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A Final Report of Learning

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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Latest update: December 27, 1999
E-Mail Curran or Takata.

Dialog Developing a Final Report of Learning Interactively

Robin's Initial Submission
Jeanne's Initial Response
Draft Version of a Letter of Recommendation Based on Report



Robin's Initial Submission

by Robin Davies
Part of Series on Teaching
Copyright: December 1999. "Fair Use" encouraged.

On December 27, 1999, Robin wrote:

  • I am comfortable with the broad themes of theory, policy, and practice and in how they relate to the operation of social agencies at both the local and broader (global) levels.

  • If theory and practice are strongly-related, we see that there is a good relationship between what we want to see working and what actually is working within an agency.

  • I exhibited a great effort in my willingness to learn and discuss course concepts through consistent communication with my peers.

  • I contributed a personal response to peacemaking strategies by Pepinski, and have related information to my professor on my experiences as a child care worker as they pertain to the ways in which agencies work.

  • In addition to this, I have attempted to relate current events to class concepts in peer discussions, and attempted to understand how they compare within the local community and on a more global scale (ie. what happens in other countries re: healthcare, education, and other government functions).

  • I am working towards becoming a better active-listener- being better able to listen in good faith and understand that effective communication is not only important but also a process that requires interdependence between two or more people.



Jeanne's Initial Response

by Robin Davies, Jeanne Curran, and Susan Takata
Part of Series on Teaching
Copyright: December 1999. "Fair Use" encouraged.

"Good work. I was profoundly surprised that this came in on December 27, 1999, at 2:40 a.m., by my computer clock. Clocks aside, the message wasn't there at midnight the night after Christmas. You had sent me a message on Sunday, the 19th of December telling me that your were working on this: " i'm working on helping you with my final evalution of learning for the class, which i'm guessing you're expecting of all the students at some point?"

Well, yes, but yours was one of the best thought-out. I'm really glad you did this. Now it can serve as a model, as well as telling us lots about the climate of learning we've created.

First, none of your messages displayed any self-consciousness about the semester having ended at least a week before this message. Second, since your grade was already formally reported, this final summary of your learning was clearly motivated by something more intrinsic than grade rewards. Alfie Kohn would be pleased. So am I. That speaks to a climate of learning in which the learning actually counts, for both you and the university. Nice result.


The final evaluation we prepare can begin from your offering. Let's ask the doggie letter questions, and see what editing and additions we want to make. For easier reference I'm going to do this section by section:

    Statement

  • I am comfortable with the broad themes of theory, policy, and practice and in how they relate to the operation of social agencies at both the local and broader (global) levels.

    Comment

    • Good way to start the report because this is an underlying structural element for all our classes. You also followed my advice to tell me what you understood. That helps a lot, because if I don't see an actual specific reference, it at least tells me what questions to ask. Your statement that you see the broad themes and how they relate to agencies helps. You even bring in the local, cosmopolitan aspects we discussed, so that I can see the links to class discussions and text.


    Statement

  • If theory and practice are strongly-related, we see that there is a good relationship between what we want to see working and what actually is working within an agency.

    Comment

    • In this segment you attempted to clarify what you meant by relationship of theory and policy to practice. Moving from a general theoretical statement that they are related to a concrete example of how is a good idea. And this segment includes a reference to the interdependence of theory and practice.

      But there's a glitch here. I see the connections because we shared lectures, discussion groups, readings. So we can communicate, using referents to recall to mind a variety of contexts in which we interacted both over the site, in small groups, and face-to-face. The stranger who relies on this report of learning will not have those prior contexts on which to rely. That makes it much harder to avoid "doggie bones," or conclusionary statements for which the reader has no referent. The strongest reports of learning will overcome that problem, and here's a place to try.

      From a variety of different exchanges, I know that you work with children in a setting which includes social workers. I know also that you share theoretical discussions with the social workers on putting into practice the knowledge we have of how these children adapt most effectively to crises in their young lives. Say that. Give that as an example to illustrate for your reader what you mean by theory and practice being "strongly related."


    Statement

  • I exhibited a great effort in my willingness to learn and discuss course concepts through consistent communication with my peers.

    Comment

    • This is a conclusionary statement for a reader. I happen to have shared in some of those discussions, so the referent for me is to communication I know actually took place. How will the reader of this report know that? How would I recognize this as the valid reporting of actual experience, if I hadn't been there? Answer is generally by specificity of detail. Without such specificity it could be a statement about my dog, and the reader has to take my word for it. Or not. So then we rely on unstated assumptions about who is a good and trustworthy student and who is not.

      Pick a concept you recall discussing. Tell how the discussion clarified your perception, changed your preception, explained something you hadn't been able to explain before, whatever. But give an example my dog couldn't provide.


    Statement

  • I contributed a personal response to peacemaking strategies by Pepinski, and have related information to my professor on my experiences as a child care worker as they pertain to the ways in which agencies work.

    Comment

    • Points to you, Robin. You not only cited a reference, you cited one that reflects my concern for peacemaking. So you get points for solid academic references, and points for catering to preferences you know your teacher has expressed.

      One minor glitch here. You have made the unstated assumption that since you communicated your experience, it has been received and processed. Bad assumption generally. As it happened, the e-mail to which you refer had come in when I had the flu, and somehow I had missed it. I found it only when I was putting up our records.

      When teachers have 60 students in a class, and are sincerely trying to reach each of them, glitches are going to occur. It is good, as a general principle, not to assume your teacher has processed the information you intended to transmit. He or she may, indeed, have read it, but have been distracted, or simply forgotten. Especially in a commuter environment, many contexts intervene between transmission and processing. You could just ask for confirmation of the teacher's understanding of what you were trying to transmit. But the teacher might get testy, if your questioning appears to be abrupt. Instead, there's a simple "sneaky stroke" you can use.

      Sneaky Stoke:

      Try something like this: "In my narrative on my experiences as a child care worker, I focussed on how we work with assigned social workers to aniticpate early signs of frustration that can lead to violent outbursts." I pieced this together from other material you have written. Notice that it alerts me, and doesn't catch me out, in case I don't remember. That's called diplomacy, peacemaking, saving face, and non-confrontational, non-violent response. I recommend it unless you mean to provoke someone.


    Statement

  • In addition to this, I have attempted to relate current events to class concepts in peer discussions, and attempted to understand how they compare within the local community and on a more global scale (ie. what happens in other countries re: healthcare, education, and other government functions).

    Comment

    • Again you do well, Robin. You bring in current events as they relate to the issues we are studying, and you use "global" for the second time. Now, I grant you that my dog wouldn't bring up the issue of current events on a global level, but a smart "sophomore" might. You limited the focus by zeroing in on "healthcare, education, and . . . government. . ." Now you need to pick one and show that you can build a link to one of the major issues we discussed.

      Try this: structural violence was an important concept in many of our classes, since it grows from the unstated assumptions that prove such a detriment to public discourse. So . . . "One event that caused great consternation was the Columbine shooting. Such violence, engaged in by children, against chidren, suggests that we must look to our society for indicators of structural violence that can lead to violent outbursts. Our school system, our criminal justice system, and our child welfare systems all find this a compelling issue that will require us to build effective links between systems and disciplines, and to create learning subsystems, able to entertain all validity claims in good faith." So I was a little carried away. But you get the idea. . .


    Statement

  • I am working towards becoming a better active-listener- being better able to listen in good faith and understand that effective communication is not only important but also a process that requires interdependence between two or more people.

    Comment

    • Very good, Robin. Again you pull in concepts on which we focussed: active-listening, good faith, interdependence. And you use these terms in conjunction with your self-reported efforts to incorporate them into your own repertoire. Nice ending, though still a tad conclusionary. I have to take your word for it. More convincing if you describe briefly, but specifically, a context in which you are trying to use such communication and interdependence.



Draft Version of a Letter of Recommendation Based on Report

Dear Person in Charge:

It is with great pleasure that I recommend Robin Davies for Sociology Honors in May 2041. He was my student in Sociology 328: Agencies, in which he exhibited comfort with the broad themes of theory, policy, and practice as they relate to the operation of social agencies at both the local and broader (global) levels. I was particularly impressed with his understanding that theory and practice are interdependent, as he described his experience with case workers in defusing violent outbursts among the young people in his care.

Robin took an active role in a small group of classmates who worked on concept assignments together and shared outside discussions on the issues brought up in class. This group did a responsible job of putting conceptual information into their own words and applying such substantive material to their own experiences with local agencies.

Robin wrote an excellent account of his experiences as a child care worker, with special emphasis on his role as peacemaker. He effectively linked this account to Harold Pepinsky's work on peacemaking, showing a well-developed ability to cite academic authortiy. I was especially pleased, since peacemaking criminology is one of my specialties. It was rewarding to watch Robin's ability to apply the concepts of peacemaking to his present agency work.

Robin showed, in addition, a keen interest in current events, and indicated an understanding of global issues in structural violence and non-violent responses to children brimming with pent up anxieties and frustrations. This is particularly important, since he provides care for children who have come under agency supervision for violent outbursts and want of an adequately supervised home.

Robin described his own role with practiced self reflection. He values his role as an active listener in dealing with these children and recognizes that he is making a significant difference in their lives. In conclusion, Robin represents the best of what the Sociology Department has to offer, a student highly motivated to understand the other without judging by unstated assumptions, a student willing to question and challenge the traditional expectations, and a student with the discipline to hold affect in abeyance as he steps back to listen for new validity claims the other might bring. For all these reasons, I recommend Robin for Honors in 2041.

Sincerely,

Jeanne Curran
Professor of Sociology