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Archive for August, 2009

I had such an interesting conversation with one of our best community-based learning faculty. She is presenting at her professional conference (Poli Sci) about her CBL course that she taught last year that was really successful. And she finds herself in the position of having to explain how she knows it was successful. Ahh. So many of us are in this position now.

Yes, the students did the readings, talked in class, wrote papers, created presentations, took tests, and the results were kind of normal. Yet the class felt exceptional to her. So we pressed on. What made it exceptional? Jennifer said the students were more engaged than any before. How did she know?
1.at the end of every class there were still at least 5 hands still in the air, people with more to say
2. the students started going to lunch together after class so they could get out what they wanted to say but didn’t get to during class time
3. students spent loads of extra time, especially at their community sites, which she discovered in their presentations at the end of the semester
4. the end of the semester presentations, which synthesized data on the Richmond community where the students worked, the theories they read, and their actual experiences, were so helpful to the community partners who came to review them on the last day, that word got out and now the professor has made multiple copies of the presentations at the request of other agencies in Richmond
4. in student blogs she saw that students made connections between the Richmond area issues and national and international issues, using links that showed they were doing extra reading outside of class (not even assigned!)
5. though the class ended in April, Jennifer has had emails over the summer from former students who want to tell her about new insights and experiences that relate to what they studied.

Jennifer had actually done some pre and post surveys to monitor change in attitude. They were not too startling. She did the usual Student Evaluations of Instruction, and the course got a high rating, but these still didn’t really tell the story. I think her observations about her students’ engagement were more telling about what happened in the class.
I am just wondering if other people are finding unique ways to capture what is happening in a class where students are highly engaged? Because I know we have NSSE and CLA but I don’t know that either of those would capture what we saw in Jennifer’s excellent class.

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