Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Frankl: Meaningfulness Matters More Than Happiness

Emily Esfahani Smith. "A Psychiatrist Who Survived The Holocaust Explains Why Meaningfulness Matters More Than Happiness." The Atlantic. Oct. 22, 2014, 2:55 PM.
http://www.businessinsider.com/a-lesson-about-happiness-from-a-holocaust-survivor-2014-10 
Quotes:
  • People who spent more time thinking about the future or about past struggles and sufferings felt more meaning in their lives.
  • Meaning ... is enduring. It connects the past to the present to the future. 
  • People who have meaning in their lives, in the form of a clearly defined purpose, rate their satisfaction with life higher even when they were feeling bad than those who did not have a clearly defined purpose. "If there is meaning in life at all," Frankl wrote, "then there must be meaning in suffering."
  • Partly what we do as human beings is to take care of others and contribute to others.
  • Frankl worked as a therapist in the camps, and in his book, he gives the example of two suicidal inmates he encountered there. Like many others in the camps, these two men were hopeless and thought that there was nothing more to expect from life, nothing to live for. "In both cases," Frankl writes, "it was a question of getting them to realize that life was still expecting something from them; something in the future was expected of them."
  • This uniqueness and singleness which distinguishes each individual and gives a meaning to his existence has a bearing on creative work as much as it does on human love.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Lilly Conference On Evidenced-Based Teaching and Learning, Traverse City, 2014

Presentation:
Ranger, Kim L. and Veenstra, Victoria. (2014) “Informed Learning in Photography: Collaboration through Visual Communication.” 2014 National Lilly Conferences on College and University Teaching & Learning: Traverse City, Refereed.

Via our session, we shared our insights gained from faculty-librarian collaboration in Photography at GVSU with 25 participants.

What I learned / new insights gained: 

"Practicing improvisation as pedagogy" -- explain to students why they have to do the learning (not me the teaching)-they are doing the assignments, not me; they are (or are becoming) the photographer/dancer/PR specialist, etc.

Items to consider for "Interdisciplinary teaching and collaboration:"
  • how to handle sharing student evaluations, teaching styles & use of time in class sessions, grading expectations, sit in on a class to observe teaching partner in preparation, assess outcomes to know if student learning was enriched by interdisciplinary team teaching 
  • agree on rubrics, norm language between the 2 disciplines; be explicit on expectations for each other in terms of prepping students, class time and content; note how our teaching changed (lecture language, activities, tag-teaming, etc.)
"Exploring unintentional biases and their impact in the classroom:" listen, listen some more, listen again. Don’t rush to connect, empathize, fix, or defend. “Stereotype threat” means that one starts questioning or doubting self; it affects all minorities.

"Meeting student resistance with empathy in the college classroom:"
in library sessions, in order to connect with students’ feelings and perspectives but still be separate, “I didn’t do library research when I was an undergraduate but learned afterward how it helped me save time and write better papers (for better grades); it is important to me that you hve the same opportunity!”

"New science of learning:"
  1. students look for meaning and patterns, and stop thinking when they have found something (whatever it is)
  2. most effective study techniques:
  • high: practice testing, breaking practice or study up into chunks
  • moderate: elaborative interrogation (asking questions of oneself about concepts and elaborating on them), explaining concepts to oneself, interweaving practice (connecting concepts to each other)
3. Implementation science: incorporating evidence-based programs or innovations into practice
  • builds capacity to sustain innovations
  • bridges gap between research and using it or putting plan into action
  • learning moment = failure and wish to improve
  • goal to change behavior, establish “x” as the norm (even when no one is watching)
  • what works:
· diffusion – people talking to others over time
· one-on-one mentors/facilitators/coaches/consultants who show why and how to do it
· people follow the lead of those whom they know and trust
· start with high structure and decrease as skills progress
· keep number of perspectives low at first and increase in complexity
· start with a lower degree of asking learners to connect concepts to their personal lives and increase
· start with small degrees of community and interaction, then increase 

4. National Implementation Research Network core components:
· staff or team selection
· training
· one-on-one mentors/facilitators/coaches/consultants
· support (safety, trust, etc.)
· data systems (collection, analysis, sharing)
· system-wide interventions
· staff performance evaluation
 
5. peer-led team learning (PLTL.org)
· 6-8 people in temas, each team has a peer leader who did well in previous class/training
· cooperation inspires greater efforts to achive than competition or individual striving, results in more positive relationships between team members, and greater psychological health
  • mentor qualities:invites people to change, listens, nudges gently, questions, balances, cares, provides avenues for retreat when necessary
  • fast idea implementation: idea/innovation is visible, short-term evidence is provided, doesn’t violate previous beliefs, is test-drivable, not tedious, is technically simple, and makes life better for practitioners and clients

Friday, August 15, 2014

Journal on Excellence in College Teaching

Use this article as a model (in Sabbatical folder)
Biswas, A. E. (2014). Lessons in Citizenship: Using Collaboration in the Classroom to Build Community, Foster Academic Integrity, and Model Civic Responsibility. Journal On Excellence In College Teaching, 25(1), 9-25.

Look for this article: http://vq9xh3gm7u.search.serialssolutions.com/?V=1.0&N=100&L=VQ9XH3GM7U&S=I_M&C=1052-4800

Wismath, S., Orr, D., & Good, B. (2014).Metacognition: Student Reflections on Problem Solving
Journal On Excellence In College Teaching, 25(2).


categories:
Integration: Integrates research of others in meaningful way; compares or contrasts theories; critiques results; and/or provides context for future exploration.
Innovation: Proposes innovation of theory, approach, or process of teaching; provides original and creative ideas based on results of research by self or others; and outlines proposed strategy for testing effectiveness of ideas.
Inspiration: Provides inspiration for teaching excellence; combines personal values, insight, and experience to communicate enthusiasm and dedication to outstanding teaching.

Submission guidelines: http://celt.muohio.edu/ject/submission.php

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Violeta Parra


Miré la pelí Violeta se fue a los cielos. ¡Cómo sufrió ella! Pero la actriz Francisca Gavilán le recreó maravillosamente, especialmente cuando cantar. El sitio oficial de VP aquí. Yo no había sabido que Violeta no sólo era música sino también pintora, hizo tapices y papel maché. Se mostraba su arte en el museo del Louvre en París.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Contemplative Practices in Higher Education: the Retreat

The retreat was held at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute, Wednesday 6/4/14 3:30 p.m. to Friday 6/6/14 lunchtime. Thursday was a 12+ hour day, very intense. It was a group of faculty, half from GVSU, half from Ferris.

My goals were to learn how to:
  • apply mindfulness to teaching, especially in single class sessions
  • help students be aware of & present to their learning
  • help students be more empathetic, integrated, more aware & less distracted, & to pay attention
Notes from the sessions
Neutral/secular ways to frame contemplative practices: observing, noticing, being aware, paying attention, focusing. I might ask students: "What in your life do you notice, pay attention to, focus on, observe?" "When you consider this, how would you describe the experience?" Neuroscience describes what happens in the brain (learning = new neural connections, etc.).

Relate mindfulness practice to disciplinary discoveries, e.g., "pre-writing" in rhetoric, Barbara McLintock beholding corn in her study of genetics, Einstein trying to visualize traveling with a wave of light for several years until he was able to formulate the formulas/theories. These practices are also good for coping with stress, which we all experience in careers, life. They help with learning retention. The keys are consistency, practice, noting one's progress.
 

Ch.4: mindfulness can lead to discomfort - important to help students cope afterward - be aware of their reactions, provide resources to help them if needed (e.g., counseling center contact info). Important to give students "opt out" choices such as just sitting quietly, journaling, walking quietly. "Hold the space" (mindfully create/envision the classroom/lab as a safe & trusted, maybe even sacred space, intentionally connecting people to each other & the universe, etc.).

Find commonalities between people & yet acknowledge difference. "Just like me" exercise on p.180 for creating safety/trust - can have pairs 1st, then pairs share with pairs. Although it's very intense - maybe emphasize that while looking at the other person, they don't have to look directly into each other's eyes!

We can note our own resistance when doing the exercises & not judge it.

I think that mindfulness is a threshold concept in teaching & learning. The "mindfulness position" is sitting upright, eyes closed or open in a "soft" focus about 6 feet ahead, attention on the breath. Noticing thoughts or distractions that arise but letting them go and returning to the breath.

Physics practice at the beginning of each class session: 3-5 minutes of being aware of one's breath, thinking to oneself during each inhalation, "I smile to my natural ability to learn" and during each exhalation, "I let go of anything (worries & anxieties) that interferes with my learning." The 1st time - 1st class session of the semester, only for 1 minute, then for 6-8 class sessions do 3-5 minutes. (Other faculty used it at the end of classes, to allow for journaling about what one realized or how ideas connected.) Then uses an exercise to improve concentration & focus by holding & looking at an object (paperclip, for e.g.), closing one's eyes & re-envisioning it, paying particular attention to the texture, shape, direction of the curves, length/angle of the flat sides, etc.

A similar exercise is with sound: "I'm going to make a sound--pay attention to the pitch, duration, quality, etc., & follow it to its end." 2nd time: "Recreate it in your mind" (repeat attributes). After a moment, "Return to your breath, & when ready, open your eyes or refocus, & we'll begin class." Sound could be anything that resonates.

Also, "holding a question" -- not to answer but to explore it. Focus on breath, create sound, recreate sound, ask "What do I know about X (e.g., wave/particle duality, etc.)?" or "What does X mean to me?" After the 3-5 minute exercise, introduce that topic for the day--whatever X was.

"Speaking/talking circles" work well with problem-solving, slow the process down, are inclusive, empowering, allow participants to feel connected. No responding to what another person has said, at least during the first go-round! Use an object for the speaker to hold, one which allows surprise & spirit-led speaking instead of planned speech. Use with charged topics, & after each speaker is done, says "thank you" as s/he passes the object to the next person. The pause & thanks removes tension. Could use a ball of string to make connections after an initial sharing. Speaking "leanly" = 1 sentence only.

"Embodied Social Justice - Integrating Mindfulness into Anti-oppression Pedagogy" webinar by Beth Beria:
  • Objectives: openness to novelty, alertness to distinctions, sensitivity to contexts, multiple perspectives, orientation to the present.
  • Teach students to apply learning to their lives - how to understand issues, why students have reactions to them, language for responding, tools for processing reactions.
  • Compassion & empathy = embodied self-reflection, unlearning internalized oppression, practice compassion instead of violence for self & others. Cultivates the witness, teaches us perspective, helps us detach (not dissociate), nonjudgmental awareness, accept responses but not oppression, without minimizing differences. Discernment = adaptability = intentional choices, honoring the experiences. Move stimuli from limbic system to prefrontal cortex - pause to switch into rational rather than instinct. Connect with hope, resilience.
  • What happens in classroom - students & faculty have complex lives, institutional space not safe = vulnerability, there are different levels of development & self-understanding. But we can help cultivate beginning to create internal safely. 
  1. Assume that someone in class has suffered trauma.
  2. Prepare students for this beforehand by giving them language ("can bring up tough things," "be sensitive to others & self").
  3. Offer discreet alternatives for opting out.
  4. Provide support resources.
  5. Hold the space (see above).
  6. Leave lights on.
How to use any of the practices in library sessions?
choosing/narrowing a topic using "holding a question"? Journaling or freewriting using questions like, "What is information?" or "What is communication?" or "What does X (student's topic question) mean? Why is it relevant? How will I use it?"

At LOEX 2014, there was the following session, but I didn't attend.
Sculpting the Mind, Shaping the Learner: Mindfulness Practices in the Classroom. Jill E. Luedke (Temple University) and Deborah Ultan Boudewyns (University of Minnesota)

Teaching librarians are gaining greater responsibility in the classroom with high expectations to facilitate learning in a way that supports and encourages lifelong research skills. Likewise, students arrive in the classroom with varying levels of motivation, perspective and attentiveness to research. It is part of our responsibility to give students tools to help them navigate their frustrations and preconceptions about research. Helping students to manage distractions and clear their mind clutter can prepare them to be more receptive learners. Librarians who practice mindfulness can engage in deeper listening, compassion, and greater attentiveness with their students.
Incorporating mindfulness practices into our pedagogies can create an engaged learning environment in which both teacher and student are more focused and attentive to each other. Mindfulness in teaching, or contemplative pedagogy, has been a growing instruction model over the past fifteen years. Following on the theories and methodologies of established constituents along with their own finely tuned practices, presenters will identify for attendees how the use of meditation and other mindful techniques can foster a more productive learning experience. Presenters will share how their years of experience with yoga, meditation, and mindfulness influence their teaching, and they will demonstrate simple techniques that attendees can incorporate into their own pedagogy to help students manage their research with greater awareness, patience, and focus. Presenters will discuss current research on the benefits of mindfulness practices and the use of these practices in higher education.
Participants will be able to implement mindfulness practices in the classroom in order to create a more engaged learning environment

Monday, June 9, 2014

Decoding the disciplines

Pace, David and Joan Middendorf (eds). Decoding the disciplines: helping students learn disciplinary ways of thinking. San Francisco : Jossey-Bass, 2004. http://elibrary.mel.org/record=b13103784

This book is about:
  1. identifying disciplinary "bottlenecks" 
  2. examining the steps experts take to solve these problems
  3. demonstrating (explicitly modelling) the tasks
  4. generating exercises for students to practice the skills & get feedback--scaffolding the tasks from application to synthesis, & simple to more complex
  5. gauging student understanding & assessing mastery.
I think that "bottlenecks" are quite similar to "threshold concepts" (Meyer & Land).

In chapter 6, "Learning to Use Evidence in the Study of History" (pp. 57-65), students learn to:
  • recognize evidence
  • use imagination to project themselves into the story (developing a personal viewpoint which incorporate emotional responses)
  • use specific details to support their position within the broader historical context (communities & cultures)
  • & raise questions. 

The authors (Valerie Grim, David Pace, Leah Shopkow) frame writing history in terms of detectives collaborating with prosecutors to assemble evidence & produce compelling arguments which include individual motivations & larger societal context.

This is how I would apply practice to Photography:
  1. Students learn to find images & describe them based on the techniques depicted in their textbook.
  2. Students make images & describe the elements they tried to include.
  3. Students examine their own images for these elements--if not present, make new images. If present, write their unique vision = interpretation of the elements/techniques with their underlying intentions (story).
I think this is the intention of GVSU's photo program, but how is it practiced in courses? Are the assignments effective? Do they build on one another? Does student performance improve? What evidence shows this, if so?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Contemplative Practices in Higher Education, 3

Finally finished reading the book for the retreat beginning tomorrow, and made notes on the pages most relevant to information literacy. Then I went for a walk, being present to sounds (birds, crickets, chipmunks, and cicadas), sights (clover - 2 different kinds, a bumblebee, raspberries blooming, different types of grasses, ox-eye daisies, honeysuckle, yellow iris in the marsh, money plant, sunlight and shadow patterns), scents (raspberries, honeysuckle, sun-warmed pine needles, sugar house steeped in maple smoke), sensations (breezes, sun-warmth, shade-coolness, mosquitos buzzing, unevenness of the path).

I'm a little apprehensive - will this retreat be in the sense of "working but off-campus" or "contemplative place away from the world"? The text is rich but the agenda looks full: practicing the techniques described, with activities from 4:00-8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, 8:15 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, and 8:15-noon Friday.