No Learner Left Behind

In the summer 2014, the process began to develop what has become the Living and Teaching Inclusively trainings (with Serving Inclusively coming soon). Funded through the Title III Grant, the intent was to have “teachers teaching teachers” on ways to reduce the success gaps that exist among whites and learners of color. This phenomenon is not unique to NWTC, but we devised a plan that has been come unique in a way as we are one of the first college’s that is requiring such training for all faculty and staff.

The trainings were designed to help the College achieve its 2018 Strategic Goals in relation to improving the measurables of our diverse student population. The goals of the College were ambitious. There was a focus on increasing the enrollment, success, persistence and completion rates of non-white learners, all which lagged behind our white student population.

Two weeks ago, Achieve the Dream Data Facilitator Bruce McComb was on campus for his regularly scheduled visit and our team met to discuss our progress. Being about half way into a three year process, we reviewed the data to see if we were making any sort of positive impact. Unfortunately, the impact has yet to be seen in the data. While we weren’t expecting that a year plus of attention to this issue would eliminate such a embedded societal problem, the overall data was mildly disappointing as it did not identify that we had shifted towards making a positive impact.

Yet, we are undeterred. The issues we are addressing have been decades and generations in the making. We are trying to address systematic inequities that equip some students better than others before they arrive on our campus and the variance in preparedness usually differs on racial, ethnic and social class lines. We could work directly on this issue for decades and still not overcome all of the barriers.

There was major takeaway from our meeting however that provides some optimism that we have positioned ourselves to reach our goals. Over the course of the last year and half or so, dozens of faculty (and lately some staff) have gone through the trainings and the ideas that have been developed collectively to employ individually in their classes are amazing. Hopefully, we have created the structure that will allow the positive impact to emerge.

Most importantly, as it was discussed, is that we can make a difference by focusing on one student at a time. When we have conversations discussing some the entrenched barriers we discuss, it can become overwhelming and make you want to throw your hands up in resignation that the issue is too big to be addressed by anyone person. But, it can be. And hopefully it will be. If we can make a difference every day from a single student, we will slowly start chipping away at the gaps that exist between our various student populations. Hopefully,  incremental success will give way to large-scale success. Learner by learner. Day by day. Term by term.

One thought on “No Learner Left Behind

  1. As you have written: “We are trying to address systematic inequities that equip some students better than others before they arrive on our campus and the variance in preparedness usually differs on racial, ethnic and social class lines. We could work directly on this issue for decades and still not overcome all of the barriers.”

    This complex issue is further complicated by the neuroscience variable that by age two our brains are fairly well established in terms of the environment within which we are nurtured. (Dr. David Eagleman – The Brain – Who is me? This does not mean we are determined or destined to success or failure, however, we need to better understand how to create a learning environment that will hard-wire us for success as opposed to failure. Perhaps we need to have more workshops relative to the mysterious workings of the brain where it all begins — I am my reality. If we have bad brain habits, we will find ourselves being left behind.

    Take note of the following insights and techniques from a workshop I attended—-

    How the brain forms new habits: why will power is not enough – presented by Brian E. King, Ph.D – October 29, 2014 – 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

    I. Factors that modify “bad” habits: Much of what we do in thinking critically and creatively is to identify our errors in thinking, and learning to spend more time in the frontal lobe and to complete self-evaluative essays, and to establish positive goals and plans of action to become more reflective and effective thinkers; as a result we will live healthier and more qualitative lives as we mend the mind and mind the body and pursue life-long education

    a. Reframing – frontal cortex – focus on changing perspective to reassess the emotional or motivational components of thoughts and expectations; to formulate another perspective;

    b. Changing beliefs – see Albert Ellis on his ABC theory.

    c. Thought monitoring form: what were the automatic thoughts that occurred when you were considering your target health behavior or study habits? What did you do in response to your thoughts? What was the consequence of your action? And finally, what were your thoughts after the consequence of your action?

    d. Linking habits to your values and goals: does the habit align with your core values and lead you toward your goals? Do I really need to watch a TV show or should I use this time to go for a walk?

    e. Normative feedback: reassessing beliefs about what behaviors are normal that can help to revalue habits; often we normalize our bad habits are normal.

    f. Identify maladaptive associations: identify harmful habits; track them and the context ( environmental cues, emotional states and thoughts), that is, the trigger which precedes the habit; avoid these triggers; create competing good habits off the same trigger – take 5 deep breaths when you feel anxious instead of smoking

    g. Clarifying values: what is important to you? What do you admire and value?; consider your habits in the context of these values – do your habits support or conflict with your values?

    h. Social groups – be careful – social groups can bring deviant behavior back within the accepted group norm – time to tail-gate everybody.

    i. Reducing drug overvaluation: does marijuana make you more creative? Are you really more socially adept when drunk? Connect with drug free social networks.

    j. Evidence-based research – use evidence-based techniques to help one cope with bad habits; that is, reframing, aligning values and goals to devalue bad habits and make them less appealing.

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