How Important are the Following Factors to Student Achievement?

Survey results among K-12 teachers as published in "Mindset in the Classroom: A National Study of K-12 Teachers," p. 15, 2016. Student engagement and motivation was the most important (82% of teachers rating it very important), followed by percentages rating as very important: teaching quality (69%), school climate (67%), school safety (61%), social and emotional learning (61%), parental support and engagement (59%), use of growth mindset with students (53%), school discipline policies (39%), and family background (27%).

Survey results among K-12 teachers as published in “Mindset in the Classroom: A National Study of K-12 Teachers,” p. 15, 2016. Student engagement and motivation was the most important (82% of teachers rating it very important), followed by percentages rating as very important: teaching quality (69%), school climate (67%), school safety (61%), social and emotional learning (61%), parental support and engagement (59%), use of growth mindset with students (53%), school discipline policies (39%), and family background (27%).

Engaging or Ignoring the Disorienting Dilemma: Entitlement to Opinion?

Recently released results of a survey of K-12 teachers indicate that by a wide margin the factor most often reported as “very important” for student achievement is “student engagement and motivation” (Education Week Research Center, 2016, p. 15).

While the question in the survey related to students’ academic achievement, would your response as a college faculty member be the same, “Very important,” if the question were worded, “How important are student engagement and motivation for subsequent student transformative learning?”

In other words, is engagement a prerequisite for transformation?

The very definition of Transformative Learning (TL) indicates engagement is necessary because critical reflection — or even just thinking at a non-critically reflective level about an encounter with a disorienting dilemma — means you have engaged with the alternate idea:

Generally, transformative learning occurs when a person encounters a perspective that is at odds with his or her current perspective. This discrepant perspective can be ignored, or it can lead to an examination of previously held beliefs, values, and assumptions. When the latter is the case, the potential for transformative learning exists, though it does not occur until the individual changes in noticeable ways. (Kroth & Cranton, 2014, p. 3)

As described above by Kroth and Cranton, one of the options after encountering the disorienting dilemma (“discrepant perspective” in the language they use) is to simply ignore it. In that case, there would be no engagement with the different viewpoint or value or belief.

It’s frequently possible to identify students who are taking the no-engagement route because they say something like, “Well, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion,” and leave the opportunity for reflection in the dust of non-engagement. Another expression indicating there won’t be any potential for transformation might be, “Okay, let’s just agree to disagree,” though this statement at least implies there has been an exchange that might in the future have one or both parties reflect on why there was a mutually agreed-upon decision about the disagreement.

It’s certainly not the case that all disagreements need to be thought of as requirements to transform one’s beliefs. But to simply leave any conversation without considering the difference between the other’s perspective and one’s own — in other words, not to engage with the alternate viewpoint expressed — definitely stops reflection in its tracks.

Patrick Stokes, philosophy professor at Deakin University in Australia, tries to prevent students from avoiding the loss of potential transformative opportunities when they are tempted to use the “entitled to your own opinion” strategy:

. . . I say something like this: “I’m sure you’ve heard the expression ‘everyone is entitled to their opinion.’ Perhaps you’ve even said it yourself, maybe to head off an argument or bring one to a close. Well, as soon as you walk into this room, it’s no longer true. You are not entitled to your opinion. You are only entitled to what you can argue for.”

A bit harsh? Perhaps, but philosophy teachers owe it to our students to teach them how to construct and defend an argument — and to recognize when a belief has become indefensible. (Stokes, 2012)

opinion graphic

By taking this stance, Stokes charges his students with the responsibility of engagement.

If students have the tools to recognize when a belief has become indefensible, then any beliefs they hold that fit that definition become disorienting dilemmas with the potential to trigger a transformative realization.

Stokes closes his article by recommending you ask people who say, “Everyone’s entitled to their opinion,” why they think that.

It’s a challenging question: If the statement is true, then entitlement to an opinion that cannot be supported by the facts means that opinions, even one’s own, are trivial because — clearly! — there are opinions that are factually indefensible. On the other hand, if opinions are not trivial, then the only opinions that constitute a true entitlement must be those supportable by facts and evidence.

Eliminating the “everyone’s entitled” cop-out forces students to examine their own opinions and the opinions of others.

And helping students develop the skill of evaluating opinions primes them for engagement with any number of disorienting dilemmas.

 

References

Kroth, M., & Cranton, P. (2014). Fostering transformative learning. International Issues in Adult Education, 14: Stories of Transformative Learning, 1-12. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.

Mindset in the Classroom: A National Study of K-12 Teachers. (2016). Benthesda, MD: Education Week Research Center. Available: http://www.edweek.org/media/ewrc_mindsetintheclassroom_sept2016.pdf

Stokes, P. (2012, October 4). No, you’re not entitled to your own opinion. The Conversation. Available: http://theconversation.com/no-youre-not-entitled-to-your-opinion-9978

Marketing Professor Reflects on President Betz’ conversation on “What are we doing here?”

Author: Dr. Jeri Jones-

The UCO teacher center, the Center for Excellence in Transformative Teaching and Learning (CETTL), holds a monthly informal discussion called the Socrates and Stein Café.  Modeling the early French Salons and Socrates, UCO faculty are invited to come and share thoughts over cookies and tea on a big question in the academy. Every month is a different question. Faculty participating in the 21st Century Pedagogy Institute are asked to write a post-session critical reflection about their experience. Jeri Jones (UCO Associate Professor of Marketing) selected a few themes from the November 16, 2016 session lead by President Don Betz to reflect upon as they relate to her life as a faculty member.

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I found this seminar to be particularly interesting as I enter the latter part of my academic career.  It was interesting to hear President Betz speak about the difference in faculty perspectives from faculty at the beginning of their careers versus those at the end of their careers while pondering “what am I doing here?”  During this seminar I jotted down a few phrases that had particular relevance for me and what I learned or thought about them.  I would like to discuss a few of these for my reflection piece.

“Never make a student feel they are not important enough for 30 seconds”

This really was quite profound and I can think back on my career when there were times when I asked a student to come back at another time because it was not a good time for me.  Now I realize that I need to meet students at times that are good for them and it cannot always be about me.  When students wanted to meet me to discuss something I would start the conversation by telling them when I was available on campus instead of starting by asking them when it would be convenient for them to meet me.  Now I also give students my cell phone and let them call me whenever they need help.  I know many of these students are working on homework at night and that is when they probably need the help so I tell them to feel free to call me at night.  In all honesty—it doesn’t disrupt my work life balance to take a 30 second phone call from them or answer a text.

“You have to cultivate the kind of community you want to be in”    

This really hits home for me as a faculty member. I really cannot stand it when a faculty member only complains, as I shared a lot of this behavior in my own past. The culture of a place is a direct result of the kind of participation, respect and attention we give to each other.  Now,  I try to jump in and become involved with many things on campus and be part of the solution and not part of the problem.  Criticism has always come easy for me but being part of the solution is something with which I struggle.  Now, I volunteer, I do a lot of training and workshops as it keeps me connected with faculty/staff and innovation and allows me to see not only the problems but work on solutions at the same time in a positive environment.  I try not to align myself with complainers but with people with positive attitudes.  I want to be in an innovative and positive environment where NOT attempting to try something is frowned upon rather than attempting something that failed.  This is a culture that needs to be supported and encouraged and I want to be in a place that does this.  Toward that end, it is my responsibility to help cultivate this environment.  Embarrassingly, this also made me reflect on times when I was not cultivating the kind of environment that I wanted to be in.  There were times when I was the rain storm and now I have to reflect back and wonder why I did that when there were probably other things I could have done better to bring about positive change.

“We have responsibility to continue on in the right spirit”

While we have a responsibility to cultivate our own environment, sometimes it is still not the right place for that person anymore.  This was quite impactful for me.  Sometimes we need to move on and change can be a good thing when you feel you no longer fit where you are.  Tenure is not a prison!

“The learner thrives in times of great change” 

I think this sums up my thirst for faculty development and my desire to participate in the UCO’s 21st Century Pedagogy Institute.  Change is difficult for me and I have found that immersing myself in faculty development activities reduces my stress.  First it makes me ready for the change.  I feel I am better equipped to deal with change when I have been trained to not only expect it– but embrace it.  Second I feel like I am staying current with the flow and not being left behind.  I hate when I attend something of relevance to me and I feel like everyone else knows what they are talking about except me.  I have learned I can change that by keeping myself informed.  It is also a great way to keep connected and not feel alone in a place of a thousand people.

Evolutionary and Revolutionary Transformative Learning

 

Kroth and Boverie (2009) developed a 4-cell grid to conceptualize the mix between the speed of Transformative Learning (TL, which they characterize as “Discovering”) and whether the TL occurred because the prompt to change was imposed from outside or because the learner intentionally put herself into the transformative scenario:

4-cell grid. Vertical axis shows speed with which TL happens, horizontal axis shows whether the TL has been imposed from without or from within. Top left cell is "Initial Trauma, Major Shock." Bottom left cell is "Series of Disturbances to Belief Systems." Top right cell is "Epiphany, Enlightenment." Bottom right cell is "Series of Generative Explorations into Beliefs."

Quadrant 1 represents a transformative event that is imposed on a student. In other words, she has no control over whether she is exposed to, or part of, the event or not. Experiencing the event, though, causes a lasting change in her sense of self or how she relates to others, community, and/or environment.

The same imposed approach can happen incrementally and over time (Quadrant 3) when she experiences events that become cumulative to the point that the progression and/or the repetition of these experiences forces a change. Again, this happens not because she actively sought out the engagements, but they nonetheless create a transformative effect in her life.

Our college student at an institution with a mission based around TL such as UCO will certainly be working on the right side of the matrix. She will have Student Transformative Learning Record (STLR)-associated assignments in her classes, she will attend STLR-associated Student Affairs events and potentially participate in STLR-associated student organization work, and she may participate in a student TL project. All those activities are intentionally designed by UCO faculty and staff to help prompt TL. This is shown as Quadrant 4.

What we faculty love to have happen is what’s shown in Quadrant 2: epiphany and enlightenment. This is “the big a-ha” that Kroth & Boverie (2009) describe as an “epochal” change. Stephen Brookfield described it as “tectonic” (Brookfield, 2016) to get at the same description of impact. It is a transformative change that is fixed permanently in the student.

Below is the same matrix, but with examples added in each quadrant:

Same as Fig. 1 but with the addition of examples in each cell: Top left cell: "9/11: shocked into a new perspective." Bottom left cell: "Moving into dorm, interact w/others who are different." Top right cell: "Student views, "A Class Divided," has A-HA moment." Bottom right cell: "STLR-tagged assignments, SA activities, TL projects."

We work to help students reach important understandings about themselves and the world; about how they can function most successfully as employees, citizens, and family members; and many other realizations worthy of educated and ethical contributors to society. Kroth & Boverie’s heuristic (2009) is a helpful tool to conceptualize that process.

(A note: The Quadrant 2 example is evocative. If you have not viewed this documentary, please click on the link below to do so. You may have your own a-ha moments as a viewer and/or discover powerful prompts for Global & Cultural Competency-associated Transformative Learning.)

 

References

A class divided. (1985, March 26). Frontline. Arlington, VA: Public Broadcasting Service. Available: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/class-divided/

Brookfield, S. (2016, April 1). Making transformation visible. Keynote address, 2016 Transformative Learning Conference, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Kroth, M, & Boverie, P. (2009). Using the discovering model to facilitate transformational learning and career development. Journal of Adult Education, 18(1), 43-47. Available: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ891076.pdf

What’s Your Biggest Teaching Challenge?

Source: Top Hat’s 2016 Professor Pulse Survey was conducted between August and November 2016. The 21,558 respondents are primarily employees of public and private colleges and universities in the United States, Canada and Australia. Click on the image for more information from the source.

 

Biggest teaching challenges ranked 1-8 from the Top Hat 2016 Professor Pulse Survey: 1: Students not paying attention or participating in class; 2: Students not comprehending the material; 3: Not enough time to do research; 4: Students not coming to class; 5: Other; 6: Not enough time to prepare for class; 7: Administrative overhead; 8: Pre-lecture anxiety.

Exploring Applications for Blended Learning

Recently, the preview of the 2017 NMC Horizon Report was published listing emerging trends and issues facing higher education learning environments. One of the “short-term trends” highlighted in the report was exploring blended learning designs. Blended learning is the process of combining multiple learning spaces, such as online or classroom spaces, in a single unified learning experience. This approach allows educators and learners to leverage the “best of” online and off-line learning experiences.

Blended learning is a strategic vision for how learning environments are designed and developed at the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO). Blended learning connects multiple types of learning spaces in ways that are intentional and strategic. At its core, blended learning advances the application of transformative learning by connecting students across spaces that support applied and contextualized learning experiences. This allows learners to engage and reflect in more critical ways, leading to an expansion of perspective and redefinition of who they are as a learner.

As we extend the possibilities of blended learning, there are many exciting ways educators at UCO are leveraging and advancing blended learning experiences.

In this post, I share one such experience and provide resources you can use to advance your own blended learning skills and ideas.

During fall 2016, the Center for eLearning and Connected Environments facilitated a unique learning experience for the EDU-Innovator faculty members at the University of Central Oklahoma. The purpose of this learning experience was to provide a survey of various blended learning methods and strategies that can help inform the design and facilitating of blended learning activities, courses, programs, and broader experiences.

Each blended learning topic began with reviewing online materials posted on a public blog with an application exercise to provide an opportunity of applying blended learning skills in real-world teaching situations. We then met as a group to share progress on the application exercises and discuss ways the blended learning skills can be applied at the University of Central Oklahoma.

Exploring Topics

The program began with a general exploration of “What is blended learning?” During this topic, we explored the basic dimensions and perspectives of blended learning environments.

Next, our focus turned to exploring how blended learning can be applied to designing learning activities. Here are provided several blended learning patterns offered as examples.

We then examined how courses could be designed using blended learning methods. This, not surprisingly, is a major area of interest for people in higher education as courses form that majority of how we deliver formal learning experiences.

Next, combining activities and courses, we discovered ways programs could be designed using blended learning strategies.

Finally, we examined the broader role of blended learning in designing experiences that connect beyond formal learning contexts.

Summary

This experience provided a broad survey of different ways blended learning can help inform the way we design and facilitate learning experiences.

 

You can find the complete listing of blended learning topics and activities at the Blended Learning Certification category page.

My visit to Tacoma, Washington for the International Transformative Learning Conference 2016

Written by Ed Cunliff, Ph.D., Professor of Adult and Higher Education- 

 

I discovered the International Transformative Learning Conference through their proceedings about twelve years ago and was as impressed with it then as I was during the recent gathering in Tacoma, WA. This biennial conference was held on the campus of Pacific Lutheran University, outside of central Tacoma. I was probably identifiable as a “tourist” by the expressions of awe for the trees – 60 feet and growing!

The biggest awe though was the people who made up the conference. This was my second time to attend and present with my colleague John Barthell, and the participants were as eclectic and varied as the topics and presentations. Participants ranged from business entrepreneurs to academics to therapists. They came from all parts of the US and many places around the world, and all with an interest and curiosity about transformative learning (TL). There were “experts” in the field, and those with minimal exposure and maximum curiosity.

One presenter, familiar to many on the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) campus, was John Dirkx from Michigan State University. John has been to UCO a couple of times and has great appreciation for what we do. He is one of the early scholars in the field of TL, and his interaction with Jack Mezirow in a 2006 published dialogue is representative of a lingering debate between those who see TL as essentially a cognitive process and those who understand it with more of an affective nature. Mezirow, in his early studies, identified a step-wise, very rational approach to transformative learning. Dirkx, who has a strong background in Jungian psychology, considers the emotional side to be involved in any individual or group paradigm shift. Another significant debate about TL amongst many scholars and practitioners: are there necessarily steps within the process of transformation or does it present in a more random fashion?

Transformative learning is often viewed as a significant social justice process, though this is not addressed by all proponents. One of the international presenters was Alessandra Romano, University of Naples Federico II, who led an intriguing discussion on “The Theatre of the Oppressed as an Imaginative Metaphor for TL.” This qualitative study reflected on the experience of students involved in an examination of constructed meanings and inequality from individual backgrounds. This type of personal – social reflection is similar to that of the well-known Brazilian adult educator, Paulo Freire. Freire’s works and thinking on social change through the power of education were reflected in other presentations, such as “Learning Cities Interaction: Connecting Lifelong Learning through Transformative Action Research,” a session from Leodis Scott. Scott makes a connection between the idea of learning cities and collective transformation theory as a means of building positive social change for low-income communities.

The business perspective surfaced in one session titled “The Intersection of Business and Ethics” focusing in TL as a process to increase sensitivity to ethical issues. One of my enjoyable meetings outside of a session was with Angela Parker who is a co-founder of a company called Realized Worth. This group works with large corporations and helps them develop volunteer programs that allow staff to work in the community, what higher education refers to as Service Learning – a transformative opportunity for all.

There is also a very strong humanistic, self-reflective process nurtured in these conferences – Sessions on self-transformation using values-based tests, embodied learning and social transformation, and understanding vulnerability. Identity and spiritual beliefs, intersections with the environment, and creative movement were other sessions focusing more on personal growth. As part of one of the plenary sessions participants were asked to move non-verbally to a shared open space and to acknowledge each other through eye contact – something that may become a lost art as so many make eye contact only with their smart devices! A story was told about Mezirow avoiding these more experiential and emotive sessions until a colleague took him by the hand and led him into it. Supposedly he decided such moments weren’t so bad and he no longer ran from them.

The conference organization was a bit different than many, though there were also familiar elements of plenary and concurrent sessions. They also organized a large group–small group process in which issues identified by participants were discussed in interest groups and then reported out in the whole. This was an attempt to organize the impromptu conversations that are often so productive in conferences…and did still happen in Tacoma. I was able to touch bases with a couple of known colleagues like John Dirkx and Dan Glasinski (who has also visited us on our campus), and to meet some new ones such as Ian Corrie from the UK who spoke on “coaching for resilience” after a tragedy – brought to mind the work done by counselors in Oklahoma after one or our devastating tornadoes. I also had the opportunity to chat with Don Proby, a dispute negotiator, whose session made connections with TL and neuroscience, one of my personal interests at this point in time.

My notes, handouts, some print outs and scribbled ideas for further research and study are sitting on the porch – waiting for warmer weather and some more reflection time. It’s rewarding to consider what UCO faculty and staff have done with TL, and I find it healthy to remember that there is much more to explore In the theory and practice…we make the road by walking.

 

 

References:

John M. Dirkx, Jack Mezirow and Patricia Cranton. (2006.)  Musings and Reflections on the Meaning, Context, and Process of Transformative Learning: A Dialogue between John M. Dirkx and Jack Mezirow. Journal of Transformative Education, 4, 2, pp 123-139.

The Perfect Storm for Transformative Learning?

[A]t the very moment when we have more varied ideas, thoughts and opinions on our campuses, we also have students who are less equipped and perhaps less eager to have challenging discussions. — José Antonio Bowen, President, Goucher College (2016, Dec. 7)

 

And, one might ask, what ideas or opinions are worth discussing? What is their source?

 

Most important: How do we help students separate fact from fiction in order to have an informed discussion in the first place?

 

The Editorial Board of the New York Times, in a December 10, 2016, editorial, proposed the idea that reliably factual shared stories used to unite Americans, but with the fracturing of the monolith that was represented by Walter Cronkite and John Chancellor and Frank Reynolds, America drifted away from a commonality that was a key source of dependable, vetted information about our lives, politics, and society (Editorial Board, NYT, 2016).

 

One only has to observe the divisive rhetoric and the bizarre, sometimes dangerous, consequences of fake news taken for reality to realize that Americans are now, more than ever, divided in what we believe is real regarding our society and politics.

 

We no longer share to the same degree a dependable story. At the same time, we have come to realize that even the “good ol’ days” of network news often didn’t reflect reality for major segments of our society because those views and voices were sometimes discounted.

 

The “good ol’ days” had their share of challenges, to be sure, but Americans — in general — could trust a common source of information that — in general — tried its hardest to stick to verifiable facts and label everything else opinion or editorial.

 

Now, we have to help our students find and depend on the sources of information that fit this category.

 

Due to the “filter bubble” effect (Pariser, 2012), it’s incredibly easy for our students to find and stick to sources of information that confirm their existing views and opinions. On their own, students may never venture from the safety of that cocoon to encounter other ideas that might be more rooted in reality than their existing views.

 

Living in your own bubble that constantly confirms your own biases stunts your growth.

 

If our students’ bubbles are populated by fake news sites and politicized rhetoric, they may be the next Americans to arm themselves and drive somewhere to counter what they have accepted as a factual threat.

 

The trouble is, such sites have proliferated, and it’s easy to find the sites that confirm your bias. Google and Facebook and other media serve up such recommendations as part of their algorithms to interest our students (and us), thereby driving more click-through traffic to generate revenue.

 

Walter Quattrociocchi, the head of the Laboratory of Computational Social Science at IMT Lucca in Italy, has spent several years studying how conspiracy theories and misinformation spread online, and he confirmed some of my fears: Essentially, he explained, institutional distrust is so high right now, and cognitive bias so strong always, that the people who fall for hoax news stories are frequently only interested in consuming information that conforms with their views — even when it’s demonstrably fake. (Dewey, 2015)

 

So we Transformative Learning educators are now positioned within the perfect storm. We have a focused opportunity to prompt a key transformation in our students’ lives: We can help them develop a willingness to consider others’ opinions and views as supported by the ability — and motivation — to discern dependable information from unsupported conjecture.

 

The kinds of duties that used to be the responsibility of editors, of librarians now fall on the shoulders of anyone who uses a screen to become informed about the world. And so the response is not to take away these rights from ordinary citizens but to teach them how to thoughtfully engage in information seeking and evaluating in a cacophonous democracy. (Wineburg, as quoted by McEvers, 2016).

 

Communications professor Melissa Zimdars at Merrimack College started compiling a list of sites disseminating unreliable and satirical information for her students, but she also provided them the following tips to help them discern fake from real news:

 

  • Watch out if known/reputable news sites are not also reporting on the story. Sometimes lack of coverage is the result of corporate media bias and other factors, but there should typically be more than one source reporting on a topic or event.
  • If the story makes you REALLY ANGRY it’s probably a good idea to keep reading about the topic via other sources to make sure the story you read wasn’t purposefully trying to make you angry (with potentially misleading or false information) in order to generate shares and ad revenue. (Zimdars, as quoted by Itkowitz, 2016)

 

The TL opportunity available to us, however, is not simply helping students determine which websites convey accurate, truthful information. We have the chance to stoke students’ desire to be factually informed.

 

Here’s one suggestion: Identify an issue for which you know reputable and disreputable sources of online information exist. Sit at the classroom computer and let students watch you surf to several sites with information on the topic, first going only to reputable sites, then only to disreputable sites. (Climate change is a great one — see the Itkowitz article for an example of a whopper of a lie about climate change that many Facebook viewers shared as fact.)

 

You get the idea. What’s most important, though, is the discussion about why you know the reputable source information is good and the disreputable source information is bad.

 

As the UMass-Amherst, Purdue, and University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign students make clear (Itkowitz, 2016), students want our help in having good information upon which to base decisions.

 

Intensifying that desire is a big opportunity to have a transformative impact on students’ critical and reflective thinking skills.

 

 

References

 

Bowen, J. A. (2016, December 7). Helping students embrace discomfort. Inside Higher Ed. Available: https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2016/12/07/educating-students-ambiguity-and-discomfort-essay

 

Dewey, C. (2015, December 18). What was fake on the Internet this week? Why this is the final column. The Washington Post. Available: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2015/12/18/what-was-fake-on-the-internet-this-week-why-this-is-the-final-column/?utm_term=.53112e378f67

 

Editorial Board. (2016, December 10). Truth and lies in the age of Trump. New York Times. Available: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/10/opinion/truth-and-lies-in-the-age-of-trump.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&smid=nytcore-ipad-share&_r=0

 

Itkowitz, C. (2016, November 18). Fake news on Facebook is a real problem. These college students came up with a fix in 36 hours. The Washington Post. Available: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2016/11/18/fake-news-on-facebook-is-a-real-problem-these-college-students-came-up-with-a-fix/?utm_term=.dc4a45c0a079

 

McEvers, K. (2016, November 22). Stanford study finds most students vulnerable to fake news. National Public Radio, All Things Considered. Available: http://www.npr.org/2016/11/22/503052574/stanford-study-finds-most-students-vulnerable-to-fake-news

 

Pariser, E. (2012). The filter bubble: How the new personalized web is changing what we read and how we think. New York, NY: Penguin.

The Educative Tool of Autobiography

How many times have you heard a student ask, “How does this relate to my life?” Autobiography and life writing can be a transformative tool in the classroom to help illicit answers to this question. After all, we all come to college with a different set of life experiences that make up the whole of who we understand ourselves to be. But how might we learn from these past experiences?

Karpiak (2000) conducted a fascinating qualitative study where she charged students in an adult education course to write their life story in five chapters. What happened? Students became highly interested, engaged, and many left the course changed.

By designing and writing the five chapters, students were able to identify patterns of experience in their lives and organize them metaphorically into themes. This allowed for students the ability to not only self-reflect but also engage in the process of critical reflection. Karpiak (2000) states:

The task of writing prompted students to recall events in their life, to relive the feelings and experiences of these events, and to try to make sense of these in relation to the whole of their life. They wrote about significant emotional events and their importance in shaping their life. One woman wrote about the death of her child and her process of coming to terms with this immense loss. Others acknowledged their accountability for certain happenings and for the choices made. Several identified the patterns of behaviour that burdened their lives, while others identified various addictions that controlled theirs. Whereas initially they may not have thought of their life as a series of historical events, my urging that they find a common thread to the events of their life together was likely helpful in searching out a possible larger meaning, a larger story in their life. (p. 38)

Thus, by looking at the emerging patterns in their chapters, the benefits began to appear. They began to see themselves as an actor in their own stories and some students were able to re-imagine the roles that they had once played. Still, the process of self-reflection allowed others to make peace with their pasts, heal, and accept themselves for the first time in their life. The author suggests that some students even began to envision new futures and possibilities.

Interestingly, Karpiak (2000) writes that “for many, writing about themselves in this way is their first opportunity to recollect and recount the signal events and turning points that led them to their study or their vocation. In this same fashion, courses related to leadership and administration, human services, or even biology could help students to uncover those signal events that shaped their vocational choices and scholarly perspectives.” (p. 47)

Karpiak (2000) offers guidelines for those educators interested in making use of autobiography in the classroom. She suggests:

The following may be useful for anyone wanting to utilize autobiographical writing with their students. (Students are generally asked to submit an outline of the chapters, for my review, before proceeding.)

  1. A publisher has given you the option of writing five chapters of your life story.
  2. Prepare an outline that includes the chapter titles; consider the title for your story.
  3. Write two pages for each chapter. Try to move beyond a simple chronology of events.
  4. Pay attention to any metaphor, thread, pattern, or story that emerges from the events of your life, like “crossing over” or “Still Me” (as in Christopher Reeve’s autobiography) (p. 47)

Perhaps, you ought to write your own autobiography. What does your story look like?

If you would like to read more, please see the link below.

 

References

Karpiak, I. (2000). Writing our life: Adult learning and teaching through autobiography. Canadian Journal of University Continuing Education CJUCE, 26(1), 31-50. https://ejournals.library.ualberta.ca/index.php/cjuce-rcepu/article/view/20197

The North-South Divide in American Creativity

See this Washington Post article about the NEH graphical representation of findings above. Also, note this NEH definition of what they considered “personally performed or created artwork” for purposes of their survey: “Created pottery, ceramics, or jewelry; created leatherwork, metalwork, or woodwork; did weaving, crocheting, or other textile art; played a musical instrument; did acting; performed or practiced dance; did social dance; performed or practiced singing; created films or videos as an artistic activity; took photographs as an artistic activity; created visual arts such as paintings, sculptures, or graphic designs; did creative writing.”

Map of the United States showing a “best of fit” line at the 36”30’ latitude for a division between states in which more people are engaged in creative and artistic activities above the line than below it