Description and Course Overview (continued)

Overview of Course Content and Assignments: Students will read and study the content contained in various sorts of information about WISR and the “WISR way of learning”—1) the WISR online catalogue, as well as all the content on the WISR website under WISR info, academics, prospective students, current students, faculty, and alumni, 2) the end of program evaluations submitted by previous WISR students for their degree area (Bachelor’s, Master’s, MFT Master’s, or Doctoral), 3) samples of end of program evaluations that students have written of their WISR experiences, as well as some samples of the widely varying different course/project descriptions and self-evaluations of courses completed written by recent WISR students in various degree programs, and 4) several articles about WISR and its distinctive approach to learning, including the article, “Multicultural, Community-Based Knowledge-Building: Lessons from a tiny institution where students and faculty sometimes find magic in the challenge and support of collaborative inquiry” by WISR faculty, John Bilorusky and Cynthia Lawrence.   Students will discuss the relevance of this content to the learning goals, styles, needs and interests–with a faculty advisor, and with three other current or former WISR students (contact information obtained from WISR faculty, and students to be contacted chosen based on the entering student’s interests, plans, and concerns).

Historically, we have learned that most students understand “learning the WISR way” quite well after a period of time, usually more than six months but less than a year. This course is designed to further enhance and accelerate this process for students, and it is expected that all entering students take this course for credit on “learning the WISR way” upon enrollment. It is expected that this course will provide new WISR students with valuable experience toward WISR’s main learning aims and mission, and how those aims can support their own individual passions, interests, and involvements. Furthermore, this orientation course will help students, and faculty, to actively explore together the core competencies that have been demonstrated in the learning outcomes of WISR alumni over the years, and begin to think about how those core competencies can be pursued in the various required and elective courses, and in ways that also support personalized learning and development for each student. It is expected that in taking this course, students will be more engaged, efficient and purposeful as they progress through the rest of their program.

Further Course Activities: In this introductory orientation class we will share stories and give examples of not only the content, but also the processes by which other students moved through their studies at WISR, in ways that were satisfying, meaningful and productive. Also, we will provide students with a framework of some “meta-core competencies”—most of which would be applicable to all degree programs, although naturally there will be levels of expectations and details about content which will be specific to particular programs and/or degree levels. In understanding these competency expectations, students will be better able to “track” their progress as they move through each course in the program.

Introduction to Methods of Note-taking, Writing, and Online Research: This course will expose student’s  to strategies and resources for: 1) making use of note-taking to keep track of ideas, questions and insights; 2) learning how to write in one’s own voice, while also being aware of resources that can be used to learn about conventions for good grammar, and for citing other people’s work and for writing a clear and well-organized paper, and 3) strategies for making effective use of the library resources and the Internet, as well as some considerations in learning how to evaluate the usefulness and validity of the extensive array of information and resources that can be found in libraries and on the Internet. Those students who are interested in learning more about how to make use of multimedia and social networking, as part of their studies and professional development, should discuss this with their faculty advisor as well.  In subsequent courses, students will receive assistance in developing their skills in using the Internet, and encouraged, if they wish, to explore uses of multimedia and social networking.

Required Projects and Papers: Each student will write an autobiographical analysis of the highlights of their learning and development over the years, personally and professionally. This analysis will incorporate a discussion and critical analysis of key life experiences and milestones; books and articles that have been read and that have been significant to the learner; important people, jobs, academic experiences and community involvements in the learner’s life. Most importantly, this autobiographical analysis will include reflections on where the learner sees her/himself headed, and how her/his current direction(s) have been influenced by previous life experiences.

As an outgrowth of this, each student will write a preliminary educational plan, which, as part of the student’s engagement in critical and creative inquiry, is very much expected to change, perhaps a lot, as the student progresses through the degree program. This plan will articulate short and long-term goals, or possible directions, including questions and dilemmas about the best direction(s) to take, with which the student might be wrestling. This plan will include the student’s initial ideas about how their learning activities can build bridges to the next important things they do in their life. For example, they can explore various career options and do networking to build bridges for themselves to further their career and community involvements, taking advantage of the knowledge and networking connections of WISR faculty, alumni, students, Board members, and friends of WISR.  We will show the relevance of a variety of learning efforts–reading, interviewing people, reflection, writing and pursuing community involvements–and the importance, in all of these endeavors of remaining mindful of how these efforts may be laying the foundation and creating the pathways to what they aim to do next in their lives.

The plan must also include the student’s inventory of her or his strengths and limitations, interests and values, as well as their assessment of needs, challenges and opportunities in the profession and the world in which she or he wishes to make a difference. Also, the student is expected to discuss this plan in relation to the student’s plans to develop in the areas of WISR’s core meta-competencies, and in relation to WISR’s graduation requirements. [These meta-competencies are: Thinking and Communication; Becoming Conscious, Intentional, and Improvising Learners; Community Leadership and Collaboration—Practical Skills and Talents; Experience, Competence, Talent and Knowledge in One’s Chose Area(s) of Specialization; Participatory Action-Inquiry and Qualitative Research; Justice, Sustainability and Social Change; Multicultural Perspective.

Reminders! Students AND faculty should not only be open to changes in the plan, but should expect changes to unfold as the student progresses. To this end, students should consciously and intentionally re-evaluate the plan on a regular basis, and faculty should encourage and support students to be continually mindful of the importance of such re-evaluation!

Faculty expectations regarding the depth of critical analysis and the extent and details contained in the papers–the autobiograpical analysis and the educational–plan will be assessed differently depending on whether the student is pursuing a Bachelor’s, Master’s or Doctoral degree at WISR.

Now that you know the goals of the course and have read the description of what to expect, please go to the page:  Sequence of Assigned Activities, which will guide you through this important first course at WISR, step by step.  And as always at WISR, if you have any questions at all, please contact your faculty advisor, for help, and if necessary, contact WISR’s President.

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