If you’re curious…here’s a look at my second week.

During Wednesday’s QFT activity I occasionally interjected with questions (always questions!) that I designed to help them see behind the pedagogical curtain.  We discussed how questions might get at facts (“what day was this event”) vs. opinions based on perspective (and often requiring judgement (“what this event necessary?).  I was able to tease out the meaning and use of divergent and convergent thinking as we worked in small groups, the full group, and how we improved our questions and debated prioritization.

I don’t expect them to remember all of these terms and concepts.  But when they come up again (and again) in my efforts to be transparent, they’ll start to tangibly associate their actions with terms and concepts I might label “critical thinking strategies.”

I find that it’s important to always help your students see how activities like the QFT serve the FYS learning objectives.  This association – this connection – helps them learn.

By the way, I found that if they prioritize too quickly during the QFT you can help them take a step back by asking, “What’s the most interesting of these top questions?  The most helpful?  The most important?”  (From Santana and Rothstein’s book:  Make just one change:  teach Students to ask their own questions.)

That tossed them a curve and led to a renewed discussion.  Sometimes we get too much agreement…too much, “yes, that’s good…”  We’ll begin working more on how to challenge each other after next week’s work on critical thinking.

On Friday I wanted to get started on the PsP.  I was a bit behind, though, as I didn’t assign the Wednesday WTL as planned.  I didn’t forget…I decided it would make a better follow-on project than pump-primer.

So the in class activity was done from a cold start.  For two of my classes, this wasn’t a problem.  For my 11:00 class (where the atmosphere has been dragged down by a few sullen and contemptuous students) the WTL might have helped…might.

I introduced the session by describing how the PsP follows from the research that says that a student’s ability to self-regulate contributes greatly to academic success (Lucariello et al, 2016).

And that the PsP was designed to help them develop this skill.  But, I added, being mindful of root cause was essential toward this effort.  I quickly (it took less than five minutes) covered what I meant by root cause and modeled a couple of methods a person could use to dig beyond symptoms, ie: the “five whys” method.  (Not “Five Guys”, Chris.  Put down the burger.)

Than I asked them to identify five barriers to success in college, and to chase down the root cause of each barrier.  By session’s end I wanted them to agree as a group on three. Each of my classes started by working in small groups…and with a bit of PC prodding realized that they needed to set a timeline to meet the endstate.

They barely got there, and some products were better than others.  But in the main and through the cross talk they started thinking beyond the usual pat answers, or the intellectually lazy, “I don’t know.”

Their weekend’s self-development activity is to run this exercise on a personal level.  But in addition to identifying five real barriers (the root cause) I asked them to look at their personal strengths and weaknesses regarding each.  This self-development exercise will be their first e-Portfolio artifact.

I gave them this guidance:  “With your papers what I want is evidence of thinking.  Worry less about making it look nice and more about the level of thought.  Even if you bring me a copy with hand written notes all over it showing how you continue to wrestle with this “wicked problem” it’s good.  What I don’t want is perfect looking papers tossed together at last minute giving me what you suspect I want.”

As you already know, next week’s (which includes the ETS test) long pole in the tent will be the introduction to “wicked problems” and issue mapping.  I expect that the great good (and for some frustrating) work these past two weeks – the scaffolding on asking good questions and the open and trusting culture we’ve worked hard to cultivate – will pay dividends.



Lucariello, J. M., Nastasi, B. K., Anderman, E. M., Dwyer, C., Ormiston, H., & Skiba, R. (2016). Science supports education: The behavioral research base for psychology’s top 20 principles for enhancing teaching and learning: Science supports education. Mind, Brain, and Education, , n/a. doi:10.1111/mbe.12099


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