Welcome to the Spring 2010 Semester!

by on January 12, 2010 in 2009-2011 with Comments Off


Greetings and welcome to the Spring 2010 semester at MCNY!

Last semester, the LEC blog showcased everything from information about events (SDL, Critical Thinking), poetry, reflections (Muhammad, Aguila, & Ariza) and research articles (LEC research, LEC goals part 1, part 2). This semester we will continue with more of the same great content, as well as articles covering new areas of student learning, teaching and creativity (including media).

I invite you all to subscribe to the blog via it’s RSS feed, so that the latest blog postings are delivered directly to your browser. If you’re interested in submitting content to the blog (you must be a student, alumni, staff or faculty member of Metropolitan College of New York), please write to lecblog@metropolitan.edu

Have a great semester!Â

Â

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Reflection on Free Writing

by on January 7, 2010 in 2009-2011 with Comments Off


“I have gone through a lot this semester, losing one of my step brothers to suicide and having two of my sisters and their children living with me. Freewriting is something that has given me patience: I am not as argumentative as I used to be and I am always writing now. It pulls a lot of stress off my chest. Freewrites have become a way of talking without speaking. Sometimes I write and throw the paper away just as a way to never have to look back on it. I hope one day to turn my freewrites into a book, the ones I don’t throw away. Thank you for this tool and for reading them with no judgment.”

By Tasliym Muhammad
American Urban Studies Bachelor’s Degree Program at M.C.N.Y.

Freewriting by Yasmine Alwan, yalwan@metropolitan.edu

Freewriting is an exercise in which you write without stopping for ten minutes during which you release yourself from the worries of grammar, spelling or correct punctuation. The point is to let your thoughts freely spill out, associate and develop, and by freeing yourself from the pressure of the “right words,” you will liberate yourself to find and follow what fascinates you. Freewriting is not the same as writing a quick first draft; it works to develop the thinking aspects of writing, and thusly, its aim is to improve your writing process. Peter Elbow, a fervent champion of freewriting, sets forth its many benefits in his book, Writing with Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process, excerpted below:

Freewriting makes writing easier by helping you with the root psychological or existential difficulty in writing: finding words in your head and putting them down on a blank piece of paper. So much writing time and energy is spent not writing: wondering, worrying, crossing out, having second, third, and fourth thoughts…Frequent freewriting exercises help you learn simply to get on with it and not be held back by worries about whether these words are good words or the right words.

Thus, freewriting is the best way to learn–in practice, not just in theory–to separate the producing process from the revising process. Freewriting exercises are push-ups in withholding judgment as you produce so that afterwards you can judge better.

  • Freewriting helps you learn to write when you don’t feel like writing. It is practice in setting deadlines for yourself, taking charge of yourself, and learning gradually to get that special energy you get when you work fast under pressure.
  • Freewriting is a useful outlet. We have lots in our heads that makes it hard to think straight and write clearly (pg. 14-15)

Elbow, Peter (1988). Writing with power: Techniques for mastering the writing process. Oxford University Press.

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Reflections on Writing a CA By Hans Aguila

by on December 4, 2009 in 2009-2011 with No Comments »


Reflections on Writing a CA

By Hans Aguila

The first semester was a very fulfilling experience. The course consisted of doing various papers in which I learned about myself, in which I had the chance to look back on my life and bring back all my past life experiences, such as poverty, injustice, etc. This gave me the opportunity to have an introspective look at myself and really understand why I chose to study human services and to discover what it really means to take the responsibility of becoming a professional in this field which deals with problems that affect society, such as drug abuse, domestic violence, poverty, social injustice and racism.

During the construction of my C.A., I was able to use and put into practice the knowledge that I acquired from the other Dimensions. One that I found very important was Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which I personally believe affects the people of that part of society that a human services professional has to attend to and who for the most part come for help because they have unsatisfied needs.

Upon completing my C.A., I used the method described in A Discourse in Method by Rene Descartes. In this work, Descartes states that he would start from the simplest logical task (which, for him, was mathematics), and then gradually move on to the more difficult ones in order to achieve a full understanding of his objective.

By doing this C.A. assignment, I learned that if you set your mind to it, and you do the necessary research, you can achieve what you want. Researching a specific problem that you have is very important because it gives you the necessary knowledge to approach the problem with the right perspective. Also, I must say that it lifted my personal spirit and confidence. I also learned a lot about myself regarding who I really am, why I chose to study Human Services in reviewing my personal experience, as well as my life experiences, in this short life of mine. It was a very fulfilling assignment, the Self Assessment.

I think that my Plan of Action was overall realistic. It was a short-term Plan of Action that kept very strict time limits. I made it very simple with steps based on a time frame that I could really keep, taking into account the busy schedule that I have, as I work and come to college. Most of all, I think it was realistic because I actually did the plan of action in the time I was supposed to finish it. So, yes, it was realistic.

If I were to do this C.A. again, I would do it by implementing the plan of action I did in order to have all my assignments done in time. In that way, I could go over them and revise them properly before handing in the final papers. I would also do it in order to have it pretty much complete by the time I had to hand in the final version of my C.A. paper.

The other classes were useful for this C.A. because they gave me a background knowledge or peripheral knowledge. I was able to extract information from some of the reading and to implement them on the plan of action.

This was a very helpful assignment. Doing it was a bit difficult, mostly because of the time issue, which is very important when it comes to finishing a paper. This was our first Purpose and this was the kind of assignment which I honestly had never done before. The simple fact of doing it and finishing it has given me a lot of confidence for my upcoming C.A. It also helped me to learn how to properly use a computer and to do research. Also, thanks to the professor and to Bernadette from the LEC, it gave me the opportunity to improve my grammar skills, although I have a long way to go in this area, but it was something that I was probably not going to do on my own.

In conclusion, it was a very fulfilling course of study, and I am very grateful for all the help I received. It was a great learning experience.

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Poetry Corner

by on December 1, 2009 in 2009-2011 with Comments Off


Sometimes you can’t see things because of strings

By Theodor Damian

That’s how we go through life
like through an over-layered picture
or through the old warehouse
in Omaha, Nebraska
with shoes in shop windows
and shop windows in shoes –
only American Express, Visa and Discover
accepted
everything in the warehouse
hangs on strings
Tom Blackwell paints business front signs
left to right
or right to left
or upside down
because now to show a front
you have to be backwards
everything reflects in everything else
the bus in the shoe
the shoes in the bus
those walking above
in those walking below
and the other way round
stars hang from the warehouse’s dome
in the old town in Nebraska
left to right
and right to left
until no one knows
who illuminates what
and who whom
the lights reflect
heim
has separated from florsheim
and wanders among shoppers
you don’t know if you’ll be tagged with a price
and if you will ever be able to distinguish
between virtue and vice.

Theodor Damian, born in Romania, currently lives in New York, USA. Since 1992 he has been a professor of Philosophy and Ethics at the Metropolitan College of New York, Audrey Cohen School for Human Services and Education, president of the Romanian Institute of Orthodox Theology and Spirituality. He is a poet and director of “Lumina Lina/ Gracious Light” trimestrial magazine and has published over 15 books in the fields of theology, philosophy, and poetry.

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Math Challenge!

by on November 20, 2009 in 2009-2011 with Comments Off


By Barrington Scott, Math Specialist, bscott@metropolitan.edu
The gutter on a roof over flows whenever more than 4/5 inches of falls. This morning 2/3 inches of fall. Did the gutter over flow?

Submit your answer to lecblog@metropolitan.edu, the first person to submit the correct answer (with explanation) will be featured next month as the winner of this math challenge!

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Using Learning Goals to promote self-directedness: the LEC experience, Part 2

by on November 17, 2009 in 2009-2011 with Comments Off


By Jaya Kannan, LEC Director

jkannan@metropolitan.edu

LEC observations about student learning in the context of goal setting: So, what is working?

One thing that is working is that all students jot down a goal in the first session. Irrespective of the goal’s quality (more about this in the next section), this first step helps in empowering the student take responsibility for their learning and define their learning path. Embedded within this process of goal setting is the need for self-assessment and engagement in a detailed dialogue with the math or writing specialist about their learning intentions.

  • It is heartening to note that more than 50% of the time, the student drives the goal even when the tutorial discussion is facilitated through a collaborative dialogue. This is indicative of a high level of motivation and desire for learning that the LEC would like to build on further.
  • When a student in the LEC creates a goal, that student is respected for the unique learner that he or she is and is given the opportunity to carve out their own path, comparison to any other student or limiting them to the objectives of a course or a program.
  • On many occasions, students tend to pick a goal for themselves (e.g., subject-verb agreement) that they recognize to be transferable to other areas of learning. Assessment at the end of the term becomes ipsative and also recognizes the cumulative aspect by referring to student’s learning in previous terms too. [A minimum of 3 sessions is required to prepare a learning summary].

LEC observations about student learning in the context of goal setting: Serious concerns that need addressing:

  • Writing a good goal doesn’t automatically ensure successful learning. When students don’t follow through by continuing to visit the Centre, it is hard to know if and how the student is making progress. A good 40% of the students who visit the LEC do not meet the minimum requirement of 3 sessions for us to prepare a learning summary.
  • The language of goal writing is an art and science in itself. We have struggled at the LEC to create standards that strike a fair balance between allowing for creativity in the discussions and yet aiming to meet minimum requirements to achieve a good goal. [For example, a good goal is clear, specific, complex and measurable].
  • Writing a good goal can be a tremendous challenge. Bridging the gap in understanding between the specialist and the student in what makes a good goal calls for serious pedagogical discussions on our part. It is on very rare occasions that a student almost independently writes a clear, concise, specific, and measurable goal. Especially in the very early sessions, the specialists’ input while engaging in a dialogue and then arriving at a goal is very high. It is our intention that over time and with practice, students will show greater autonomy in writing a good goal.

More than anything else, getting the student to develop this need for self-directedness as a value is our biggest aim. Learning to use goal-setting as an effective tool is part of the overall learning process.

References

  • Elliot, A. J. (2005). A conceptual history of the achievement goal construct. In A. J. Elliot, & C. S. Dweck (Eds.), Handbook of competence and motivation (pp. 52-72). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
  • Grant, H & Dweck, C. S. (2003). Clarifying achievement goals and their impact. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 541-553
  • Hayes, S. C., Rosenfarb, I., Wuifert, E., Munt, E. D., Korn, Z., & Zettle, R. D. (1985). Self reinforcement effects: An artifact of social standard setting. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 18, 201-214.
  • Locke, E.A., & Latham, G.P (1990). A theory of goal-setting and task performance. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  • Locke, E.A., & Latham, G.P (2002). Building a practically useful theory of goal-setting and task motivation: A 35 year odyssey. American Psychologist, 57, 705-717. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Schunk, D.H. (1990). Goal setting and self-efficacy during self-regulated learning. Educational Psychologist, 25, 71-86.

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Using Learning Goals to promote self-directedness: the LEC experience, Part 1

by on November 5, 2009 in 2009-2011 with Comments Off


By Jaya Kannan, LEC Director

jkannan@metropolitan.edu

Introduction

At the LEC, in creating a learning environment for students that is conducive to the development of self-directedness, we recognize the construction of a learning goal by the student to be a crucial step in the process.

The objective of this series of articles to be posted on our blog is to reflect on the role of goal-setting in learning and its connection to the promotion of autonomy based on the LEC experience. In doing so, we will focus on:

  • Analyzing what characterizes a good goal and the difficulty in coming to an agreement on standards
  • Describing the challenges math/writing specialists and the students face in arriving at a well articulated goal
  • Finding ways for enabling students to use the goal in such a way that it contributes to their ability for deep learning.
  • Outlining the complexities involved in the assessment of learning in relation to the student’s stated learning goal

For the purposes of this introductory section, I will limit myself to explaining the learning process involved with particular reference to creating a goal.

Observations about students at the LEC

While setting a goal, the individual refers to the quantity and quality of performance that he or she is aiming to accomplish. (Locke & Latham 1990, 2002). From time immemorial, setting a goal has been considered to be a very important and beneficial step in developing self-regulation. (Schunk, 1990). Research shows that setting one’s own goals leads to a high level of commitment (Hayes, et al., 1985).

In fact, a high percentage of students visiting the LEC (about 80%) are self-referred and therefore show very high motivation for learning. Even if they do come in anxious to work on an assignment at the last minute, there is a set goal that they want to achieve.

An academic practice of having students create a goal in their very first session has greatly strengthened the students’ attitude to taking responsibility for their learning. While this has not been without its challenges, even those students who see goal setting as an additional burden when they are racing against time have almost always been able to present an idea and (in discussion with their math or writing specialist) arrive at a goal by the session’s end.

Steps in student learning goal setting:

  • Irrespective of when their first session is (week 1 or week 14), students jot down a goal in their “Learning Plan” document in that session. If they come for more than 3 sessions within a term, there is opportunity to revisit the goal, to review and even change if necessary while they focus on their learning tasks.
  • When a student visits the LEC for more than one semester, he or she tends to build a cumulative path by referring back to the old goal or refining it further for the next term.
  • In some cases, students are able to state their goals quite independently and with clarity and conciseness, but in many other cases, the input from the specialists in the goal creation can be very high.

Categories of goals: Distal and proximal

In discussion with the writing/math specialists, students create different types of goals that can be distinguished into proximal or distal goals. (Schunk, 1990). Students tend to use the distal goal, for say, planning their learning for the term and then under the guidance of the specialist, they break it down to specific goals that define the objective for that particular session. The constant iterative loop that connects goals from the distal to the proximal helps establish the connection between the session goal and the overall learning goal. To sum up, we can classify goals into three categories:

  • Goal for the semester: Oftentimes the student’s goal is a combination of a few different interconnected sub-goals and not just one single idea . Example goal: “Breaking down a sentence-subject verb agreement, dependent and independent clause, how to use a subordinate conjunction and make sure that the clauses are correct”.
  • Goals for each session: within the overarching goal for the term, the students visiting the LEC are usually keen to choose what they want to do for that particular session. There have been times when they veer away from the main goal for a particular session or even change their goal altogether based on the direction that their specific course is taking. Math and writing specialists have enthusiastically shared in the departmental meetings how more than 50% of the students tend to lead the session with a specific objective.
  • Cumulative Goals – building connectivity with previous goals, aiming for lifelong learning. A good number of students who have visited the LEC for more than 3 terms have demonstrated the emergence of a lifelong learner by connecting goals to learning in their previous terms.

Types of goals

Within the context of the achievement goal theory, distinction is made between a mastery goal and performance goal. When choosing a mastery goal, students are said to show more adaptive processes as opposed to a performance goal when students show inconsistent effects. (Grant & Dweck, 2003; Elliott,2005).

A good number of students choose a performance goal [“I want to get an A grade in this course’] as part of their overall goal. But a majority of the students show a propensity to choose a mastery goal as their main learning goal.

Range of goals

Students visiting the LEC create a range of goals that may or may not be connected to their course objectives.

The gamut runs from an eager to learn but unable to narrow down goal (“I want to improve my writing”) to a performance oriented approach (“I want to pass the statistics class”) to the highly reflective( “My learning goal is to achieve a more meaningful way of expressing my thoughts”).

When learning summaries are prepared at the end of the term, the specialists assess the student’s learning by paying careful attention to the learning performance in the tutorial sessions in relation to the goal set by the student. The beginning section of this learning summary requires presenting the learner’s objectives by referring back to the students’ session summaries. In preparing this report, an important challenge for the writing/math specialist in presenting the learning goal is in being faithful to the original voice of the student.

References

Elliot, A. J. (2005). A conceptual history of the achievement goal construct. In A. J. Elliot, & C. S. Dweck (Eds.), Handbook of competence and motivation (pp. 52-72). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Grant, H., & Dweck, C. S. (2003). Clarifying achievement goals and their impact. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 541-553.

Hayes, S. C., Rosenfarb, I., Wuifert, E., Munt, E. D., Korn, Z., & Zettle, R. D. (1985). Self reinforcement effects: An artifact of social standard setting. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 18, 201-214.

Locke, E.A., & Latham, G.P (1990). A theory of goal-setting and task performance. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Locke, E.A., & Latham, G.P (2002). Building a practically useful theory of goal-setting and task motivation: A 35 year odyssey. American Psychologist, 57, 705-717. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Schunk, D.H. (1990). Goal setting and self-efficacy during self-regulated learning. Educational Psychologist, 25, 71-86.
*Look for Part 2 of this series tomorrow!

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Poetry Corner

by on November 5, 2009 in 2009-2011 with Comments Off


Aut Caesar

By Theodor Damian

I’ve had too much

of too much

in the old times they used to say something

I don’t want to hear anymore

Aut Caesar, aut nihil

I don’t want Caesar anymore

I want nihil

nihil, not nihilism

I kindly ask philosophers not to confound me

nihil brings me somewhere

nihilism nowhere.

Theodor Damian, born in Romania, currently lives in New York. Â Since 1992 he has been a professor of Philosophy and Ethics at the Metropolitan College of New York, Audrey Cohen School for Human Services and Education, and president of the Romanian Institute of Orthodox Theology and Spirituality. He is a poet and director of “Lumina Lina/ Gracious Light” trimestrial magazine and has published over 15 books in the fields of theology, philosophy, and poetry.

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Student Reflection: by Sandra Ariza

by on October 27, 2009 in 2009-2011 with Comments Off


I had been away from college for almost ten years, and fear controlled my performance during the first semester. It took some time, but I gradually began to feel comfortable around my professors and classmates who were a lot younger and energetic. Something that I appreciated was the fact that my classmates and instructors never made me feel as though I did not belong in a classroom. The “constructive action” was completely foreign to me and it was not until the third semester that I actually understood its purpose. For most students, the idea of “constructive action” develops during the course of their studies. For a graduate student who has never attended MCNY, it was very difficult for me to grasp the notion of what it means to write a research paper. We never saw a completed project until half way during the second semester. The concept had completely assimilated during the third semester, and the “constructive action” finally took form.

I began to utilize the concepts learned in the classroom and eventually was able to apply them to my every day experiences as well as integrate them to other academic areas. Also, and most importantly, I am now able to guide students who come to the LEC requesting assistance, expressing how hard it is and talking about giving up.

Overall, college became a part of my life and if I was told to do it all over, I would undoubtedly walk those corridors again. I would ride those elevators up and down holding my books and reading my assignments on my way to class. I can count the countless sleepless nights I had, with my 86 year-old mother recently out of the hospital after a stroke. I kept saying to my co-workers at the LEC that I could not continue and they kept encouraging me. Every night when I went home, my daughter kept telling me “you are not a quitter.” I finally graduated and when I did, my daughter gave me a magnet which reads: “Never, never, never give up.” (Winston Churchill) –and I never did, and never will.

Sandra Ariza completed her M.P.A. in general administration in August 2009. She works in the Learning Enhancement Center.

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Fresh Perspectives: Harnessing Learning Challenges for Deeper Learning

by on October 16, 2009 in 2009-2011 with Comments Off


In this LEC-sponsored event, faculty, students and administrators will come together to discuss how students have identified and creatively addressed specific challenges related to their learning processes. We will feature a panel of students and alumni who will share their stories and reflections, as well as a faculty panel who will consider what they have learned from students.

Wednesday, 11/11/2009

Student Lounge, 12th floor 4pm-6pm

Light refreshments

Organized by Yasmine Alwan

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