ABLE Language Arts Skills
ABLE Language Arts Skills ABLE A7015
Community College of Philadelphia
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THE FIRST YEAR AND BEYOND CHARLES SCHROEDER TALKS TO JOHN GARDNER HEN JOHN N GARDNER JOINED THE FACULTY of the University of South Carolina in 1970 the collec tion of offerings that would become known as the rst year experience did not exist Over the next three decades Gardner and his colleagues succeeded in shifting higher education s attention to the experience of rst year students and more recently to the experi ence of all students in transition Charles Schroeder spent some time with Gardner recently asking him to turn his experienced and critical eye on the educational estab lishment he has worked for more than thirty years to change Here is What he had to say CHARLES SCHROEDER Your name is synonymous with the firstiyear experienceiWhat Was the catalyst that prompted you to devote most of your life to this aspect of under graduate education JOHN GARDNER It Was a phone call an invitation from a university president Who cared enough about younger developing faculty members to invite them to particir pate in certain types of innovative efform to rethink undergraduate education I d been at the University of South Carolina USC for two years minding my own business teaching history to beginning college students Injuly 1972 a month afterWatergate 9 ABOUT CAMPUS SEI TWBERiocTOBER 2003 Has the first year experience come of age There s no question that this way of thinking has become institutionalized to varying degrees across the four thousand or so postsecondary institutions Thomas Ejones president of USC invited me to a workshop but he wouldn t tell me what it was aboutrA little over two years before he had been barricaded in his of ce during a student riot which led him to put together a faculty tudent afairs committee to study the causes of the riots But he got impatient with the progress of the committee deliberations and came up with the idea that the key to preventing future riots was to restructure the whole socialization process ofbringi ing students into a major research university He wanted to develop a process to redo the first year and teach stu7 dents to love the university rather than be angry and trash it SCHROEDER I know our readers are aware of the signifi icance of the first year and all the positive changes that have occurred over the past two decades In yourjudgi ment has the firstiyear experience come of age GARDNER I probably need to define rsteyear experieme in order to answer your questioanhen we first started using the term in 1982 we didn t offer a de nitive meaning and use for it so people started using it how ever they wanted In my use the term meant a national and international efort to improve the rst year the toml experience of studentsiand to do this intentionally and by rethinking the way the first year was organized and executed Many other people in higher education thought the term meant a particular type ofprogram or intervention for firstiyear students most notably the firstiyear seminar concept with which I ve been associ7 ated But the concept of the f1rst7year experience how ever it is defined has been in the lexicon now for twenty years and our research has found dramatic increases in its use and in all ofits potential applications So I would say there s no question that this way of thinking about undergraduate education has definitely matured and become institutionalized to varying degrees across the four thousand or so postsecondary institutions SCHROEDER In recent years we ve certainly seen more attention given to advising and a proliferation of rst year seminars and we re now seeing at least oneifourth perhaps oneithird of firstiyear students involved in some kind of learning communities and we are seeing a lot of Supplemental InstructionrAre there additional challenges that you see in terms of helping to realize the full educational potential of the firstiyear experience GARDNER There are many additional challenges How much you value and are willing to invest in education for f1rst7year students has always been an issue that came puses have faced but it has become more dif cult given the enormous economic constraints that many ofus now face I believe that institutions always nd the money to do what they most value so the question is What do we most value For many campuses doing the foundation year well may not be a high priority partic7 ularly when you have decreasing resources So one basic challenge is siInply to maintain the resource base Beyond that many of the initiatives you just summarized have been eform to change the first year by going outside of or around the facultyWhen American higher education wanted to improve academic advising what did it do It went out and hired thousands of professional nonfaculty advisors and it founded a professional organization that represents many faculty but also a disproportionately far greater number of nonfaculty professional smff adminisi trators Many of the firstiyear seminars have been launched and sustained with disproportionately greater uses of staff than facultyThis is understandable when you want to change a campus you go to those areas that respond most immediately to change and they may be John N Gardner is senior fellow and distinguished professor emeritus of the University of South Carolina and executive director of the Policy Center on the FirstYear of College He can be reached at gardnerbrevardredu Charles Schroeder is professor of education at the University ofMissourFColurnbia and a contributing editor of About Campus We love feedback Send letters to managing editor Paula Stacey pstaceyjosseybasscom and copy her on notes to authors 10 ABOUT CAMPUS SEPTEMBER70CTOBER 2003 the ones that also are subject to administrative fiat and dictumoften administrative areasiThe remaining chalr lenges for making the first year better lie almost exclui sively in What faculty do not only in advising and firstiyear seminars but especially in introductory college courses in the traditional disciplines SCHROEDER Let s pick up on that because I ve read the manuscript for the book that you and Bemy O Barefoot and M Lee Upcraft are going to publish later this year Where you focus a great deal of attention on the first year classroomWhy is this so important and What are the implications for faculty development What do you Want faculty to know and be able to do With firstiyear students GARDNER The firstiyear classroom is so important because the majority offirstiyear students are now and Will increasingly be in nonresidential institutionsiThe typical American firstiyear student is a commuting stu7 dent Such students are much less likely to get involved With many of the areas that have been so enriched through the firstiyear experience movement Come muting students are less likely to have contact With stu7 dent affairs officers and obviously don t live in residence halls so their real contact With the college or university is only in the classroomiTo reach them you ve got to get at What happens in the classroom This means that the efforts to tinker and restructure and change the first year outside the classroom While necessary haven t been enough Even at residential institutions the real heart of student academic success still rests in What goes on in the classroom So especially in commuting institutions but also in residential insti7 tutions the last frontier is What goes on in those class roomsiThere are all kinds of implications concerning how faculty understand students how they understand student learning styles characteristics and needs and how they think about more effective Ways to commur nicate their discipline to those studentsiThis has impli7 cations as you said for faculty development SCHROEDER Well aren t students expectations another critical factor in the firstiyear experience equation par ticularly as they relate to the classroom What have you and your colleagues learned about the expectations stu7 dents bring With them to college And how do these expectations particularly academic ones match the realr ity of firstiyear experiences GARDNER First of all it is a pipeline issue relating to teaching and learning strategies in secondary schools and how connected they are to What is expected in col lege I m persuaded that much of the last year of high school is a Waste that We are probably letting many stu7 dents stay in high school too long With too much time on their handsiThe Whole notion ofvvhatl have to do in order to be successful academically is continually debased When you have high school students making A s and B s While putting in remarkably little time and effort it is no Wonder they have lower expectations for the academic enterprise in general My point here is not to bash the secondary schools system because they are part of a larger culture that encourages students to Work outside school earn large amounts of spending money spend large amounts of time Watching television and purchase consumer goods Students live in a society that is in many Ways antiiintellectual that discourages read ing and critical thinking I think you have to link all of this to the failure ofmany colleges and universities to really invest in the Whole process ofpreparing the next generation of teachers and students Colleges of educa7 tion on most campuses are very low status units they are assigned overwhelming responsibility for teacher education even though those of us in the liberal arts are not very invested in it and don t give our education col leagues a lot of support for this mission I think We make the outsideioficlass life look a lot more attractive and involving and engaging than We do the iniclass life When students join a college initially Ve mal2e the outside of class life 1001 a lot more attractive and involva and engaging than we do the in class life We unintentionally socialize students into college more in terms of the social aspects of the experience than in terms of the academic experience 11 ABOUT CAMPUS SEI TWBER70CTOBER 2003 they have very little contact with faculty they have very little contact with what the academic enterprise is all about and they are welcomed into the academy by some very enthusiastic friendly and competent social adminr istrators and staff I think we unintentionally socialize students into college more in terms of the social aspects of the experience than in terms of the academic expe7 rience SCHROEDER So is part of the problem that perhaps we are giving students mixed messages GARDNER I don t think there is any question about it We certainly are All you have to do is look at any admissions promotional materials such as a college View book orWeb site and the way the college experience is portrayed visually for students If you do a content analysis of the photographs you are going to find in most publications a disproportionate number of photos showing students in recreational leisure and social pure suitsi It really sets a tone SCHROEDER You ve been involved with a variety of inir tiatives that have been designed to stimulate higher lev7 els of student engagementi Are there any best practices that you could identify GARDNER I think we have a pretty clear idea of some best practices but it is often a quantum leap to move from that to being willing to invest in best practices For example the evidence supporting Supplemental Instruci tion is very very powe students who spend a mini mum of fifty minutes a week receiving Supplemental Instruction led by another student typically do much better than likeiqualified students who don t participatei This is a concept that is twentyisix years old that has been used in a dozen countries and on about seven hundred campuses and that is supported by a huge amount of research It tells me that if we invest more time in having faculty as well as other types of educai tors but especially faculty recruit and supervise and reward and evaluate their very best students for teach ing other students we will have a lot more successful student learning A lot of examples drawn from pedai gogies involve more active learning group work or for malized study groups not only making assistance available but actually making students use it I think we are very reluctant to use the authority we have to come pel students to do some of the things we know are bet ter for students if only they will do themi I think we ve gotten too focused on treating them as independent adults and letting them sink or swim on their own I was more inclined to do that when I was younger but the older I got the more I realized that at least my stu7 dents in South Carolina were more likely to be suc7 cessful ifI made them do certain things Once the students did them they found out that they were help ful and then they pursued them voluntarily One of the things we ve learned from the instrumentYour First College Year which can be used as a posttest of the UCLA Freshman Survey is that studenm recognize they need help and they report all kinds of stress but do they go get the help No they don tiA best practice would be to mandate student participation in more of these interventions SCHROEDER Are you suggesting similar to Dick Light at Harvard that we need to become more intrusive in students academic life GARDNER Yes I think we ve given them far more free dom than they know what to do with and I don t think they are making very constructive use of itiThey are making lots of choices in the cocurriculum and in the officampus employment sector but they are not mak7 ing as many or as wise choices about what might keep them more focused on the academic side of the college experience SCHROEDER You just mentioned one of the instruments that you and your colleagues have been involved in We are approaching colleges and universities with the assumption that they already l2now what they need to l2now about their first year students and about how that knowledge is related to student success but they just don t know they l2now it 12 ABOUT CAMPUS SEPTEMBER70CTOBER 2003 Many colleges and universities are run lilqe the American corporation they want a quick financial return and are not thinking twenty twenty five years out Your First College Year which is ajoint project with UCLA s Higher Education Research Institute I believe you also have a couple of other assessment initiatives under wayia national benchmarking survey and a rst year data audit tool kitWill you tell us a little bit about these initiatives and how they can be used to improve the firstiyear experience GARDNER They grow out of three grants that we the Policy Center on the FirstYear of College received to develop some new tools and procedures for assessing the first college yeari I want to stress that it s the rst college year because We have been trying to get campuses to develop a better undersmnding of the whole of the rst year experience both the curriculum and the cocurr riculumWe have developed the national benchmarking survey FirstYear Initiative in collaboration with the for pro t rm Educational Benchmarking Inc to evaluate the firstiyear seminari Firstiyear seminars have been around since 1882 but there has never been a nation ally produced readily available instrument to evaluate the efectiveness of these courses which are now found on 80 percent of the baccalaureate campuses and 62 percent of the campuses of twoiyear community col legesi We ve nished our second year of administering the FirstYear Initiative a tool developed by my colr league Randy Li Swing at eightyiflve schools and we re very encouraged by the first years results at sixtyitwo institutionsi Each institution picks f1ve peers against which to benchmarkiYou don t know the scores of the other five institutions just the aggregate scores and your scores So there is nothing competitive about this which we expect will produce more genuine motivation and broader participationi Some thinking about what we call the pedagogy ofengagemem has emerged from the rst survey Swing found that the seminars most highly rated by students are those that are most likely to use what we are calling engaging pedagogies This takes us back to the behavior of the instructor as opposed to the behavior of the student We are also nding that the seminars thought of most highly are those in which student lead ers play a key role and We nd for the first time some pretty persuasive evidence that students rate more highly courses that have at least two preferably three hours of credit as opposed to the oneicredit modeliThis is very important because the oneicredit model is the most commoni My hope is that the evidence we are produce ing will encourage colleges to do a betterjob of train ing their instructors to use more of these engaging pedagogies and to give serious consideration to increase ing the amount of credit to at least two and preferably three hours per term and perhaps even over multiple terrnsi The second instrument the Data Audit Tool Kit is a project we undertook with the National Center for Higher Education Management SystemsiThis was ini7 tially the brainch d ofPeter Ewell their senior scholar and I sort ofleaped on it and suggested that we collabi orateiThe tool kit teaches colleges how to extract more and better data from their existing sources and then syn thesize the data to create a more complete picture of what s really happening to their firstiyear studentsIWe are approaching colleges and universities with the assumption that they already know what they need to know about their f1rst7year students and about how that knowledge is related to student successibut they just don t know they know it In other words they have the information but don t know Where it s found and how to get it Most schools are not going to make serious changes in what they do for firstiyear students without some form of evidence and this is a further eEort to try to produce more evidence to help bring about change SCHROEDER So all three of these toolsiYour First Col lege Year the FirstYear Initiative and the FirstYear Data Audit Tool Kitireally can help institutions improve and create even more innovative ways to connect with rst year students GARDNER That s rightiThey re all designed to improve assessment of the rstiyear student experience with the hope that you then use that information to actually make decisionsiThis is the heretical notion that you d actually use assessments to bring about educational improvement SCHROEDER Let s shift to another kind of heretical notion which I think is becoming more accepted the 13 ABOUT CAMPUS SEPTEMBER70CTOBER 2003 One reason that so many of the student affairs units got Clobberecl Cluer the last recession and get Clobberecl again this tune is that the key decision makers saw them as being so separate and therefore less important emphasis not so much on teaching but on student learningiYou ve been a strong proponent of the Student Learning Imperative SLI published in 1996 by the Amer ican College Personnel AssociationiWhat do you see as the current smtus of the SLIAlso how would you char acterize the state of academicistudent affairs partner ships in relation to student learning GARDNER I m glad you asked me this because it is something I ve been increasingly concerned aboutiI am a tremendous fan of the Student Learning Imperative I think it made a tremendous amount of sense It painted in concise understandable and clear language a com prehensive and thoughtful picture of where and how learning takes place and how learning can be more efectively achieved if faculty and student afairs o icers work together to pursue a more holistic approach to student learning I think the strategy was necessary after the last recession during which many student affairs positions were cut and I saw a lot of attention to SLI between 1994 and 1998 Since then unfortunately it has just dropped off the screen When I ve asked people if they are using SLI I get these great big blank looksiI think that student afairs folks have abandoned a value able intellectual tool and I frankly haven t seen anything else they have produced that could replace it in terms of intellectually viable substanceiWhen I re ect on this I see that my student afairs colleagues have been major partners and agents for change with respect to how we think about undergraduate education but quite uniquely the intellectual leadership is provided by peoi ple who aren t in student affairsiThat is a number of seminal thinkers and scholars of higher education have developed a body of theory that is put into practice by student affairs o icers rather than having student affairs officers develop both the theory and the models for practice Many if not most of the leading thinkers for the profession are very near retirement or have already retired and I m concerned about where the next gen eration of intellectual leadership in student affairs is The failure to make the most out of the Student Learning Imperative further signals to me that there is a fundar menml problem On some campuses I see student affairs units that are working hard to rethink reorient restruci ture themselves to be firmly focused on the learning mission But on other campuses it s as if this attention given to student learning and the Student Learning Imperi ative never happenediWe are still into running housing for housing s sake and activities for the sake of activities I don t know why they don t get it SCHROEDER In light of your concerns are there some implications for the preparation programs For examr ple the master s programs that are designed to form young student afairs educators Are there some things that need to be done at that level GARDNER I question whether the most appropriate preparation route for student afairs professionals is or should be the terminal degree in educationiWhen I see the way the system is now working and the enormous cultural divides that exist between the way student affairs professionals think and the way faculty think I have to ascribe some of this to their training Frankly I think that many of the student affairs professionals I ve known would have been just as well served had they stopped with a master s in college student personnel administration and then earned a doctorate in a tradi7 tional academic disciplineiThey would have been able to teach to hold some type of faculty appointment and they would have learned to take a more analytical approach to matters Now I know it s more complicated than thatia lot has to do with personalities and with the nature of their undergraduate experiencesibut I amjust not persuaded that the advanced degree in edu7 cation is serving many of these people when they actu7 ally get into the profession SCHROEDER Given the need for student affairs folks and academic afairs folks to work cooperatively and indeed collaboratively to create a more seaInless firstiyear expe7 rience what kind of institutional leadership is needed to make this a reality GARDNER Clearly this has to start with the chief exec utive o icer of the institution For the kind of integrai l4 ABOUT CAMPUS SEI TWBER70CTOBER 2003 tion we are talking about the president of the univer7 sity or the college has to insist on integration and true collaborationiThis is a challenge because the majority ofAmerican college campus leaders are people who never used student services In the 1950s or 1960s in most American colleges other than the few big research universities there just weren t student affairs officers There were no financial aid offices prior to 1965 and there weren t any career centers It will be some time before we get more people moving into the ranks of CEoilevel jobs who experienced an environment that was shaped in some meaningful way by the input of stu7 dent afairs professionals For much of the past half cen7 tury the argument has been that we are going to be better off if we have a totally separate student affairs division reporting to a vice president who reports directly to the president I am not persuaded any longer that this is the most effective mode SCHROEDER So would placing student affairs under the provost be one strategy to increase integration and coherence GARDNER There is no question that there would be more integration if everything passed through academic channels One reason that so many of the student afairs unim got clobbered during the last recession and will get clobbered again this time is that the key decision make ers saw them as being so separate and therefore less importantiThat created a selfifulfilling prophecy and we are feeling the consequences today SCHROEDER Let s shift gearsIWe ve been talking about the firstiyear experience but you ve been a strong advoi cate all your life for the senioriyear experienceiTell us a little bit about its current status What is going well and what needs to be done in terms of addressing unfinished business GARDNER More and more educators are realizing that the two key windows for capturing data on students for assessment purposes are when they enter college and when they leave itiYou need to know about them when they enter so you ve got a baseline against which to measure what you ve done for and with them as they leaveiAnd I think the assessment movement thanks to the accreditors has encouraged more attention to be paid to the senioriyear transition As educators became increasingly interested in the first year they recognized a lot of similarities between the first year and the last year and that many of the strategies we have been developing for the first year might also help pave the way for a successful transition out of the university or college I m talking about partnerships between faculty and student affairs o icers special seminars on transition issues much more integration of career planning ritual and ceremony for arriving and departing students and efforts to build enthusiasm for the institution as studenm arrive and as they depart In addition colleges need to e more successful in cultivating alumni because of the decline in state appropriations and the realization that we are going to be continually more dependent on dis cretionary gifts from our alumni So more attention is being paid to the senior year and there has been a renaissance of interest in the medieval practice of the capstone courseiThese courses are labor intensive and very expensive but colleges are realizing that you need to provide the most empowering introspective re eci tive intellectual experiences for your departing students or they are not going to think much of you as they walk out the door I have to say however that it is a lot harder to sell college and university administrators on invest ing in the senioriyear initiative than in the firstiyear inii tiative because they don t see an immediate return of financial resources from the investment in the senior year Many colleges and universities are run like the American corporation they want a quick financial return and are not thinking twenty twentyifive years out But there are institutions saying that if we provide a certain experience for a student when he or she is twentyitwo years old we re more likely to receive major gifts when they are fiftyitwo SCHROEDER You and Betsy Barefoot recently founded the National Policy Center on the FirstrYear of College at Brevard College in North CarolinaIWhat is its pure pose and what are some of the major projects you are sponsoring If we provide a certain experience for students when they are twenty two years old were more likely to receive major gifts when they are fifty two IS ABOUT CAMPUS SEPTEMBER70CTOBER 2003 GARDNER Betsy and I were building a home in Brevard when thanks to the Pew Charitable Trust and then the Atlantic Philanthropies we had the opportunity to found a new center that would work in a complimenr tary nonduplicative fashion with the National Resource Center at USCiWe can do projects that we hadn t had either the time or the money to do through the National Resource CenterWe can also focus our work more narrowly on the assessment of firstiyear outcomes in order to bring new people into the conversation about the first year uncover new evidence or informa7 tion and develop ways to get people involved and invested in the assessment process We are about to launch a new project called IIalli marks for Excellence in the First College Yeari It is based on a simple but profound observation ifyou are a col lege or university that wants to aspire to excellence in what you do for firstiyear students there is no national blueprint or plan for how to do this or for how to mea7 sure how well you do it So we are going to develop a set of standards for two institutional cohorts One cohort is the approximately 515 members of the Coun7 cil ofIndependent Colleges which are the less well endowed somewhat less selective smaller liberal arm col legesiThe other cohort is the 430 regional comprehen7 sive public universities that are represented by the American Association for State Colleges and Universii tiesiWe will develop two sets of sectorispecific hallmarks for excellence and a process to certify whether or not the colleges have indeed satisfactorily addressed those hallrnaiksiWe hope this will lead more colleges and uni versities to aspire to achieve these hallmarks and then be evaluated to see whether or not they have addressed the standards and if they have whether they have been suci cessfuliWe are trying to create both a demand for the certification process and an actual willingness to partici ipate in a voluntary certification process SCHROEDER I m going to give you a special option that I don t give anyone else in interviews I d like you to untether your imagination and respond to this ques7 tion If it were in your power to create your own col lege what would it look like How would it be organized what would be taught and how would stu7 dents describe it GARDNER Oh my goodness I guess I would try to design a place that incorporates many of the features of some of the places I ve been most intrigued with in my travels and readings If this college were to be funded by the state or the federal government I would have us funded on grade uates and not on fullitiIne equivalency enrolleesi I d want us to be funded for outcomes and ifwe don t produce we don t stay in business I would like to see us emulate Alverno College and develop diarnatic alternatives to the traditional grading systei39ni I don t think the current grad ing system is one that encourages real learning particu7 larly intrinsic learning I d want to see a structure where the students are much more involved in running the col lege I would have a pretty revolutionary approach to pedagogy and we would invest proportionately far more in faculty developmentiThe criteria for being appointed in the first place would place a much igher premium on teaching abilities than now occurs with most faculty appointrnentsiI would not have a tenure systemi I am persuaded that we would need to have protections ensure ing the free speech of faculty and forms of faculty autonr omy I like to think that in this ideal college I d find a way to protect people without tenurei I d also like to create the kind of environment where there would be no col lective bargainingiI think I would incorporate a number of the elements ofWest Point though not the military disciplinei I d want far more faculty living on my campus like West Point has I would want every entering student to have an uppericlass student who was responsible for whether the entering student succeeded or failed I would want to have the most powerful kind ofpeer teaching we ve ever seen in a civilian college I would not want to have revenueiproducing athletics at all because I think they have a predominantly negative impact on the culi ture of the academy SCHROEDER Let me make sure I ve got this you are talking about your ideal college as being learning ceni tered results oriented composed of engaged and invested students and supported and challenged by sub stantive faculty involvement along with powerful peer teaching Knowing you as I do and seeing what you ve accomplished in less than thirty years you might just be able to pull this of And ifyou do I m going to be the first to sign on with that outfit 16 ABOUT CAMPUS SEPTEMBER70CTOBER 2003