Knowing your interpersonal strengths to develop trust and answer questions

Frymier, A. B., & Houser, M. L. (2000). The teacher/student relationship as an interpersonal relationship. Communication Education, 49(3), 207–219.



Developing more effective educators through the understanding of how they communicate with their students is shown to increase student success.  If we take the application from the study done by Frymier (2000), and apply it to higher education administrators we should see an increase in student satisfaction.  The focus of the study was to take existing research on the development of interpersonal relationships, friendships (communication skills) and the use of verbal and non verbal communication(immediacy behaviors), and apply it to student/teacher relationships in the effectiveness of their teaching.

The test used by were based on Burleson and Samter’s Communication Functions Questionnaire (CFQ)(p. 208).  This research tool is able to evaluate eight communications skills: conversational, referential, ego supportive, comforting, conflict, persuasive, narrative and regulation.  Each of these eight areas was then broken down into two different sub sections: affectively oriented and nonaffectively oriented.  Affectively oriented skills consist of: ego support, comforting, regulative behavior and conflict.  The nonaffectively skills consist of: persuasion, narrative, referential, and conversational.

The second focus area of the research was that of the verbal and nonverbal immediacy.  Some of the verbal and nonverbal ways the researchers looked at immediacy were through calling students by name, inquiring about students lives, and engaging them in information seeking (verbal), making eye contact, moving around the room, changes in voice during presentations (nonverbal).  By looking at the ways in which faculty communicate immediacy towards their students, we can see how students perceive closeness and involvement in their classes.

The research was conducted using two studies to answer three research questions looking to answer: perceptions of communication skills and immediacy, differences in male and female perceptions, and relationships between students’ perceptions resulting in motivation and learning.

The first study surveyed students during an introductory communication course in which they completed the CFQ as well as a likert scale test of the importance of immediacy.  The second study was conducted also used the CFQ, and the likert test, but this test focused on the use of immediacy.  Unlike the first study, the second was given to students but they were to reflect on the class in which they just came from.

The first test found that of the eight communication skills, referential, ego support, conflict management, regulative and conversation skills, along with verbal immediacy where the most important factors in the perceived importance of teachers.  The second study showed that the communication skills (referential and ego support) resulted in significant predictors of the learning and the motivation of students to be engaged.

Personal Application:
                        I think that by getting a better understanding of how I communicate with my students and learning how to effectively use my verbal and nonverbal communication, I can better engage with the students I work with.  The researchers discussed that application of better communication and immediacy in the classroom can result in the building of respect and trust (p. 217).  They further state that with increased levels of respect and trust, students are more inclined to engage and most importantly to my work and potential in my research, student ask questions without fear of being judged, or that it is a “stupid question”.

            Unfortunately I am not a mind reader, so when I engage with students I do not always know what is going on with them personally or academically, sometimes they have issues that I can assist them with, if they were willing to share and ask questions.  If I am able to change the way that I am presenting myself to students, I can hope that they become more willing to share so that I can connect them to the resources they need to be successful.

I can also take the information from this study and apply it to the small group that I work with in order to increase the effectiveness of interpersonal communication within the group, which in turn will hopefully make us as a collective more effective in communicating with our students and become more informed of our students.  I find it interesting that much of what is brought up in this research, relates to class discussions in uncertainty reduction, allowing for more open conversations.

Limitations in my practice:
                        Knowing that this research was focused on student/teacher relationships and the ability to be more effective in the classroom, a realm that I am not a part of.  Although I do see myself as an educator, I am not always sure the students that I, and the small group I chair, oversee, see us as teachers.  Bridging the gap between academics and student engagement through formal and informal education will be an area that we need to make more seamless so students can see all administrators at the university as teachers.

Final thoughts:
            I will need to start being more conscious of the ways in which I communicate with my students, including my verbal and nonverbal cues, especially with the first year students that are new to the university and will need more assistance navigating resources.  Only though building more effective interpersonal relationships, supporting students desire to learn, reducing uncertainty, building respect and trust so that they are comfortable talking and asking questions, will I be able to provide the highest levels of access and support to the students so that they can be successful.


Frymier, A. B., & Houser, M. L. (2000). The teacher/student relationship as an interpersonal relationship. Communication Education, 49(3), 207–219.


Mixed classes: pre-tracking(?) a realization(?)

The achievement of students on whether or not they are mixed together based on their achievement levels, and if there were positive or negative implications of these groups is the central theme of the article by Pivovarova(2014).  This article brought me to a realization that I may have been in such an environment during elementary school.  I find it interesting that the timing of my experience it what I remember being called “quad learning”/”group learning”,  took place during fourth through sixth grade, very close to the grade levels of those in the research. 

“Quad learning” was introduced to us as a way to learn to work with peers, in groups of four desk clustered together, and to assist each other when problem solving, reviewing readings, etc.  Now understanding that I went to a small school, average class size was 25-30 students, and we were with the same group through all classes, but in each course we were assigned different groups of 4.  Looking back on some of my classes and groups I can almost see that we were mixed based on our achievement.  Each cluster had what would be considered in the article, one high, two average, and one low achieving student. Although we did not know this as students, we just knew that this was our group.

Throughout the course of the year, usually after a midterm, and always after winter break, the groups would be rearranged and we would have a new group that we would work with.  I now wonder, was this because of test scores, remixing the groups to maybe put some higher achieving students with a new peer group of average and lower achieving students to see if the new group would improve the others.  I can remember during our group work, that those of us that really enjoyed the topic would be engaged and continue discussion/debate, or would race to solve problems, and those that did not enjoy the topic would work with the group, get the work done, but it was more of a task to check off a list, but asking questions from time to time.

What I find most interesting after reading the article and thinking back to my elementary years, is the fact that after sixth grade, we entered into high school where we took our standardized test, then began our “track”, college prep, agricultural tech, or vocational tech.  Being in such a small school, you pretty much knew who was at the top of the class, and who was not.  Those that were higher achieving went into college prep, and further into advanced placement classes.  The average kids went college prep or a tech class, usually depending on if the family owned a farm or not, and those that would be low achieving went into the vocational tech. 

Overall I really wonder how our groups were decided in my classes. What, if any were the benefits that the teachers and administration saw in these groups?  Especially that after sixth grade there was no more focus on “group” learning and it was all individual work in the classrooms, outside we made our groups and studied, but that was usually more due to proximity of who you lived by, and if they were in your track. 



Pivovarova, M (2014). Should We Track or Should We Mix Them? (unpublished article) Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. Tempe: Arizona State University.

To Compete or Collaborate – Status in group

Spataro, S. E., Pettit, N. C., Sauer, S. J., & Lount, R. B. (2014). Interactions Among Same-Status Peers: Effects of Behavioral Style and Status Level. Small Group Research, 45(3), 314–336. doi:10.1177/1046496414532532



Looking at group development and collaboration it is important understand how titles, status, and implied hierarchy of organizations have an effect on the desired outcomes set forth by the group.  Spataro, Pettit, Sauer, & Lount (2014) set out to determine what the effects are on group dynamics and willingness to collaborate in and within status groups.

Through the research Spataro et al., took a group of 61 university students, had them complete a general knowledge quiz, and a NASA survival quiz.  Once finished, participants were given a status of “high”, “middle”, or “low”.  These status’ were not based on any results of their test, but rather as an imposed control to make sure that at least one member of each status was represented in a small group.  They were then given “feedback” on their quizzes from other members; the feedback was manipulated so that it was either seen as competitive, or collaborative in nature, and from what “status”.  For this test the competitive feedback was more direct and accusatory of why answers were chosen, and the collaborative was more exploratory and asking how answers were chosen and that a discussion of rationale would be sought after.

After the feedback was given, participants were asked to how likely they would be to work with each member based on the feedback given. The researchers found that there was a higher level of willingness to work together in a collaborative manor among the “high” status members.  The “low” and “middle” status members were willing to work in a collaborative manor at higher rates than competitive.  However, those in “low” status were just as likely to work in a competitive group.

Overall, Spataro et al., state that the perceptions of status and the implied hierarchy that comes with titles have an effect on members willingness to collaborate over compete, as the lower statuses have a desire to stand out as an individual to gain higher status.  Where as those in a higher status find greater benefits from learning from others and sharing with those in similar titles.  They did state that the lower and middle status will work with higher status in collaborative levels.

Personal Application:

Looking at the results and background of this study, I see this play out in my own work.  Competition being set forth by the structure of title and rank, as it relates to advancement of position, rather than knowledge base and skills brought forward.  When thinking about areas of intervention I would like to implement, I have to wonder if having a group representing multiple departments, with individuals of varying “status” at the same table, will there be a natural divide in the group when goals and initiatives are set forth to accomplish.

Even though we should all be working on the same goal of student retention, regardless of college affiliation, as that is the common charge of departments.  I still have concerns that there may be some that the connection to individual departmental goals will supersede the desire to work as a collective. Furthermore I am worried that status of individuals in the group will overshadow or deter some from working in a collaborative group effort to assist all students.

Limitations in my practice:

I see the limitations coming out in who will be the participants, and I also have to consider that this study was done with a group of relative strangers.  The group that I will be working with has preexisting working relationships in other areas, or have personal relationships outside of their titled positions.

As stated in the report, this does not take into consideration “control over resources” (Spataro et al., 2014,  p. 328), as I know some of the more established colleges have more financial, and personnel resources.  I need to get an understanding of what personal characteristics someone might be looking for in those one collaborates with.

Final thoughts:

I found this article helpful in framing out a reason as to why or why not groups working together are successful or not, more so if they are as successful as they could be due to individuals perception of status in the group, where they stand, and what can be obtained from standing out or working together.   If through working with groups I can identify if someone is being more competitive and intentional holding back, or stunting somebody else’s opportunity to contribute perhaps I can get help that individual see the benefits of a more collaborative approach, as in what can be learned from the group and the ease at which outcomes can be achieved.


Spataro, S. E., Pettit, N. C., Sauer, S. J., & Lount, R. B. (2014). Interactions Among Same-Status Peers: Effects of Behavioral Style and Status Level. Small Group Research, 45(3), 314–336. doi:10.1177/1046496414532532

In retrospect: Growing up “wealthy”

Growing up in a small tight knit community in southwest Pennsylvania was the worst thing ever, so says that part of me growing up in that town.  Everyone in the town knew everyone else’s business, children had half a dozen parents, and there was a steady pace to life.  I often thought, “I cannot wait to get out of here.”  Eventually I did leave; I left the safety and comfort of my home of 18 years and moved across the country.  The culture shock hit me during my first weeks of college.

I was suddenly very aware of how small town I was, and just how different my life was as compared to those of my new peers.  My entire school, K-12 could fit into my residence hall.  During the get to know you part of residence hall socialization was taking place with the year book perusing, I was asked if mine was an appendix, due to the fact that the almost two inch thick books were dwarfing what was my 120 pages.  Then began the stories of high school experiences; extensive travel opportunities (abroad, concerts, plays, etc.), advanced placement classes, internships, high profile speakers at graduation.  People talked about their first cars, second cars, all of which were made in the last 5 years.  My car was made shortly after I was born.  For the first time I was feeling self conscious about who I was, where I came from, and maybe even a little judged.  I did not feel as if I was an equal to my peers because I did not have the experience, or similarities that I was used to having.

While reading Yosso’s article about cultural capital it got me thinking of what my small town added to my own cultural wealth and how this wealth has played into my own successes, failures, and approach to my personal and professional life.

Yosso outlines six areas that add to one’s own capital: aspirational, linguistic, familial, social, navigational, and resistant (77-81).  For my own case I have reflected on the importance that the community and teachers had on me, particularly in building aspirational capital.  Aspirational capital is the ability to maintain hopes and dreams for the future, even with the perceived and real barriers (Yasso, 2005).   Having grown up in the community that the minority was college educated and the majority farmers, coal miners, tool and die workers, and other blue collar jobs, I never had anyone tell me that college was not an option or did not support the idea.

Social capital is having the resources and networks of people to assist in navigating societal institutions (Yasso, 2005).  For those that were in my community that went off to college and returned, mostly as teachers, they assisted me in application processes, reviewing course catalogues, suggestions for class schedules, and helping make connections with other individuals on similar career paths.

Now while my own take on the article does not relate to race, as I grew up in a very homogenized community, I see the theory take shape in that I grew up in a small rural environment that may not necessarily have all the benefits of some of the financially well of communities of my college peers.  However because of the additional support and areas of capital afforded to me, I was able to leave my environment to better myself, and had great support.

By understanding how these area’s that contribute to cultural capital play into an individual’s own experience, one can better address the needs of the person to find the best ways to support and supplement services in order to promote success.  Or in the case of self reflection, being able to see how a small boring town can be instrumental in the development and eventual success of someone.


Yosso, T.J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, (8)1,69-91.

ACT Policy Report – A Guide for Practitioneers

Lotkowski, V. A., Robbins, S. B., & Noeth, R. J. (2004). The Role of Academic and Non-Academic Factors in Improving College Retention. ACT Policy Report, (September 12, 2007), 1–31.

As a practitioner in the field of higher education I am always excited to find innovative theories or programs in practice that will assist me in my work.  I particularly like to find those articles that provide a theoretical background that parallels some of the work that I am already doing.  While this report is at this time a decade old, the concepts and suggestions for implementation are more prevalent to me now in my career, due to my role, spheres of influence and community of practice that I am a part of.


ACT has put together a policy report that highlights some of the critical issues retaining to retention and academic performance of college students.  The focus of this particular reports focuses on the roles in which both the academic and non-academic attributes of the university experience have on college students.  The report utilized data that came through the use of 109 different studies that met three criteria.  Studies must: examine relationship between academic and non-academic factors, focus on full-time students at four-year institutions, and utilized standard measures while reporting pertinent information.

The report results breakdown the two focus areas of academic and non-academic into defining factors as follows.


  • High school grade point average – HSGPA
  • ACT assessment scores – ACT
  • Socioeconomic status- SES


  • Academic-related skills
  • Achievement motivation
  • Academic self-confidence
  • Academic goals
  • Institutional commitment
  • Social support
  • Contextual influences
  • Social involvement
  • General self-concept

Throughout the report there are varying combinations of the academic and non-academic findings that yield stronger relationships and higher success rates than the others.  What I find important is that there is a strong correlation between the joint program development between academic and non-academic parties to have the greatest chance of creating or improving student retention and success at the university.

Personal Application:

The areas of implementation in which I can utilize this research are in my roles within Orientation and Housing, as well as in the Dean of Students Office.  The researchers propose to start the non-academic areas of achievement motivation and institutional commitment during early start programs.  I see that I have the opportunity to change our practice in orientation of making it more of an opportunity for starting to develop connections and skills for the incoming students, rather than the transaction model that I feel we have now, where students hear some presentations, register for classes and depart until their return in the Fall.

Within the housing area, I would like to see more investment by our hall staff, including student staff, in a mentoring role, emphasizing the social support aspect, during the early start programs. Particularly there would need to be more intentionality from staff to expand their knowledge and relationships with support staff that are here for the summer.  By making the connections with student and support staff we can provide students with an extended period of time getting acclimated and focused on finding academic support.

The final area that I would like to apply the concepts suggested by the article would be within the Residential College Advisory Board that I chair.  We will need to make a focus change from what the original group was formed to do, that of providing program support and a consistency of student expectations across the colleges.  I think this is the area that is most likely to implement something new, using the resources of the faculty, advisors, and student affairs professionals to develop early warning systems, providing more individual attention to students, development of more consistent outreach to students.  This community of practice is one that I have been a part of for 5 years and have developed strong relationships with several of the longstanding members.

Limitations in my practice:

It has been my experience that change comes with resistance, even if there is empirical support to justify said change.  I do not say this to be negative, but as a realist.  The issues can arise when existing programs are producing positive results, but have been at the same level for some time.  Can the results be better?

As I think of implementation with summer programs, I see a struggle in the opposite of my above statement.  There has been no consistency in the early start programs; goals and target demographics have changed year to year, multiple programs have been created from both academic and non-academic areas that are competing for the same students, resulting in some programs not fully functioning because they cannot hit a critical mass to be effective.

Final thoughts:

I will be looking into an update on this report and the test used within the study.  There is an area that I am particularly interested in, the socioeconomic status portion as it relates to the recruitment and success.  I want to see if there have been new discussions about the admitting, or not admitting, students that are pre-identified as having low SES resulting in high need, and the retention rates as it relates to the investment in those students success.

My favorite parts of this report, as a practitioner, are twofold: 1. the inferred practice of collaboration and working inside and outside known work groups. 2. The steps to development provided.  While I will not list them all, I will highlight one that I feel is most important.  “Widely disseminating results from the program evaluation” (Lotkowski, Robbins, & Noeth, 2004, pg21).  From other discussions on communities of practice and roles we play as researchers, sometimes I feel as practitioners we do not share information that can be a benefit to others…just something to consider.


Lotkowski, V. A., Robbins, S. B., & Noeth, R. J. (2004). The Role of Academic and Non-Academic Factors in Improving College Retention. ACT Policy Report, (September 12, 2007), 1–31.







Secret Identities: Using Your Experience to Share Others Stories

We have all seen movies where the police officer goes undercover to infiltrate the “fill in the blank bad guy group”.  The officer becomes a member of the group and begins to connect with members, sympathizing with the group, but eventually takes them down.  This troupe has been done over and over again and we think nothing of it.  Now you may be asking, “Where is he going with this?”  Some of the readings made me think this is part of our identity as a researcher.  Now we are not looking to take down a drug syndicate or anything, but we are looking to get into environments where research subjects are willing and comfortable to talk with us and share information.

Not unlike the officer going undercover, they were chosen for certain characteristics, personal qualities and the experiences they posses in order to join the group. Some researchers have the ability to gain access to different populations and have an easier time making meaningful connections, because they are a part of and/or understand the culture they are going into.

Dunbar (2008) discussed in the chapter of the significance of the “Lived Experiences” about the benefits of having a shared experience.  The idea that being a researcher that has a connection with the subjects allows for seeing or hearing what is, or conversely, not being said because one “knows where you’re coming from” (Dunbar 2008).  There are two ideas that I have come to understand through our readings, last week and this week.  One we need to take a personal inventory of ourselves, the experiences that we have had both through life, and in education, and being willing to disclose and acknowledge the good and the bad.  The other idea is that of knowing that our outward appearance and perceived status because of our education will open and close doors, depending on the groups we are researching.   By doing both of these I feel as if I will help myself gain a sense of credibility and convey a desire to help tell the story of those being researched.

In the Participatory Action Research and City Youth(Bautista & Morrell, 2013) article, I found the students ability to bounce between the different school districts in order to do the research as they had that lived experience and were accepted into the other cultures because they too were students. By being a cohort of members from each of the schools, traveling with the members of the other schools they could gain access, observe, interview and report.

Through the cohort they were able to assist each other in their research, establish credibility, work in the group to establish how the research would go, and how they would report it out, all with the support of their faculty to help guide them.  In doing their research it was interesting to see student’s perception of things being considered “adequate”, as compared to the same things being viewed as exceptional by others.  This idea really gave me that reality check, even though I am from a small town, with a single school, K-12 essentially in one building, I used to think it was just “ok” an nothing special.  However after moving here, and seeing schools here, I came to appreciate what I had in facilities, and in teachers.


Yes. This is my actual high school (source, personal collection).

Ultimately we are not undercover agents, but we will be learning to negotiate our identities in order to meet a desired goal, and hopefully do some good.  The more we can help each other navigate cultures, and to learn more about ourselves, the better we will be as researchers.



Bautista, M. A., & Morrell, E. (n.d.). Participatory Action Research and City Youth: Methodological Insights From the Council of Youth Research UCLA, 115(October 2013), 1–23.

Dunbar, C., Jr. (2008). Critical race theory and indigenous methodologies. In N. K. Denzin, Y. Lincoln S. & L. T. Smith (Eds.), Handbook of critical and indigenous methodologies (pp. 85-99) SAGE.

Checking your attitude: Interpersonal interactions and the Turning Points they cause

Tiffany R. Wang (2014) Formational Turning Points in the Transition to College: Understanding How Communication Events Shape First-Generation Students’ Pedagogical and Interpersonal Relationships With Their College Teachers, Communication Education, 63:1, 63-2,DOI:10.1080/03634523.2013.841970


Tiffany Wang sets the scene for helping us understand how the simple interactions educators have with students, in particular first generation students, can have a lasting effect on their perception of college, their transition, and ultimately their success rates. Mainly focusing on the transition period in first generation student’s college career, Wang looks to explore and find the “Turning Points” that occur in a student’s career path caused by interpersonal communication between educator and student.  Turning points being the interactions that help a student and make them feel successful and continue on an upward path, or those that are not helpful and become areas for divergence.  She also poses that knowing your audience and understanding them will go a long way in helping both student and teacher achieve success.  Wang utilizes several theories as a basis for research, citing many articles on the topics of interpersonal communication, retention, success and transition.  Perhaps the quote that helps surmise the overall theme is “results in a change in assumptions about oneself and the world thus requires a corresponding change in one’s behavior and relationships” (Wang, 2014).


Over the course of the research Wang used a mixed methods approach to answer the proposed research questions.  The methods taken were that of interview, resulting in 480 pages of transcription, and of graphing of experiences on an x,y axis chart and plotting points self identified as turning points.  The interesting point about the qualitative data received, is that from having a discussion about what the turning points were, and why they were ranked high or low on the chart.  This method provided participants the ability to tell their story, which in turn helped develop a sense of shared points of reference.  The researcher was then able to pull together common themes from the population.

The sample for this study consisted of 30 students, ranging from freshmen to seniors, at least 19 years of age, and qualified as first generation as defined by the US Department of Education.


Interactions with students that resulted in a “Turning Point” pedagogical

  • Helped students with course-related problems
  • Failed to help students with course-related problems
  • Engaged students
  • Misbehaved
  • o   Incompetence
  • o   Offensiveness
  • o   Indolent

Interactions with students that resulted in a “Turning Point” interpersonal

  • Empowered students
  • Minimization of power and distance
  • Helped with personal problems

Through the research it can be inferred that personality of each individual can and will be a factor in the perception of interactions.  Much of this can be found in the direct quotes and vivid information pulled from the qualitative data. It is also filled with rich story telling that gives much insight into the expectations and mind set of these first generation and students and what could be seen as a regular interaction with a student, can be taken as being rude, incompetent, or even failing to help, based on their contextual knowledge of navigating the collegiate environment.


  • Student population demographics of the study
  • Sample size
  • Classes/subjects of participants
  • First generation students lack of preparedness for rigor and types of interactions at college level
  • Access to students supplemental resources to assist in transition

Usage for myself:

I personally see great benefit from this study, both from the topic of inquiry to the actual design method.  Gathering information through mixed methods gives me the sense that I am getting more of the full picture.  In this research the participants had the opportunity to actually tell their story, to help give shared meaning and understanding of who they are and what their experience is.  Personally I like the idea of the turning point, as it worked with existing theory, but also accounted for student experience not being linear, or there being defined areas of progress through a stage.

The topic was very interesting as my undergraduate degree in organizational/interpersonal communication paired with my masters in higher education; this research was a great intersection of my passions.  Not only did it bring my education together, it hit on area of interest, in bridging the gap between academic and student affairs in the approach of working with each student as an individual.

This research also sheds light on the concept of students perception is their reality.  Although it was not explicitly stated in the article, one can infer that checking your attitude when working with a student can have a lasting effect on their overall experience.  I think to myself of how many times I was tired, frustrated, or not 100% invested in the conversation with a student, did that cause a turning point downward.  Has a meeting that ran late, resulting in missing an appointment that I did not follow up on result in a turning point.  Wang’s research has given me some things to think about in my own work and in future research.


Tiffany R. Wang (2014) Formational Turning Points in the Transition to College: Understanding How Communication Events Shape First-Generation Students’ Pedagogical and Interpersonal Relationships With Their College Teachers, Communication Education, 63:1, 63-2,DOI:10.1080/03634523.2013.841970

Resetting and renewing approaches to student support: reflecting on personal bias

While reading Stephan Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man (1981) which focused on racial and cultural biases that were taken as fact due to “scientific research” that was not challenged and was taken as pure fact during the 1700 and 1800’s.  Further, through the readings of Medicine Stories (1998).  I found myself posing two questions. 1. Am I’m biased in the approach I take working with my students?  2. Are the actions and interventions I am implementing with my colleagues helping the student, or actually fixing the problem?  When looking at the former, I know that I am not looking to disenfranchise a population of people that could be inferred through Gould (1981) The Mismeasure of Man, rather that I have some preconceived notions of backgrounds on my students and may not truly know the root of issues as suggested by Howard (2003). In my nine plus years of working in higher education, primarily in housing, at large public institutions and mid-sized private schools, I have had the opportunity to work with a large and diverse student population.  Throughout this time I have dealt with student issues pertaining to academics, behavior, adjustment and personal development.  I have always taken the approach that each student is an individual, I need to hear their story, only then can I begin to help them.  However after several years and multiple stories, I cannot but help to start categorizing and making assumptions about my students before even really hearing their complete story.  I contradict myself as it relates to one of the central tenets “rejection of deficit-based thinking” (Howard 2003, pg.197).  Now I know that students from diverse backgrounds and of lower socio-economic standing can achieve academically, but I also see these two factors as the root of the issue, not looking deeper into the individual. For instance, some colleagues and I have worked with a student that is from an underrepresented group, comes from low income and is first generation.  The student was struggling academically and was disengaged from peer groups.  Naturally conversations went towards helping the student get connected socially; perhaps through student groups, mentorship, etc., help the student learn study skills, and connect them with opportunities for employment, done and solved.  This was not the case though, I did not listen to the story, and I did not do a critical reflection of myself and the student.  After another colleague had the opportunity to talk (listen) to the student, we discovered the student to be from the foster system, providing for another family member, was hungry, and has a distrust in authority figures.  After reading Howard and Gould I had the gut check moment of how easy it is to fall into patterns, seeing a demographic, a university indicator score, a geographical location and say to myself, here is the issue and here is the solution, when in fact, this could be further from the truth. In Medicine Stories by Aurora Levins Morales, she talks about whom as the authority to tell stories, dictate what is and will become history and more importantly how people and groups can initiate change.  While some of the stories in the collection really made think about my own history, where I grew up and the influences/biases I was predisposed to think, I feel that through my education and interactions with others I can see the other sides and what is not being said.  This was a high moment for me, what grounded me was the reference to the feminist that is able to create equality and shared duties in her own home with her husband, although great for her, does not solve the overall problem in which she is committed too. I like to think that the work I do with the individual student is what I am supposed to be doing, however when looking at the overall theme of access, equity and impact, while the impact for that individual is great, the overall concept of equity and access to the whole, assuming that there is more than just the one student out there that needs help, I am failing.   I am able to help those that ask questions, are willing to talk, share and be open to assistance.  If I truly want to help students, I need to look at the bigger picture, the root of issues and look to solve from the onset, rather than from the after effects. Overall the readings were a reset for me, a reminder that there are plenty of personal bias and assumptions made by myself and others that have a lasting effect on the student populations we serve and are here to help.


Howard, T. C. (2003).  Culturally Relevant Pedagogy:  Ingredients for critical teacher reflection, 42(3), 195-202.

Levins-Morales, A. (1998).  Medicine Stories: History, Culture, and the Politics of Identity.  Cambridge: South End Press. Gould, S.J. (1981). The mismeasure of man. New York, NY: W.W. Norton and Company. Shulman, L., Golde, C., Bueschel, A., & Garabedian, K. Reclaiming Education’s Doctorates: A Critique and a Proposal. Educational Researcher43, 25-32.