Graduation Suggestions?

I originally planned on doing this way back in May, but by the time I got around to it, the place had pretty much cleared out (much like the graduation!), but since I promised it and one of your faculty council members has recently raised the topic as one in need of discussion, I thought I should post the chance for people (now or in the future) to make some suggestions about next year’s graduation while this year’s is still a good ways off.

Just in case you missed it, last spring’s was better in some ways than the year before (no stifling hot weather, no three hour wait in the parking lot) and I really, really liked the fact that faculty and students were staged in the same area together, so I had the chance to see and interact with our graduating students before the ceremony started, at least.

Even still, it’s hard to say that the ceremony was a “success;” one commentor mentioned the de facto faculty boycott of the district wide event–I counted 24 HW faculty members proceeding in with the students. Others volunteered. Even including them, though, I’d guess that most expected it to be long and frustrating, and so avoided it. The students who went were, for the most part, practical in their approach. Here is the picture I took from my seat at the moment the Chancellor said, “I now officially confer your degree” etc., and asked everyone to move their tassles from the left to the right, you know–when everyone throws their hats in the air in the movies.

You might recall that I was sitting with HW students and we were at the very back of the floor. So, all of that space in front of me is the space where the graduates from the six other colleges had been. If you look up to the stands on the far left, you can see that they are empty, too. The worst part is that the few people in the picture were all faculty marshals. If there were 50 students in the building at that point, I’d be surprised.

And if we keep increasing the number of degrees we give out, it’ll only get worse.

Finally, I kind of miss the fact that the people who earned Basic and Advanced Certificates (and GED degrees) used to be included, but aren’t anymore.

And I really missed hearing the rocking HW student ensemble on the recessional.

So, in that spirit, I’d like to suggest that graduations go back to local campuses. The different colleges at Universities hold separate graduations all the time. Why not us?

Failing that, I have no solution to the degree conferral issue other than universal conferral, with simultaneous later pick up/individual recognition. If we did that, the whole thing would be over in less than an hour and it would be much more celebratory.

Also, as our Valedictorian suggested, maybe some music in the parking lot to keep spirits up?

And maybe an email to the faculty announcing where to be and when, if invitations and instructions are not going to be distributed with the gowns (as they once were).

Any and all others can go in the comments. I’m sure someone will take notice…though, the board report on the event suggests that everyone was pretty happy with how things went. I suppose it’s all relative. It was certainly easy to get to a bathroom at the end of the ceremony. Beyond that, I’m not too sure I would classify it as a ‘success.’ But maybe that’s me.

First Day (Unsolicited) Advice

For Them (Seven is a winner on the come out roll):

  1. On studying
  2. On the right mindset
  3. About grades
  4. On their purpose and motivations
  5. On the Usefulness of Useless Knowledge
  6. On failing
  7. On Metacognition (my students have reported this one as being particularly enlightening)


For You (this list goes to 11):

  1. On clothing
  2. On syllabus revisions
  3. On teaching community college students (for those who haven’t)
  4. More on clothing
  5. General platitudes
  6. About grades
  7. Tricks for convincing students that you have “psychic powers”
  8. Keep hope alive!
  9. For those of us who teach writing
  10. On failing
  11. A speech you might give (with revisions)

What else have you got?


Instructional Research

Speaking of the union, there are two really good pieces in this month’s American Educator that you should check out:

Putting Students on the Path to Learning makes the case for Fully Guided Instruction (as opposed to Partially Guided Instruction (a.k.a., Discovery or Inquiry learning) particularly for novel information, including this interesting gem:

Researchers found that algebra students learned more by studying worked examples than by solving equivalent problems…For novices studying worked examples seems invariable superior to discovering or constructing a solution to a problem…studying a worked example reduces the burden on working memory (because the solution only has to be comprehended not discovered) and directs attention…toward storing the essential relations between problem-solving moves in long-term memory. Students learn to recognize which moves are required for particular problems, which is the basis for developing knowledge and skill as a problem solver.

The other is “Principles of Instruction: Research Based Strategies that All Teachers Should Know”and it provides an overview of 10 strategies and 17 principles of effective instruction that you probably already know but might, like me, benefit from seeing again.