(#178) Empowering Our Students

Measuring long-term outcomes instead of only checking off short-term activities
will help us with long-term solutions rather than short-term dependency. In education
we need to focus on outcomes, empowerment and efficacy.

I have often shared with people how the social dimension of my life remains my rock, my foundation.  My wife and friends continually lift me up.  Besides the emotional support they provide, they often feed my intellectual dimension of life with book suggestions.  Recently, one of my long-time friends, Royce Duncan, sent me Robert D. Lupton’s Toxic Charity:  How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It).

toxic charity

While this blog post is not a review of his book, Lupton’s words got me thinking about higher education and student outcomes.  I also found connections with last week’s blog post about  caring and candor.

Lupton maintains that any aid program (local, national, or international) should be about community transformation and empowerment.  And the community must be part of the leadership.  It is a slow and arduous process that sometimes conflicts with the intentions of well-meaning donors who want to see immediate results even if the results do not translate to lasting change. (Much like state legislators who want to see immediate results—test scores and re-enrolled students for example—that “show” education has been “fixed” or is “successful.”)

Lupton quotes Roger Sandberg (a former Haiti country director) saying that effective community development has three phases to it.

Relief:  Typically needed following emergencies when “life-saving intervention and alleviation of suffering” are needed immediately.  Could take months to accomplish.

Rehabilitation:  With the emergency passing this phase “increases the capacity of a local community, enabling them to better respond to future crises.”  Could take years to accomplish.

Development:  This is the long-term planning and action that “seeks to improve the standard of living for a population over many years or decades.” Could take decades to accomplish.

Months, years, and decades. As I read the pages, I thought that much of what we do in higher education can be roughly equated to this three-phase model.

Educational Relief: Especially at two-year colleges, we see people looking to change their lives dramatically.  In some cases they need specific and immediate interventions: veteran’s assistance, housing assistance, developmental education classes, child-care, financial aid to pay for tuition and books, access to job placement services, domestic safety concerns, and course advising. Students get on their feet and steady themselves for the road ahead. This will take semesters to see the results.

Educational Rehabilitation: We help students to build skills and explore possibilities and their potentiality. We help them concentrate on and maximize their bright spots (assets) while acknowledging and minimizing/eliminating their not-so-bright spots.  This includes taking general education courses, talking with advisers, completing personality assessments, declaring majors, finding mentors, doing internships, and completing course work that empowers students with their own sense of self-efficacy (internal locus of control). Along their course of studies, these students develop a sense of resiliency and a growth mindset.  This could take years—all the way to degree completion and beyond.


Video recommendation for the week:

Carol Dweck speaks about how mindsets can influence behavior.


Educational Development: This is an ongoing process that, hopefully, took root during the rehabilitation phase.  This equates in my mind to life-long learning and curiosity; there is no a quick fix; there is never an end.  The student has been empowered to control and direct his/her own life.

Lupton makes a compelling argument that measuring long-term outcomes (e.g., how behaviors change) instead of checking off short-term activities (e.g., how many pounds of food are distributed on Tuesday) will help those in need with long-term solutions rather than short-term dependency.

The same holds true for education.  We need to help our students focus on and be prepared for outcomes, empowerment, and efficacy.  In that way we can help develop a vibrant community.

Choose well. Live well. Be well—and H.T.R.B. as needed!

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post. Please share it (and any of the archived posts on this site) with friends and colleagues. You also can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. If you get a chance, visit my Facebook page and join in–or start–a conversation (www.facebook.com/stevepiscitelli).  If you have suggestions for future posts, leave a comment. Make it a wonderful week!

Check out my upcoming webinar on student retention for November.  Click here to register now for the webinar.  Or go to my website for registration information.  This webinar is part of the Innovative Educators’ webinar series.

(c) 2013. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.

One Response to (#178) Empowering Our Students

  1. […] Empowering Our Students * We need to help our students focus on and be prepared for outcomes, empowerment, and efficacy.  In that way we can help develop a vibrant community. […]

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