VC Plan Emphasizes Instructor-Student Learning Partnership

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Encouraging student success is a top priority for Victoria College.

To achieve that goal, VC has developed a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), Students Engaged in Active Learning (SEAL), as part of its reaffirmation of accreditation process that will focus on enhancing the partnership between students and their instructors. This will better engage students in the learning process, according to QEP Director Tempi McLeod.

“What we do now, we do very well,” McLeod said. “Students get a quality education at VC.  Through the implementation of our QEP, we are working to make that education exceptional.”

Beginning in January 2014, a pilot program consisting of 12 VC faculty members will enter a SEAL Academy. This intensive professional development training is implemented through the new Betsy Wright Center for Academic and Professional Excellence (CAPE) on the VC campus. There, faculty members will learn more about adult learning theory, student motivation, and classroom strategies that will promote critical thinking and lead to improved student engagement and learning.

“After a spring semester of working through seminars and workshops and exchanging ideas with our colleagues, SEAL Academy participants will spend time during the summer in one-on-one work with the professionals at the CAPE – curriculum specialists, instructional design specialists, and technology specialists – and transform our courses using the strategies that work for us and our disciplines,” McLeod said. “We will all teach our SEAL courses the next fall. It’s exciting for us and our students.”

Victoria College promotes active learning, which means that while the instructor creates the framework for learning, the student must participate and actively engage in that learning. “With the two of them, learning takes place,” McLeod said. “One is not more important than the other – it’s a partnership.”

McLeod, who also teaches business management courses, said students sometimes want to memorize the material and then spit out the information on an exam for a grade, but they may be reluctant to take it to the next level.  Many seem hesitant to think about how that new knowledge or skill impacts the world around them. “It’s about critical thinking. It boils down to whether our students can apply what they are learning,” she said.  “SEAL is looking to positively impact that greatly needed skill.”

“When I was in college, we sat in a classroom and took notes,” she recalled. “Someone stood up and ‘professed’ on the topic of the day. There is absolutely still a place for that in the classroom, but what we are finding is that adults learn better when they are actively engaged, when they can take a concept and apply it to themselves or something they already know.  They retain it better and longer.”

“But to actually engage in that kind of learning, students have to come to class prepared; they need to know they have to participate,” McLeod said. “It’s no longer adequate to appear in class, open up your notebook, and take out a pencil.”

SEAL will provide the resources for faculty to try new strategies and motivate students to engage more in the learning process.

Also, students are encouraged to be adaptable and able to think on their feet. They should read the textbook before coming to class and prepare a list of questions about things they don’t understand.

“A lot of it is communication, asking the questions, interacting with your instructor after class,” she said. “Don’t wait until the end of the semester to suddenly determine that you don’t understand something.”

She said critical thinking boils down to “taking what you know, adding new concepts or ideas that you learn, and letting that combination guide your application of the information toward meeting a challenge or situation. It’s generating new ideas or ways of looking at things so that you know what path to follow.”

“To a nursing student, that means taking all the information you learned about medications, anatomy, math, and the physical observations you make about your patient, putting it all together, and looking at the problem to determine a solution,” she said.

Operation: SEAL the DEAL will be implemented on the VC campus in stages over the next five years.  SEAL Academy is only one component. All faculty, staff, and students will be impacted through other targeted QEP education called Boot Camp and Basic Training.

by Eric Jensen

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