Posts Tagged students
Returning from ACPA in Boston has been an adjustment. It is hard to believe that less than a week with fellow professionals can be life changing, but it happened. It wasn’t the big conversations. As with many of the life changing moments I’ve experienced it was small conversations and I would imagine the people with the most impact don’t even realize the effect they had. I hope to be able to tell them all at some point.
So one of the thoughts I’ve been struggling with since my return is finding my knowledge niche. Of course you all know it will have something to do with nontraditional students! I am passionate about serving Student Veterans, Students who are Parents, and various other sub-groups of our nontraditional student population. So how could I choose?
Last night I finally got around to rereading “Higher education journals discourse about adult undergraduate students” as well as reading “Changing the odds: Informing policy with research on how adult learners succeed”. A wealth of information that is slowly helping me narrow down where I want to focus.
Donaldson and Townsend (2007) did a study of refereed higher education journals from 1990-2003 and found only 1.27% of the articles published addressed the adult student population. This is astounding considering that the adult student population from 1999-2000 was 43% of all undergraduate students. In the article they noted that only three of the articles touched on professional development for instructors working with adult learners. (I would imagine even less for student affairs professionals working with adult learners.)
“Changing the odds” also has a section on professional development for practitioners in the adult education field and it is the first paragraph that has me thinking.
The ability to implement innovations and improve program quality is profoundly dependent on
a well planned and funded professional development system for adult educators – a resource
that is sorely lacking in adult education. The lack of a full-time workforce infrastructure with
a steady professional development delivery mechanism hampers innovation and continuous
program improvement. It is difficult for programs and providers of technical assistance and
professional development to roll out and build upon initiatives, disseminate best practice and
research findings, and connect student outcomes to teacher performance.
Perhaps this is my path. By becoming someone who focuses on the professional development of those working with nontraditional students I can fill a gap while still challenging myself to remain up to date on a variety of content areas. I have always been passionate about professional development, sharing knowledge, and fostering communities of knowledge. My strengths are in the areas of communication and information, and my style lends itself more to the administrative side of student affairs and learning than to the student contact side. (Although I do love that as well!)
A note about the difference between a nontraditional student and an adult student. As defined by the National Center for Education Statistics a nontraditional student meets one or more of the following criteria:
- Delays enrollment (does not enter postsecondary education in the same calendar year that he or she finished high school);
- Attends part time for at least part of the academic year;
- Works full time (35 hours or more per week) while enrolled;
- Is considered financially independent for purposes of determining eligibility for financial aid;3
- Has dependents other than a spouse (usually children, but sometimes others);
- Is a single parent (either not married or married but separated and has dependents); or
- Does not have a high school diploma (completed high school with a GED or other high school completion certificate or did not finish high school).
The more of the criteria the student meets the more nontraditional he or she becomes.
An adult student as defined by Donaldson and Townsend (2007) is one over the age of 24.
I prefer the term nontraditional student because it encompasses more of the student population and its characteristics than the term adult student.
So I have a lot to think about it. I hope you will keep coming back to read more as I process my way through this turn of events.
I occasionally lament that I do not blog anonymously (like Dean Dad, I love him) so I am not able to share some of the day-to-day situations I encounter with students or coworkers. But something I can share are my communications to students. I try to send one brief email per month to my caseload. Our semester started last week and the students I advise received the following email.
How to Ace the Spring 2010 Semester
I always love the start of a new semester. It is a clean slate and another opportunity to put my best foot forward. I’m looking forward to working with you during this semester to make the most out of your academics and activities here at Owens Community College. I’ve compiled a few helpful hints from two of my favorite sources. In this email you will find two ways to help you make the Spring 2010 semester your best ever!
No way a Pen and Paper can make you a star student? Sure they can, if you know how to use these powerful tools to your advantage! Using a these tools can help you focus your thoughts, avoid distractions such as email and Facebook, and promotes critical and creative thinking.
- Buy a good spiral bound notebook for each class. Use the notebook only for the specified class!
- Buy a comfortable to use pen or pencil. It is important to buy one that does not cause hand cramps!
- Pack-up your notebook and pen and head out for a quiet and relaxing place with minimal or no distractions (this means turning off your cell phone and leaving your computer at home). Finding such a place can be challenging, but don’t forget places you might not normally visit – like the LIBRARY or an out of the way coffee shop.
- Spend a dedicated predetermined amount of time (say, no less than 50 minutes and no longer than 3 hours) working on the course.
- This is a great way to develop thoughtful questions to ask in class.
- Be sure to spend some of this time free writing about what you are learning in the course and how this connects to other courses, your goals, and your life.
- Before you pack-up spend some time summarizing what you have learned and worked on. Be sure to date and title your summary page.
Hocus-Pocus-FOCUS! One of the most important skills for students is the ability to focus. I’m not talking for 10 or 20 minutes during a lecture. I’m talking about hard focus, to push past the desire to check Facebook for ‘just two minutes’, or to leave your email running in the background and your cell phone on. Hard focus does not need to be a natural talent. It is possible train your ‘focus muscle’ (that would be your brain).
- Start by putting away all of your distractions and setting a timer for 20 minutes. Focus ONLY on studying or homework for those 20 minutes before allowing yourself a break.
- Keep your break times short. Just 5 to 8 minutes and use that time to get your blood flowing. Grab some cold water and move around a little. Avoid using this time to check email or other electronic distractions.
- Get back to work! Repeat this process until your allotted study time is up.
- Each day extend the time between breaks a little further building up to 50 minutes of work for each 5 to 10 minute break.
I’m looking forward to meeting with you in January to see how these ‘Study Hacks’ are helping you reach your academic goals! Please call the office at your earliest convenience to schedule our first meeting of the semester!
Focus, have fun, and do good work!
So far, what little feedback I have received has been positive! Yeah!!