Monday, January 29, 2018


submitted by Peg Balachowski, Associate Dean of Teaching and Learning at EvCC

"There is only one way to succeed at anything and that is to give everything."

Vince Lombardi, American football coach


What motivates you?

I was listening to a presentation by Crystal Hall from the Evans School at the University of Washington last week at the College Spark Guided Pathways retreat. She spoke about how we, as humans, try our best to avoid incompetence. She said, “Engaging in things in which we feel competent reduces stress.”

That’s a classic human response – when I do a cardio class and the instructor tells us we are going to take it up a notch, my inner student says “No, I am comfortable where I am, I don’t need to work any harder.” Of course I don’t see the benefits of the challenge when I keep doing the same routine and not going for the heavier weights.

The same is true for our students. They often feel frustrated when a new instructor doesn’t teach the way a previous instructor taught, maybe challenging them to reach a little higher, and take some chances – in other words, they are avoiding incompetence.

Crystal also used the phrase “hassle factors.” How can we remove those barriers that get in the way of students making good choices? This leads me to the work we are doing at Everett Community College in designing program maps for faculty to use when they are advising students. For any given program there are required courses (degree requirements). But there are also electives to complete the credits required for a transfer degree. Students need 15 credits from the approved Humanities list. And there are well over 100 courses to choose from!! Sounds like choice overload, and many students simply spin the wheel to choose a course regardless of whether it’s the “best” choice. How do we keep this from becoming overwhelming when students are making their educational plans? As faculty teams create their program maps we are asking them to choose elective courses that will complement their program. What are the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) that a student in your program will need as they progress in their education to a career in your field? How would the elective you are recommending support those KSAs?

Of course it’s “almost un-American to remove choice” Crystal tells us. But as we complete our program maps we believe we are intentionally designing for student success. That is what motivates us! As strategic thinkers, we know we have to take Vince Lombardi’s advice and “give it everything.”

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