85: Student-Designed Courses at Fayetteville State University w/ Chuck Tryon

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Chuck Tryon, Professor of English at Fayetteville State University joined the podcast to talk about the top learnings that came from transparently asking his students how they would re-design his course.

Really quick before we get into the show today. At Helix, we recently completed a comprehensive research study on what high growth institutions do differently. Turns out they have the right academic programs in their online portfolio, provide a fantastic online experience to an increasingly demanding adult student and can cost effectively scale through powerful brand, creative marketing and media strategies. What pieces of this puzzle are you missing? Visit Helix educationcom grow to learn how helix is online enrollment growth accelerator can help you join the ranks of Helix partners who grew their online program enrollments by seventy six percent on average last year. That's Helix educationcom grow. We need to see where students are at the beginning so that when we're mentoring them in junior and senior level courses, we haven't a relationship built. But you know, we can also provide a face for the university and kind of give them a sense of the history the school, the expectations. You're listening to enrollment...

...growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university, whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university. A proud member of the connect Edu podcast network, I'm Aericleson AVP of marketing at Helix Education, and we're here today with chuck try and, Professor of English at Fayetteville State University. Chuck, welcome to the show. Thank you for having me in. This is great. Really excited to talk with you today about some of your top learnings that came out of transparently asking your students how they would redesign your course. Before we dig into that, chuck, can you give the listeners a little bit better understanding of both Fayetteville State University and your role there? Okay, so fatal State University is a historically Black...

University and in North Carolina it also serves a large military population where basically down the street from Fort Prague. So probably thirty forty percent of our students at least have some sort of military affiliation, whether it's a family member or themselves being directly enrolled in the military. So it's a really interesting campus dynamic. A lot of nontraditional students, a lot of first generation students, and I've been teaching there for about twelve years now and it's been one of the most exciting teaching opportunities I've ever had. So it's I've learned quite a bit from teaching. They're so excited to chat with you today. Really excited about the humility behind this concept itself. Most institutions have some sort of formal worst review opportunity to solicit student feedback, but you actually created a dedicated class assignment asking students to make suggestions for rebuilding your course itself. What spurred this idea?...

So there were probably two or three conversations. One was with a longtime friend WHO's also a professor to different university, and we were talking about the fact that most of our students probably aren't going to go to graduate school, and certainly not in English. We're talking about composition writers, and so I wanted to create assignments that would prepare them for workplace settings while kind of retaining the humanities emphasis that I have as a longtime English professor. And my wife happens to be a clinical instructor at UNC Chapel Hill in the nursing program and the one of the requirements in English one twenty fatal stays that we teach APA formatting. So I put kind of all these pieces together and I began thinking about what it would look like for students to write a traditional kind of proposal paper. And the shared experience that my students and I had, of course,...

...was my class and so I thought, well, why not have them give feedback on my course in this format, because I thought it would help them understand their own educations better and in some sense take a a little bit of extra responsibility for them, you know, and not thinking just passively, Oh, the instructors doing this and I have to do this. So I wanted to give them kind of an active role and so like all of those little pieces came together and I just thought that it would be a really rewarding assignment for them. And the second factor is that there are so many problems with course evaluations, you know, just the fact that they're done at the last minute. Students at our university you are actually required to fill out the evaluations before they can enroll in classes. So they do them very hastily and yeah, kind of check the boxes, and so it just felt like a good way for me to get more productive feedback but also give them something interesting.

Right about was the most surprising bit of consistent feedback you receive from your students their desire to be more active participants in the course of self. That was probably one piece of feedback that it took me a long time to learn. You know, I when I went to college, almost all of our classes were very lecture based with, yeah, you know, some teacher led discussion, and so it's taken me a long time to kind of learn the lesson of creating more interactive and engaging assignments and yeah, and it's it's giving them more things to do, because you know, if they're just sitting and being lectured to, they're going to default to cell phones and do laying and whatever else they might do, and so I think, you know, pushing them to be more active was was really productive. I learned about tools likehood that a lot of students really enjoyed using in high school and I've been able to...

...introduce those to the classroom. So a lot of things like that. One other thing that I learned was that many students don't feel fully prepared for college life and and some of that, I think, is just what a lot of people now call adulting, like managents and all of those sorts of things. And you know, many of them are taking on a significant debt burden because their called. You know, our tuition is low, but you still have to pay. So I think that managing finances, those kinds of things that aren't what my class is about, but kind of more about the university in general also came out. A lot of students talk about mental health issues and wanting more support from the university on mental health. So there's a lot of really interesting feedback that said as much about the university or in general, not my personal university, but going to college in the two thousand tens,...

...then just my course. You tease this little bit earlier, but your students seem to be well aware of their own personal writing shortcomings. They were able to provide you with specific feedback about the kinds of writing skills in assignments that would most immediately improve their life and marketability in the workplace. Yeah, I mean I think you know, one of those things is being confronted after probably I don't know how many years, you know, high school, College, maybe even Middle School, using MLA format and suddenly being forced to adjust two APA so that's that's one thing that they emphasize a lot needing more drills and kind of skills activities related to that. And so yeah, I think they're keenly aware of where they need work and and that's something that I've also tried to incorporate to kind of have more skills oriented days in class where we just...

...really focus on improving APA formatting or improving some grammatical questions. And Yeah, I think they kind of know what they need in many cases and this helped to reinforce that for me this assignment. What do you think the biggest gut check moment was for you from these student responses and how do you humble yourself enough to be willing to not only solicit but listen to this kind of feedback? You know, when I introduced this assignment, I always introduced it with kind of a joke. I would say the implied thesis for this assignment is Dr Try on, we love your course, but and then that kind of eases the burden of Oh, you know, we're criticizing you or whatever, and certainly you know it's an assignment that I do thirteen or fourteen weeks into a some master so they've grown to develop a sense of trust based on the...

...feedback that I've given another assignments, based on in class conversations and that sort of thing. So it actually ends up being really helpful to just connect with the students. The other thing that I do is I have them present their ideas in class and that makes it more conversational and they begin to see that other classmates might have similar reactions. In terms of my own humbleness, I don't know if it's that so much. As you know, I've taught for a really long time and I feel relatively comfortable with what I've done. But you know, I could always use advice and suggestions and I don't think we get that often enough, certainly not from student evaluations as they're constructed now, and I think peer evaluations of colleagues aren't always as rigorous as they can be either. So you know, it's actually been really useful and really beneficial for...

...me. You mentioned that one comment of that was fairly consistent. Of Yeah, it seems by the end of the semester you tend to lose some steam and and here's some suggestions for what we could do outside the lecture format. How did you receive that kind of feedback and then how did you internalize it in order to make changes based on it? You know, I think, I mean, they probably didn't use that phrase, but that was my interpretation. I I understanding my own psychology. Like I go in we two, week three and I, you know, I have all these interactive ideas and then by week six or seven I'm like, I've done this, I've done that. They probably don't want to do another interactive assignment. But you know, I think having fairly consistent activities that require them, you know, in some cases to get up and move around the classroom or to get into groups, just anything that kind of breaks up the monotony of the fifty or seventy...

...five minute lecture is really valuable. So I think one thing I tried to do every semesters go back, look at my syllabus and figure out where I can kind of preemptively fill in kind of an interactive activity, you know, before the semester start, so that when I get to week thirteen I'm not trying to put that together. Chuck, you mentioned some of the downsides of this last minute last day of class. You know, reality of asking for student feedback. Any next steps, advice you have for institutions on ways to better solicit and act on more more honest and thoughtful student feedback? It's hard for me to think about this at an institutional level. I mean, I've only ever done this in a composition class and so, you know, I don't know if I have an easy answer for that. But you know, I think you know there are a lot of things that institutions can do to...

...kind of especially the introductory level courses. Those are the ones that kind of tell the student the story of the university, tell them what it's going to be like to attend that university, and I think you know paying careful attention when when students are complaining about a course and when it's fairly universal, that you know we need to look at that. One thing I love about faithful state is that senior faculty are very frequently teaching the one hundred level courses. Yeah, and you know we're the ones, not not that add junks or any other instructors aren't capable, but we're the ones that you know are going to be consistently at the university. We need to see where students are at the beginning so that you know when we're mentoring them in junior and senior level courses. We haven't a relationship built, but you know, we can also provide a face for the university and kind of give them a sense of the history, the SCO the expectations and and I think you know, just listening...

...is is kind of the best thing you can do. Chuck, thanks so much for your time today. What's the best place for listeners to connect with you if they have any follow up questions? So my easiest email is probably my university email. It's see, as in Charlie Tea, isn't Thomas our Yo and see try on at UNC FSU DOT Edu. They could also follow me on twitter or connect with me on twitter. My twitter handles chuck tree cu try. So those those probably the two best places off the top of my head. He's a good guy to follow. Folks. Thanks against so much for joining us today. Check all right. Thank you. Really enjoyed this. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show on Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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