by Learning Enhancement Center on January 29, 2010 in 2009-2011
By Brandon Melendez
The revolving door spins with a satisfyingly smooth lack of resistance as he makes his way out of the building. Push. Slide. Turn. Release. He always gives the door an extra jolt on release because he figured revolving doors should rotate on their axis when empty like a cowboyâ€™s six-shooterâ€”freshly loaded. Inhaling from his nostrils he takes a lungful of crisp grey autumn.
Autumn in a city of dusty oxygen is different than that of the Tide-With-Wrinkle-Release â€˜burbs. Suburban fall smells of fresh textbooks and crunchy orange leaves. The city has those smells for sure, but adds its own flavor to it: the savory blends of cab driverâ€™s armpit, dirty hot dog water, bus exhaust, and a million other wonderful scents and oppressive odors native to urban foliage. He reaches into his pocket and emancipates a slightly flattened menthol 100 cigarette from its slightly flattened box. The green box of twenty Grade-A cigarettes is ripped in the flaps, frayed in the lid, and exploded on the sidesâ€”but it is intact and, as advertised, crush-proof. The cigarette, though still mostly round, is almost a half circle, as if someone had kicked the letter â€œDâ€ on its sideâ€”except for its long 100â€™s filter which is reasonably unscathed.
This is a New York State cigarette. As all dutiful New York smokers are aware, New York State cigarettes have lines around the circumference of the white paper and along the length. These lines resemble the strata of the dearly departed Twin Towers. They are actually layers of chemicals designed to stop the cigarette from burning if one should happen to fall asleep smoking one. They provide for that distinctive taste of a New York cigarette that cheapens the quality of a New Jersey cigarette right along with the cost. The addition of the carcinogenic chemicals to create that flavor is really a tear drop in the ocean and doesnâ€™t require much attention.
He sparks the cigarette. In a fluid motion that both blocks the wind and lights the flame he pulls the fire into the cigarette causing the tobacco to transmogrify dusty city oxygen into cigarette smoke.
At first there us nothing else to focus on except the cancer poised between lips and fingers. The unlit cigarette is as infinite as the horizons of the universe. Unlit it can last forever and provide the nicotine fix all the time at anytime. The fire that burns the cigarette, however, is just like the grains of sand in an hour glass. The cigarette is no longer immortal; it is doomed.
Like any infatuation, the relationship between man and bogey decreases intensity proportionally to the progression of time. The mind wanders. The eye drifts. Smoking which was second natureâ€”an all encompassing affairâ€”all but thirty seconds ago is now old hat. Behold as tiny dog walks by; his every step is blurred by the speed required to keep up the pace with its master. An airplane soars overhead while a train roars underfoot.
â€œLook at that dog. Whatâ€™s that smell? Is it me? No it isnâ€™t! I want to see that movieâ€¦â€ thoughts run into each other.
The cigarette has now reached its mid-point. It is burning quickly as he smokes harder. Nicotine breaths become deep cavernous fogs in pinked lungs changing to yellow, brown, and black like the leaves of the season. He holds the swirling grey air-born debris in his chest and lets his head swim; his brain thinks heâ€™s drowning. Exhaling through his nose he closes his eyes and the cool smokeâ€™s exit leaves in momentary euphoria.
The moment is over.
Other smokers are congregated outside the building at scattered outposts by the building and varying points smoking affairâ€™s timeline. They pace, talk on the phone, stare into space. The other smokers look uninterested, calm, anxious, or distracted.
He looks at his nail-bitten fingers and cracks his knuckles. He checks his Facebook on the phone; then he checks the time, cigarette balanced in his mouth. He looks at his cigarette mournfullyâ€”it is almost done. It is almost ready to die as all mortals must. His chest becomes heavy as he unleashes a sigh. He is craving another cigarette before this cigarette is overâ€”he is ready to move on from this dead-end affair.
Alas, there is no time for such indulgences as his watch has horrifically confirmed. In three sequential drags he bids farewell to the lost love of cigarette number seven from this pack. He holds the smoke inside while he positions the finished vice between his thumb and middle finger. Flick. It flies in a spiral and swirls down the open grate to the subterranean hell below. He turns and faces the revolving door again.
Brandon Melendez is a writer, filmmaker, musician, and artist from Far Rockaway, New York City. Born toÂ American parents, Brandon Melendez can claim both a Jewish and Puerto Rican heritage as well as a New Yorker’s perspective. He graduated from the Metropolitan College of New York with a Bachelor’s Degree in American Urban Studies in December 2009. For more information on Brandon’s writing or his other creative endeavors, please visit his website at http://www.brandonmelendez.com.
by Learning Enhancement Center on January 22, 2010 in 2009-2011
By Larry Lutsky, PhD. email@example.com
Your friend from out of town tells you that he has a ticket for a ball game tonight, but he is worried because there is rain in the forecast.Â If there is any rain at all the game will be canceled.Â The next day you hear on the radio that the game was canceled.Â Can you conclude that it rained the night before at the ball park?Â It may seem so, but a momentâ€™s reflection will suggest there may be other reasons why a game can be canceled e.g., hurricane, lightening, electrical blackout, etc.Â For the same reason, it canâ€™t be concluded that the game will be played even if it doesnâ€™t rain.Â You can conclude with certainty, however, that if the game was played it did not rain.Â Mathematicians would say that statements of the form
(1) if A then B
must have the same truth value as
(2) If not B then not A
That is, if (1) is true then (2) must be true as well.Â Studies have shown that people have an easier time looking for evidence in the form of (1) to confirm an hypothesis, than looking for evidence in the form of (2) to disconfirm an hypothesis.Â This has been called the confirmation bias.Â Good critical thinking skills require one to be aware of the trap of confirmation bias by seeking evidence that would possibly disconfirm an hypothesis as well as evidence that would confirm it.
Klayman, J., & Young-Won, H. (1987) Confirmation, DisconfirmationÂ and Information in Hypothesis Testing. Psychological Review 94(2) pp. 211-28
Confirmation Bias: The Skeptic’s Dictionary
by Learning Enhancement Center on January 12, 2010 in 2009-2011
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.Â 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a greatÂ semester!Â
by Learning Enhancement Center on January 7, 2010 in 2009-2011
“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, email@example.com
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.
by Learning Enhancement Center on December 4, 2009 in 2009-2011
Reflections on Writing a CA
By Hans Aguila
The first semester was a very fulfilling experience. The course consisted of doing various papers in whichÂ 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 Maslowâ€™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.Â 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.Â 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.Â 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.Â 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.Â It was a great learning experience.
by Learning Enhancement Center on December 1, 2009 in 2009-2011
Sometimes you canâ€™t see things because of strings
By Theodor Damian
Thatâ€™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
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 warehouseâ€™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
has separated from florsheim
and wanders among shoppers
you donâ€™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.
by Learning Enhancement Center on November 20, 2009 in 2009-2011
By Barrington Scott, Math Specialist, firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com, the first person to submit the correct answer (with explanation) will be featured next month as the winner of this math challenge!
by Learning Enhancement Center on November 17, 2009 in 2009-2011
By Jaya Kannan, LEC Director
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 inÂ 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.
- 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.Â 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.
by Learning Enhancement Center on November 5, 2009 in 2009-2011
By Jaya Kannan, LEC Director
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 studentâ€™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 oneâ€™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 studentsâ€™ 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 sessionâ€™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 â€œLearning Planâ€ 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 studentâ€™s goal is a combination of a few different interconnected sub-goals and not just one single idea . Example goal: â€œBreaking down a sentence-subject verb agreement, dependent and independent clause, how to use a subordinate conjunction and make sure that the clauses are correctâ€.
- 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 ofÂ 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 choosingÂ a mastery goal, students are said to show more adaptive processes as opposed to aÂ performance goal when students show inconsistent effects. (Grant & Dweck, 2003; Elliott,2005).
A good number of students choose a performance goal [â€œI want to get an A grade in this courseâ€™] 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 (â€œI want to improve my writingâ€) to a performance oriented approach (â€œI want to pass the statistics classâ€) to the highly reflective( â€œMy learning goal is to achieve a more meaningful way of expressing my thoughtsâ€).
When learning summaries are prepared at the end of the term, the specialists assess the studentâ€™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 studentsâ€™ 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.
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.Â 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!
by Learning Enhancement Center on November 5, 2009 in 2009-2011
ByÂ Theodor Damian
Iâ€™ve had too much
of too much
in the old times they used to say something
I donâ€™t want to hear anymore
Aut Caesar, aut nihil
I donâ€™t want Caesar anymore
I want nihil
nihil, not nihilism
I kindly ask philosophers not to confound me
nihil brings me somewhere
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.