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Saturday, October 15, 2011


synergy |ˈsinərjē| (also synergism |-ˌjizəm|)
the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects 

On Friday, the Mustang Daily (the student daily rag) had a frontpage article on SUSTAIN SLO, thanks to Neal MacDougall's suggestion that we contact the paper and Liz's timely reaction to the reporter's questions. 

It is just amazing to me to see everyone's contributions coming together. Tom, a historian, is going to engage some honors students he knows in documenting the history that we are making...Ginger has just begun a new blog to tell the story in real time from a first person perspective.  Nina, Pete and Roger continue to be the face of the recruitment effort.  It is quite amazing.  We are really functioning as a team now.

notes on the field tests with physics

pete gave the first midterm. the mean was about 63, which he says is historically higher than in the past. but he did an amazing thing right after it was graded... and maybe ...he does this every time, i don't know. He sent a message to the students, telling them the class average and invited them to pick up their exams and redo it over the weekend for 25% of the score of the exam (75% was in-class score).  I was amazed by this because it is so focused on the students' and their need to learn, to demonstrate the learning through earning a higher grade.

one of his observations was that this performance is higher than the historical average!

he has almost entirely shifted to group learning.  he discovered that his lecturing was preventing the very thing that he wanted: stronger classroom relationships, where peers were functioning as thought partners.  Now, they'd rather work with one another than listen and watch him do problems.

but i have to say that pete is an entertaining showman around demonstrations!

what is amazing about the on-line tools is that we can get immediate feedback on the students' behavior around the homework.  For example, we can see when people are investing time.  What this shows is that half the class did not invest in the homework:

We can look at trends, to see whether there are increased or decreased investment in the work. So we can use this information to adust the assignments.

We've attempted to make this public to the class and the students have said that they really appreciate the care that is going in to meeting their learning needs.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A student voice

Garrett is a freshman who we met during the summer orientation. He loves SUSTAIN and has been helping us recruit. He and I were asked to contribute some information for an article in the Mustang Daily (our school newspaper). I thought you might want to hear directly form him about his experience.

my name is Garrett Schwanke and I'm a first year mechanical engineer.

1) I come from a high school that put a strong emphasis on group learning which had obvious benefits for me and my classmates. Apart from this program making me feel at home with group work, I want to see more students succeed from teaching and being taught by their peers.

2) In our meetings I've tried to serve as the freshman voice, sharing fears, questions and interests that I hear from my classmates with the Sustain team. Besides that, yesterday I presented to a class of 25 freshmen, informing them about the program and events we are holding (this happened to be coms class and they probably criticized the shit out of my speech). And sometimes I can actually offer an idea that we end up implementing, like formats for learning what classes freshmen want to take with us, or revisions to an email that gets sent to a few hundred mustangs.

3) I've already gained some invaluable connections with professors and team members, and I've learned a load about problem solving at team meetings. But I expect to improve my speaking skills, Improve my leadership, construct something that will have a lasting effect in SLO, network more, and build a resume.

4) I am most excited about the idea that our students can use their skills and expertise for more than just busy work on tests, but rather use them to benefit the community. Our brains are more valuable than we give ourselves credit for..Usually.

Bill Torbert

I am so excited to spend time with Bill Torbert. He is an expert in organizational change and development, but mostly he is one of the nicest men I know. He arrives on Saturday and will be with us until Wednesday.

Here is a flyer about his public venues. We will also be spending time speaking to him individually and as a group.

This visit is a huge blessing.

Advisor meeting

The meeting was ok. At one point one of the advisors said "to tell the truth, my main concern is the students, not your program." I looked her in the eye and said, "me too!" SUSTAIN-SLO is about the students. Where did is ever become anything else?

I did state the background conversations, the same one I have last night, I told them that I was afraid to meet with them, that if they gave me a hard time I might cry. They all said "Oh no! We wont make you cry." That was true, I did not cry.

I think they understand it better and will be helpful with the students. That is all we are asking for really.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Another day

I am not sure I have much to report. Maybe only Linda and I read this anyway - I don't know. It is near midnight. I am very tired, but cannot sleep.

We are continuing to talk to students about the initiative. Several come by the SUSTAIN office every day we are there. Pete, Roger, Nina and several students are meeting with student each Tuesday.

I have to meet with the College of Liberal Arts advisors tomorrow. I am a bit nervous and not sure I can be as ready to state the background conversation as Linda did with the Physics faculty. To tell the truth I feel like I might cry. I might say something like: "why do you imagine we are doing this? do you think we are getting some prestige or profit? Why are you making this so difficult?" See I am not very articulate when I am emotional.

I have been asking myself, what if this doesn't happen? the 100 student cohort part? Because today, at this time of night, I am pretty sure it isn't.

I do promise to write if things go well tomorrow.

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.