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Thinking of IF in other ways…

My freshman class continued using the IF process this week, though the focus is shifting. They have begun to discuss what/how to share what they have learned about “the value of higher education” with a younger student audience.  I asked them to think about what they had been discussing in previous sessions and decide (a) which lessons they wished to offer to a class of 8th graders in a nearby urban (and minority-populated) school, and (b) how they wished to approach the presentation. After 40 minutes of small group discussion, the class formed a big circle and each group shared potential lessons and approaches. The full class discussion was very animated, and students started grouping around interests — those who want to work on a skit, compose a rap song, or produce a short video. All this let me wondering, what do I do now? My original IF discussion groups are gone?!!

Before I return to this last question, let me share what I learned about the IF process this last week. First, I learned that providing models of “good” summary reports can make a difference. Last week three groups posted excellent  summaries: they identified key themes & synthesized ideas clearly. It made me think of how similar this process is to creating “study notes” for exams, something we try to teach students enrolled in the Freshman Seminar. I have been pursuing a learning outcome of the course w/o realizing it!  Laura, thanks to your feedback on my last blog I could see this connection. You mentioned that  reports were not learning tools, but rather ways of documenting views/preserving information. I think you are right; they should not be seen as “lessons.”

Last week I also learned that I still have to pay attention to facilitation.  I began my class clarifying expectations and reminding students of what facilitation entailed. I don’t think my “homily” had any effect as I could later observe a couple of students who were not participating and the facilitator(s) ignored them.  I could not meet with the facilitator(s) at the end of class as I  initially intended because the class was engaged in an animated discussion 5 minutes past end time. (Something rare on this campus!) I will be talking with Jack Byrd next week to get advice on this problem.

Pradeep, your words, and Sue’s words (on the phone), also helped me enormously. I may be too caught up with “procedural rules” in my class. Since I am not controlling contents, I am controlling the little that is left — norms! Still, this leads me to the question posed at the end of paragraph one. What role does the IF process play in my class from now on? The students are “done” with exploring “the value of college” and are moving to identifying key lessons & preparing a presentation. Small groups will still be discussing the issues they want to address & ways of presenting them, but the notions of “concerns”-“approaches”-“consequencess” seem less clear, unless I ask them to approach this task using this kind of strategy.  Is this what you have been doing, Pradip? Are you continually encouraging students to approach problems in a 3-stage fashion, or simply telling them they should consider alternative views, to listen and build upon each other’s contribution?

One last question! My original groups have re-organized on the basis of interests for the upcoming presentation. What does this do to the IF process “evaluation”? If I recall well, the idea was to form stable groups and keep them working through the term.  Yet I feel as if my kids are starting a second IF Discussion process, with different  concerns and different peer groups.  Any thoughts on this front?

Maria Villar