The New SALT Center Professional Development Program
that incorporates Appreciative Inquiry and Strategic Tutoring
by Rhonda Burnett, M.Ed., Assistant Director, Student Programs and Services &
Rudy Molina, Jr., M.A., Assistant Director, External Relations and Research
The professional development program “Inspire. Excel. Learn.” is a new initiative at the SALT Center designed to integrate staff expertise and best practices across disciplines, particularly those from higher education and special education. As a result of investigation into research-based practices within higher education and learning organizations, we determined Appreciative Inquiry and Strategic Tutoring as main components of Inspire. Excel. Learn. These components are directed toward those who most often work directly with SALT students, with Appreciative Inquiry embedded into the work of the strategic learning specialists and Strategic Tutoring infused into tutor training.
Appreciative Inquiry has an extensive history in organizational change focusing on collaboration and learning (e.g., Bushe & Kassam, 2005). Most recently in higher education Bloom, Hutson, and He (2008) expanded AI into and advising context to include
- intentionality on behalf of the professional,
- collaboration between the professional and the student,
- strategic approaches with active, open-ended questions, and
- goal-direction with a focus on student potential.
In other words, the strategic learning specialists trained in Appreciative Inquiry use specific questions to guide students toward achieving the goals that they plan together.
Similar to the strategic learning specialists in Appreciative Inquiry, tutors in Strategic Tutoring also follow an intentional framework. Tutors teach specific strategies that students will then be able to assess, select, and use independently for the course at hand and for other future tasks. Strategic Tutoring follows over 15 years of research using specific strategies with young adults and students who are underprepared for college learning (e.g., Hock, Shumaker, & Deshler, 1995; Hock, Deshler, & Shumaker, 2000; Hock, Brasseur, & Deshler, 2008). With Strategic Tutoring, tutors in the SALT Center will gain a specific framework that will enhance their College Reading Learning Association (CRLA) international certification training.
A convergence of three factors spurred the design of Inspire. Excel. Learn. First, continuous improvement keeps the SALT Center as a premier model for students with learning and attention challenges as a growing number of peer institutions are offering programs for diverse learners. Second, best practice professional development works directly toward our continued goal of maintaining and increasing SALT student retention and graduation rates. Lastly, the SALT Center prides itself in honoring our staff’s individual set of professional skills and this professional development program provides the team with an organizational direction for strategic implementation of those skills in their daily work with students.
We designed Inspire. Excel. Learn. in three phases that spans over summer, fall, and spring of the 2011-2012 academic year. This summer we launched session one for the Education and Learning Services (ELS) team. The ELS team is made up of nine strategic learning specialists, three coordinators of Student Programs & Services, one coordinator of Learning Support Services, two summer tutoring staff, four graduate assistants, a senior office specialist, and two assistant directors. The ELS team experienced both small group activities and large group discussions during two hours of Appreciative Inquiry training each morning and two hours of Strategic Tutoring each afternoon for 16 days. Our emphasis was on role plays and real session observations, collegial feedback, and video recordings to reinforce desired behaviors and encourage the self-evaluation process.
The second and third phases focus on professional development for the strategic learning specialists and tutors embedded into their work with students during the academic year. This fall semester, strategic learning specialists began using Appreciative Inquiry techniques in their student sessions and engaging in evaluations that include observations and biweekly meetings with their supervisors. Approximately 80 peer tutors per semester will engage in learning the Strategic Tutoring framework, practicing strategies with students, and evaluating their progress with the graduate assistants and tutor coordinator alongside their formal CRLA certification training.
With Appreciative Inquiry and Strategic Tutoring together in the Inspire. Excel. Learn. professional development model, staff and students alike will truly gain inspiration from working together, excel in their professional and academic achievement, and learn at new levels. The initiative exemplifies our dedication to excellence: the professionals and paraprofessionals will guide students with learning and attention challenges with the newest approaches while the students will reach their goals, mature as young professionals, and become life-long, strategic learners.
Bloom, J. L., Hutson, B. L., & He, Y. (2008). The Appreciative Advising Revolution. Champaign, IL: Stipes Publishing.
Bushe, G., Kassam, A. (2005).When is Appreciative Inquiry Transformational? A Meta-Case Analysis. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science 41, 161-181
Hock, M.F., Brasseur, I.F., & Deshler, D.D. (2008). Comprehension instruction in action: The at-risk student. In C.C. Block & S.R. Parris (Eds.), Comprehension Instruction: Research-Based Best Practices (2nd edition) (pp. 271-293). New York: Guilford Press
Hock, M. F., Deshler, D. D., & Shumaker, J. B. (2000). Strategic Tutoring. Lawrence: Edge Enterprises.
Hock, M.F., Schumaker, J. B., & Deshler, D.D. (1995). Training strategic tutors to enhance learner independence. Journal of Developmental Education, 19(1), 18-26.