Learning Council Explores and Discusses the Impact of Learning Partnerships

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The Learning Council met on Thursday, November 4, 2021, to review progress toward its articulated 2021-2022 goals shared at the October meeting, identify how its work as a council can directly influence student outcomes and explore how learning partnerships impact students’ graduation goals.

Learning Partnerships

In an effort to build its capacity for learning and understand how to implement equity-minded strategies into the learning experience for students, the Learning Council has been engaged in reading Zaretta Hammond’s book “Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain.” Over the past several months, members have discussed a variety of topics including levels of culture, information processing, neuroscience, culturally responsive teaching and, most recently, learning partnerships.

During the November meeting, Council members engaged in conversations in which they discussed three main questions: (1) How do you create a sense of trust and safety with the students you teach/interact with?; (2) How has the impact of the pandemic changed how you build relationships with students?; and (3) How do you see your work (i.e., interactions, teaching, relationships, etc.) impacting our students’ graduation goals?

Creating a Sense of Trust and Safety

Zaretta Hammond shares in her book, “Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain,” that, “in addition to building trust through acts of caring and authentic listening, we can build trust by being more authentic, vulnerable, and in sync with our students.” Members of the Learning Council were encouraged to think about the ways in which they create a sense of trust, rapport and safety with their students.

Here’s a sampling of what they shared:

  • Recognize the importance of aligning “words” with “actions”
  • Create opportunities for students to know each other and their instructor
  • Build flexibility into scoring,  grading and attendance policies
  • Help students get connected to the resources and support they need
  • Enable students to use their voice and embrace their individuality
  • Express empathy and genuine concern
  • Cultivate an environment of authenticity and vulnerability
  • Listen to students without judgment

Cultivating Student Relationships in the Midst of a Pandemic

COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact across all institutions of higher education, Valencia included. Although it may be easy to identify the ways we have been negatively impacted by the pandemic, it’s even more important to identify the ways we have been strategic and innovative in our approaches to connect with students. These new ways of interacting allow us to cultivate meaningful student relationships. Council members shared how the impact of the pandemic changed how they have built relationships with students:

  • Being able to offer small class sizes has been transformative, as these smaller classes allow for more one-on-one sessions
  • Having online conferencing tools available like Zoom have allowed for increased flexibility for student engagement hours
  • Using email to communicate with students more frequently throughout the week creates more “check-in” opportunities
  • Offering support and resources in a variety of modalities allows us to reach more students than before

How Our Works Makes a Difference

As a way to continue the conversation that took place during November’s Leadership Forum, the Council spent time gaining a deeper understanding of the Graduation goal area of the Strategic Impact Plan.

First, the group noted how Zaretta Hammond relates culturally responsive teaching (CRT) to student success: “While the achievement gap has created the epidemic of dependent learners, CRT is one of our most powerful tools for helping students find their way out of the gap.” Members were encouraged to think about how they envision their work at the College impacting our students’ graduation goals, and they offered the following insights:

  • Create spaces that are welcoming and promote trust and safety
  • Help students navigate systems and processes that are not always user-friendly
  • Make efforts to ensure the language/terminology we use to discuss student success is framed within an anti-deficit lens and inclusive
  • Work to identify barriers to student success and formulate equity-minded solutions

NEXT MEETING

The next Learning Council meeting will be held in January via Zoom.

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