With the Spring semester coming to an end, it is time to reflect back on my work, specifically what I have done to contribute to the Signature Project class. What does it mean to reflect? For me, this means to actively think back on everything I have done for this course. How have I contributed? What have I learned? Would I recommend enrolling in this course? This reflection period is not necessarily to just list all that I have done, but to note the importance of that work. There is always a deeper meaning, and as I reflect back on this course, I must understand the meaning behind my work.
In this reflection, I will be reflecting back on the course and the Habits of Mind that I practiced over the last three months. The Habits of Mind must be kept into consideration because they are used to assess the effectiveness of these courses. There are four benchmarks that gauge the level of engagement students experience in general education classes. In this reflection, I will be giving specific examples and recall times when I practiced each Habit of Mind in this IS 4220.01 Signature Project class. Before jumping into the Habits of Mind, I am going to describe the various activities I undertook in the process of articulating, developing, planning, and implementing our signature project.
Three months ago, seven of us sat down in desks arranged in a circle, and read the description of the course. We began discussing what the current PSU first year experience entails. Each of us reflected back on our first year experience and the strengths of that experience, and areas of improvement. We began having an open conversation about the college application process and how stressful it is. I engaged in multiple conversations in class with my peers that helped us come to the consensus that would soon lead us to the journey map.
Our next step was to meet with Enrollment Management and learn what they do for the school in terms of creating the first year experience. We soon learned that Enrollment Management had an internal document called a “journey map” that they use to keep track of the stages and progress made in prospective student’s college onboarding processes. It dawned on us, that if we made this document public, available for first year students’ themselves to see, maybe then that would ease the college on boarding process.
Purposeful communication is creating meaning through our interactions with people. Purposeful communication, whether is be verbal or nonverbal, can either spread knowledge, foster understanding, or aid in changing others’ beliefs/attitudes. Within this Habit of Mind, there are four signposts that reflect this habit. Those signposts include awareness of context, comprehension, purposeful expression, and effective application of strategies for communication. Across this semester, there are many times where I expressed purposeful communication through these various signposts.
The main signpost that I want to reflect on is awareness of context. I chose to reflect on this signpost specifically because I feel this signpost guided our signature project. Awareness of context means at the very basic level, people interpret messages differently based on their backgrounds. I practiced purposeful communication, through my awareness of context, when creating the language that is written in our interactive journeymap. I was cognizant that each first year student comes from culturally different backgrounds. Some students may be first generation, some may be international students, and some may come from a family where higher education is normal. Knowing that each student may interpret messages in different ways, I chose to create language in our journey map as basic as possible. For example, I wrote “ here are some resources to learn more about our school”. Before I wrote something like “ here are some resources to entice you to come to our school”, but I realized that language can be seen as forceful and persuasive. Instead, I chose to use language that could be interpreted by everyone as inviting and friendly.
Another place where I practiced purposeful communication can be seen through the signpost of purposeful expression. Purposeful expression means the ability to organize information from sources to then create a clear message. Purposeful expression can be seen all throughout our journey map. Specifically, I used purposeful expression when I hyperlinked information. “See further up here” in the campus environment stage is purposely hyperlinked to a Plymouth State made video promoting the University. Rather than explaining how our campus is unlike the rest, I chose to use a video to purposefully express that.
Problem solving is explained as the iterative process of identifying problems and finding possible solutions. Within this Habit of Mind, there are four signposts; problem framing, challenge identification, plan development, and decision-making and revision, and evaluation of progress. Throughout this semester, we did nothing but problem solve. We worked collaboratively to identify weaknesses, or problems, and then brainstormed possible best fit solutions. For example, we identified that the school website is an issue, and worked towards finding a solution. That solution would be our interactive journey map.
One signpost of problem solving that I practiced is evaluation of progress. Throughout the development process of our journey map, I evaluated our progress continuously. Once each prototype of the map was created, I tested the journey map, and identified if any progress had been made. Not only did I test our prototypes for progress, but I engaged in conversations in class to determine whether or not we had made progress, and how to continue to make progress. Since the design process is iterative, we continuously tested our prototypes and had to evaluate if whether or not our journey map is on the road to achieving our desired outcomes.
This Habit of Mind is characterized by the recognition that individuals beliefs and values are influenced by their experiences. I interpret this Habit of Mind in a very simple way. Our Signature Project class practiced Integrative Perspective simply because we each study different disciplines and bring a variety of perspectives to the table. In this Habit of Mind there are several signposts that exist. Those signposts are self awareness, perspective seeking, interconnectedness, and collaboration.
This semester, I have practiced a great amount of self awareness. Self awareness is being cognizant that my beliefs and values stem from my personal experiences. One specific time when I practiced self awareness was when our class was deciding if we wanted to pursue the journey map. I realized that the reason why I wanted to focus on an external journey map is because I wish I had one available during my application process. My reasoning for wanting to pursue our signature project idea came from my past experiences and belief that the college onboarding process should be less stressful.
Another signpost of integrated perspective that I practiced this semester is collaboration. Our Signature Project relied on our class’s ability to work collaboratively. I actively articulated my perspectives to my classmates, and I actively listened to others’ opinions and perspectives as well. On the first day of class, I realized my ability to work with others will determine the success of our project. I am grateful I learned the value of working collaboratively since this will be an incredibly useful skill to have for my future professional life. One specific example of my collaboration is when our class discussed how we wanted to present our work on our poster. As a group, we had to come to an agreement on what we wanted to say in each section. Here, I carefully listened to what each my classmate’s had to say, and then, further communicated if I agreed or disagreed and why.
Self Regulated Learning
The last Habit of Mind is self regulated learning. This Habit of Mind is characterized by the want to learn, the ability to set goals, and the will to engage in a self-monitored learning process. Self regulated learning has three signposts. Those signposts are responsibility for own learning, engagement in the learning process, and metacognitive awareness. Over the past three months, I can confidently say I have learned the importance of this Habit of Mind, and I have practiced this Habit of Mind often.
One specific time I practiced self regulated learning, specifically engagement in the learning process, is when I researched why the college application process creates so much anxiety. I knew that if I wanted to learn why the process creates such uncomfortableness, I would have to commit to finding out why. From there on, I would sit and take the time to find credible sources on why the college application process creates high stress and anxiety levels. As I took responsibility for engaging in the learning process, I also took responsibility for my own learning in the class. I improved over the course of the semester and engaged in more work outside of the classroom to reach my goals. I set an expectation for myself to do well in the class, and in order to do so, I developed a plan to achieve that goal. I took responsibility for my own learning by developing my personal blog and continuously adding my reflections.
This semester I have gotten out of my comfort zone and truly was in charge of my own learning. What I put into the class was what I was going to get out of it. This class pushed me and tested my limits. I am extremely proud of the work my classmates and I did this semester. I have never had the ability to work on something that goes farther than a Moodle page, something that could actually be implemented into real life. These Habits of Mind will stay with me throughout my last year here at PSU, and hopefully will remain in the back of my head as I develop in my desired profession.