Revolutionizing Education at NVC

In every team and department at Northwest Vista College, there are always great stories to tell that show faculty and staff going above and beyond.

While it’s hard to capture every story, we hope to periodically share in this space some of the major accomplishments or projects that are taking place. Members of the executive team will write about important topics that they feel NVC employees should be made aware of.

Let us know about the positive things your area is doing to help students or improve processes by contacting myself or NVC Public Relations.

– Dr. Ric Baser, NVC President



Dr. Daniel Powell
Vice President for Academic Success

In my new role as vice president of Academic Success at Northwest Vista College, I’ve spent much of my time listening and learning from so many wonderful folks at NVC. During our Academic Success Leadership retreat, we focused on strategic divergent thinking or brainstorming without boundaries that supports student success and engagement. We discussed the literature from several decades and the common themes relating to student success were autonomy (independence), grit (can-do spirit), and self-efficacy (confidence). Using best practices as a starting place, how can we change our thinking to holistically engage students with both academic and social systems that have been proven factors of student success and engagement?

Education doesn’t pay enough attention to the development of autonomy, grit, and self-efficacy in our curriculum, programs of study, and our holistic approach to student engagement despite the overwhelming research identifying these factors. Higher education professionals need to change the way we think with a focus on these proven characteristics. As members of colleges and universities, we have not yielded the desired results for many decades from persistence/retention to graduation rates/job placement. We need to change our thinking if we are to succeed at wide-scale change with our diverse student population. In part, NVC has been successful because of its pioneering endeavors in these areas. Still, there’s more to do.

We need to create feedback systems among our identified stakeholders (such as students, NVC faculty and staff, community, etc.) to strengthen communication. After we clarify how we define and measure success across different stakeholders, our next task is to develop strategies that align our many goals. Much of the research and strategies that I have encountered can be boiled down to this one sentence to help frame our thinking: “The effect of __x____ on __y___ as measured by ___z__.”  Using this approach, we may be able to develop a common framework of thinking that gives flexibility to help our students while using our funds and resources effectively.

I have often thought that our assessment of student learning focuses too much on what a student thinks as opposed to how a student thinks. In this “information age”, content and knowledge are only a click away, but changing how a student critically thinks is at the heart of our mission. We too need to look at ourselves critically so that we can work “smarter not harder” rather than adding another similar goal.

I have heard loud and clear some of the fatigue we have experienced with so many initiatives across the college and district. I believe success will come with aligning our existing goals. I’ve only been here a few weeks, but I can’t think of a better place to work together and continue to innovate in ways that will revolutionize the education system with such a wonderful community of people!



One comment on “Revolutionizing Education at NVC

  • Great thought piece. One of the ways to help students increase their autonomy, grit and self-confidence is to be not so much content providers as facilitators. We can make them responsible for the content (reading and quizzes) [independence]. Then we can set up prompts asking them to solve a problem [grit] wrestling with giving content and using critical thinking to come up with a solution or a recommendation. This can be done in collaboration with other students (through discussion, PBL, experiential learning) [can do], and then have them communicate their solutions orally or in writing with the facilitator providing constructive feedback (could include peer feedback [builds confidence]. They can take these skills to the workplace. So, one way to fill in the blanks is: the effect of discussion on critical thinking as measured by constructive feedback (an objective measure could be elegance of the solution — does it work? Anyway, that’s how I make sense of it. It can be used online as in face-to-face classes.

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