Thursday, March 25, 2010

Helping Students Juggle Classes Just as I Help Dissertation Writes Juggle Chapters

In private practice, I coach people wanting to write dissertations and earn PhDs, EdDs, DrPHs, DBAs, etc. The dissertation is a series of papers written into chapters, or 4, 5, or 6 pieces parts, depending on the degree program and field of study. The dissertation is simply a few papers connected together by a stapler or a binding machine. The dissertation is a quilt created by the writer.

Quilts are created one piece at a time. Therefore, think about the dissertation (or the set of classes taken by an undergraduate students) one piece (or class) at a time. Once a piece is finished, however small or large, the writer, student, or quilter puts that part away and begins constructing the next piece. Now, when the writer/student/quilter finds a particle of an older, completed piece prepared for this quilt that ought to belong within the next piece, then I say simply to open, select, copy, and paste away! Redundancy feeds the length of a dissertation or a semester, just as identical quilt pieces fill in the patterns of the basic quilt.

As we who teach all know all too well, writing one paper is easy, and we've done that a million times. All we need to do is connect the patterns of any major topic just as an artist might craft together the pattern of a quilt. If we work on more than a specific piece's part, we know how we might feel overwhelmed. We know to avoid being overwhelmed by the big paper by focusing energy on the smaller little papers within the big project. We want to look forward one piece at a time and be able to reflect backward on the treasure trove quilt we've already pieced together so beautifully, One Piece at a Time.

We desperately want our undergraduate students to begin to have the same skills they will need in life, career, and further schooling. Therefore, I work with students both inside and outside of the classroom to understand that their semester by semester experiences also compose a quilt: a quilt of learning. Each semester they face the same themes and patterns; however, each semester they face unique experiences, professors, and course specific expectations that may not be mirrored in their ongoing pattern of experiences. Helping students juggle their semesters one course at a time, priority by priority, within the weave of their lives, means acknowledging that school is like a quilt!

Happy Educational "Quilting," Dr. C