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Grading and Awarding Academic Credit and Academic Policies and Procedures

WISR’s Standards for Student Achievement

The WISR’s Standards for Student Achievement are:

Faculty evaluate each student’s learning using

  1. the criteria articulated in the course learning objectives,
  2. the degree program objectives
  3. the student completing each of the course assignments satisfactorily (see section below: “Grading and Evaluations of Student Learning by Faculty at WISR”)

These criteria are outlined in each course syllabus, and in addition the degree program objectives are outlined in both the course syllabus and in the online catalog under the description of each degree program.  

WISR Does Not Award Credit for Prior Experiential Learning

Under no circumstances does WISR award credit for prior experiential learning.

Grading and Evaluations of Student Learning by WISR Faculty

Student work at WISR is graded Credit/No Credit.
Evaluations of student work are made by the faculty member(s) who has (have) worked most closely with a student during the student’s studies in a particular course.  This is done through: frequent individual, faculty-student consultations, and the faculty member’s review of the student’s written papers (in course modules and for the course as a whole), the student’s collaboration with other students, the student’s performance in action-research labs and/or internships, the student submission of the detailed end-of-course self-assessments and an end of course oral exam. A strong effort is made to engage each student in habitually evaluating her or his own efforts. Open, candid discussions of a student’s strengths, progress, and areas needing attention are part of many faculty-student consultations. At the same time, students are encouraged to do repeated revisions and rewrites of their papers and self-assessments, until they have been brought to a level of quality acceptable to both the student and the teacher. WISR faculty members try to separate the process of evaluating students’ work from the penalties and insults to students’ pride that are considered necessary parts of traditional, summary grading systems.

WISR relies not on graded, written, question-answer examinations, but on students’ abilities to write clearly about subjects that they develop, and to respond articulately to questions about what and how they have learned. Qualitative written and verbal evaluations are used instead of single-letter or number grades, and faculty members making assessments are expected to know how any individual student’s work-product is related to: course and degree program learning objectives, WISR’s meta-competencies, and the student’s previous efforts and professional and personal educational objectives. Over time, each student’s learning portfolio develops a very substantial body of evidence about the student’s learning and progress, including for each course: the student’s completed paper and other written assignments for the course (e.g., annotated bibliographies, course module assignments, and the student’s self-assessments), and the faculty assessment of the student’s learning.

At the end of each course, the faculty member articulates on a “Evaluation of Student Performance” form, their determination that the student has met the requirements and objectives of the course, and of each particular assignment for the course. In doing so, the faculty member also provides the student with feedback on: noteworthy qualities evidenced in fulfilling the assignment, areas for needed improvements in future coursework, important strengths evidenced, and/or other suggestions. The faculty member notes which of the degree program objectives that the student has addressed during that particular course, and makes other comments that might be helpful to the student in their future learning. 

With courses that are offered for variable credit (only independent study courses and internship/practica), the faculty member awards credit based on the hours of study and/or internship/practica involved (45 hours is equivalent to one semester unit). 

Furthermore, WISR faculty only award credit if the student’s work indicates high quality engagement in learning at WISR, similar to the well-known Oxford model of education, and with learning and competency accomplishments comparable to what students would typically receive for the particular number of semester units associated with that course, in an accredited program, if the student were performing at a grade of “B” or higher for graduate study and a “C” or higher for undergraduate study. Generally, at WISR, students are expected to aspire toward “A” level work, and when a student performs a bit lower than that, faculty provide the student with the necessary feedback to increase the likelihood of outstanding work in future courses and studies.

Besides building on each student’s own intellectual and professional interests, each course must result in the student’s meeting the course’s learning objectives, in progressing toward the learning objectives for the degree program in which they are enrolled. This includes becoming proficient and demonstrating competence in a range of theories and practices within their major field, and in making progress in the meta-competencies embraced by WISR’s approach to learning.

Faculty Feedback on Drafts of Student Papers and Theses

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 are available to set up hour-long conferences with students, either face-to-face, or by phone once every week or two, as needed by students. Generally, it is best to set up appointments a week to 10 days in advance, so students can coordinate their own schedules of availability with the openings in the faculty member’s schedule. Faculty comment on the substance and content of the student’s paper, on the clarity and organization of the paper, and on grammar, spelling and mechanics. Faculty encourage students to write in their own voice, and they encourage the use of concrete examples and illustrations of general points and concepts. Critical analysis and an awareness of “bigger picture” issues and ideas are also encouraged. Students are not expected to address every single faculty criticism and suggestion in re-writing their draft, but rather to consider thoughtfully and carefully the faculty’s suggestions, and then to make sufficient revisions to show a substantial and worthwhile improvement in the paper, in order to meet the requirements and learning objectives of that course.

Assigning Credit to Courses at WISR

Students are given credit only if they demonstrate a substantial level of learning and accomplishment, in a course, thesis or independent study project or practicum, in two broad realms—1) The quantity and quality of the student’s engagement in learning at WISR, and 2) the learning outcomes and competencies demonstrated by the student, based on faculty assessment of student learning–through mentoring discussions, small group seminars, papers and action-research projects or internships completed, collaboration with other students, performance in an oral exam, and self-assessments written by the student pertaining to the evidence of their learning process and outcomes.  

Learning outcomes used in the determining that the student has successfully completed a course, and the granting of credit for that course, are specific to each course, and also to the learning objectives of the student’s chosen degree program.

WISR’s expectations for the quantity and quality of student engagement in learning at WISR approximate that of the traditional “Carnegie unit” which grants one semester unit for each 45 hours of participation in learning.

Read More . . .

The evidence used in awarding credit is of several kinds:

Evidence includes many of the following: Academic papers, professional work and community work, multimedia products (including audios, videos, photos and web pages), creative/artistic works, faculty and professional observations of student learning,  participation in WISR projects and seminars, student-designed and faculty-supervised action-research labs, oral exams, collaborations with other students and WISR alumni, and written self-assessments.  WISR does not grant credit for prior experiential learning alone, only for current learning that may involve current writing and analysis that draws on prior experiences.  Read More . . .

Transfer of Credit to WISR from Other Institutions

Maximum transfer credit accepted.

No more than 80 semester units may be transferred from other institutions toward WISR’s 120 semester units required for the BA. No more than 12 semester units of graduate study may be transferred toward WISR’s MS in Psychology (students enrolled in the MFT program prior to August 2012 were allowed to transfer at most 6 semester units of credit), and no more than 6 semester units may be transferred toward the  MS in Education and Community Leadership at WISR. No more than 9 units of doctoral-level credit may be transferred toward Doctoral studies at WISR.  Read more . . .

WISR’s Policy on Academic Honesty and Integrity

WISR embraces the value of learning that builds on the knowledge, efforts and experiences of others. In particular, WISR actively encourages students to collaborate with one another, and with others throughout the larger community. Academic honesty and integrity requires that students disclose and make transparent what they have learned from others, and how their learning and inquiry are indebted to, or have been importantly influenced by, others. This includes not only making the appropriate citations of the literature used in one’s papers, theses and dissertations, but it also includes acknowledging the informal contributions that others have made in shaping one’s ideas, questions and actions. WISR students are encouraged to write in their own voice, discussing how their studies and inquiries have led to their conclusion, recommendations and further lines of inquiry.
At WISR, faculty and students meet regularly and engage in continual and detailed dialogue about the student’s studies, and for this reason, faculty are usually aware of how others have contributed to student learning. Furthermore, WISR students are expected to be highly motivated and committed to genuine inquiry, and uninterested in purely expedient strategies for producing the required academic writing. Violations of academic honesty and integrity at WISR have been virtually unheard of in our decades-long history. In case of a violation, the work submitted will not be accepted for credit, and a second violation of this standard will result in dismissal from WISR. All such decisions are subject to student appeal first to WISR’s Faculty, and then to the Board of Trustees.

Nothing in this policy should discourage students from actively and fully collaborating with one another in any aspect of their studies, including a paper, project, or thesis or dissertation. Indeed, such collaboration is encouraged and that collaboration must be disclosed by the participating students with a written description of the process of collaboration and each student’s contributions to the collaboration.

Review of Student Progress, Attendance, Probation, Dismissals, and Appeals

Mid-Program Reviews

Students in all of WISR degree programs have a mid-program review of their learning and progress, in conjunction with an oral exam covering what they have thus far studiedIn addition, MFT students have an earlier, practicum readiness review and oral exam.  In addition, Doctoral students have a major oral exam prior to embarking on their dissertation, along with a review of their dissertation proposal.  Two faculty participate in the exams with Master’s and Bachelor’s degree program students, and three faculty participate in exams with Doctoral students.  Sometimes other students or alumni to participate in these exams as non-voting members of the exam committee.

In Cases of Persistent Lack of Progress . . . 

Since WISR faculty are committed to helping all students succeed, and because of the thoroughness of our admissions counseling process, no student at WISR has ever been dismissed. However, a faculty adviser can recommend review of a student’s persistent lack of academic progress, or persistent failure to participate in mentoring sessions with an academic advisor, to a WISR faculty academic progress review committee.  This committee, in turn may 1) put the student on academic probation with certain conditions to be met to avoid dismissal, or 2) dismiss the student. All actions taken by faculty review committees, as well as by faculty advisors, and Graduation Review Boards are subject to appeal by the student to the WISR Board of Trustees. Such appeals may request reevaluation of credits awarded, graduation decisions, dismissals, or any other decision bearing on the student’s learning and academic progress. Decisions of the Board of Trustees, made after reviewing the relevant evidence, are final.

Faculty review of student progress

An Executive Committee of at least three WISR faculty, will review each student’s progress semi-annually, in consultation with the faculty with whom the student has been most closely working.  The purpose of these reviews is to help students make timely progress toward their degree and their personal and professional career goals.  In conducting these reviews, faculty will be mindful that during the first year or so of study, students at WISR do not typically complete courses at the same rate as they do after that.   When faculty have concerns about a student’s progress, they will negotiate with that student a progress plan for the next six months.  The purpose of the plan will be to enable the student to make better progress, and to assess whether or not it is realistic for the student to succeed in completing the program in a timely fashion.  If, after the end of the six-month progress plan, WISR faculty do not believe that it is realistic that the student can complete the program within reasonable time frame (specifically, 6 to a maximum of 9 years for the doctoral program and for the MFT/LPCC programs, 4 to a maximum of 6 years for the other MS programs, and depending on previous undergraduate work completed, 3 to 5 years or less for the BS  program), then the faculty committee reviewing student progress will recommend that the student be disenrolled.  (Note:  students enrolled prior to July 2014 will have a longer period of time to complete their studies, but they will still be subject to disenrollment if they do not show continual progress.) The student may appeal any decision to WISR’s Board of Trustees. If the student is disenrolled, they will be given an opportunity, after a period of at least six months, to re-apply for admission, if they can make the case that their circumstances and/or ability to complete the program have improved.  If re-admitted, they will be given one six-month period to demonstrate good progress, and they must continue to demonstrate good progress in each subsequent six-month period.

Student Rights: Grievance Procedures

A student may lodge a complaint (grievance) by communicating verbally or in writing to any instructor or administrator. Any such person contacted shall attempt to resolve the student’s complaint immediately. Oral and written complaints will be accepted by the Institute in any form. When submitted in writing, a simple, specific statement about the issue to be resolved should be sufficient.

If a student complains verbally and the complaint is not resolved within a reasonable time, and the student again complains about the same matter, the President of the Institute shall advise the student that the complaint must be submitted in writing. If a student complains in writing, the President of the Institute shall, within ten days of receiving the complaint, provide the student with a written response, including a summary of the Institute’s investigation and disposition of it. However, if the President is the subject of the complaint, the Chair of the Board, or a core faculty member designated by the Chair of the Board, will lead an investigation and provide the student with a written response as noted above. If the resolution requested by the student is rejected, the reasons for the rejection shall be explained.

Grievances not resolved by agreement between the student and the President of the Institute, or by the Chair of the Board or designated faculty member, may be submitted to the WISR Board of Trustees for a final decision by the Institute.

Any questions or problems concerning this institution that have not been satisfactorily answered or resolved by the Institute should be directed to the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education, by calling (888) 370-7589 [toll-free] or by completing a complaint form at www.bppe.ca.gov

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