Saturday, April 2, 2016

Putting the S in the SLO

A recent thread on a faculty development listserv I belong to has been focusing on how to maximize the learning potential in those SLOs we all dutifully write, discuss the first day of class, and then often don’t think much about again until the end of the semester. Some discussion has centered on how to make SLOs more meaningful to students.  The following, quoted with permission, is from Mary Goldschmidt, Faculty Development Specialist at the University of Scranton:
“Inviting my students to set their own goals as a formal part of the course is something I’ve been doing for 5 years now – in composition courses as well as gen ed courses in literature (not something students are usually too keen to take). It’s a practice strongly supported by the scholarship on self-regulated learning and goal orientation.…To illustrate what these look like, here are a few of my students’ self-defined learning outcomes (paraphrased):
  • an electrical engineering major said that he wants to become better at listening to the perspectives of his other small group members because he knows that professionally, he will always be working in teams.
  • an occupational therapy major said that she wants to increase her ability to pay attention to detail when reading literature because she can see a parallel between this kind of reading and “reading” her clients, e.g., noticing what’s not always explicit.
  • an economics major explained that his father loves poetry and he simply wants to be able to talk more with his Dad about poetry."
Goldsmith goes on to point out that it’s not enough just to do this once on the first day of class; student engagement has to be sustained.  “Twice later in the semester, I ask students to write reflections on the actions they’re taking to work toward their goals, the progress they’re making, and what new or different things they might do to better achieve their goals. I also ask them how I can best support them in their learning.  Students are significantly more engaged in the course when they have their own intrinsic motivation for doing well – beyond just wanting a good grade.”

Have you tried anything similar with your students?  How has it worked?

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