process from the student perspective. Here are examples of that shift just from Wednesday’s presentations, where 11 of 16 presentations showed a solid connection to the student perspective in the learning process.

  1. Can We Be “Friends” with Our Students? By Yolanda Harper and Trevor Belcher

  2. Champs Peer mentoring – Innovating Student Support Outside the Classroom Environment by Evan Gray

  3. What Doctoral Students Need to Know: Advice from Other Doctoral Students by Peggy Sundstrom, Todd Fiore, and Theresa Sunblade

  4. Innovative Examples of Educational Technology: CGI, 3D Animation, and Vurtual Environments by Michelle Lekkerkerk, Daniel Eues and Jeffrey Simmons

  5. HP5: Make Your Classroom Interactive by Sarah Sonognini and Jamie Lin

  6. Interventions for Student Retention by Jennifer Robinson, Kathleen Kelley and Debby Hailwood

  7. Learning Communities in the Online Environment: Designing an Evidence-Based Pilot by Stephanie Fink and Matthew Laubacher

  8. Lighting the Path – Making Connections Between Classes and Towards Careers by Nathan Pritts

  9. What’s the Influence of Student Organizations on Students’ Success? by Ben Gothia, Richard Bodo, Ronald Beach, Myke McCune, Jamie Lynn King and Katie Thiery

  10. Feedback, What Is It Good For? A Call to Build Students’ “Feedback Literacy” Skills by Cherie Ketchum, Daria LaFave, Chelsey Yeats, and Elaine Phompheng

  11. Preventing Plagiarism: Strategies for Reducing Academic Dishonesty Incidents in the Classroom by Adam Gutschmidt and Shari Schwartz

President Swenson spoke particularly about how every course should regularly show how the course learning might be deployed or applied in situated contexts. I rejoiced when I heard him say that, because instructors have asked whether their discussion replies should focus more on scholarly articles and other resources that connect with the discussion topics, or should they spend time giving examples of how the knowledge is deployed in their professional roles or daily lives. Some felt the latter had less value for being narrative rather than “scholarly.” In fact, these stories are an important step to help students see the value of the course content to their future roles. Our situated narratives from our professional lives are examples of how we have been addressing the course content from the students’ perspectives, making memorable examples of how the knowledge becomes power in real life contexts.

We’re on the right track. I see that in spades when I go to conferences and compare what we’ve learned and accomplished with what people from other schools are learning about the process of learning, but we still have a way to go. Authors, presenters and partners associated with the 2019 Indianapolis Assessment Institute strenuously urge educators to keep questioning and testing the actual impact on student learning of our methods and ideas. This is an act of institutional accountability that we in higher education need to see as a mandate. Let’s keep questioning everything we do so we can feel confident about where we’re going!

Dr. Marjorie Estivill

Faculty Support and Development Associate II

Ashford University / Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning

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