87: Creating Student Feedback Loops at Harold Washington College w/ Shana Cooper

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Shana Cooper, English Instructor at Harold Washington College, joined the podcast to talk about how seeing firsthand how students were struggling during tutoring sessions helped her redesign her own assignments.

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...the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect Edu podcast network. Americleson AVP of marketing at Helix Education, and we're here today with Shane Cooper, English instructor at Harold Washington College. Shaneah, welcome to the show. Hey, welcome. Really excited to talk with you today about how seeing firsthand how your students were struggling during tutoring sessions helped you redesign your own assignments. Before we dig into that, Shana, can you get the listeners a little bit better understanding of both Harold Washington College and your will? They're sure? Yes, Harold Washington is a community college part of the City Colleges of Chicago and we are the central one, so we're located in the downtown area and so we have, I don't know if we have the largest population of students here, but we are the easiest to get to via a public transit. So and we...

...have a very, very diverse student body here in terms of like culture, age, background, everything. So we see all kinds of students. We see students who are in high school taking classes through Harold Washington and we see students in their s and s going back to school, veterans, international students, students who are documented, students who are not document I mean we have everybody here. So it's really a lovely mix of people and my roles that I am an English instructor here. I'm an adjunct instructor and I teach usually for classes in the fall and three in the spring, and then I tutor here twenty three hours a week. So I'm here Monday through Saturday. I tuoter writing. I should add that love it. Love the missional work you guys are doing. Love this topic. Excited to dig in. Shanea, let's level set this conversation by telling us the story of a time you tutor to student and got to see firsthand how they were struggling with one of your...

...own assignments. Sure actually, the one that comes to mind, at least today, is the compare contrast. I say I give to my English one of lawn classes and I usually build up to that. Normally compare contrast and be pretty simple, especially like at the community college level, where you're just comparing cats and dogs or something like that. But I'm really interested in preparing them for the classes that they're also taking an addition to English, and then their English one of two classes, which would be the research class I teach. So what I do with them for the compare contrast is I introduce them to sourcing and research and I have them choose two articles about the same topic and then, with that topic they have to do a rhetorical analysis of both articles and compare and contrast them. They hate it. They hate me for assigning it. It's a pretty big jump from your standard one hundred and two write a narrative essay stuff. So I usually make it the midterm or it's...

...a hefty assignment and they get the most out of it if they come to tutoring, and I've learned that. So if they're not coming to tutoring, it's really difficult for them to if they are coming to tutoring, it's a pretty dramatic difference. So one student, I worked with a couple of them, but one in particular was really struggling with it. She was from Columbia and she didn't have a great sense of like American politics, and so we had looked at some articles on gun control and she was somewhat confused by the rhetoric and we are trying to figure out, you know, she was trying to figure it out on her own and so what I had or do was come in and work with me and they've since revised it so that you know, we cannot tutor our own students unless we are like the only tutor available. So my students get around this by coming on Saturday because I am the only one here on Saturday. And so I was working with her and showing...

...her sort of of my sort of a scaffolding approach where I would show her like what if here's a word, what does this one make you think all and as we went through the articles word by word, she was able to pick up on what I was picking up on and so I kind of let her, you know, take the reins after a little bit and you know after what she thought of this passage or this passage, until we had comments and annotations on the rhetoric of both articles and I said, so let's look at the difference, and then it became like she saw right away what she needed to do. So she needed that entire process is like sitting with her particular articles, going through them, having, you know, the ability to ask questions about what things meant and you know. And then, of course, she got a really good grade on it. She came probably three or four times just for that paper. So that that was a really a transformative thing. That I that I watched and that happened a couple times that semester with other students. So when I started doing was using their's, their classmates, these two students, as examples and I, you know what, asked...

...them, can we show the class room article? Yes, and can we show them what we found? They did, and then as we as they progressed, I was able to show their work up on the smart board so the other students could kind of see and then some of the other students wanted to come in from for tutoring after that, so they did and the paper went really, really well for those who came in. For those who didn't, it was just sort of this amorphous assignment and some of them did okay and some of them just blew it off. So that's kind of where we landed with it and I still assign that. Still assign it the same way. So yeah, and so this kind of Saturday tutoring loophole gave you this kind of firsthand experience to see what was a common struggle with the assignment. How did that firsthand student feedback help you in general redesign your assignments, both from a content standpoint as well as doing a better job communicating your expectations when you first assign the exercise. Yeah, so it really shifted a lot for...

...me. So I've been tutoring a really long time. I've been tutoring for like twenty one years. So teaching I've been here five years and you know, it kind of saw them as separate things, but after after viewing these things together, really became clear that we needed to do a lot more hands on stuff, and so I wanted it to be more collaboratives. My classes are extremely collaborative in terms of I don't use a book. I don't really like a lot of books. So I mean I an English teacher, I like books. I should clarify that I don't like a lot of the textbooks that at least that were assigned to work with. So generally what I'll do is I'll create my own documents or I'll link them to things that I exist and that they could find, like an article, and we'll go through that and we'll do our material straight from there and we'll do it out loud together, and sometimes I do games. So I'll just pull open a random one page and I'll say, well, let's look at this together, so that I become damn like I come down in the sense of okay, we're both...

...first seeing this for this, you know, at the same time, and so let's look at this together. Here's how I would look at this. And so once they see somebody doing it, just like you would in in a tutoring session, and that guard comes down, they understand what it's supposed to look like when they engage with material. And so in these tutoring sessions you're able to, you know, spend a lot of time with a student. It's a little bit more informal, it's personalize you to know them better. Is that what you're trying to recreate in your actual core sessions, that similar type of informality and personalization that can help make sure that there is no confusion, that they get out their their questions clarified. Yes, it's a huge thing for me. So I am a high matenance learner myself and didn't do well in, you know, in high school for a lot of it because I didn't ask questions and I was afraid to ask questions. And so I really discovered that when they're in like a one on one session, they...

...don't really have trouble asking questions, whereas a foreign class they're real hesitant. So one of the things I like to do is have them work together, work in groups and I'll come around and check in with them individually. But obviously a classroom setting is different where you really do need to hold that rapport I don't want it to be so so strict that it's inaccessible to them, whereas I felt my my own education in some places was inaccessible to me because I had a stigma about asking questions out loud. And some of our students of learning challenges and accents and don't want to speak up in class, understandably. So I want to give them the opportunity to ask things quietly if they need to. So we do a lot of hands on and then I walk around and check in with everyone. Shay, and it's such good stuff. Appreciate you sharing today. Any final next steps? Advice for institutions looking to intentionally create those feedback loops within their classes? I would say if the faculty...

...maybe saw tutoring sessions, if they were able to sort of like view how they went, the faculty itself would get a lot of ideas from that and I think that they would be probably open to using them and seeing just the transformative sort of nature of it and saying what can I do in my classes, and then they would create their own ways to utilize it. Such good stuff, Shanna, thanks so much for your time today. What's the best place for listeners to connect with you? If they have any follow of questions, they can reach me through email. My email addresses s cooper thirteen, so it actually reads scooper. My students fine, kind of amusing as Cooper Thirteen at CCC DOT Edu. Awesome. Thanks against so much for joining us today. Shanna. Thank you. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the shown itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening.

Until next time.

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