Episode 5: Value of Applied Instruction with Chris Salas and Tanvi Prabhakar
5:00PM Mar 15, 2021
All right, so we're here today with Shannon Chris and Tanvi. Welcome, guys. Hey,
thanks for but
we got to work on our turn taking for zoom right, obviously. Cool. Um, so today we're gonna be continuing our conversation on on value, value driving innovation instead of innovation being perceived as its own value. And we just wanted to check in with some students and see, hey, we've been trying to create all these things for you. And we kind of want to discover what is it that you really value? Or what are some things that you've, you've noticed in the past that were really valuable? So before we jump in, I want to ask a question, and this one not related to education or classes. But if I say the word value, like what are some of the things that that come to your mind? Like just right off the right off the bat? Okay.
value I think of practical, like practical I think of I think useful. Yeah, value, it's very, it's very particular to like the context. It's maybe empowering. Hmm, I think that's all I have for now.
For me, when I think about value, I automatically think like it matters. It gives me something like a benefit to me.
Um, I don't always reduce it to shopping. But like, if you guys are out looking for we've been talking about coffee mugs today. So we'll just keep going like, hey, you're looking for a new coffee mug, and it should be valuable. What are what are some of the things that you look for?
Well, it's got to look good, but it's got to be functional. And depending on where I'm buying it from, either considering its price, or maybe is this like an investment into like an artist, kind of talking about the context that I was mentioning earlier? It really depends on how there's going to be used, but sometimes, you know, you just want to get like a $2 mug that I can carry, like, half a French press with a coffee knife.
So for myself, I think, Okay, this, this mug gives me value I think about does it do the job? Am I supporting like a small business or big company? So my guess is, where it comes from, and how it's really made? Because I know, I would definitely like to support, you know, small businesses and people that make bongs rather than big companies. So I would say like, if it's if there's less of it, there's only like a handful of these kind of massively made, I would say it's definitely valuable.
Great, that's awesome. I think that's interesting. And I think we're going to come back to that later that notion of support and investment. But I'm going to turn it over to Shannon. And Shannon's gonna ask you guys a little bit more now in the value in terms of education. Shannon?
Yeah. So when you hear value paired with education, what comes to mind? Is that like, Is it about technology? Is it about classes, or particular kind of setup? relationships, something else entirely? Yeah, I
think it's all of those things, really. In it also, like, I just went through this cycle of applying for graduate school, and in that you're trying to decide what school is most valuable to you, before you even apply, but then you have to weigh those decisions again, once you start to receive offers or don't get offers, and do even some more investigation. And, and starting to see that you start to weigh the different values of different places like do some places have better facilities, they're bigger so that means maybe they have research grants or travel opportunities that they'll pay for. Also are they paying for you to get Yeah, but then it's like, well, those sorts of institutions tend to have more rigorous, not rigorous, but more inflexible teaching styles, whereas maybe some private schools are really way more flexible and allow you to do more, but still attain the same goal, which is kind of a degree. But there's more goals than just that. There's a lot. There's things that go into into education, I think.
So for me, when I think value and education, is it applicable to my career? What am I actually going to be using on a daily basis. So a generic math class that I'm required to take for my degree, might not really be applicable when I'm designing things. But a generic writing course would definitely be something that I would use more often than, like in my real life situation.
Yeah, I think that range is really interesting. To get a little more concrete, can you think of an example, in any class that you've taken before, where you could, you could see some of your values on display, either like, maybe this was through an activity or an assignment or an interaction, but you could tell that either, like, what you valued about education and learning was maybe also valued or exemplified in the class, that can be an MSU, a different institution, outside of a college class, any kind of like learning situation?
there's a craft school in North Carolina called Penland, and they have different workshops for different different kinds of crafts. So I did one in like ceramics. And they aren't in a traditional academic institution. But more of a nonprofit. But anyways, what I really value in educational experiences are experiential learning something that's like very engaging, and allows active to, like, active deployment of what you're learning. So like, very quick turnaround, very quick feedback to, and there weren't really grades. But I do like grades too, as a tool to measure like understanding and maybe the amount of work that you put towards achieving that understanding. Yeah, that's what I have.
So when I'm thinking about a place where I can value in learning taking place in a classroom, so again, it's am I able to apply certain certain concepts in group work? to really show that like, Okay, what I learned from this class is applicable to my degree and my learning and providing an understanding. So I think a good example is in class where you're taught generic design principles, and then you're given an assignment to practice it, and then receive feedback, and be able to, again, practice those skills and get better at it. And so I think, actually, using actually using your skills in a class environment or homework environment is
valuable. Yeah, absolutely. So in both of those examples, I'm hearing like, time and appreciation of experience, like time to practice. That's interesting. I was thinking for my own answer to this. I am really introverted. And so I don't always like to talk a lot in large group class settings. But I went to a really small undergrad institution, and something that I really valued was one on one kind of interactions with faculty, or even with other peers. But like, people that made time to talk about ideas, maybe outside of class, or like in a more, like smaller relational setting was really valuable to me. So that, to me, seems really like relationship focused. And it also is kind of an experience like, Can I talk through this idea or class discussion point? with someone one on one was really valuable or useful to my learning? Dan, where are we headed next?
Yeah, I think I want to pick up on that. So in a couple of other conversations that we've had centered around this, this teaching and learning, and maybe from the instructor side, I think it's really interesting because as an instructor, we, we do kind of start with our values. Like, hey, like, this course is valuable, because I think my students need to learn XYZ principle, or I really want to invest in my students so that they can have job skills or that, you know, we can provide value. So it's always interesting from the perspective from the perspective of the instructor, because you are kind of creating this, like, little mini society with its norms, that that put your values on display, which can be a vulnerable practice in some ways. Sometimes we don't think about that with maybe like a giant Oh, I'm in a math class with, you know, 1000 other people in Michigan State, so but there is, you know, it's, there is something really relational with the professor, and the structure of the course, and putting it out there. So I'm really interested to follow up because as we were talking about our mugs, for both of you, there was this, this moment where you're thinking not just about the product, or the benefit that it gives to you, but you were thinking about, hey, how does this support? Maybe the artist, or the creator or a small business? Have you ever thought about education? That way, like, Hey, I'm supporting my professor? Or does it kind of get sucked into the Oh, like the university machine? That seems really big.
I think that's really interesting that you phrase, what kind of does the value change if the teacher values different things. So for myself, when I was I was an engineering student for about three years. And so the environment is entirely different to switching to College of Arts and Letters. My teachers valued content, our level of performance, our understanding, and I felt like I was I didn't have any, any sort of relationship with my professor. And I was also often scared to ask questions, because sometimes they're just so they're just so smart. They can't even understand why I'm having this really generic question. And so the environment in those class settings, like definitely didn't fit me as a person. So when I did switch charts and letters, I was like, oh, all of these professors, take the time to talk to me take the time to know me and absolutely create this environment where I can ask questions. And I even think the students also change from one setting to another, like an entirely different personality. So I remember when I took my first UX course, I was what students that thought like me, that were really similar. So I thought, I think that's really interesting.
Yeah, that's really, that is a really interesting observation. Because they're maybe different value systems, even within colleges and university. And so it's not like, you know, stem and engineering is better than Arts and Letters, or liberal arts is better than stem and engineering, but there probably have two stated values that that look different at the beginning, right, where one might be like, Hey, we need this rigor and this, you know, precision and preparation for a job, where the other might be exploring. Exploring that from a different perspective. So yeah, thanks for pointing that out.
That's interesting, too, because those two examples, you see values show up in ways of being like, yeah, the curriculum is different, or like we assess learning differently with from like exams to projects, maybe, but also just like how people interact, shows value too. So those two examples moving from such different majors. That's really interesting to me in terms of interaction.
Yeah. So I think something I'd want to follow up with is that obviously there isn't one that's better than the other. It definitely just depends on the student and what they're choosing to learn and what environment fits best with them.
Yeah, and my as like a, I mean, I'm in kind of a funky position of like student and kind of instructor as a graduate student. But I wonder like, Are there ways that both of those settings could be made? more flexible? So that, like, how could students that really excel in engineering also be set up to excel in Arts and Letters? And how could Arts and Letters students also be able to work in engineering in ways that like, like, could we have different kinds of interactions so that they don't have to be siloed? I wonder, like, I wish, like, that seems really, like useful to me, but I don't values is an interesting way to come at, like, how do we set up different interactions in both those situations?
Yeah, Chris, what are some of your thoughts on that?
Do you restate the question? I kind of
lost it through that. Yeah, completely. So you had mentioned Hey, um, sometimes I need my $2. I'm just going for the quantity of coffee that my mug can hold. And then other times, it's like, hey, am I supporting an artist? My supporting a business? Like, what is the investment look like? Not just for me, the value for me, but do I value even the creator? Or where this came from? And how do I? How do I do that? And my question is, has that ever come across to you in within the educational system? Like, hey, am I supporting this professor who's trying to help me or, you know, has the set of values that things would help benefit me in my life? So as we value not just like, hey, I need an education because I need the degree. Or like, you know, we talk? It's an expensive, it's an expensive endeavor, right? So just not purely economic. But maybe have there been any spots where you where you've thought about that before? Or maybe reflecting back? can maybe see that a little bit now?
No, I I definitely think the first time I was in school, because I'm, I'm a non traditional kind of returning student to finish up. The first time I went to school, I didn't really feel like that was accessible to me at all, just the way the institution is set up. And the way that I understood formalities was like, professors are there to teach. And I didn't really, and especially coming from a science background. I mean, sometimes, sometimes professors were more open to conversation, but oftentimes, it really kind of felt like maybe they were too busy, or you kind of had a rush on, there was no real time to like, really get to know the person as a person. And it really didn't feel like that was even available opportunity. But now returning and having like, done a bunch of other stuff. I really see the humanity more in teachers. And I'd say even like part of the draw of iOS lab was having taken a class with Ken and knowing his like teaching style and knowing his
just just the sort of value that he could offer me like, just being around him. He's like, pretty smart, and challenges a lot of ideas that I've had. So I knew I wanted to continue to be around that.
So, so not everyone knows what that is. But baby to kind of paraphrase that it's almost that you took a class with a professor and then almost not just to, because you wanted to go into this iOS lab class, it was like, hey, I've had this professor. And you know, the value that they bring to it's almost being able to explore other areas just because of that relationship you already had. Is that kind of
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Like knowing who this person was having taken a class with them, and then hearing about this opportunity, or the iOS lab opportunity, and then digging into that a little bit more. And seeing that like these two things together, seemed like a very strong experience, because it brings in, you know, kind of going back to a question before, what sort of values do I have in education, it seems to bring in those sorts of things like that, like the professor can shared similar values and education that I do. But then this class also like the iOS sorry, the lab. The iOS lab, also shares similar values as well and specifically on how to learn and deploy skills and practice and fail and grow. Yeah.
Really cool. Shannon, in the follow up with that.
I was thinking, and maybe we've already answered this, but I'm the sort of like shifting context. And Chris brought up context earlier to and then when Tommy was talking about moving majors, I wonder, are there ways in which you see your values changing depending on maybe the class or the setting that you're in? Or are there values that you see, that kind of remained the same?
Like experiential valuing experiences and learning that might be a value that like, goes across contexts? But are there some that you see, like, maybe even the kin example is another one, like, I felt that way, in undergrad, and even in my doctoral work, too? It's like, Oh, I know, this professor. And so I know that I want to take classes with them. But do you see ways in which like your values stay the same? Or change? Or maybe the answer is both?
Absolutely, I think it changes quite a bit. Like, if I'm taking a quantum chemistry class, the ways that the type of instructor that I'm looking for and the way that they are like curating the learning experience is much different than what I would expect out of something like iOS lab, where one is like, so rich with information that like having there be very clear, clearly defined objectives and rounding back on those things very often just repeating repeating, as well as getting a lot of feedback through practice. That's, that's something that I think is different than, than what I'd expect out of out of an experiential lab, where I'm looking more for like, okay, here's like these general concepts now deploy this and like, work together as a team to try to see what you guys can come up with, you know, and then talk about that. And how effective was that? And how would you change that? So there's two different things I can think of.
Yeah, so for me, I think one value that stays consistent throughout the school and learning is I want it to be applicable to what I'm doing in like real life, or if it's going to help me get my understanding on this concept, which will be more developed in another class again, so it's like the applicability of context and then material. And so I think something that also changes is, what do I know, I go to iOS lab, I know that we are going to practice working groups, rather than if I'm in a writing class, it's more focused about my writing, and so that I'm working by myself, so I think I value both of those things.
Yeah, I think that that context is a is a really interesting concept and break. We're not just, again, why we wanted to interview some students is we didn't just want to hear professors telling us what they think students value. So here, too, and this is we've talked about, you know, using personas, or generalizing that information is really hard, because we are not, our personalities are context dependent to right, so we're not just as rigid, like arc type of a person, like, it's very fluid in different places. So thank you guys, for for sharing with us a little bit about kind of your journey, I think is is a last question it would be. What advice might you have? Because you're both getting ready to graduate? Yeah. What are some advice that you guys might have for other students? Just thinking about this value and or maybe something that you've learned along the way? Because I think you've both discovered in different ways a little bit more about who you are and how you interact with different people in university. And maybe I've never said, Oh, yeah, it's a value proposition. But maybe kind of phrasing it in that context. So any advice for students? Or maybe Actually, I'm gonna scratch that. Any advice for professors?
Advice for professors?
Yeah, like how do we, how do we value students better? Like how do I, again, I shared with you, it's hard for a professor and instructor, because they're saying, Hey, I think this is valuable. And I want to give this to you and share my values. So how do we open up that a little bit more to really be reflective of kind of that? That combination of what I value, but what the others value to what students value?
there's kind of a lot to this, I think. And it depends on the context that the professor is trying to approach. And if it's just a class, like a single class, I will. So first I want to back up, I think a professor is somebody who understands the ark of education, and understands the like, they're in a position where maybe they've reached a terminal degree or they have had to go through different hoops, they've already acquired the knowledge or been in the place that a student has been, and seeing what opportunities that it can bring for the student. So I think it's important to consider like a student's place, and maybe even their place in figuring that out and knowing that not everybody understands that has that. That, that that wide context of direction and possibilities. But I think I kind of lost there.
Alright, so bring it down from the ark, you've got the overall Ark, maybe a single class, maybe that helps a single class. Yeah, a single class. Um,
let's see, step by step back from this first lesson.
So I feel like that's a, like a loaded question. Because I don't want to make any jabs at professors. And because they all have different priorities, depending on their backgrounds. I know. There are professors that do research and require a required teaching class. So I think they're, their focus is really different compared to someone who's just just teaching. And so when I was I'm also kind of old, I took long took a long time to graduate, which is totally fine. But throughout all that time, I think, I really liked it when my professor cared about my learning, and not about my grades. Because when I think school, I think education is, hey, am I learning this? Am I can I apply it to things apply to real world contexts or the classes rather than my professor doesn't want to curve the class, or doesn't want to curve some assignments or projects? So I think the focus on learning is more important, but I can completely understand why grades matter. And it does. But for me, it's what have I learned?
Can you give an example Tommy of a time when you when you can tell that a teacher cared more about your learning? Is that then the grade?
Yeah, so I think this only happened once. And it was very, very clear that this was the intention was this is I care about your learning not about your grades. And so I had a class with the professor. And on the first day of like, syllabus day, she passed out the syllabus, and we're looking at it because it's very different from what we're used to. And so he uses a grading scale. On those like, a syllabus like agreement saying, if you turn in these projects on time, you will get this grade. I don't grade assignments, I see completion, and I see effort and I see work. And I thought that was she said this is this is going to encourage you to learn and do work, rather than being stressed about what is the outcome of your grade.
That's really interesting. So it was more of like a grading contract. Yes, yes. Nice. Yeah, I was wondering like, can you only were there ways that you could tell that faculty cared about that, or what did it have to be explicitly said? That's what I was curious about. So that's really interesting, like,
this officer did explicitly say that as well as the class.
Cool, I want a copy of that syllabus. Alright, Chris, anything Jump, jump out to you in that in that moment there. Um,
I think kind of just resonating off of what Toby said, just really trying to understand where students are coming from and trying to think of like, what is really impactful for their learning and what's practical for them to really, to really know. Cool.
I also think I have a lot of friends that are on the other side of that where they are focused on grades because they have to go to grad school like, Oh, my God, I just need to get this one grade. And I need this one GPA to apply for this one job. So definitely, this whole value learning or value grades definitely depends on the student.
Yeah, I think that's a good example. And I mean, I think it gets us back to flexibility and context. And like what Chris said, I think it's important for faculty to take into account individual students learning goals, like what do you hope to get out of this class? So is it really important for you to get a certain grade, that's good to know. And then also, like, you can still have a flexible system that values learning. And because we are in an institution structured around point letter grades, and that institution feeds into graduate schools, like both of those things matter, but being able to be flexible, and not only value one of them in the same class is really important.
Well, thanks for chatting with us today. Guys. This was very insightful. And we are excited to see where you guys go post graduation. Maybe we can do a follow up interview in a couple of years and see I like Tom be talking you know, hey, how I want to see how practical was some of this stuff that we've because sometimes we're not always aware of it in real time. Sometimes we are sometimes they're not. So it'd be cool. Again, guys, thanks for for chatting with us and sharing. Thank you.
Thanks for having us.