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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Once again, onward!

I keep thinking I need to regularly blog because so much is happening. These are just snippets to capture some of what is happening.  I invite others to edit my blog entry by adding what you all are up to.

This is going to read like a police log.  It is for the sake of posterity.

First week of school:
Sept. 22, Inform college-wide advisors
Liz and I make a presentation to the advisors from all the colleges.  They are very supportive. We request that they go through the on-line application tool using a fictitous student and get back to us with comments.

Sept. 23. Project fair. Entry below.

Second week of school:
Sept. 26. Engineering advisor says "not possible" for engineers to participate
Via email, an engineering advisor says that engineering students can't participate because they would miss key freshmen-level major courses. Liz questions the accuracy of this assertion by asking how transfer students manage the "missing of key freshmen-level courses."  It become clear that transfer also miss the course and there is no serious problem with them taking the courses later in the curriculum. What is revealed is that advisors work from an espoused model of what the curriculum should be and almost no students follow the actual model because courses aren't available or they have a unique circumstance.  It is a risk for us that students will be told that they can't participate when they actually can.

Sept. 27...first pizza trap this year
Pete hosts informational meeting to talk to students about SUSTAIN. We learn that they see these three things as the key draws: 1. Alternative learning experience. 2. Building their resume through authentic project or fieldwork experience. 3. Positively contributing to the San Luis Obispo community.

Sept. 28...the 3rd person research network
This day began with Liz and me in tears just moments before the first call.  The emotion comes because of the investment of our life force sometimes yields what feels like obstructionist behavior. How can we hold this vision when it seems like it is impossible? We kind of got a lickin' in the call. Susan Ambrose told us it is time to get the lead out! We have the systems in place but we need to aggressively recruit, it seems to them.

The physics saga...Sept 29
For example, on Sept. 29, the Physics department gave us the floor in their faculty meeting. This was quite an experience for me because it was so different from my faculty meeting.  It was held in a kind of large auditorium-type room...slanting seats toward the back of the room with room for about 100.  The chair spoke from the front while the 20 or so people in the room faced her in their seats.  Leading up the meeting, she sent a couple of emails that indicated that she would give us 10 minutes to talk and they would have 15 mintues for questions and debating and that she didn't think that would be enough time to actually decide.

Pete and I spoke. Pete first, informally. They grilled us for about 25 minutes. For everything that we said, there were about 6 people whose hands shot up in the air even before we had finished out sentences.  At one point, I said aloud what seemed to be the background conversation. I said "I want to acknowledge I know that you are all deeply committed to students' learning of physics. In a real way, we are proposing and experiment and we are asking for you to trust trust us as colleagues to keep our attention on the well-being of the students, to ensure that they learn what they need to learn. Although our design is based on learning research and we believe it is better, in a real way, we cannot know for sure."  You could hear a pin drop in the hands raised.  I can't describe it, really, but there was a palpable difference in how people were listening to me. I am not sure, but they may have recognized the thing I said aloud as the things that they were thinking.  Or, perhaps they recognized their own humanity in my confession that it might not work.

They asked us to leave so they could discuss and vote whether they were going to allow us to teaching these classes together.  The vote was 15 Yes, 0 No and 6 Abstain.

Sept. 30. Liz meets with business students. I don't know how this went.

Sept. 30. The use of force in the presence of social fabric
Faculty meeting. Roger facilitated in a kind of forceful way, but it was exactly what we needed. It is amazing how different the use of force feels when there is social fabric. It does not feel forceful, but it feels like getting something done. Susan was right, we needed to call for that kind of goal setting and targeted action.

Liz and I get in a little fight. We end up spending the last half of the day working out details. We are both feeling a lot of pressure to juggle the gazillion little details.

October 1. Launching of the on-line application process
We posted the application links and emailed invitations to students.

Third week of school
October 4. Second pizza trap
I'm not at these meetings, so I can't tell how they are going.

October 5. Alan Cheville, program officer from the National Science Foundation arrives
Alan unexpectedly blows off our socks by giving two very provocative talks on Oct. 6. We have a brief fireside chat involving Deb Larson and eight colleagues and Alan.  The topic is "What would it mean to lead engineering education?" The notion of "leading" education seems odd to me. I like "illuminating education pathways."  Is it possible to "lead" education?

October 6. Receive nasty voicemail from college of liberal arts advisor
Voicemail includes "you might want to tell us what that hell you're doing before sending students to us." This advisor did not attend the Sept. 22 meeting that we presented at. Apparently their channels of communication are a bit clogged. I go to speak with their college assoc. dean, who informs me that they have questions. (Why don't people tell us?  I had requested feedback by 9/30. I've heard from 1 person.)  I am irritated.

Oct. 7.  Alan experiences capacity building workshop
Alan is ferried around by various SUSTAIN faculty. He later talks very favorably about the capacity-building workshop.

On this crazy day, a group of 12 researchers from USC are also here all-day for a workshop on fostering a diverse and equitable culture at Cal Poly.  Roberta Herter and I have been working with Alicia Dowd of USC for about 6 months on putting this workshop together.  Thirty five invited, 24 attended. Extraordinary conversations reported.

The SUSTAIN faculty also show up at the Vet's hall for their meeting at 1PM.  Roger leads them in the design of the first activity to taste the SUSTAIN experience.

Oct. 8. A taste of SUSTAIN. Picking apples for the Food Bank
34 people showed up to pick apples for the Food Bank. It was really hard to guage whether or not the students were enjoying themselves.  Roger was fantastic in setting the context, orienting folks, prompting them to consider what it was like. Oh, he is such a God send.

What we learned is that it is important to get the student in teams or pairs. I saw one gal, in her own private Idaho, picking apples with an iPod playing, not really speaking to anyone.  The real learning came as one shared thoughts with others.  Although I have to be honest...I don't know that to be true.

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