(903) 892-2020

Learning at WISR


In the past six years, WISR faculty have made some revisions to our curriculum. We have made conscious efforts to preserve WISR’s distinctive, personalized approach to learning and WISR’s commitment to its mission and goals, while developing a curriculum structure that can best meet the guidelines of external oversite agencies.

We have been through two phases of curriculum development, and we believe that each phase has resulted in overall improvements.

First, on February 1, 2015, we instituted the following curricular structure, rather than having students do a series of individually designed, independent study projects which kept in mind both student goals and objectives, and the goals and objectives of their degree program. (Previously, only MFT students were required to study specific content, beyond WISR’s requirements for social change and action-research; the MFT students also studied content as prescribed by the licensing board for MFTs, the Board of Behavioral Sciences)

Students enrolled prior to February 1, 2015 were encouraged to follow these new requirements and guidelines, but they were grandparented into the requirements and learning methods at the time of their admissions.

The previous requirements may be found in our May 2014 WISR Catalogue

The curriculum instituted on February 1, 2015, continued with WISR’s emphasis on providing personalized education, and did so, by using courses with faculty-developed syllabi to aid student learning.

The curriculum instituted on February 1, 2015, consisted of:

  • For each degree program of a series of required, and elective courses, with each course having a course description, and a syllabus.
  • Except for the MFT program where some courses were for 3, 4, or 5 semester units of credit, most other courses were offered for 5 semester units of credit, so that students could study in depth in each course.
  • The syllabi for each course, typically contained the following:
    • A list of course learning objectives (along with the degree program objectives);
    • A lengthy list of books relevant to the course learning objectives, and the requirement that students read most of several books chosen from the list;
    • A requirement that the student do further, in-depth research on a topic of strong interest to them that was also related to the course learning objectives, and that this culminate in a substantial term paper.
    • A requirement that the student write 1) an annotated bibliography of the half dozen or so most important readings they pursued; 2) write a self-evaluation and discussion of the evidence that they addressed each of the course learning
    • objectives and two of the degree program objectives, and 3) an overall self-assessment describing and evaluating what they did and learned in the course.

Details about those requirements (from February 2015 through August 2018) can be found in WISR’s January 2018 Catalog: at: https://www.wisr.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/WISR_Catalog_revised_January-1-2018.pdf

As of September 2018, we initiated our online courses, using Google Education Suite.  We expect that this transition with all of our courses online will be completed by June 2019. WISR students continue to have regular, intensive guidance from WISR faculty, to enable them to personalize their studies and to aid them in navigating the system of online courses.

The key ingredients of WISR’s online courses (always pursued in combination with regular one on one consultations with WISR faculty) are:

  • Clearly articulated course learning objectives, and degree program learning outcomes.
  • Approximately 10 courses modules, with reading (and sometimes video) assignments for each module, involving approximately 90 minutes of study, then followed by a short (one to two-page) writing assignment discussing learning in relation to the course module’s learning objectives, part of which is posted on WISR’s new online forum, along with a reply to another student’s post.
  • Usually, an overview book to read, with a short paper (several pages) discussing insights from the book related to course or module learning outcomes.
  • For most courses (4 and 5 semester unit courses), an action-research lab—where students conduct an action-research project on a topic of strong personal interest, and related to the topic of the course.
  • 10 hours of collaboration with other students—in WISR seminars, through informal collaboration, added participation in the online forum, and/or viewing and writing about videos of previous seminars available online.
  • Some end of course written self-assessments—an overview, an annotated bibliography, and a written evaluation of how learning outcomes were addressed.
  • An end of course oral exam with the student’s faculty advisor, to discuss what the student learned, how they learned what they learned, what went well, what was difficult, and what the implications are for the student’s future plans and next coursework at WISR.


WISR faculty continue to evaluate and improve the curriculum, through regular faculty and faculty executive committee meetings, and semi-annual curriculum reviews, as well as through planned intensive reviews of the curriculum of each degree program (the methods, requirements, and the content of each course) once every two years.

In summary, WISR’s teaching and learning methods emphasize regular, intensive, one-to-one contacts between student and faculty members, and small-group seminars in which everyone is expected to contribute to the shared learning. These methods were more traditional throughout Western history, from Classical Greece to Oxford and Cambridge Universities, than they are in modern U.S. universities, where the prevalent patterns of impersonal, course-based instruction are inventions of comparatively recent times.

Evaluations of student work are made by each person’s primary faculty advisers through: frequent individual, faculty-student consultations, and the faculty member’s review of the student’s written papers and completed course assignments, and student submission of the detailed end-of-course self-assessment. 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.

Some Outcomes for Our Learners

There are a number of themes that quite often characterize the learning outcomes for WISR students. Several are:
• “One thing leads to another” –as students realize one accomplishment or learning breakthrough, then that, in turn, often opens new doors for the learner and for the people in their lives—in their jobs, communities and in their circle of friends and relatives.
• WISR learners often find their own voice, in written and oral communication.
• Learners at WISR often come to see knowledge-building as something in which most everyone is involved.
• As a consequence of conscious efforts on the part of WISR faculty, many students design and pursue learning activities—action projects, research, and writings—that help to build bridges to the student’s desired career path, and/or to the next significant and meaningful things that they want to do with their lives, making use of the professional knowledge and competencies they have developed. Read more.

To read about further topics on “Learning at WISR” . . . go to:

Learning the WISR Way
Seminars and Events
WISR Learners Speak
Cooperation Between Students
Community Involvement
Distance Learning