Learning Council Solidifies Goals, Identifies Strategies from the Equity FIT and Explores Deep Learning

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

The Learning Council met on Thursday, October 7, 2021, to solidify its goals for academic year 2021-2022 based on the goal exercise members completed during the September meeting, identify strategies from the Focused Inquiry Team on Equity-minded Practice (Equity FIT) that would most powerfully advance Valencia’s equitable goals and should be commissioned to work teams, and explore the meaning of deep learning.

Solidifying Goals

During the September meeting, the Council took time to identify connections and draft goals for the upcoming year in relation to the “big rocks” that represent the context of their work (i.e., governance refresh, institutional plans, academic leadership searches, and new teaching and service models). The goal exercise generated several responses. The co-chair team spent time sorting the responses into these themes.

Once the themes were identified, the co-chair team synthesized the themes into four draft high-level goals. The intention of narrowing the focus of the goals was to capture the essence and intentionality of the ideation exercise. The draft goals are:

  1. Solidify the Learning Council’s role and focus on learning, while complementing and supporting the work of the new strategic councils.
  2. Prioritize the learning-focused work named in institutional plans and continue aligning our efforts to Impact Plan goals.
  3. Provide direct support to current and forthcoming leadership searches.
  4. Study the relationship between course modality and learning, plus that between service modality and learning, to help inform the College’s planning.

Identifying Strategies

The Focused Inquiry Team on Equity-minded Practice (Equity FIT) originated in the Learning Council, and is co-chaired by Shara Lee, campus director, faculty and instructional development, and Marsha Butler, faculty, New Student Experience. The Equity FIT, composed of more than 30 team members from across the College, was charged by the Learning Council with identifying evidence-based, equity-minded practices in both pedagogy and curriculum. Shara and Marsha led the Council through a prioritization exercise where Council members were asked:

  1. Which recommendations from the Equity FIT would you like to move forward to commission work teams?
  2. For each recommendation, should the work be stand-alone or added to existing work?
  3. What underlying principles or hypotheses were behind your decisions?
  4. What criteria should the Learning Council use for prioritizing the recommendations?

The exercise resulted in members prioritizing the following three strategies to commission work teams:

  • Foster and build a sense of belonging.
  • Teach students HOW TO LEARN: College success skills such as metacognition and the normalization of support services be integrated into all gateway courses.
  • More intensively utilize community and on-campus resources to support students’ basic needs.

Exploring Deep Learning

Melonie Sexton, professor, psychology, engaged Council members in a discussion about deep learning. Melonie facilitated a “mini lesson” where she shared her knowledge and expertise in neuroscience and cognitive psychology. By doing so, she challenged members to reflect on how they learn and how those preferences may influence how members teach and interact with students. She gave the council a few powerful tips to help our students learn deeply:

  • Find Connections. Go beyond just the neuroscience, apply computational neuroscience and look for patterns/algorithms.
  • Utilize Whole Brain Teaching. Try to engage every part of the brain in learning. The prefrontal cortex AND the limbic system.
  • Embrace Embodied Cognition. This is the idea that learning does not only occur in the brain. Get the entire nervous system involved in problem-solving and creative thinking.
  • Apply Meaning. Semantic Processing is the deepest level of processing. Information is more likely to be committed to memory, when there is meaning attached to the content.


The next Learning Council meeting will be held on Thursday, November 4, 2021, from 2 – 5 p.m. via Zoom.

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