Thursday, November 7, 2013

SLLO Where are They Now: Dedicating Time to SLLO

As a graduate student, my use of SLLO, best described as restricted exploration, was challenged by limited hours, stress from classes, and 9-month stents with a specific organization. Given those constraints, I have still been able to utilize several tools effectively and seen significant impacts.

Having been exposed to SLLO (without knowing it) as an undergraduate student and getting the opportunity to attend a SLLO orientation at the start of my graduate assistantship with Student Activities, I was eager to test the waters of student leader learning. I spent the first year of my assistantship advising a freshmen mentorship organization. With a moderately sized executive staff of fifteen students, I primarily utilized 1-minute papers (or more accurately, note cards) to encourage the staff to reflect on two key areas: 1) the impact they wanted to make on the organization and 2) the personal growth they wanted to achieve as a result of their work with the organization. I also worked with my chief student leader attempting to work through a rubric but struggled with buy-in from the student. I found the 1-minute papers to be moderately effective as we revisited different ones throughout the year.

As I, myself, reflected on my year in the shallow end of SLLO, I discovered two key obstacles. I struggled to obtain buy-in from students, which I believe to be a product of my limited time with them. I also found my intentionality to be lacking. With these two obstacles in mind, I set some goals for my advising position with a different organization the following year. I resolved to be more intentional in planning out how I would use SLLO tools and more receptive to my students’ reactions to the tools I introduced.

During the second year of my assistantship, I stuck with the same tools as before; 1-minute papers and rubrics. The difference this year came from my goal of increasing intentionality with SLLO. I took time at the start of each semester to select 1-minute paper prompts to introduce throughout the year that related to their experiences with the organization at a specific time. For example, I prompted them to reflect on transition, both as it relates to the organization and to their life, in April.  I also exposed my chief student leader to all of the SLLO rubrics and outcomes, allowing that student to choose a rubric they wanted to work on. That ownership led to significant student investment and improvement in our work with the effective meetings rubric. In addition to 1-minute papers and rubrics, I also employed leadership moments in weekly director staff meetings, disguising them as “advisor times,” a seemingly more fun agenda item from the students’ perspective.

I achieved much more success with SLLO in my second year, compared to my first, and I found the main cause of that increased success to be intentionality.  I sacrificed extra time to give real thought and attention to finding the most impactful way I could incorporate SLLO into my advising experiences. That extra time made all the difference.

As I transition into my first full-time professional position, when it comes to SLLO, that extra time is what I will remember. I know the principles. I have been exposed to the tools. But, if I do not make time to be intentional with how I align my work with those principles, if I don’t take the time to strategically plan out how I will use the tools, my efforts will be, at best, diluted. And, while students will change and my personalized style with SLLO will develop, without the dedicated time and attention, my student impact suffers. Time will tell exactly how I use SLLO in my next role, but the one certainty I know and keep in those regards is that time will be spent to intentionally figure that out.

- Leo Young

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