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Faculty Handbook


 Table of Contents:

WISR’s Mission and the Ongoing Review of WISR’s Mission

Overview—About WISR Faculty                                                                               

Qualifications of WISR Faculty, the Institutional Responsibilities of WISR Faculty, Continuing Development of Faculty, and Review and Renewal of Annual Contracts                                                               

Online Learning at WISR and Use of the Google Education Suite                          

More on Faculty Development                                                                                

  • The Importance WISR Gives to Faculty Development and the Support of Faculty Goals                                                                        
  • Annual Faculty Development Plan 

The Guide to WISR program learning outcomes, course rubrics, and program assessment procedures

Faculty Engagement in Maintaining and Improving WISR’s Learning Community and Methods, and in Curriculum Design and Review     

  • Participation in Curriculum Review 

Faculty Participation on Institutional Research Board (IRB) and Required Training   

Faculty Responsibilities for Giving Students Continual and Timely Feedback       

  • Policy Regarding Faculty Keeping Track of their Feedback to Students     
  • Policy Regarding Faculty Feedback to Students 

Mentoring and Advising                                                                                            

  • The intangible qualities underlying learning and collaboration at WISR 

WISR Policy on Academic Freedom                                                                          

WISR Counseling Referral Guide 

Safety Training for Use of WISR’s Space                                                                             

 WISR’s Mission and the Ongoing Review of WISR’s Mission

Mission Statement Review

WISR’s Mission Statement reads:

“WISR provides community-involved adults with personalized, learner-centered online and/or onsite education and degrees in a collaborative, multicultural learning community with a commitment to action-oriented inquiry that combines theory and practice to achieve community improvement and social justice.”

Ongoing Review of WISR’s Mission Statement

WISR seeks and attracts students, faculty, and staff who share commitment to its mission and its values and how and what they represent for potential change and betterment in the world. WISR’s learning community members embrace these values because they are important, intrinsic, and pervasive in guiding what we collectively do and are.

It is our policy to continuously review in our primary working groups at WISR (Board of Trustees, Faculty, Administrative Executive Committee, and Academic Advisory Committee) the mission statement to maintain and/or enhance alignment with our fundamental intentions and values. In addition, each working group conducts a formal Mission Statement Review every Fall.

The fundamental questions we are inviting are:

“In our policies, procedures, operations, and decision-making are we in alignment with our Mission and values?”

“And if we perceive that we could create even greater alignment with our mission and values, what might that look like?”

As a mission-driven organization, we continuously re-examine our actions, in light of our mission.

Overview—About WISR Faculty

 WISR has deliberately sought faculty members whose range of ethnic backgrounds, academic disciplines, work experiences, and community involvements allow them to act as resource people for WISR’s adult, community-involved students in ways that go beyond intellectual specialization and unite academic with professional and community concerns.

WISR faculty generally have very broad, interdisciplinary social science expertise beyond their particular areas of specialization, which enables them to work with our varied student population. They have many years of teaching experience, both in traditional academic settings and at WISR. Many have been teaching at WISR for 10 years or more. There is a very low rate of faculty turnover at WISR, and indeed, faculty are enthusiastically committed to working at WISR in personalized ways with the diverse and talented population of mature adults who enroll at WISR.

WISR faculty also have a rich background of involvement with community organizations, other educational institutions, and consulting practice. This practical experience further enriches their contributions to student learning, given the strong practical community concerns of most of our students. Indeed, this is the case with our faculty who are licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs).

Graduate Faculty (whose names are highlighted in red) are those faculty with doctoral degrees, and advanced other advanced academic and/or professional experience, who are lead  (lead instructors in courses for (and who serve as faculty on Graduation Review Boards of) WISR’s doctoral students and Master’s students. As per WISR policy, only those with unaccredited doctoral degrees and who have over 15 years of high level professional experience may be considered for the role of Graduate Faculty.  WISR Learning Instructors (whose names are highlighted in blue) are those faculty with Master’s degrees AND who have extensive and relevant professional, academic and community leadership experience. These instructors are able to assist in aiding the learning of WISR graduate students, but only under the direction and supervision of Graduate Faculty.


Qualifications of WISR Faculty, the Institutional Responsibilities of WISR Faculty, Continuing Development of Faculty, and Review and Renewal of Annual Contracts

WISR seeks faculty who, individually and collectively, represent considerable breadth and depth of academic expertise, as well as practical community involvement and professional knowledge,  in the areas in which WISR offers degrees. [See bios of current faculty at: https://www.wisr.edu/faculty-and-staff/faculty-profiles/ ]. Faculty work together collegially in making suggestions to one another, even though one faculty member make take the lead in developing the readings, objectives and assignments for a particular course. In this way, the course and the materials used, draw on our collective expertise–which provides breadth and depth in each course and in each degree program.

In addition, WISR faculty, especially the faculty who are primarily responsible for supervising students in their course work and on Graduation Review Boards, are expected to be regularly engaged in actively participating in the ongoing evaluation of institutional effectiveness at WISR, including quite importantly, but not limited to curriculum design and review.

We rely on the substantial expertise of our faculty–who are well-educated in their own disciplines (e.g., education, psychology, sociology, anthropology and communications, in particular) and who are also well-versed in practical community problem-solving, professional practices (in education, counseling, and community services and community development). Our faculty are also experienced in interdisciplinary inquiry and collaboration which adds to the quality of deliberations among faculty.

Indeed, we seek faculty who are interested in and committed to engaging in the collegial culture at WISR with other faculty, and with other members of the WISR learning community. WISR faculty are expected to  strengthen their professional and academic knowledge and skills, and their proficiency in learner-centered education by soliciting suggestions and support from: 1) Academic Advisory Committee members, 2) members of our very-well educated and highly professionally accomplished Board, and 3) from our alumni.

WISR recruits faculty who are motivated and inclined to stay current in their fields. Further, through their collaboration with the diverse and accomplished WISR learning community, and through other efforts, WISR faculty are expected to continually develop themselves and stay abreast of current developments in academic, professional and community work relevant to the interests of WISR students and the emphases of our degree programs.

Furthermore, we support the efforts of WISR faculty to stay current in their fields in several ways:

  • Faculty annually submit written self-evaluations of their own developmental endeavors in the past year, and
  • Each faculty member also formulates, writes and discusses a plan for their self-development in the coming year.
  • Each year, we purchase for our library several dozen recently published books in fields related to WISR’s degree programs.
  • Time is set aside in many faculty meetings for faculty to share ideas and suggestions with one another on ways to stay current, as well as to provide continuing education and training for faculty. As noted above, WISR faculty pool their knowledge and expertise in discussing and deciding on curricular improvements.
  • Finally, most WISR faculty have other community and professional involvements that help them stay current with new knowledge and new practices.

As mentioned above, to support their work as faculty at WISR, WISR faculty are supported in assessing and planning their continuing development and effectiveness by our annual review process each summer. Each faculty member writes and submits a self-assessment of their performance and development during the past year (link to form), and a plan for their development during the coming year (link to form).  Each faculty member discusses the self-assessment and plan with at least one other faculty member.

These reports are then reviewed by the CEO and CAO as part of the annual renewal of the faculty member’s contract (articulated by the CEO in a Memo of Understanding to be signed by the faculty member). The terms of the agreement for the next year (July  or August to the following July or August) are discussed by the faculty member and the CEO, sometimes with the CAO. If there are any unresolved issues of disagreement, or if the CEO wishes to not renew the contract at all, the faculty member and the CEO are to take their disagreement to the Board personnel committee, which discusses the issues with both parties and either facilitates a mutual agreement, or if not agreement is possible, makes a decision, subject to final review by the entire Board.

Online Learning at WISR and Use of Google Workspace for Education

As part of WISR’s enhanced commitment to online learning, each WISR faculty member is trained in using the Google Workspace for Education and Zoom, and expected to participate in the trainings.  When faculty have difficulties with the technology they can receive assistance within 24 hours from WISR’s Chief Technology Officer, or from the CEO or Chief Administrative Officer. There are regular workshops on the use of technology held by WISR (on site and/or online via Zoom) and monthly seminars on technology—led by WISR’s Chief Technology Officer.  Faculty are expected to attend as many of these as necessary, to develop and maintain their proficiency in facilitating online and distance learning among students at WISR.

Each WISR faculty member is assigned a wisr.edu email account—in the form: firstname.lastname@wisr.edu  Official communications are to be done using their wisr.edu email account, and in order to log into the Google Education Suite, the faculty member must first log out of all other email accounts in any browser on their computer and then log into their wisr.edu email account. This will verify that they can access WISR’s Google Workspace for Education, which cannot be accessed without logging into a wisr.edu email account. (Faculty are able to adjust their email settings to have all email forwarded to one email account, but the wisr.edu email account MUST be used when working with student in their online courses and when submitting or sharing student work and their evaluations of student work with WISR administrative staff.)

The Google Workspace for Education provides access to all WISR courses, and to the WISR online forum (for students and faculty to engage in dialogue with one another about topics related to each student’s studies) through the WISR “Private Wall” on the Google Currents app. In addition, each faculty member and each student can, and should, use their own Google Drive (associated with their wisr.edu email account) to save and store files of work in progress, including faculty using to share documents with students, including student drafts and comments on student drafts, s well as their evaluations of student work. The central site for WISR’s online learning platform is https://sites.google.com/wisr.edu/lms/home

The Guide to WISR’s online courses, which is used to orient WISR faculty and students, and to serve as a continuing source of support and information, is found at: https://sites.google.com/wisr.edu/guide-to-wisrs-online-courses/home 

The following topics are addressed in that guide:

A. Introduction
1. Using Your wisr.edu Email to Access WISR Online Course Sites

2. The structure of WISR’s Online Course Sites Using Google for Education Workspace/Education Suite

3. Using your wisr.edu Google Drive

4. Downloading Needed Forms for WISR’s Online Courses (for students and faculty)

5. Importance of Working Closely with WISR Faculty

B. WISR’s Online Courses
6. The Structure of Each Course Site

7. Course Overview Page and Typical Assignments

8. Course Page on Goals and Outcomes

a. Understanding How to Use Goals and Outcomes

b. Understanding How You Are Evaluated by Faculty

9. Module Pages

10. Course Reading Assignments and Accessing Readings



c. ScribD

d. Public Libraries and Kanopy Films/Videos

e. Other Resources for Readings

11. The Action-Research Labs/Projects and the IRB

12. Links to WISR Courses

C. Collaboration & Resources
13. Collaboration at WISR–Overview and Options

14. Accessing Previous Seminars

15. Using the Online Forum

16. Learning Resources—accessing readings and videos, writing tips, how to format and do references, help with spelling and grammar

More on Faculty Development

The Importance WISR Gives to Faculty Development and the Support of Faculty Goals

At WISR, faculty are expected to be engaged in evaluating and improving their competencies–as teachers, scholars and professionals–and of equal importance, faculty are an integral part of the WISR learning community, and we continually ask our faculty how we can support and contribute to their development–supporting their progress toward their professional, academic and community leadership goals,  and addressing their learning needs and their desires to improve their teaching.

Annual Faculty Development Plan.

Since WISR’s inception, WISR faculty have engaged in regular, informal collaboration and dialogue with one another, and have often supported one another in their professional, academic and personal development.  More recently, we have decided to build on this ongoing informal collaboration, and become even more conscious about the process of faculty development—helping each faculty member to create a written plan for their development over the next year, and then evaluating at the end of the year what has happened, and the appropriate steps for the next year.  This conscious process will provide a good stimulus and occasion to make our faculty development efforts more conscious, intentional and effective.

Perspective on Faculty Development. Our personalized, learner-centered approach to working with students is a natural and effective approach to take in our faculty development efforts.  This means that faculty, as learners, are the focus of an effort to enable them to engage professionally, academically and personally meaningful transformative learning.  And, by adopting an approach that is similar to our approach with students, it provides faculty with further insights about WISR’s approach to teaching—because they, as faculty, are also learners.  And, they are valued and respected as learners, as our students are, and they are asked to reflect on and document their learning activities, processes and outcomes in ways that are similar to what we try facilitate with, and expect of, our students.

Steps Involved with the Annual Faculty Development Plan. Near the beginning of each fiscal year (near July 1—and sometime betweeen June through August), each faculty member meets with the President, the Chief Academic Officer, and/or with any other colleagues (inside or outside of WISR) they choose to ask to help with their development, and develop a DEVELOPMENT PLAN FOR THE COMING YEAR.  That plan has features similar to the plan  that we now ask students to develop when they enroll at WISR.  (see below).  This plan includes consideration of the faculty member’s professional, academic and personal purposes and goals, as well as an assessment of the faculty member’s strengths, limitations and current challenges to be addressed.  The plan considers how the faculty member’s goals relate to some of the meta-competencies that we aim to develop at WISR among our learners, and an initial articulation of likely activities to be pursued, which, as is the case with our learners, may very likely change and become more informatively defined over time.

AT THE END OF THE FISCAL YEAR (around June of each year), THE FACULTY MEMBER ENGAGES IN SELF-ASSESSMENT AND DOCUMENTATION OF THEIR LEARNING ACTIVITIES/PROCESSES DURING THE PREVIOUS YEAR.  The format for writing this self-assessment and providing documentation is similar to the post-course syllabus form that WISR students fill out at the end of a course of study.

The following three documents are placed in each faculty member’s file—for EACH FISCAL YEAR, along with any relevant documentation that the faculty member can add to their file (portfolio) at WISR.

  3. FACULTY MEMBER’S END OF YEAR SELF-ASSESSMENT (similar to each student’s description and assessment of their learning and accomplishments during a course of study at WISR).


  • Certificates or other documentation of continuing education courses taken and completed, including date(s) of each activity, and topic(s) addressed.
  • A log of WISR-sponsored professional development activities in which they have participated (brief description of each activity and date held). [Include date(s) of each activity and topic(s) addressed.]
  • List of any relevant professional or community leadership activities during the year, along with the dates of each activity and the topics addressed by each activity—including membership in professional organizations, participation in professional or community conferences and events, jobs and volunteer work outside of WISR, for example.
  • List of relevant self-directed learning activities, and participation in WISR’s institutional functioning and development.
  • Copies of articles, Papers or Books written, and published or presented a professional conferences.
  • Clippings from newspapers and professional newsletters, for example, describing the faculty member’s participation in and contributions to their profession and community.
  • Evaluations or letters from colleagues, co-workers, students and others who know about the faculty member’s performance as a WISR faculty member, as a professional in their field, or as an engaged citizen or community leader.


For the initial plan for the year:

Each faculty member writes a preliminary educational plan, with the support and mentoring from WISR’s President or another senior member of WISR’s faculty, and if they wish in collaboration with other colleagues.  The development and pursuit of the plan are part of the faculty member’s participation in the WISR learning community, and it is very much expected that plan may change, perhaps a lot, through the faculty member’s engagement with her or his learning and development through the year. This plan articulates short and long-term goals, or possible directions important to the faculty member, including questions and dilemmas about the best direction(s) to take, with which the faculty member might be wrestling.  This plan includes the faculty member’s initial ideas about how their learning activities can build bridges to the next important things they do at WISR, and in their professional, academic and community involvements.  For example, they can explore various career and learning options and seek out continuing education and other activities to build bridges for themselves to further their professional and community involvements, and develop further the competencies needed to be an engaged, expert and contributing member of the WISR faculty.  They are encouraged to take advantage of the knowledge and networking connections of WISR faculty, alumni, students, Board members, and friends of WISR, as well as continuing education opportunities at WISR faculty meetings and other events at WISR. They can do scholarly and professional action-research, become more deeply engaged in the literature in their fields of interest, and interview people and seek out community involvements—and, in all of these endeavors remaining mindful of how these efforts may be laying the foundation and creating the pathways to the goals and directions that have laid out for themselves.

The plan should also include the faculty member’s inventory of her or his strengths and limitations, interests and values, as well as their assessment of needs, challenges and opportunities at WISR, and in the profession and the world in which she or he wishes to make a difference.  Also, the faculty member is expected to discuss this plan in relation to the his or her plans to develop further as a contributing member of WISR’s faculty, and in the areas of WISR’s core meta-competencies, and in relation to WISR’s graduation requirements.  [These meta-competencies are:  Thinking and Communication; Becoming Conscious, Intentional, and Improvising Learners; Community Leadership and Collaboration—Practical Skills and Talents; Experience, Competence, Talent and Knowledge in One’s Chose Area(s) of Specialization; Participatory Action-Inquiry and Qualitative Research; Justice, Sustainability and Social Change; Multicultural Perspective.]

To assist faculty in learning about recent developments in higher education—such as about curriculum development, current  issues, online learning and technology—WISR’s website has a page on READINGS IN SUPPORT OF FACULTY DEVELOPMENT. [ https://www.wisr.edu/faculty-and-staff/faculty-development/readings-in-support-of-faculty-development/  ]

All faculty are trained and continually supported by the CEO and the Chief Academic Officer, and by the Faculty Executive Committee (consisting of the CEO, the CAO and the heads of WISR’s degree programs) in understanding and making effecive use of WISR’s program learning outcomes, course rubrics and asseessment procedures. 

The Guide to WISR program learning outcomes, course rubrics, and program assessment procedures

can be found at: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1VyhSVztTyQd85C96HTg4a22N6sARCzIm/

The more than two dozen documents referred to in that guide can be found at:



This network of documents provides the conceptual rationale, as well as the specific procedures, rubrics and program learning outcomes used by faculty at WISR to assess and guide student learning, and to continually evaluate and improve the curriculum and instruction at WISR.

If a student disagrees with the faculty member’s assessment, they have the right to ask that another WISR faculty member, who is qualified in their area of study, review their work. There are also procedures whereby a student may file a grievance (see https://www.wisr.edu/academics/sample-page-2/grading-and-awarding-academic-credit/, regarding “Student Rights: Grievance Procedures). These instances are extremely rare at WISR over more than 40 years, because students and faculty are able to work out any differences by involving another faculty member to bring their perspective to the evaluation process.

Faculty Engagement in Maintaining and Improving WISR’s Learning Community and Methods, and in Curriculum Design and Review

WISR faculty meet together regularly, at least monthly, 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 feedback and discussions with other faculty, and formally there are annual evaluations based on written feedback from students on anonymous questionnaires and discussed with the President and/or 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.

Participation in Curriculum Review

There are a number of resources to aid faculty in their deliberations to design curricula at WISR and to conduct reviews of the curriculum of each degree program.  To gain access to these extensive and very valuable and needed resources for curriculum review at WISR, log into your wisr.edu email account and go to:  https://sites.google.com/wisr.edu/lms/home/curriculum-design-and-review

Here is an outline of some of the considerations and resources:

As articulated in WISR’s Strategic Plan, each of our three degree programs will be reviewed once every two years by WISR’s faculty (with leadership and coordination provided by WISR’s Faculty Executive Committee), in consultation with WISR’s Academic Advisory Committee. Faculty will focus on one program at a time, for a period of approximately four months, during that two-year period.


  1. Faculty will give emphasis in reviewing and designing curriculum to priorities articulated in the Strategic Plan. So, for example, in the next two years, points of emphasis will include:
  2. Six-month progress reviews of all students, and added admissions guidance to prospective students, to maximize the likelihood that the vast majority of degree-seeking students will graduate in the maximum amounts of time targeted for each degree program (MS 4 years; MS/MFT 6 years, and EdD 6 years).
  3. Continued emphasis on personalized, learner-centered curriculum design, with at least 30% of each course, allowing for considerable personalization, and with students continuing to meet (in person, by video conference or by phone) one-on-one with faculty twice each month.
  4. Increased emphasis on using technology. Attention to making our online technology user-friendly and highly integrated with WISR’s long history of students receiving personalized support, challenge, instruction, and collegial engagement from WISR faculty.
  5. Assigning course credit based on the conventional Carnegie Unit formula—one unit of credit for every 45 hours of academic engagement (instruction through course modules—shorter readings, videos and written critical reflections based on module content; meetings with faculty; and documented collaboration with other students in and out of seminars), and one unit of credit for every 45 hours of internship involvement, action-research lab participation, and study and writing done in conjunction with course-long assignments.
  6. Courses for the MS in Education and Community Leadership are numbered as MS500’s, and courses for the MS in Psychology toward the State MFT license as MFT500’s. Doctoral courses are numbered EDD600’s.
  7. Target Population
    1. MS in Education and Community Leadership students are likely to already be involved in positions of community leadership, and/or professional work as non-profit staff, school teachers, adult educators, or self-employed consultants engaged in such areas as health education, organizational change, or community activism.
    2. Students in the MS in Psychology are those wishing to meet the State’s academic requirements to pursue California’s Marriage and Family Therapist License, and/or the Licensed Professional Clinical Counseling license.
    3. Doctoral students are typically advanced in their careers and/or leadership work as educators, counselors/therapists, service professionals, independent scholars and activists, or self-employed professionals concerned with adult education and social change. They are also people who are committed to serious inquiry to create new knowledge and practices in their area(s) of specialization.
  8. Selection of Learning Resources—emphasis on quality, relevance and accessibility. Faculty are to use their expertise in assessing quality, or required and recommended resources. They are to assess relevance, by using institutional mission and vision, degree program goals and objectives, and course objectives and content. Insofar as possible, priority will be given to finding low-cost resources in the following ways, and in as yet to be identified similar low-cost ways in the future:
  • Books and articles available through ScribD.com (students are required to spend $9/month for membership).
  •    Articles available through EBSCO with a student membership in the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (annual membership of less than $150 required of MFT students)
  • Educational videos and documentaries available through Kanopy (California residents can access with San Francisco or Los Angeles Public Library Card, or with cards to other major California public libraries, and WISR’s membership is sufficient to accommodate the small number of students outside of California)
  • Open Access articles and journals (Creative Commons)
  • Purchase of a limited number of books, most of which should be available to WISR students living nearby in the WISR Library.
  •  Articles accessed through WISR’s subscription to LIRN (Library Information and Resources Network).


  1. Annual Surveys of Students and Recent Alumni (and their employers, coworkers and/or clients) regarding student satisfaction, comments on WISR’s areas of strength and needed improvement, and student/program learning outcomes.
  2. Annual, or bi-annual, interviews of WISR students and recent alumni by members of WISR’s Academic Advisory Committee.
  3. Annual student evaluation of faculty members’ teaching performance and of the strengths and limitations of learning technology at WISR.
  4. Feedback provided by students at the end of each course—rating the effectiveness of the course and making suggestions for improvement, as well as answering a survey regarding the estimated amount of time they spent engaged in each area of coursework (e.g., learning the content in each module/class, action-research labs, self-assessment and annotated bibliography short in-class essays, oral exam, annotated bibliographies, self-assessments, individual meetings with faculty, collaboration with other students, and time spent reading, studying and writing for course-long assignments).
  5. End of Program Evaluation essays written by recent WISR graduates
  6. Feedback given by students, and by fellow faculty, to WISR faculty—during and after seminars, through one-on-one conferences, at WISR faculty meetings, and other WISR events and meetings, including the Spring All School Gathering and the three-day Fall Annual Conference.
  7. Faculty and Academic Advisory Committee input given to WISR Faculty Executive Committee during the review of each degree program, once for three months (each program) during a two-year cycle.
  8. Changing curricular requirements dictated by California’s Board of Behavioral Sciences, as pertaining to MFT and LPCC licensure.
  9. The data from these various sources may be used to redesign any one or more of the following: WISR’s Mission, the Strategic Plan, degree program outcomes, list of required and elective courses, objectives and content of specific courses, eliminating or consolidating existing courses, creating new courses, revising required readings and videos for a course, changing the overall structure of a course or even of an entire sequence or category of courses, improving the use of technology in one or more courses, improving the integration of personalized and learner-centered methods across the curriculum or only in a particular course or courses, facilitating improved and increased collaboration among students in seminars, informally and/or on the online forum, improving faculty strategies of mentoring, instruction and support, and improving the methods for reviewing student progress, among others.


The following are “bigger picture” considerations to keep in mind during the process of curriculum review, design and revision.

  1. WISR’s Mission and Vision
  2. Needed Adjustments to Mission and Vision
  3. WISR’s Current Strategic Plan
  4. Technology—issues of learning design and technology.
  5. Use of Relevant Theories of Learning and Knowledge—this includes (but is not limited to) ideas advanced by Freire, Dreyfus, Vygotsky, and Kuhn, and as articulated in the extensive body of theoretical and practical knowledge developed at WISR over the past 40+ years with regards to learner-centered higher education and the use of action-research and participatory and qualitative research methods.


The following curriculum elements must be evaluated, and then reaffirmed, refined or substantially revised as part of the process of curriculum design. Further, WISR faculty must consider the interplay of these various areas of design when reviewing, for possible redesign, any portion, large or small, of WISR’s curriculum.

  1. The Seven Areas for WISR’s Learning Goals across the curriculum
  2. Degree Program Outcomes
  3. Course Outcomes
  4. The Overall Thematic Structure of WISR Courses across the Curriculum (To provide students and faculty with consistency and to assure that we comply with Carnegie Unit Requirements for time by students spent academic engagement—we have opted to use a consistent structure and pattern of instruction, learning and assignments in the vast majority of our courses.) Currently, the following are the key ingredients:
  • Course Overview and Outcomes
  • Module Outcomes and in-class-like reading, video and written work
  • Posts and Replies to Online Forum
  • Action-Research Lab
  • Major Term Paper
  • Collaboration with Other Students
  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Two Self-Assessments of Learning and Outcomes
  • Oral Exam

5. Degree Program course requirements, electives, and if applicable, sequence of courses.

6. Course content

  • Including required and recommended readings and videos
  • General Course Description (scope and emphasis)
  • Specific Course Assignments that shape content

7. Rubrics Used by Faculty to evaluate student work. The rubrics, along with course and degree program outcomes determine not only the evaluation of student written work and academic engagement with faculty and other students, but also the oral exams and the periodic and mid-program reviews of student progress (see #8).

8. Periodic Reviews of Student Progress (both the six-month reviews and the mid-program reviews)

9. Graduation Review Boards—composition and process


Charts and Papers to be Used and Considered in the Review Process:

  • Curriculum Maps (spreadsheets that link course outcomes to program learning outcomes)
  • Program Outcomes


  • WISR’s Use of Online Learning Principles
  • Review of Individual Student Progress
  • WISR Credit Clock Hour Policy


Improved Rubrics and Methods for Evaluating Student Coursework, Progress Exams, and for Continually Aiding Student Progress in Addressing Program Learning Outcomes—March 2021


About Faculty and Student Use of The Dreyfus Model of Expert Knowledge and Skill Development

WISR faculty are expected to be familiar with this model that is used to help us guide and assess student learning at WISR.  This means helping the students whom you advise to understand this model and how it applies to them. Specifically,

  • MS in Education and Community Leadership and MS in Psychology/MFT students are expected to achieve the “Competent” stage of Expertise in: 1) their major field of study, 2) their area(s) of specialization, and the six broad outcomes areas (noted above) based on WISR’s meta-competencies.
  • EdD students in Higher Education and Social Change are expected to achieve the “Proficient” stage of Expertise in: 1) their major field of study (Higher Education and Social Change), 2) their area(s) of specialization, and the six broad outcomes areas (noted above) based on WISR’s meta-competencies.

The following resources should be studied to aid you in learning more about the Dreyfus Model and how to use it, and you should share these resources with your students, as well.

   2) https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a084551.pdf   and

   3) http://www2.psych.utoronto.ca/users/reingold/courses/ai/cache/Socrates.html

        2) The Video of the October 2020 seminar on the Dreyfus Model: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/18RQYj3zQt8__knV95tztpnmQKo2OFCF-?usp=sharing

         3)  The Video of the August 2020 Faculty Development Session on the Dreyfus Model:


          4) Consult with the specific indicators of learning outcome achievement for each degree level  (MS, EdD) and articulated for each major outcome area, in the table at:


Faculty Participation on Institutional Research Board (IRB) and Required Training

All WISR faculty who supervise any student coursework, as well as those who serve on any Graduation Review Board, must receive Training in WISR’s Policies and Practices for Ethics in Research, including the role of IRB’s and the assessment of student research proposals regarding ethical considerations and necessary procedures and precautions.  The Training Program for all Supervising WISR faculty (that is those supervising courses or serving on Graduation Review Boards) is detailed in IRB Appendix 2: IRB Policies and Practices.  The training provides over two hours of instruction in best IRB practices, including compliance with Federal regulations. The training draws on a variety of resources and practices, including significantly, practices at the University of California, Davis. The training is supervised by WISR faculty member, Dr. Karen Wall, who is Chair of WISR’s IRB, and she must meet with each faculty member after they have completed the training, to discuss with them, and ask questions about, what they learned through the training in order to verify if they are now competent to oversee student compliance with WISR’s IRB Policies and Practices, and also in some cases, to serve on WISR’s IRB. (See Appendices 6 through 8 below regarding examination and certification of faculty competence).

Policies, Procedures and Documents/Forms relevant to WISR’s Policies and Practices on the Ethics of Research and the Role of the IRB are detailed in the following documents:

Faculty Responsibilities for Giving Students Continual and Timely Feedback

Policy Regarding Faculty Feedback to Students:

Faculty are required 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 days.  Faculty may need as much as three 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 typically within one day, and always within several days, and schedule face to face meetings and phone or video conferences with students, making every effort to find mutual convenient days and times to talk–usually within 7 days from the date when the student first requests a meeting or phone conference.  Students are expected to meet with someone on the faculty at least once every two weeks.


Mentoring and Advising

The intangible qualities underlying learning and collaboration at WISR

Long-time WISR Core Faculty Members, Cynthia Lawrence and John Bilorusky, have written about the following about the important, intangible qualities underlying learning relationships at WISR [from “Multicultural, Community-Based Knowledge-Building: Lessons from a tiny institution where students and faculty sometimes find magic in the challenge and support of collaborative inquiry” by John Bilorusky and Cynthia Lawrence, from Community and the World: Participating in Social Change, Torry Dickinson (ed.), Nova Science Publishers, 2003—this article is quoted here by special permission from the publishers]:

The real “magic” that is WISR is even more intangible than the images that can be grasped from WISR’s institutional history, from our institutional problems and “successes,” and from the community activities of our students and alumni. In trying to articulate these intangibles, we have decided that, in part, there is something special in the ways that faculty at WISR combine challenge and support in their work with learners. Indeed, the idea that students and faculty, alike, are first and foremost learners is a basic tenant of WISR’s philosophy. It is the interests of students as learners and the learning needs dictated by their community involvements that become the focus of student-faculty inquiry. Faculty members at WISR take on different roles–the mentor, the partner in inquiry, the facilitator and coach. Further, in our collaborative inquiries with learners, we are eager to become engaged in their interests and strive to assist them to center their action-research activities and knowledge-building on their interests and learning needs.

It might be magic, but it is definitely not easy. Learners, for whom WISR is the place to study, work very hard to realize their dreams. These learners are not just seeking a degree, although degrees are appropriate goals. They are challenged by their commitment to correct social wrongs and bring about needed changes in their communities-of-reference. The objectives and interests brought by learners vary, as would be expected given the diversity of our student population. As faculty, our intention is to meet learners where we find them–to support their research, to guide their process with suggested readings and questions we put forth as “food for thought,” and to use our knowledge to guide the development of theirs.

WISR is an individualized program. As we write that, it is easy to conjure up visions of people sitting in cubbyholes with programmed worksheets, where they work alone, and “correct” their own work against answer sheets provided by whatever publisher has used their own perspective, their values, and their social and political views to provide. That is NOT WISR!

Nor is WISR set up to award credit to students for previous life experience or current work-related activities. In contrast, we tell prospective students that if they enroll, they should expect to be actively engaged with their own learning, and actively engaged with faculty in their inquiries.

By individualized, we mean that learners choose and direct their own program. Although the program is self-paced, self-assigned and self-regulated, we, as faculty, take a major role by maintaining close contact with the learner to work with them in assessing their progress and process. Students meet often with one or several of the faculty, one-on-one, and the meeting is almost always a cooperative and collaborative learning experience. It makes us smile to note that when one of our learner’s forgets to put their name on their paper, we easily recognize whose paper it is by the content and style. We are so intimately involved in student learning that we know many of the nuances of each learner’s thinking, and indeed, it is interesting that students are so sure that we will know that they wrote a particular paper, that our students often “forget” (don’t bother?) to put their names on the papers they hand in. Because learners are given the opportunity, indeed encouraged, to think about what they want to learn and accomplish, they often arrive at more clarity about their ideas and the directions in which they are headed. At the same time, we as faculty actively and enthusiastically share thoughts that spring from our interests, curiosities and commitments, but as they might pertain to the interests of the particular learner with whom we are meeting.

All-in-all there are some themes that characterize the subtle, emerging combination of challenge and support that we give to our students. These themes are not facile techniques, nor cut-and-dried formulas that we “implement” on a day-to-day basis, rather they are some of the things that we have become aware of as recurring patterns in the ways we try to work with our students, and qualities underlying the learning relationships with them. This list of themes is not an exhaustive one. The themes could have been listed in any sequence, or categorized in any of a number of different ways. This list should be read in the way that one would study a mosaic, or perhaps a kaleidoscope of patterns. Looked at in different ways, each part provides us with an additional perspective on the other parts and on the total “picture.” In thinking about the items on this list, the reader may want to keep in mind such notions as exploration, reflection, creativity, engagement, inquisitiveness, social justice, collaboration, open-endedness and emergence. What other qualities come to mind as you read this?

  • We encourage learners to do projects they’ve been wanting to get around to, but haven’t—for example, developing a needed, new program or writing a critically reflective autobiography on their community/work/life experience, as these experiences relate to the bigger picture.
  • We encourage learners to not just study topics they want to, but also to realize that implicit in their insights are emerging theories to be communicated to others.
  • We invite learners not only to write about what they’re interested in, but also to write in their voice, to use the first person, to wonder and ask questions out loud on paper.
  • We see learning projects as open-ended, not as “products-to-be-graded.” We tell students that they may often end a paper by coming up with new questions more than definitive conclusions.
  • We urge learners not to formulate thesis and project topics by what “sounds good” (e.g., not to focus on coming up with a “good” hypothesis to test, where the answer is really known in advance and can then be verified). We urge learners to search for the questions that are important to them, and to others, for the things that they are sincerely and deeply curious to learn more about.
  • We try to identify with the learner and his or her concerns, and elicit from her/him some insights, questions and ideas that are interesting to them. And we challenge them, by asking them to read and think about how their concerns relate to the bigger social picture, what they see to be the pros and cons of theories of social change put forth by others, as they think about how those theories could be applied to their concerns.
  • We even tend to encourage the reading of certain books and articles we have come to find useful for learners over the years—Paulo Freire, bell hooks, T.S. Kuhn, and action-research handouts written by WISR faculty, among others. Also, we are continually learning from our learners of useful books and articles that we can suggest to other learners to read. The material is more than simply male, Eurocentric material.
  • What is the “politics” of the faculty, the learners and the institution. As a group, a significant majority of us could be characterized as progressive and very much to the left of center, and yet we are diverse in our politics. As an institution and a learning community, we do not have a particular “party line” nor do we have a litany of “politically correct” behaviors or positions that learners are supposed to adhere to. Most importantly, however, unlike most institutions, we are actively hospitable and even encouraging of learning endeavors which seek to reflect on issues of racism, sexism, classism, and other forms of oppression and social injustice. We rather consciously and emphatically find ourselves supporting learning and actions which are intended to promote equality, human liberation and justice.
  • We encourage learners to probe beneath the surface of things, to look concurrently at both the immediately practical tasks before us in community work and the bigger picture (society as a whole). We want learners to become more conscious of how they evaluate and judge evidence, and to be alert to get more information, to broaden their experiences. We suggest concrete research strategies for accomplishing these things.
  • We also improvise and brainstorm about specific ways each student can proceed with their inquiries, when we are in the midst of thinking with them about their unfinished projects as well as their yet-to-be-formulated projects. What research methods are likely to facilitate the learner in productively addressing the questions, interests, problems, and actions with which they are engaged?
  • We endeavor to help learners to do more than simply think or write about their community involvements, for we encourage them to be creative, intellectually and practically. Our students are very apt to write books and articles putting forth the insights and ideas growing out of their experience. Many work on establishing their own non-profit organization, to try to fill some unmet community need in a distinctively innovative way.
  • We encourage learners to critically reflect on their community/job experience. People often get involved in routines and find it difficult to take the time and give the attention to looking beneath the surface of what they are doing, or to think about the bigger picture. We try to encourage learners to take notes on what they are doing and then write papers about their insights, and the questions, problems and challenges they encounter, what works, what doesn’t work, and how their efforts might contribute to longer-term changes.
  • Talking with us in one-on-one meetings is another way to get learners to reflect on what they are doing. We encourage them to talk with others, as well. In a more formal way, they often interview clients, coworkers, and others who are doing similar work, to learn about their experiences, their insights, and the concerns, questions and problems that matter to them. Often learners lead seminars at WISR to get feedback from other students and faculty on the things in which they are involved.
  • We also ask learners to read what others have to say about social change, about the factors that contribute to it, and their vision of how it should happen and where it should lead. We ask them to critique these ideas and theories about social change, in terms of what they agree and disagree with, and in terms of how these ideas relate to the specific types of activities in which the student is engaged, be it work with youth, therapy with trauma survivors, health education, or job training. In this way, students can stand back from the details of what they are doing and think about it in terms of the bigger picture.
  • We are always curious to learn more about what our students are doing, both from their perspective (i.e., in terms of their knowledge and experience) and from the perspective of others engaged in the kind of efforts our student is. Our work with learners at WISR leads us to want to learn more about their particular field of study, for very often our students are more expert in their specialized area (be it the development of biracial children, the psychology of trauma, community-based health education, African culture and spirituality, or providing services to homeless families) than we are. By learning more about the learner’s field, we are able to ask better questions of them, to know enough about what they are doing to ask interesting questions for ourselves, and to share our wonderings and thoughts with the student, in the role of colleagues, co-inquirers who are actively interested in scratching our heads about the problems our students care about.
  • Sometimes learners at WISR are changing fields, and we encourage them to do more research about the field or field(s) they are considering. This may involve doing interviews with others in the field under consideration—to learn more about what they do, what problems they encounter, and why they find it meaningful or challenging. Sometimes we encourage the learner to write an autobiographical piece on how their experiences have led them to the interests and concerns they are currently exploring or embracing.
  • We encourage the learner to take his or her own ideas more seriously as a basis for developing theories about a topic in which he or she is an expert. Very often, people think theories are something developed by “other” people, by so-called famous people, and don’t take their own insights seriously enough. Autobiographical writing, or at least writings about one’s own experience, as they pertain to ideas, questions, concepts developed on a particular topic, is a good way to help students begin to develop their own theories, which they often have but don’t realize that they have. We believe that most of us know more than we realize that we know, and we just need the right kinds of support and dialogue to help us become aware of our knowledge, as such, and then to articulate it.
  • We spend a lot of time commenting on student rough drafts, and encourage our students to submit rough “drafts” that are still in the form of bits and pieces of as-yet unorganized ideas, as well as more polished drafts that have a beginning, middle, and end to them.
  • We sometimes suggest that learners interweave reviews of literature with their own ideas—not so much to support their own ideas (which usually can be supported by examples and evidence growing out of their own rich experience) as to think about how their ideas fit in (or don’t fit in) with the body of writings that other people have put forth on similar topics.
  • We often encourage learners to interview others to test out their ideas, to see how others’ experience is similar to or different from their own, and to use these interviews as a basis for involving others in taking some kind of action on the problems of concern to the learner.
  • We try to put learners who have similar or overlapping interests in contact with each other, so they can support and learn from each other. We encourage learners to come to seminars to see how others, even with seemingly very different interests, jobs or involvements, may often share their deeply felt values and broader ideas about the society, where it is going, and where it should go. These seminars also serve as a basis for learners of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds to come together and learn more from each other because of both the differences in their life experiences and from the similarities than transcend the differences.
  • We try to encourage learners not to accept “pat” answers or narrow, technical solutions to problems, whether those approaches are ones they are advocating or whether they are adopting someone else’s recipe for success. We usually find when questioning students about these formulaic approaches, that the learner’s deeper thoughts about the strategy are much more complex, and more subtle, but that the action advocated has been more simply stated, sometimes because the simply stated version sounds “acceptable” and similar to approaches validated by others in positions of high status or authority.

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.

WISR Non-Student Complaint (Grievance) Procedure

Background Principles

A core value at WISR is maintaining respectful relationships between all members of the WISR community.

WISR Statement of Non-Discrimination, Inclusion and Affirmation of Diversity Values

Western Institute for Social Research admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national or ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation, or disability in the admissions or in the administration of its educational policies, scholarships and loan programs and all other school administered programs. WISR actively encourages interested members of ethnic and racial minority groups, women, and other underserved persons to discover whether its programs and methods fit their special, personal and community interests and goals.

In addition, WISR seeks actively to build an inclusive and diverse, including multiracial, multicultural, learning and teaching community, in which the central values are built on the worth and distinctiveness of each person’s background, going beyond our differences to celebrate qualities and needs that we all share as humans. In building and nurturing such a community, WISR affirms the importance of free and open dialogue, and to that end, students, faculty, staff, alumni and Board are all expected to 1) refrain from making comments that would infringe on the safety, dignity and respect for any group, and 2) welcome assistance in learning how to improve their interactions with groups with whom they are less experienced or comfortable.

WISR core values include:

o          Developing a multicultural, inclusive perspective. This means developing and using inclusive and multicultural perspectives to inform one’s purposes, and one’s views of social issues and challenges and opportunities in one’s chosen fields or arenas of endeavor—profession, workplace, community.

o          Developing a sense of empathy, compassion and community toward, and with, others.

o          Appreciating and understanding the broad spectrum of perspectives and consciousness, and how those arise out of people’s culture, gender, economic background, religious and sexual orientation.

o          A culture of learning that respects and promotes the dignity of every person.

o          The belief that no individual or group may rightfully prosper at the expense of others.

o          The use of language that conveys respect for persons whose gender identity, culture, religion, sexual orientation, economic background, or political interests may differ from our own.

The following procedure should be followed if a WISR non-student member has a complaint (grievance) about any member of the WISR community (faculty, staff, Board member or student).

Step 1:  They should, first of all, attempt to resolve their complaint directly with the person concerned by communicating with them verbally or in writing (this includes email). 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. Any such person contacted shall attempt to resolve the complaint as soon as possible. A reasonable amount of time must be given to allow the person to whom the complaint is delivered to respond to the complaint. Every effort should be made to resolve the complaint at the lowest possible level.

Step 2: If the complaint is not resolved within a reasonable amount of time, the WISR community member may request in writing, that the Chief Academic Officer or the Chief Administrative Officer mediate a solution to the complaint. If the complaint is about the Chief Academic Officer or the Chief Administrative Officer, the member should submit their complaint in writing to the President of the Institute.

Step 3: If the complaint is not resolved at Step 2, the member may appeal in writing to the President of the Institute. If the complaint is about the President, the member may submit a complaint in writing to the Chair of the Board of Trustees.

Step 4: Grievances not resolved by agreement between the student and the President of the Institute, or by the Chair of the Board, may be submitted to the WISR Board of Trustees for a final decision by the Institute.

Although it is suggested that WISR community members first use an internal process to address their grievances, it is not required that they do so, and they may contact the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education at any time by calling (888) 370-7589 [toll-free] or by completing a complaint form at www.bppe.ca.gov. In any case, 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

Sexual Assault Victim Information

All sexual harassment or assault incidents are to be reported immediately to the WISR President John Bilorusky (510-601-8164; 510-459-1447; johnb@wisr.edu) or to WISR Board Chair, Marcia Campos (925-788-0997; octav@aol.com ; marcia.campos@wisr.edu ), or the Student Services Coordinator (karen.wall@wisr.edu ). In an emergency, dial 911 for immediate attention.


WISR Counseling Referral Guide

WISR faculty are to use these guidelines, suggestions and resources when you are working with students who may be in need of professional counseling support and assistance:

Counseling Referral Guide   [ https://www.wisr.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/WISR-Counseling-Referral-Guide.pdf ]


Safety Training for Use of WISR’s Space

Please read this brief outline of safety considerations:  Safety Training for USe of WISR’s Space