Faculty Engagement in Maintaining and Improving WISR’s Learning Community and Methods
WISR faculty meet together regularly to discuss and to fine tune and to improve continually our approaches to working with students—individually and through seminars and other group collaboration. In these meetings, we plan seminars, problem-solve together about our work with students who have special challenges and needs, plan quarterly All-School Gatherings to bring the majority of our learning community together, develop online learning options, and discuss WISR’s future directions. Faculty engage in evaluations of their teaching throughout the year based on informal student feed-back and discussions with other faculty, and formally there are annual evaluations based on written feed-back from students on anonymous questionnaires and discussed with the President, who is also the Chief Academic Officer. Sometimes Board members, most of whom are experienced academics as well, contribute to our discussions of how to improve the quality of education at WISR.
Faculty Responsibilities for Giving Students Continual and Timely Feedback
Faculty make every effort to give students rapid feedback on drafts of papers and theses. Typically, faculty give students feedback on papers that are 20 pages or less, within 7 to 10 days. Faculty may need as much as three to four weeks to read and give feedback on longer papers, and especially on drafts of theses and dissertations. Faculty acknowledge receipt of e-mails and papers within several days, and schedule face to face meetings and phone conferences with students, making every effort to find mutual convenient days and times to talk–usually within 7 to 10 days from the date when the student first requests a meeting or phone conference. Students are encouraged to meet with someone on the faculty at least once every two weeks.
WISR Policy on Academic Freedom
WISR affirms the principles stated in the “1940 Statement on Academic Freedom and Tenure” by the American Association of University Professors (http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/pubsres/policydocs/contents/1940statement.htm ). In particular, WISR affirms the importance of mutual respect to the inquiry that is so important to academia in general and to WISR in particular.
WISR places an emphasis on encouraging students and faculty to use inquiry in conjunction with action—in identifying and seeking to address community problems and needed directions for social change. We further respect each learner’s essential right to engage in free, uncensored inquiry. Of course, we also acknowledge that inevitably there will be disagreements among learners as to what inquiry should be conducted, what actions should be pursued, and on occasion even what core values should inform our work. At WISR, in the spirit of academic freedom, these differences are welcomed, and viewed as opportunities for further inquiry—indeed, ideally advancing collaborative inquiry among learners at WISR. They must not be cause for repudiation or retaliation.
Consistent with AAUP principles, WISR learners are free to express their own opinions and conduct their own research without fear from institutional censorship or discipline, both within WISR and in the public arena.
Use of Required Academic Forms
WISR faculty are expected to help students maintain their Learning Portfolios, by filling out the required academic forms and by instructing students in how to fill out the needed forms. In particular, faculty are expected to fill out a Project Evaluation Form whenever a student completes a project or course of study. Faculty should remind students to fill out a course syllabus form each time they complete a project or course of study, and the faculty member should obtain the signed form from the student, review the form for its accuracy and completeness, and then sign the form, before placing it in the student’s Learning Portfolio. Sometimes, students may choose to fill out the optional, Tentative Project Plan, and there are a number of forms that are used to monitor the progress of students in the MFT program, as well as PhD students.
All WISR faculty are expected to read, and make use of, the principles and methods detailed in the document, “Learning the WISR Way: The Use and Role of Course Syllabi . . . WISR’S DISTINCTIVE APPROACH TO THE PLANNING OF STUDENT LEARNING PROJECTS/COURSES, AND WISR’S SPECIAL WAY OF USING COURSE SYLLABI.” (click on the link above to access this document). This document explains the distinctive use of Course Syllabi at WISR, based on WISR’s learning philosophy which has developed over the past 40 years, with our personalized approach to learner-centered higher education. Important topics discussed are: the mentoring and advising role of faculty, specific strategies used by faculty at various stages of the student’s learning process in each project, and the role of syllabi in contributing to the articulation of evidence regarding the outcomes and process of student learning in each project or course of study.
New Syllabus Form [click on link to left to download form]:
1) What was (were) the purpose(s)of this project or course of study?
This includes any WISR or State MFT/LPCC (if applicable) requirements that were being addressed. If the latter, include a brief statement about the content of those requirements?
2) What were the main activities you pursued during this course of study—that is describe (if applicable) the areas in which you read, work done in a practicum, internship or on the job, community-based or self-directed research (e.g., interviews conducted and with whom, networking pursued, observations made, etc.); personal reflection and note-taking; multimedia production; workshops taken; etc. This can usually be done in two to four sentences.
3) Who were the WISR faculty with whom you consulted on this project/area of study? With each faculty member, write two to four sentences on how they assisted you or contributed to your learning in these studies. If you have suggestions for how faculty could, in the future, better assist your learning, please add those comments as well.
4) With whom (if applicable) did you consult from outside WISR faculty—e.g., community residents, agency staff, professional/experts in the field, other academicians, fellow students or WISR alumni. Write a couple sentences about the contributions of the one or two people who helped you the most, from among those outside of WISR faculty.
5) If you participated in workshops, conferences or community events outside of WISR that contributed to these studies/this project please indicate and list those events/activities, and write a couple sentences about the one or two that were most significant and important.
6) If you participated in any WISR seminars important to your learning in this area, please list those, and again write a couple of sentences about their contribution to your learning in this area.
7) Write a one paragraph (three to five sentences) abstract of the paper you wrote.
8) Write the month you began these studies, the month completed, and write a rough draft of the description of this project (three to seven sentences) of the “course description” that will later be refined when you help write your narrative transcript prior to receiving your degree.
9) Thinking back on the process of your learning during this project/course of study, please write two or three sentences about each of the following: a) how did your plans or ideas about what you wanted to do change over time and why? b) what were the positive things, if any, that came out of these changes in plans or intentions about what you wanted to do? c) if you were going to do this project again, what would you do differently given what you now know?
10) Write five to seven sentences on the main things that you learned and accomplished, and add two or three sentences that highlight the main evidence you would point to that demonstrates your learning and/or accomplishments.
11) Write two to four sentences on how your learning and accomplishments relate to one or more of WISR’s core areas or thematic concerns: theories and strategies of social change, participatory/qualitative action-research, multiculturality, adult/community/higher education (for PhD students), counseling and marriage and family therapy (for MFT/LPCC students), liberal education (for BA students, including humanities and natural sciences, as well as other areas of general education), writing skills, and learning skills (including theory-practice integration, self-directed learning and collaborative learning).
12) For most projects (unless the project only involves reflection and writing, or internship/community involvement and writing), attach a reading list, and write an annotated bibliography of the two or three most important readings. Also, tell us about the ways in which you gained access to readings (e.g., WISR library, public library or other university library, internet, readings given to you by WISR faculty, fellow students, friends or co-workers, purchase of books, use of any special data bases, etc.).
Care of WISR’s Facility
Faculty and currently enrolled students are entitled to have keys to WISR’s storefront facility, and to use the space freely and responsibly–faculty and students may use the space, including the public computers, in order to do their work and to meet with one another. Those who unlock the building are responsible for locking it, turning off lights and computers and closing all windows, unless they ask someone else staying after them to be responsible for these tasks. Food should be disposed of properly (garbage outside, dishes and glasses that are used should be washed, coffee maker turned off), recycle items as appropriate and throw other trash.
Remind students of these responsibilities for taking care of our facility, and instruct students in properly library check out procedures: 1) priority books in designated locations should be borrowed for 7 days or less; 2) all books should be listed on the students’ file card, listing the title of the book and the date checked out, with the card filed alphabetically by the student’s last name. When using the copier, be sure to leave a contribution of $.05/page.
Policies and Procedures Manual
WISR’s Policies and Procedures Manual articulates:
1. Job Descriptions and Duties of WISR Faculty
2. Governance and Decision-Making at WISR
3. WISR Personnel Policies
4. Compendium of Special Policies and Procedures Implemented by WISR’s President or Faculty, or Passed by the Board of Trustees–for the Information and Guidance of WISR Faculty, Staff, Students and Board
5. List of Topics Covered by WISR’s Official Catalog