By Joseph E. Trimble
Distinguished University Professor
Department of Psychology and the Woodring College of Education
It is my distinct pleasure and honor to introduce this year's
Network analysts study relationships in contexts and how the patterns of interactions influence behavior and social change. Educators such as Garth, Joe, and Ann understand these network principles and effectively apply them in their teaching and relationships with students and colleagues.
Along with countless other faculty here at Western, indeed Garth, Joe, and Ann approach teaching as an educational partnership, with students as partners in the exploration and study of the topic. In the classroom they encourage and nurture the partnership, rather than promoting an educational setting where knowledge, defined as the accumulation of facts, figures, and discrete skills, is objectified and externalized. An educational partnership for them means that the partners are connected to the topic of inquiry and to each other as they experience the exploration of information. They view the partnership as a collaborative relationship set in an experiential atmosphere of openness where attention to the experience and sensitivity of others is emphasized. Thoughts and feelings are treated with mutual respect as partners explore knowledge and values. By encouraging independence while providing suitable structure, they expect and encourage students to participate in their holistic educational growth and development.
As a psychologist, I am keenly aware of the fact that everyone is hardwired to connect with others. Allan Shore of the UCLA School of Medicine once stated: "The idea is that we are born to form attachments, that our brains are physically wired to develop in tandem with another's through emotional communication, beginning before words are spoken." With this overarching principle in mind, you will learn that Garth, Joe, and Ann organize their seminars and classes to build on our fundamental need to connect with others. To accomplish a "connection" teaching objective, student experiences can be organized for them to participate in a series of activities and projects that emphasize their strengths as well as the importance of working with others in small group settings.
At one time or another all of us have had students who sat alone in the corner of the room, spoke only when queried and often hesitantly, were the first to leave the room when class ended, and preferred being alone seemingly excluding classmates from their inner circles. A few are problematic and troublesome but most of the "loners" pose few problems or challenges.
Creating a relational and correspondent learning atmosphere in the classroom can promote student engagement. In my numerous years of teaching and educational experiences I have come to realize that the "loner" wants to engage with the instructor, connect with some classmates, and, most important, connect and resonate with the course theme and emphasis. Typically, most "loners" don't know how to connect and sustain interpersonal relationships; however, we can create engaging classroom experiences by designing and promoting learning activities that foster a creative, supportive environment complete with positive proactive outcomes. Assigning students to the activities and experiences begins by recognizing and acknowledging their strengths. When placed in small group activities, for example, student strengths should complement one another to the extent that group outcomes depend on mutual collaboration. It has been my experience that "loners" will eventually realize they can connect in a positive supportive environment with encouragement and support from the instructor.
The three professors featured in this year's
Professor Garth Amundson embraces peer learning as an essential ingredient in a collaborative multi-disciplinary classroom experience. Having a strong connection to his profession is one of the most valuable attributes he can provide his students. Using his experience as a backdrop, he strives to encourage students in all aspects of their academic and professional development. He encourages them to submit their work to competitions and have their work considered by other professionals.
As evident in his course syllabi and materials, Garth Amundson strongly believes that there is a contractual agreement between professor and student. He points out a successful syllabus needs to have a well-stated sense of purpose, a defined sense of direction and clear expectations. It needs to include more than a calendar and reading list; it must act as a schedule and support the goals of the course. Professor Amundson insists that, "While the syllabus is a crucial tool, it must remain flexible so that it can adapt to the organic nature of the classroom, as indicated in all my course syllabi. The syllabus should not be the enemy of the course--being bound to the minutia of the syllabus can be detrimental to the fluidity of the classroom."
Joseph Garcia offers two courses in leadership studies; LDST 101 and 450 are both offered through the Karen W. Morse Institute for Leadership here at Western Washington University. The connectedness of his students and faculty in the courses comes through in his belief that each party in the classroom should be treated with respect for subject matter expertise and experiences. Continuing, he maintains that, the topic of leadership is not about a position, or a formal title. It is about the connections between people, individuals who may be called leaders and followers. Through these connections, individuals, groups, organizations and societies are able find their way towards achieving their dreams. In my view, this orientation towards leadership is captured by the words of the Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu some 2500 years ago when he said, go to the people. Learn from them. Live with them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. The best of leaders when the job is done, when the task is accomplished, the people will say we have done it ourselves.
The overall design of the leadership curriculum is based on the principle that there
is an accumulated body of knowledge about leadership and leadership inquiry that
should be the core learning material for the courses. Surrounding this core are
the professor, the students, and the professionals who engage with each other and
the material from their different perspectives. The professor is a subject matter
expert, the students are novice learners at different levels, and the professionals
have practical experience that in their respective roles facilitate learning about
leadership theory and practice. In his efforts to connect and engage young students,
Professor Garcia reminds us some lack of student engagement is not an uncommon occurrence
in first year courses as some are still finding their way as first year students.
In summary, Professor Garcia points out that his leadership courses have generated
positive results beyond the immediate course outcomes. The centerpiece for the course
is his learning model that
The course for which Ann Stone had the most opportunity for crafting is Marketing: Branding. This course works within her own personal strength of practical experience in the branding field, giving her confidence about the topic as well as strong perspectives about how branding skills are utilized in work environments.
In keeping with the "connectedness" theme of this year's Showcase, Ann maintains that courses should be framed following specific learning experiences to include:
In those settings she looks for the