The Education Thought Process

Here's what I tend to see out there in the education space when it comes to lower socio-economic, mostly minority students:

let's get them to graduate high school --> that's not working so school is not for them

let's get them into college -- > that's not working so college is not for them

let's get them to graduate college--> that's not working so college degrees are not for everybody

let's get them to graduate college and get jobs with their degrees --> no one thinks this way


Dropping Out of College

There is a crisis and current students see it, too. Students are dropping out of college. One such student wrote about the crisis for Edsurge Independent, a platform on Medium for students to have a voice in the education technology space.

The problem, however, is how we talk about the students who drop out:

We spend a great deal of time and money trying to push students into college who aren’t ready, or for whom college isn’t quite the best choice, and then, as expected, watch them fail.

Defining these students as not ready or poor decision-makers is like blaming someone for getting food poisoning. These are students who are admitted to college. They have passed a number of hurdles to get there and then suddenly, they are not supported because they may not fit the mold of the ideal student.

But in fact, the college student mold has changed and it's important that colleges, communities, and even families revise their expectations.  

Bridging the gap between who college has served in the past and who it must serve in the future is complex, but the future of our educated populace rests on doing this hard work.


College's Dirty Secret

Here's the secret: not everybody graduates. In fact, "a college can have a graduation rate as low as 2 percent and still preserve its accreditation".

In the Hidden Side of the College Dream, the University of La Verne's vice provost Beatriz Gonzales explains: 

For these students, money is a huge roadblock to graduation.
“That is the No. 1 reason our students give when they drop out,” said Beatriz Gonzalez, vice provost for the University of La Verne.
Many of her students also work to support themselves or their families, she noted, so they tend to spend much less time on campus and therefore feel less attached to the university.
Another reason students drop out, Ms. Gonzalez said, is that they don’t feel sure they belong. For them, any setback or poor grade can make them question whether they should be in college in the first place.

More can be done and I believe technology can help. Text messages and chat can help colleges develop positive pro-active relationships with their students and help college students, including first generation students, feel like they belong.


Why do students drop out of college?

Just 10% of students will graduate from San Jose State University in four years. Only 4.5% of Latino students graduate in four years. You read that right.  Out of 100 students who start college only 10 will graduate and only 4 will be Latinos.  

The common refrain is that these students are not academically prepared, they have many commitments, or they lack the financial resources. But even when you hold for these factors, the drop out rate remains high. 

One San Jose State University teacher looked further. Why do students drop out of college? He decided to ask them.  What he found:

A lot of times their first response is, 'Oh well, I kinda gave up.' Or, 'I didn't try hard enough,' " says Pizarro.
Basically, these former students blamed themselves.
But there was more to it.
"Then we ask specific questions," explains Pizarro. "And they say, 'Oh yeah, well, I couldn't get classes for like two semesters. Yeah, and I couldn't meet with an advisor.' "
What emerged from these interviews were real institutional barriers.
And there was one final problem: The dropouts never felt part of the campus community.

Belonging is a huge factor in student success. There is insightful research out of Stanford by Professor Greg Walton that explores how belonging can be influenced. 

At Gainful we believe a student's sense of belonging can be influenced by proactive communication and conversational support. Our college partners are seeing the effects. Conversation promotes trust and trust is the foundation for a relationship. Colleges can create ongoing, meaningful relationships with their students. Gainful can show you how.

Working in Groups in College

Working in groups has become a rite of passage in college classes today. They are a way for students to practice working in teams and a reflection of the increasing demand by employers for employees who can navigate groups and diverse people.

More and more, work is team-based. In Silicon Valley, even engineers are encouraged to work together because doing so catches more mistakes and produces better solutions.

In fact, research shows that working in teams results in better outcomes and higher job satisfaction.

But the type of team or study group you join makes all the difference. What distinguishes a good group or team from a dysfunctional one is how teammates treat one another.

Research by Google into working teams showed that the right norms, "could raise a group’s collective intelligence, whereas the wrong norms could hobble a team, even if, individually, all the members were exceptionally bright."

What are those norms? In good groups and teams, members speakin roughly the same proportion - that could mean everyone talking during each task or taking turns. Either way, good teams give everyone a chance to talk.

Also, in good groups and teams, members are skilled at intuiting how others feel based on their tone of voice, expression, and other nonverbal clues.  They know when someone is feeling left out.  

Finally, good groups and teams have what is called psychological safety. Psychological safety is ‘‘a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject or punish someone for speaking up...It describes a team climate characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves.’’

How do you create a good study group? Encourage your team to adopt the norms above and to get personal. Psychological safety and emotional conversations are related. Taking turns speaking and empathy are how we establish bonds with one another. These bonds matter in groups and can mean an experience where you learn and thrive or one where you suffer.






Belonging and Ability

"The negative thoughts took different forms in each individual, of course, but they mostly gathered around two ideas. One set of thoughts was about belonging. Students in transition often experienced profound doubts about whether they really belonged — or could ever belong — in their new institution. The other was connected to ability. Many students believed in what Carol Dweck had named an entity theory of intelligence — that intelligence was a fixed quality that was impossible to improve through practice or study. And so when they experienced cues that might suggest that they weren’t smart or academically able — a bad grade on a test, for instance — they would often interpret those as a sign that they could never succeed. Doubts about belonging and doubts about ability often fed on each other, and together they created a sense of helplessness. That helplessness dissuaded students from taking any steps to change things. Why study if I can’t get smarter? Why go out and meet new friends if no one will want to talk to me anyway? Before long, the nagging doubts became self-fulfilling prophecies."

~Who Gets to Graduate?

Poor Me?

Let me give you a sense of how I view articles on poor college students. I was poor and with the added burden of being without family attending an elite private college - Stanford University. While I had scholarships and loans they didn't cover all the costs of attending college.  I literally had zero family support, so that meant that I had to take care of everything - a lot of things that are not covered by scholarships.  Things like transportation, clothes, medical care (campus clinics are accessible but they still cost), phone, etc.  You get the picture.

So money was very tight.  So tight that even though I was working several jobs at the same time to make ends meet, there were several occasions where I could only afford a snicker bar for food.  But did my classmates know that?  Not a chance.

I was not the first to go through this and today's students, unfortunately, will not be the last. Some of us have to work harder to get where we want to go and to stay there, but that doesn't mean others don't have to work hard in their own right. They just have to work harder for other things. Like feeling self-respect. I knew a lot of trust fund babies who felt dis-empowered because they never had to earn a thing in their life - it made them question their abilities. I've never had that problem.

I've also met folks who had everything covered for them from the get go, only to lose their money or their family to lose its money later in life and then have to learn how to budget in their 30s. It's not pretty.

I've also met people who never had to worry about money and still don't have to and likely never will.

I've gone from poor to expensive vacations to a monthly budget because I want the freedom to pursue my ideas and not have to make money to support a certain lifestyle. It's a never-ending relationship with money.

What matters is how you frame that relationship.  Are you ashamed or do you recognize your financial state as just that - a state - one that will change over time?  Guess which frame is easier to live with.


Higher Education?

“It’s like higher education has discovered the megachurch”  

It's fascinating to watch higher education go through some of the same dilemmas that content publishers (of all sorts of content - from the written word to music) have endured.

A great article on the topic.

Will the Amhersts of the education world be like the indie magazines? What will all this do to higher education marketing? Will the drop out rates for MOOCs turn into pressure to be entertaining? Will this affect the content conveyed? Will teachers then become the next rockstars (ala Korea)? And if so, how will the effective be distinguished from the entertaining?

And what is education anyway? Does education imply learning? Or rather a facility with learned skills?

The Gap

The gap. Not the retailer - the economic one. It's getting bigger and the 18 to 25 year-old set, in particular, seem stuck in its midst. These folks have to either know immediately that they want to be nurses (good economic choice, btw) or auto mechanics (ditto) OR they have to have the grades, focus and resources to go the Stanfords/Dartmouths/Yales of the world. There is a huge gap in the middle that is filled mainly with state schools, online universities with brands employers discount or community colleges. All the options are more and more expensive and often quite directionless.

Is the solution a return to apprenticeships? A gap year where students hone their interests to ensure a better path selection?

Or will the solution be left to philanthropy because the money is in private universities with foreign students that foot the bill?

College and Congress

I found these statistics sobering: "About one in four of the nearly 7,400 elected representatives across the country do not possess a four-year college degree, according to a report released Sunday evening by The Chronicle of Higher Education in Washington. That compares with 6 percent of members of Congress, and 72 percent of adults nationwide."