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Center for Teaching and Learning

CTL Arenas - Student Voices:  Tuning the Voice

In grappling with the impacts of budget cuts, the Planning, Review, and Budget Council was discussing possible ways that Academic Services and Student Services could work together to better serve our students.  We all had ideas viewed from our corner of the campus, but no one could concretely say which, if any, of the options would provide the most benefit.

What didn't have a "solution" because we were missing the student perspective, we lacked the viewpoint of the individuals who use our campus services.  The question then posed to the Making Visible project was "How do students navigate our campus?"  To provide insight into this question, we followed eight randomly selected, new Chabot students for the entire Fall 2011 semester - to class, to appointments, to study sessions.  We even followed them home, by giving each student a digital camera so they could film themselves.

The resulting film, Tuning the Voice, is filmed, directed, and edited by student co-inquirers.   This allows the presentation to be more authentic, more real, more believable by removing the perspective and the possible influence of faculty and staff.  We found that students approached the issue at hand from an angle that was completely different from the proposals made in the Planning Council. 

Faculty and staff asked "when do students seek campus services and how do they find out what is available?".  We saw navigation as "when at point A, how do you get to point B?".  When watching the film, we learned that navigation, from the student perspective, involved getting to and through classes as well as finding a place on campus they felt they fit.  This changed the conversation.  We are now asking different questions - how can we build communities that will support student in their goals and interests?  How do we communicate about these communities so students can find the one that best meets their needs?

The Eight









- part 1
- Engineering












- part 1
- part 2






Screenings & Reactions

February 3, 2012

Tuning the Voice premiered at Chabot College's Flex Day on February 2, 2012.  The faculty and staff in attendance were asked to write on note cards "what resonated with you" and "what surprised you the most".  Recorded thoughts included:

  • "The movie was a journey for me.  I felt through my viewing at time utterly depressed, inspired, lost in memories of my own struggles as a student, curious about the lives of my students.  All sorts of things."
  • "The movie works on many levels - I'm fascinated by the tensions captured in teaching and learning - too hard vs. too easy, community vs. individual effort, personal responsibility vs. responsibility of a teacher."
  • "Students should communicate to their families their commitment to education."
  • "Makes me what to know what truly motivates a student."
  • "Learning to be a student itself is a big challenge.  Getting a clear goal when their feet aren't on the ground."
  • "Teachers need to build community in classrooms."
  • "We want to help you!"

All of the feedback received was read by the Staff Development Committee who categorized the comments into:

  1. IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY: How do we foster community in the classroom? How do we build community outside the classroom? How do we link campus culture to the neighborhoods we serve? What is Chabot's college culture and how do we convey this to the students?
  2. STUDENTS' WELL BEING: How do we convey the importance of self-care needs to be successful in school? How do we promote student's self-care while attending college? Lack of sleep, hunger, drugs - students engage in behavior that is leading them to physical and mental disturbances - why do they originate and what can we do? How do you find out what your students are dealing with so we can support them? How do we teach students to advocate for the importance of education when family/work issues arise?
  3. RE-EVALUATION OF TEACHING METHODS - BRINGING STUDENT SERVICES INTO THE CLASSROOM: How can we better socialize students to the process of higher education (where teaching methodology tends to be based on lectures)? Why do students go from bored and underwhelmed to overwhelmed? If students don't come to services, how can we bring the services to the students?
  4. SCAFFOLDING LEARNING: Too hard versus too easy - how do you strike a balance? How can we re-evaluate our teaching methods to appeal to diverse learners? How do you both challenge and support a student? Why do students go from bored and underwhelmed to overwhelmed? How do you both challenge and support a student?
  5. GENERATIONAL INFLUENCES: Why is the need for engagement & community so strong with our current generation of students? What motivates our students?
  6. EDUCATIONAL ISOLATION - BUILDING A CONNECTION WITH INDIVIDUALS (FACULTY, STAFF, STUDENTS): How do we build community while still fostering independence and personal responsibility? How do we avoid the "lonely learner"? How do you maintain enthusiasm for college? What can we do to build trust and empathy? How do you both challenge and support a student? How do you find out what your students are dealing with so we can support them?
  7. LOSS POINTS: How do students find their path and map it? Where do they fall off? Why do they fall off? How do we identify venerable students and provide them with support?

Via SurveyMonkey, faculty and staff were asked to select the top three topics that we should pursue further.  Based on the survey, the three themes that were ranked highest in importance for follow-up and in interest in participation were:
Student’s Well Being, Educational Isolation – Building a Connection with Individuals (faculty, staff, students), Importance of Community.

Additionally, 18 faculty indicated they would be interested in participating in a FIG focused on Creating Classroom Engagement.

April 26, 2012

The film was screened specifically for Chabot students on April 26, 2012.  Approximately 150 students watched the film, and about 50 students attended the discussion afterwards.

A tape of the discussion session as well as written student reactions are available using the links below.  Student reactions to the film included:

  • "Having gone through being a freshman straight out of high school, I have to admit that I had a hard time transitioning to a different style of learning, expectations from teachers, workload, and time management so I understand very well how hard their first semester must be. What I find that many students including myself didn’t know was that there are plenty of resources to help and guide you through this transition such as: teachers, peers, counselors, etc. I think this documentary did a really good job in showing that teachers can be a great resource and they do try to help by being more lenient with class work. Little do they know, their lenience is only pushing students to procrastinate and put little effort in the stuff they turn in."
  • "It is good that we are presenting the idea of how budget cuts are affecting the students, and that we are doing something about it. I have also gone through the experience of attending the class even if I was not able to register in the class, just hoping that some registered students might not turn up and I would get their seat. We need to spread the word for prop 1522 to the wider group, which would help all of us a lot. "
  • "The movie talked about the students feeling like some teachers make class time boring and uninteresting. I can attest to that. You’re supposed to come to class to learn but I agree, “learning has to be fun.” It’s more rewarding when you can interact and engage with the classroom and your classmates. It can be quiet boring when the teacher is just talking at you the whole time and not actually involving the students in some type of way."
  • "It clearly shows how we feel, that not all of us live the same “perfect” lives. It shows that every student goes through some issues, whether they’re rich or not, we are all going through stuff. "

Student Comments/Reactions

Student Discussion of Tuning the Voice


Ongoing and Future Actions

Strategic Planning

Over the Summer 2012, the Planning, Review and Budget Council developed a singular Strategic Plan goal for 2012-15:  Increase the number of students that achieve their educational goal within a reasonable time by clarifying pathways and providing more information and support.

Inherent in the "support" provided is the concept of community that was highlighted in both the student panel and Tuning the Voice.  This includes specific tactics identified for the implementation of the Strategic Plan:  learn more about out students, clarify and communicate pathways, and build pathway communities to support students.

When presenting the new Strategic Plan to the Chabot faculty and staff during Convocation (August 16, 2012), The Making Visible Project presented a short film highlighting the students that we are trying support:  Focusing the Lasers.

Creating Engagement in the Classroom - Faculty Inquiry Group

This group is investigating techniques that can be utilized to increase engagement within the classroom.  Engagement can be defined from multiple viewpoints, but we are basing our work on the following question:

Keeping students engaged doesn’t necessarily mean we have to keep them entertained, it means we have to keep them thinking.  Engagement lies at the junction of motivation and active learning; how do we enhance both within the context of our discipline and our classroom in order to have students emerge as passionate, creative, and critical thinkers?

Habits of Mind of a Healthy, Successful Student - Focused Inquiry Group

In association with participation in the 3CSN Basic Skills Initiative Leadership Academy, this group is investigating how investing in the development of our students' habits of mind could improve their skill as a learner as well as their overall well-being.  The Habits of Mind are defined as "the dispositions that are skillfully and mindfully employed by characteristically successful people when confronted with problems, the solutions to which are not immediately apparent."

Student Action Research Course, GNST 29 - in planning for Spring 2013

In order to build communities on campus that students identify with and desire to participate in, we want students to play an integral role in their development.  This course is being developed to provide students with the knowledge and techniques needed to investigate what would work for our campus on the theme of "Supporting Students Through Building Community".

Student teams will research the theme and develop their own recommendations on how this could be better implemented at Chabot.  For their final exam they will present the outline of a plan to implement those recommendations.

If they choose, students can present their project to a joint meeting of PRBC and ASCC.

Course content will provide guidance into investigating the issue, hopefully with workshops by campus experts in the following:

  • models on our campus and others (clubs, learning communities, academic areas)
  • making visible - creating student films
  • surveys
  • conducting interviews
  • background research
  • presentation methods - powerpoint/prezi and digital videos
  • persuasive public speaking
Student Learning Outcomes:
  1. design and deploy multiple social science research tools - surveys, interviews, background research, and/or persuasive video
  2. demonstrate confidence in public speaking
  3. believe that they have the ability to effect change on campus


Possible topics for Making Visible

Faculty, staff, and students who viewed Tuning the Voice were asked for other topics on which they thought student voices needed to be heard, either as further a further exploration based on the film or on something the film did not highlight.  The follow is the list of suggested topics:

  • CTE students- very different goals than transfer students.
  • "Chabot Has Got Soul" - let's make visible the classes, teachers, staff, and clubs
    that are the "soul" of this place!
  • The lack of basic skills students come to Chabot with (reading, writing, spelling,
    writing, speaking) and the effect on the progression through school.
  • Interactions with counseling and student services.
  • Interactions between younger and nontraditional students.
  • Loss points.
  • Learning differences.
  • What American culture topics (which many ESL students struggle with) are being
    covered in English and other courses.
  • Technology in the classroom (teachers are making excellent strides in online
  • Students' experiences going from community college to 4-year college.
  • What instructors expect from their students.
  • What help or advice instructors have to offer if students are ready to accept them.
  • Thinking in terms of programs that students take, not classes.
  • Student extra-curricular activities.
  • Study skills.
  • Instructors voices.
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