STUDENT SUCCESS & Don’t Use the First Resource That Pops Up in a Google Search

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Sometimes several students will cite the same outside resource, because it appears near the top of a Google search.  Many times this can be a relevant article. But other times, it may not be.

Let me give an example with a hint for student success.

I ask students to find scholarly research that explains the “difference between primary and secondary research.”  Usually, a handful of students will cite https://www.thebalance.com (an advertising agency). The advertising agency is not juried (i.e. does not have an editorial board of scholars verifying their explanation is reliable and valid).  But, they do correctly identify the difference between primary and secondary research.

Therefore, should students use such a source?

YES:  If students are using this source to verify that practitioners agree with scholars on the differences between primary and secondary research. This would be acceptable.

NO: If students are using these practitioners as a source of reliable and valid information in an academic course, a scholarly source should probably be utilized instead.

If you are unsure about a source, find out about their background and if they have scholarly degrees (masters or doctoral) and/or have a scholarly editorial board, they would be considered scholars. (Though there are different levels of scholarship.)

In the example above, students could find out about the ad agency’s background by clicking on the “about us” link: https://www.thebalance.com/about-us. There students could find that while they are practitioners, they’re not scholars (and it’s not juried by an editorial board).

The problem arises because in a Google search for the “difference between primary and secondary research” this link often pops up near the top. However remember, in graduate school (a research-based school) you should not choose an outside source based upon popularity, but based upon scholarship.

While I always try to be gracious and give students some leeway early on in our course, I cannot do so later in the course. Student resources should increasingly be scholarly and therefore for fairness I will usually grade down a little bit more each week for non-scholarly sources.

My students understand that fairness and academic veracity require this. It makes their degree worth more and their learning more valuable.

STUDENT SUCCESS & My Grading Policies w/ More Examples of Outstanding Work

(from one of my recent syllabi)

Grading Policies

Your grading policy for your course is dependent on your school and program.  Your grading policies can be found in the IWU Catalog.

Discussions

In most workshops, there are discussion forums.  These discussions focus on either a special topic or general material from the workshop.  You will be given instructions on which discussion forums apply to the current workshop.  Complete discussions individually or in study groups as instructed. Well-thought-out postings that add something intellectually to the discussion are required for a good grade. Your initial postings should fully answer the questions posed in the course interface.  Additionally, you must reply to at least two of your classmate’s postings. Postings of the “I agree” or “Me too” variety will not suffice.

In these weekly discussions conduct some outside reading in a minimum of two to three books to support your observations. This might include a Bible commentary, other books on this topic, etc.  Customarily the graduate school student is expected to be skimming a minimum of several outside books each week and bring them into, when helpful, the online conversation.  Also bring into the conversation relevant ideas from your other course textbooks.  Thus, each week the student should be bringing into the online conversation one to two textbooks and two to three outside references as a minimum.

Also be sure to reply to any followup questions posted by your instructor. These are designed to help you dig deeper into application and theory.

End-of-week Papers

Most weeks an end-of-week paper will be due by Thursday 11:59pm. Like your discussions these end-of-week papers should cite relevant outside readings which support your observations. Similar to the discussion parameters, the graduate school student is expected at a minimum to be skimming several outside books each week and bringing them to bear upon their weekly papers (with citations).  Also, don’t forget to bring into your papers relevant ideas from other course textbooks.

And, unless specified differently by your professor, your end-of-week papers should comply with APA formatting rules and include an abstract.

An Expectation of Outside Scholarship

Therefore for B level work, the student should each week be utilizing and citing in their weekly papers and discussion forums, one to two textbooks and two to three outside references.  Remember however, this is for B level work.  A person seeking a higher grade would be expected to do better.

Letter Grade Equivalencies

Grade
Description of Work

A
Clearly stands out as excellent performance. Has unusually sharp insights into material and initiates thoughtful questions. Sees many sides of an issue. Articulates well and writes logically and clearly. Integrates ideas previously learned from this and other disciplines. Anticipates next steps in progression of ideas. Example “A” work should be of such nature that it could be put on reserve for all cohort members to review and emulate. The “A” cohort member is, in fact, an example for others to follow. Typical interaction will be 3+ times in each forum.

B
Demonstrates a solid comprehension of the subject matter and always accomplishes all course requirements. Serves as an active participant and listener. Communicates orally and in writing at an acceptable level for the degree program. Work shows intuition and creativity. Example “B” work indicates good quality of performance and is given in recognition for solid work; a “B” should be considered a good grade and awarded to those who submit assignments of quality less than the exemplary work described above. Typical interaction will be 3+ times in each forum.

C
Quality and quantity of work in and out of class is average. Has marginal comprehension, communication skills, or initiative. Requirements of the assignments are addressed at least minimally. Typical interaction will be 3 or fewer times in each forum.

D
Quality and quantity of work is below average. Has minimal comprehension, communication skills, or initiative. Requirements of the assignments are addressed at below acceptable levels. Typical interaction will be two or fewer times in each forum.

F
Quality and quantity of work is unacceptable and does not qualify the student to progress to a more advanced level of work.

STUDENT SUCCESS & Helping Other Students Not Only Aids Them, But Increases Your Score Too

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 4/19/17

Students often ask how to score well in an online discussion posting. And though the parameters for each letter grade are spelled out in great detail in the syllabus (and I’ve posted them again below) students often want examples.

Here are examples: one is a student’s posting about a “worship disaster” followed by two examples of responses. The first is a poor example of a response and the second is a good example.

Situation of Student X:

…My pastor decided to add a service on Wednesdays at 6:30pm.  I would not call it a disaster, but definitely a failure. We had already added a third service on Sunday mornings and we just did not have enough room to accommodate all the worshippers. The solution that leadership tried to implement was to add a Wednesday evening service which would allow for more newcomers. The service was from 7pm to 8:30 pm.

The mistake was adding the Wednesday evening service. The reason it was a failure is because adding the Wednesday service did not do what was it was supposed to do. Most of the people who attended to Wednesday service were people who already normally attended church on Sunday. I believe it is important that we deal with our mistakes as individuals and as the church…

Response of Student 1 (a poor example)

_____StudentName____, that certainly is a difficult situation. I know that Charles Arn has some good insights in his book about how to start a new service. You might want to take a look there and see what which of his ideas might be helpful.

Response of Student 2 (a better example)

_____StudentName____, I am sorry to hear about the failure of this mid-week service. It seems to me, though, by the way you described how normal Sunday service attenders would come on Wednesday nights that maybe there was not a specific group that the church was trying to reach with this service and it was seen by the congregants as an additional time for them, not for non-attenders.

It may have been more effective if the leadership would have placed an emphasis on the service being either for a select generational, or even spiritual group as discussed in Charles Arn’s book How to Start a New Service (1997). By focusing the service on a select group there could have been mitigation and buy-in from the regular attenders that the new service was to reach new people…

Arn, C. (1997). How to start a new service your church can reach new people. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.


My (Dr. Whitesel’s) response:

What Student 2 did right:

I agree with Student 2. I think the problem was that a specific outreach group wasn’t identified. And then as Student B simply stated, congregants felt it was just another requirement on their already busy volunteer schedule.

Student 2 helped Student X with the following suggestion, “Seems to me, though, by the way you described how normal Sunday service attenders would come on Wednesday nights that maybe there was not a specific group that the church was trying to reach with this service and it was seen by the congregants as an additional time for them, not for non-attenders. It may have been more effective if the leadership would have placed an emphasis on the service being either for a select generational, or even spiritual group as discussed in Charles Arn’s book How to Start a New Service (1997).”

This is the type of posting graduate students will want to utilize in their online conversations. Student 2 found reliable and valid scholarly insights on Student X’s situation and shared those with her.

The result was it not only helped the Student X, but it also helped me the professor see that Student A understood the principles of Dr. Arn’s book.

What Student 1 did wrong:

Student 1 didn’t share any ideas from Dr. Arn’s book, but rather just referred the student to it. Student 1 had probably read Dr. Arn’s book and knew it would be helpful. But as the professor, I have no evidence that Student 1 knew what was in the book.

So if a student simply points to a book for the solutions, it doesn’t earn many points. That is because it’s not clear to the professor if they have read more than the cover of the book. Now, I know that the vast majority of my students have read these books, but for fairness to all students I must see written proof that they know and can apply the principles in the books they cite. And the best way to do that is to help others.

So it’s a win-win. First, Student 2’s type of posting helps the person to whom the student is responding (Student X). And second, it demonstrates to the professor that the responder (Student 2) understands the scholarship on the subject at hand.


From one of my syllabi:

Grading Policies

Your grading policy for your course is dependent on your school and program.  Your grading policies can be found in the IWU Catalog.

Discussions

In most workshops, there are discussion forums.  These discussions focus on either a special topic or general material from the workshop.  You will be given instructions on which discussion forums apply to the current workshop.  Complete discussions individually or in study groups as instructed. Well-thought-out postings that add something intellectually to the discussion are required for a good grade. Your initial postings should fully answer the questions posed in the course interface.  Additionally, you must reply to at least two of your classmate’s postings. Postings of the “I agree” or “Me too” variety will not suffice.

In these weekly discussions conduct some outside reading in a minimum of two to three books to support your observations. This might include a Bible commentary, other books on this topic, etc.  Customarily the graduate school student is expected to be skimming a minimum of several outside books each week and bring them into, when helpful, the online conversation.  Also bring into the conversation relevant ideas from your other course textbooks.  Thus, each week the student should be bringing into the online conversation one to two textbooks and two to three outside references as a minimum.

Also be sure to reply to any followup questions posted by your instructor. These are designed to help you dig deeper into application and theory.

Initial posts are due by Tuesday 11:59pm.  Follow up posts are due by Thursday 11:59pm.

End-of-week Papers

Most weeks an end-of-week paper will be due by Thursday 11:59pm. Like your discussions these end-of-week papers should cite relevant outside readings which support your observations. Similar to the discussion parameters, the graduate school student is expected at a minimum to be skimming several outside books each week and bringing them to bear upon their weekly papers (with citations).  Also, don’t forget to bring into your papers relevant ideas from other course textbooks.

And, unless specified differently by your professor, your end-of-week papers should comply with APA formatting rules and include an abstract.

An Expectation of Outside Scholarship

Therefore for B level work, the student should each week be utilizing and citing in their weekly papers and discussion forums, one to two textbooks and two to three outside references.  Remember however, this is for B level work.  A person seeking a higher grade would be expected to do better.

Letter Grade Equivalencies

Grade
Description of Work

A
Clearly stands out as excellent performance. Has unusually sharp insights into material and initiates thoughtful questions. Sees many sides of an issue. Articulates well and writes logically and clearly. Integrates ideas previously learned from this and other disciplines. Anticipates next steps in progression of ideas. Example “A” work should be of such nature that it could be put on reserve for all cohort members to review and emulate. The “A” cohort member is, in fact, an example for others to follow. Typical interaction will be 3+ times in each forum.

B
Demonstrates a solid comprehension of the subject matter and always accomplishes all course requirements. Serves as an active participant and listener. Communicates orally and in writing at an acceptable level for the degree program. Work shows intuition and creativity. Example “B” work indicates good quality of performance and is given in recognition for solid work; a “B” should be considered a good grade and awarded to those who submit assignments of quality less than the exemplary work described above. Typical interaction will be 3+ times in each forum.

C
Quality and quantity of work in and out of class is average. Has marginal comprehension, communication skills, or initiative. Requirements of the assignments are addressed at least minimally. Typical interaction will be 3 or fewer times in each forum.

D
Quality and quantity of work is below average. Has minimal comprehension, communication skills, or initiative. Requirements of the assignments are addressed at below acceptable levels. Typical interaction will be two or fewer times in each forum.

F
Quality and quantity of work is unacceptable and does not qualify the student to progress to a more advanced level of work.

WORSHIP & A leadership exercise comparing worship in different eras (Yikes! The 80s are Back ;-)

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: This is an exercise about understanding how different cultures worship. My students enjoy it, so I thought I would post it here. Here is how the leadership exercise works:

Watch this video:

It is a humorous video that actually teaches an important cultural lesson too. It is by the Christian band called Glad. They were known for great vocals (and probably also for 80s haircuts 😉

(the video seems to have disappeared, but here is the audio version.)

But aside from their fashion statement, the group makes a good cultural point in this video. Write down a paragraph regarding the point of their video in your mind.

This is an exercise to allow you to dig deeper into cultural patterns and why they differ. So what is the lesson from this video about culture, when we recognize culture is comprised of behaviors, ideas and products (Hiebert, 1997)?

Here is a more recent version of the video to will enjoy also:

And, for a final bit of humor here is a puppet ministry visualizing the song.)

STUDENT SUCCESS & Why Asking Questions of Other Students is Not the Application Goal of a Seminary

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 3/30/17.

Seminaries are so-called “professional schools.” That puts them in the category with Business Schools which offer MBA degrees.  In seminaries we typically offer ecclesial-orientated, but similiar degrees: MDiv, MA and DMin. These are professional degrees, which means that the students are usually already engaged in their profession and are honing their skills.

Therefore, students are expected to weekly be “applying” what they are learning to their profession in professional schools, such as business schools and seminaries. For example, in a MBA Business School program a student might investigate how to apply an innovate financial model to their business and report back to their professor the applicability.

Papers should describe application plans.

Seminary is the same way.  Students are expected to:

  • Take what they are learning each week
  • “apply” it to their ministry,
  • Then report back to fellow students and their professor.

This is why our end-of-week papers are customarily called “Application Papers,” because they describe how the student would “apply” to their profession what they learned that week.

Discussions also should describe application ideas, not just ask questions.

For students to earn points in professional school discussions, they should do more than just ask questions of the other students. Often times students do this because they see the professor asking questions. However the professor’s role is different: she or he is there to probe the thinking and depth of understanding of the students. Other students can do this as well, but it doesn’t demonstrate to the professor that the student is understand the content. It only demonstrates that the other students can ask questions.

To earn points for discussions in a professional school,

  • Students look up research that can help the other students
  • Then “apply” that research to the other student’s context.

Here is an example:

A student stated that he thought small groups create intimacy in larger churches.  And, he asked a fellow student, who pastored a large church, if this was the case.  The large church pastor did not utilize small groups and thus did not reply.

However in a professional school, students do not earn points by asking questions, but by giving application solutions.

Let’s go back to our example.  The student’s thesis, that small groups create intimacy in larger churches, is easily supportable from research by various scholars. He could start with the “Reveal Study” that was conducted at Bill Hybel’s church.

So, to earn points for application:

  1. The student finds research on how large churches can maintain intimacy as they grow.  The student might discover that small groups help with this.
  2. Then the student shares his/her  research-supportable findings with fellow students.
  3. Finally, the student explains (and cites) some “tools” or mechanisms for fostering small groups in a large church environment. Results are …
    • The large church pastor would benefit from the application insights in the “tools” suggested.
    • And, the student would demonstrate to the professor that she/he was conversant in scholarly research and application on the topic at hand.

MUSICAL PREFERENCES & They May Crystallize Around Age 23.5 According to Research (A Leadership Exercise)

Every culture is made up of behaviors, ideas and products (Christian anthropologist Paul Hiebert defined culture as people who join together because of “shared patterns of behavior, ideas and products.”1. One of the most powerful and cohesion-generating products is music and the celebration that accompanies it.

Holbrook and Schindler’s research suggests that a musical preference begins to crystallize in the early 20s and hardens throughout the rest of a person’s life.

This is important to know when attempting to understand worship wars. Rather than trying to attract people to into adopting music from a different culture, it might be more helpful to find touchstones and points of agreement between the music of their youth and the music of your youth.

So if you’re trying to reach out to another musical generation, begin by studying the music of that generation’s 20something years.

Try this leadership exercise to see if this research can be confirmed with your team members.

A. Ask your team members to share the year in which they were born.  If do not want to do so, graciously excuse them from the exercise. Try to get at least two or three participants.  Write down their birth year next to their name.

B. Next, ask your leaders to name their favorite musical groups and/or singers. Write these down next to their name. Each person should select three or four examples.

C. With your team (or later on your own if you prefer) go online and locate in which years  those musical groups were the most popular.

D. Then correlate the year range of artist popularity with the period in time when the team member was in their 20s.

E.  Finally, ask yourself, “Was there a correlation?”

There seems to be so, about 60 to 70% of the time. This is enough to say that Holbrook and Schindler’s research may be partially reliable and valid. But of course, more research is needed. That’s why I ask my students to undertake this leadership exercise. It can add to their experience and to their  emerging theses (a thesis is basically a scholarly hunch 🙂 And at the very least, it can make them more sensitive to the musical products that are prefrered by members of their teams.

1. Paul Hiebert, Cultural Anthropology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1976), p. 25.

2. M. B. Holbrook & R. M. Schindler, “Some exploratory findings on the development of musical tastes,” Journal of Consumer Research, (1989) 16(1), p. 122.

STUDENT SUCCESS & Writing Down Your Notes Leads to Better Retention With E-Books

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: When I begin my research for my upcoming book on the leadership of John Wesley, I relied heavily on e-books. However because of research that says you will remember more if you write down your thoughts, I continued to write down notes from these e-books in my notepads. This is a learning technique rhat has served me well through my graduate degrees. I have found that having handwritten notes, for me, helps internalize the information and create systems in my mind of how the information connects. Not just for myself, research indicates for most people taking written notes is the best way to learn especially when utilizing e-books.

So in other words, using tablets, e-books and computers makes knowledge accessible. But to retain that knowledge most people will do what I have learned to do, to write it down in order to internalize and systematize it.

Read this helpful overview in TIME Magazine…

Do E-Books Make It Harder to Remember What You Just Read? Digital books are lighter and more convenient to tote around than paper books, but there may be advantages to old technology” by Maia Szalavitz, Time Magazine, 3/14/15.

… I discovered that Google’s Larry Page himself had concerns about research showing that on-screen reading is measurably slower than reading on paper.

This seems like a particularly troubling trend for academia, where digital books are slowly overtaking the heavy tomes I used to lug around. On many levels, e-books seem like better alternatives to textbooks — they can be easily updated and many formats allow readers to interact with the material more, with quizzes, video, audio and other multimedia to reinforce lessons. But some studies suggest that there may be significant advantages in printed books if your goal is to remember what you read long-term…

Context and landmarks may actually be important to going from “remembering” to “knowing.” The more associations a particular memory can trigger, the more easily it tends to be recalled. Consequently, seemingly irrelevant factors like remembering whether you read something at the top or the bottom of page — or whether it was on the right or left hand side of a two-page spread or near a graphic — can help cement material in mind…

This seems irrelevant at first, but spatial context may be particularly important because evolution may have shaped the mind to easily recall location cues so we can find our way around. That’s why great memorizers since antiquity have used a trick called the “method of loci” to associate facts they want to remember with places in spaces they already know, like rooms in their childhood home. They then visualize themselves wandering sequentially through the rooms, recalling the items as they go…

E-books, however, provide fewer spatial landmarks than print, especially pared-down versions like the early Kindles, which simply scroll through text and don’t even show page numbers, just the percentage already read. In a sense, the page is infinite and limitless, which can be dizzying. Printed books on the other hand, give us a physical reference point, and part of our recall includes how far along in the book we are, something that’s more challenging to assess on an e-book…

Read more at … http://healthland.time.com/2012/03/14/do-e-books-impair-memory/