Handbook: Academic Forms
Each WISR student is required to fill out and write a detailed Course Syllabus Form [click on link to download form] at the completion of each project for which credit is awarded. The faculty advisor signs the course syllabus and approves of its accuracy, or if it is incomplete or inaccurate, returns it to the student for the appropriate revisions. The student’s faculty advisor or faculty member supervising the project also attaches the Project Evaluation Form, which contains their comments.
New Course Syllabus Form Required For Projects/Courses Completed After April 1, 2013
The State oversight agency now requires that we have course syllabi on file that includes detailed information of the kind required in traditional universities, and as we move toward accreditation, this will also be expected of the national accrediting agency, DETC (Distance Education and Training Council—www.detc.org ). WISR faculty and students will continue to decide, on a case-by-case basis, whether to create written, or informal, oral, plans for student’s at the beginning of each learning project, depending on the student’s wishes and needs. In any case, all initial learning plans, be they informal or formal and detailed, will continue to be viewed as very much open to changes during each student’s learning project, in order to promote the creative learning and improvisation that has always been a special, and valuable, feature of learning “the WISR Way.” Most importantly, the new requirements will enable students, with faculty guidance and support, to document and articulate in much greater detail what has transpired in each student’s project/course of study. The papers that students write are very impressive and provide excellent evidence of student learning. However, the papers by themselves, and the current two page syllabus form (which most students fill out rather quickly and briefly) does not provide the detail that will make it sufficiently clear to outsiders the considerable thought and thoroughness that students and faculty put into each area of study.
Therefore, we have formulated a more extensive set of questions which I propose that each student answer, and generally, each question will take 5 or 10 minutes for the student to answer—or a total of one to two hours to fill out the form. Since, generally, students receive about 4 semester units of credit for each area of study, this is a reasonable expectation, even though it will be more labor than previously spent. Note, moreover, that in answering these questions students will benefit in several ways: 1) they will become more conscious about what they learned, and about what did and didn’t work well in their learning process; 2) they will begin to draft their narrative transcript; 3) they will keep track of how their learning is contributing to their degree requirements and WISR’s expectations of students for learning; and 4) they will begin work on their required annotated bibliography.
This new syllabus requirement is effective April 1, and furthermore, WISR faculty request of students (but not require) that they re-write in this more elaborate way, their previous two course syllabi. The extra two to three hours of work involved for each student would be considered a contribution to WISR’s development toward accreditation and the State review process.
Faculty will fill out Project Evaluation Forms for each completed project, noting the credit units awarded with their comments explaining the basis for the awarding of credit. In addition, faculty will note if a particular graduation requirement has been fulfilled. The Project Evaluation Form will be signed by the faculty member and attached to the student’s Course Syllabus, and the paper submitted by the student for that particular project. All three–syllabus, evaluation form and paper–are filed by the faculty member in the student’s Learning Portfolio. In awarding credit, WISR faculty are mindful of the quantity and quality of work expected of students in conventional universities. Although the form and content of WISR student projects may be very unconventional, WISR faculty assign semester units to a particular student project by referring to their experiences in more conventional universities. WISR faculty base their credit-awarding decisions about student projects on their sense of the approximate number of semester units that would be awarded for a similar amount and quality of academic work in accredited universities. In particular, faculty make special comments on the academic criteria and evidence used in making the final credit determination if more, or less, than 4 semester units is awarded for a particular project or course of study.
Whenever it is deemed helpful to the student’s learning process, faculty members fill out a Tentative Project Plan form with students at the beginning of a learning project. The student and the faculty member write a paragraph description of the project–its nature and scope as presently envisioned, the anticipated learning activities and expected products (e.g., type of paper). In addition, the faculty and student agree on the anticipated number of semester units that the student is likely to earn through that project, and note the number of units. Where applicable, the faculty member explains why more or less than 4 units are anticipated. It is expected that very often student project plans will change, and students and faculty are strongly encouraged to be open to changing project plans, as well as the scope and intensity of the project (as well as the number of units awarded). Emphasis is on achieving a quality learning experience, consistent with the student’s learning needs and purposes and with WISR’s academic standards. Furthermore, it is expected that students may often find themselves in the middle of a project which spontaneously or fortuitously unfolds without advanced planning. Students and faculty are also encouraged to nurture these fruitful and unexpectedly developed learning projects, even when the projects weren’t intentionally planned from the “beginning.” In these cases, the faculty member and student may choose to write on the Tentative Project Plan form a paragraph describing the process of how the project has spontaneously or unexpectedly unfolded thus far.
In the MA program leading to the Marriage and Family Therapy License, evaluation sessions are held for MFT students at three stages: (1) after six months or the completion of three areas of study and three major papers, to assess the student’s readiness for entering the practicum; (2) approximately at the midpoint of the student’s Master’s program; and (3) when the student has completed all requirements except the thesis. Each session is conducted by two core faculty members, at least one of whom holds the MFT License, and with a student peer. The student’s work in the practicum is evaluated as well. Evaluations are intended to offer constructive suggestions, to help students strengthen weak areas, and to support growth where the student shows strength.
MFT students must have at least 306 hours of supervised experience in a practicum that meets State requirements. Also, students discuss their practicum experiences with their faculty adviser(s), and write two papers critically analyzing insights from these experiences. Prior to beginning a practicum, students fill out and sign a practicum contract that is also signed by their MFT faculty advisor and by a representative of the agency in which they will be doing their practicum.
For PhD students, there are two formal evaluation steps prior to the Final Graduation Review Board meeting, when the dissertation is reviewed, approved, and authenticated by the Review Board. First, three WISR faculty members review the Ph.D. student’s completed projects, after most of the pre-dissertation requirements have been met, to determine if she or he is prepared to undertake the rigorous study required for a doctoral dissertation. The WISR learning process is designed to help students develop the breadth and depth of knowledge in the area(s) of primary interest, as well as the skills of action-oriented inquiry and knowledge-building, so they will be ready to undertake a dissertation by the time they have completed the approximately ten required, pre-dissertation projects. Second, each PhD student’s Graduation Review Board evaluates the student’s dissertation proposal to determine if the topic design and procedures meet the Institute’s academic standards.
The Admissions Interview form is sometimes used by faculty to record and organize notes on how well one or more of WISR’s programs seems to fit the needs and interests of a prospective student.
The Exit form is used by students and the WISR President to record and keep track of when a student graduates, withdraws or takes a leave of absence.
The Transfer of Credit form is used by the WISR President and/or other core faculty to document and summarize credits that an entering student at WISR is allowed to transfer from another college or university-the number of units, subject/content of course(s) transferred, and which special requirements at WISR (if any) are being met by those courses . . . as well as the rationale for accepting these credits as transfer credit.