With the September 2018 change of the Learning Council’s size and composition to better meet its mission, the Wednesday, July 17, 2019, Learning Council meeting kicked off with a discussion on how the new structure is working and suggestions on how to make the most of future meetings.
Council members shared suggestions such as: provide opportunities to disclose ideas in small groups before reporting out to the larger group; allow more time to review and discuss work proposals during the presentation stage; change to monthly meetings, to be held on a rotating basis in the three College regions, providing increased opportunities to advance the work; establish a deadline to provide materials for the agenda; and share agendas with members one week in advance.
Other meeting topics discussed included:
Learning Council Co-chair Thank You
As Al Groccia’s term as immediate past president of the Faculty Council is coming to an end, this was Al’s last meeting as Learning Council co-chair. Isis Artze-Vega, vice president, academic affairs, and Learning Council co-chair, and the group expressed their gratitude for his leadership, as well as the stability he brought to the Council during leadership transitions.
John Niss will become the Learning Council co-chair and Faculty Association immediate past president in August 2019.
Start Right: Late Start Proposal
One of the six hypotheses related to the conditions that affect student learning and outcomes at Valencia was related to the success of students who attend New Student Orientation (NSO) close to the start of the term. An insight team assembled to explore this hypothesis and discovered that students who attend orientation the week before the start of the term are less successful in their courses. This team recommended that the College not offer NSO the week before the start of full-term classes. When this change was recommended at Big Meeting, the general feedback was that the recommendation was incomplete, and there was significant interest in exploring how to best support students who attend NSO late, in addition to offering NSO the week before the start of the full term. As a result, the Learning Council commissioned a Start Right work team in March of this year.
Council member feedback included that the draft work proposal’s charge assumed the solution to supporting students who attend NSO one week prior to the start of the fall-term semester was to offer special, late-start NSO classes. However, the council countered that the issue still requires a deeper understanding of the issue, which can be achieved by posing questions and challenges, as well as exploring trends and characteristics through data analysis. They also felt that the focus on NSO was misguided, in that the issue appears to be the fact that some students are beginning their Valencia enrollment and application process at a late stage. As a result of this feedback, the proposal will be reframed to shift the focus from NSO to the broader “late start” challenge. Reframing the proposal will also open the charge, so that additional potential solutions and strategies can be explored.
Hypotheses and Focused Inquiry Teams
As three of our hypotheses related to the conditions that affect student learning and outcomes at Valencia required additional study, the Council devised an additional step in its processes: the focused inquiry team. To advance the Learning Outcomes efforts, focused inquiry teams will analyze each of the three hypotheses further to determine if additional inquiry will assist Learning Council in commissioning work to support student learning and outcomes.
During this meeting, the Council discussed work related to the focused inquiry teams for two of those hypotheses.
Hypothesis 1: Course attendance and withdrawal policies may have unintended consequences; some students who are withdrawn may not experience a sense of belonging and may withdraw from courses on their own when it may not be advisable to do so.
Council members provided feedback on the hypothesis’ focus inquiry team proposal, specifically on section 2 of the proposal regarding the charge — to separate the course attendance and withdrawal hypothesis into smaller testable hypotheses that help inform the Council in the feasibility and potential impact of commissioning work in this area. To review the proposal, click here.
Council feedback included a request to see data regarding both student and instructor initiated withdrawals; to provide the workgroup with an initial data set with which to begin their study; and to consider both the positive and negative impacts of withdrawal as faculty often withdraw students to try to help them.
Hypothesis 3: Students may benefit from more diverse pedagogical approaches to create a more inclusive learning environment that fosters a sense of belonging.
The Council selected the third hypothesis to discuss for the remainder of the meeting and broke into groups of three to develop suggestions for the focused inquiry team proposal. The groups engaged in dialogue regarding how to determine how inclusive teaching and modality impact student success, and how we can measure a sense of belonging. Participants also considered the importance of reviewing existing data showing student engagement in classes and analyzing learning experiences that occur inside and outside of the classroom.
Several Council members felt the hypothesis language could hinder the team’s work, since it seems to combine several ideas, such as instructional practices, inclusive teaching and sense of belonging. Wendi Dew, assistant vice president, teaching and learning, proposed using the umbrella term, “equity-minded practice,” which can be used both inside and outside of the classroom.
The Learning Council will meet again on Thursday, September 5, 2019, location TBD.