Thursday, December 12, 2013

SLLO In Action: How Do Your Students Learn?

If you’re like me, you approach advising or supervising or navigating the freeway in the way that makes the most sense…to you.  I LOVE to learn and for a long time I was THAT kid in school (let’s be honest, I sort of still am) because I assumed that everyone liked learning as much as I did.  The realization that this wasn't the case sent me into a bit of a developmental tailspin…but I digress.

When choosing activities to facilitate with my students, I strive to be very intentional in selecting resources that push me beyond my comfort zone of learning and facilitating.  I’m very much a “give me a worksheet, let me think about it and write down my answers, then discuss with a neighbor or as a group” kind of learner.  But, personal news flash, that’s not how everyone prefers to approach every activity.  Some people enjoy those activities where you have to draw something (mine invariably ends up as a page covered in words).  Others enjoy building things.  Some people actually even LIKE IT when you’re forced to act out a scene ** introvert shudder**.

A very informative activity, and one that I've had lots of positive feedback from my students after conducting, is the VAK Assessment.  This is a learning style test that the students take, and then you can process with them as a group to learn more about themselves and each other: how they prefer to give and receive information, and the best ways to keep them engaged in meetings.  There’s a free, online tool that I routinely use that can be found at:

But if you don’t like this one, just google VAK Assessment and you’ll see that there are tons to choose from.

This past year, 6 of my 8 executive officers were Kinesthetic learners.  At the start, my highly Visual/Auditory self was a bit terrified at the prospect of keeping the team engaged and focused through their planning meetings.  But with the benefit of advanced knowledge and a summer of strategic activity planning with the Director, it ended up being one of the best years yet!

- Sarah Edwards

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

SLLO in Action- Reflections of Morgan Hiser

As a student leader with Aggie Representatives Educating About College Health (REACH), I had the opportunity to teach other students about health through leading meetings and doing presentations on health topics.  I currently work for the WilCo Wellness Alliance, a county health coalition in Williamson County, which is closely associated with Williamson County and Cities Health District.  I focus on healthy policy and environmental changes throughout the county.  As a leader of this group, I am responsible for leading and organizing group meetings of a large group of community members and supporting healthy changes throughout the county.  The peer educator training I received as a member of REACH allowed me to better relate to the community members in the coalition and be a more confident leader in the programs conducted.  REACH also gave me the opportunity to apply for a grant on behalf of the group.  Many programs or job positions need grant funds to support work being done.  The experience of the process in applying, and ultimately receiving the grant, helped me to understand the importance of making that effort for a program you care about.  Overall, I had many experiences with Aggie REACH that taught me how to be a well-rounded leader in the working world.

Morgan Hiser, CHES
Healthy Communities Project Specialist
WilCo Wellness Alliance

Highland Lakes Health Partnership

Thursday, December 5, 2013

SLLO In Action: Reflecting on Student Learning

Do you want to know how students feel about their involvement experience?  Do you wonder if students’ experiences are similar in different organizations?  We wondered the same things about involved students at Texas A&M.  But how do you go about answering these questions on a campus of 50,000 students with almost 900 student organizations?

We decided to take an approach combining reflection and one minute papers.  We asked advisors to participate with their student groups to have them complete a series of one minute papers throughout the academic year.  Students would reflect through these one minute papers each month from September through April.  After advisors administered the one minute paper, a group of staff members would read each reflection and score it based on an AAC&U rubric for integrative learning or lifelong learning.

So, how did it work?

We had almost 1,400 students involved in the project as it started, and about 1,100 during the spring semester from about 70 different student organizations throughout the Division of Student Affairs.  We were able to capture information from students in a variety of different roles and groups to learn about our students.  However, it was a lot of work to get forms back from all advisors each month and we did drop a few groups early on because they had gotten so far behind in the monthly reflections.

The reflection prompts we gave students each month were:

  •          What brought you to this particular student organization and why is it a good fit for you? (September)
  •          Beyond building friendships and networking, what do you personally hope to learn through this student involvement experience? (October)
  •          What connections, if any, can you make between this student involvement experience and your classroom experience?  What connections, if any, can you make between this student involvement experience and your career path? (November)
  •          Based on this student involvement experience, please give an example of a time when you expressed your views, solutions, or opinions on an issue.  If you have not expressed your views, solutions, or opinions on an issue, please share your thoughts on why not. (December/January)
  •          How does this student involvement impact your life experience? (February)
  •          How have you applied skills or abilities gained from previous experiences to solve problems or explore issues in this student involvement? (March)
  •          How do you see yourself now compared to who you were at the beginning of this student involvement experience? (April)

Would we do anything differently?

While this project was a great initiative looking at a large number of involved students from across the division, we did learned a LOT.  We would spread out the reflections to a couple times a year, but ask that students spend more than “a minute” on them to get at some deeper concepts.  The monthly pace was challenging for advisors in administering the one minute papers and students reflecting on the question asked.  We would also plan more staff time for reading and scoring the reflections and only ask one question per time.

The concept from this project could easily be applied to individual groups or even during one-one-one meetings with students.  There are easy ways to build in reflection with your students and help them develop the skill to look back at what has happened in order to look ahead with better clarity and direction. 

- Kelly Cox

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

SLLO In Action: Wasting Time

Wasting time – I do not enjoy wasting time at all!  Waiting time in lines, waiting time at stop lights, being in meetings that have no purpose…okay you get the idea.  When I look at how I spend my time, I try to find activities that have meaning or purpose for me.  I try to find activities that do not feel as if they waste my time.  Oh sure, I have those occasional tasks that do not seem as if they have any purpose and I do them, but I try to not have my day filled with those type of tasks.  I use this idea when looking at organizations to join as well – what organizations provide meaning to me or fit with values I have?

Students getting involved may be deciding which organization to join based what provides meaning to them or fits with their values.  For some, they value feeling connected on campus and want to meet people.  Some may look for opportunities to give or help others.  Others join an organization to grow and gain new skills that will help them when they graduate. 

Texas A&M has over 900 recognized student organization plus dozens more that are connected with departments.  Do you make it easy for students to match what an organization offers with their own personal values?  Do students know what they might gain through your organization before they join?  Students selecting specific organizations based on what it can offer will look for this information.  Yet it is easy to overlook providing this during recruitment.  Here are some suggestions to help students in making decisions of what organization to join:

  •          Identify learning outcomes for your organization.  If you have differences by positions, breakdown outcomes that way to let students know what they might gain if they stay involved over time.
  •          Share learning outcomes with students and make it part of the recruitment process.
  •          Really talk with interested students and be honest with them about your organization and what you do.
  •          Be less competitive with other organizations – getting the most number of incoming members is not beneficial if it is a bad fit and they don’t participate or drop out.
  •          Don’t assume students know about your information or at least know accurate information.
  •          Be intentional with your recruitment to identify students who are a good fit for the organization and the organization is a good fit for them.
  •          If you have an interview process, ask what students are looking for in an organization.  Decide in advance what you will do if there seems to be a disconnect between what a student looking for and the purpose of your organization.

Helping students identify the right organization for them is a benefit for that individual student and for that organization.  It also helps students not “waste time” trying various organizations that really are not for them.

- Kelly Cox