Get Paid to Learn

This post is a landing page for The Learning Code’s Get Paid to Learn project. Our mission at the TLC is to empower you to thrive in your education. One way we do this is to support you in learning how to navigate your degree at whatever institution you choose. We provide ideas, support, training, and stories to help you figure out how to learn in strategic and effective ways so that you make the most of your college experience. We focus on helping you tap into your intrinsic motivations and to center the values you hold most dear in your heart. We also encourage you to develop critical consciousness and identify ineffective policies that inhibit your growth as you work to earn your college degree.

One incredibly harmful set of policy choices that we’ve made in the United States is to transform college education from a public good into a private benefit. These policies results from a sustained neoliberal attack on public investment in education. The result is a system that financially benefits a very small number of super rich, Protestant, heterosexual, non-immigrant, White, Anglo-Saxon males at the expense of everyone else in society.

To counteract these policy choices, we believe the best remedy is to get educated and engage in democratic processes at your local, state, national, and even international levels . As you do so, we encourage you to advocate for more learner-friendly policies and to act in solidarity with others who share this vision. However, the process of policy reform will be difficult and require decades (or even centuries) of sustained activism. In the meantime, we want to help you find ways to pay for college and minimize your student debt. That is exactly what our Get Paid to Learn project is focused on.

On this Get Paid to Learn project homepage, you will find a number of resources to help you learn how to make money in college and minimize your debt while earning your degree. We provide blog posts, interviews, handouts, exercises, YouTube videos, spreadsheets, and many other resources. All of this work is designed to make the process of earning scholarships easier and less intense. Remember though, scholarships are a stop-gap measure to counteract under-investment in education. The real fix happens when we act together to force our democratically-elected representatives to invest more in education. Cheers to that journey and the struggle. Remember always: we are here to support you!

Continue reading “Get Paid to Learn”

Not a Chinaman’s Chance

Me Reading this Blog Post

The phrase Chinaman’s Chance from 100+ years ago is related to “The Unrest” that is 2020; my claim (I welcome you to stand for or against in the comments) is we can connect Chance and Unrest to examine how students like myself are learning (or not) this academic year. One origin to the phrase Chinaman’s Chance may be traced back to the development of the U.S. transcontinental railroad. During construction, volatile bottles of nitroglycerine were used for blasting, and often Chinese workers would be lowered over cliffs by rope to place the nitroglycerine. According to a newspaper article in 1870, 20,000 pounds of bones (remember this number for a later paragraph) from Chinese workers who died building the railroad were shipped to China (you may use the ‘find’ feature in your browser for the word “bones” in the summary). Another origin of the phrase Chinaman’s Chance is from the California Gold Rush of 1849. The time it took for the news of the gold rush to reach China, most of the mines were already taken. These Chinese immigrants who arrived late only had lands which had already been exploited, meaning these late arriving immigrants had a spare chance of success. Therefore upon arriving California, “Not a Chinaman’s Chance” of making it. There’s a 3 hour long video PBS is currently hosting in Amazon Prime Video that showcases some of this story. Does the idea of lacking genuine chance resonate with you and your story? This not a chance woe combined with unrest is something I felt & experienced in many (STEM) college courses.

The vast majority of my peers from Foothill College to SJSU are not white, and many of us found ourselves in one way shape or form affected by the gush of racism and plague of covid in 2020; along with the unprecedented fires and choking smoke that made all of us hold our collective breath… so the question is could we have done anything differently to protect ourselves? Simplifying our understanding of race to just be the color of our skin is dangerous due to the hierarchical nature & narrative of that simplification. I recommend you listen to this Curious Minds podcast episode by Gayle Allen if you’d like to learn more about how that viewpoint leads to detrimental dehumanization. Visceral reports of Anti-Asian, Anti-LatinX, Anti-Muslim, Anti-Semitic incidents flooded the Bay Area as they did on our respective campuses. The dehumanizing “rhetoric coming out of the White House” not only “made it hard to concentrate,” for doctor Scott Lankford to empower his students at Foothill, but made it increasingly difficult to derive meaningful value from our online educational experiences out of our bedrooms on Zoom. Some of my international peers found themselves threatened with the sudden message of deportation. My undocumented friends were told that their Dream Act Protections would be gone. All of this was the reality of thousands of students trying to keep up with the expectations of the syllabus or curriculum, all while not having a fair “chance” at learning, in an environment and system that has always been rigged against the ones with least power & wealth. Therefore, pedagogy, the method and practice of teaching matters (most), especially when that’s all what many students have.

Co-Generative Learning Environments Restore Faith in Humanity

How does chance, unrest, and pedagogy relate to learners and students who are (dis)engaged with their course work and The Learning Code?

The director of the Ronald E. McNairs Scholars program Maria Cruz shared with me on multiple accounts for The Learning Code equity and learning grant “in 2019, less than 20% of first generation SJSU students graduated within 6 years.” 

If 🚀 astronomical alarm 🔔 bells 🔔 are not ringing here in terms of systemic issues at play, please re-read what Dr. Cruz researched above with the McNair’s Scholars team. This to me, after insights from the heart of educational professionals that I’ve worked with over the past 4 years, is a clear indicator that the ~80% non-completion rate after 6 years statistic is a manifestation of some surface & shallow thoughts of:

a) 1st generation students just have more challenging lives and responsibilities…

b) they lack healthy sustainable learning habits, or effective study skills…

c) they just aren’t motivated and don’t know how to manage their time to do the work…

d) how can YOU be under privileged or under represented in Silicon Valley?

*okay dominant mainstream narrative, sit your donkey down*

Would you have those thoughts about your mother if she couldn’t learn how to edit a pdf document?
What type of offspring would you be if you BELIEVED those thoughts when you could have showed her how to edit a pdf, and wrote some notes for her on how she might do it next time?
How about if it was your best friend who dropped out of school due to substance abuse compounded with the flawed & narrow minded thinking of (a) – (d) above?
Fact: Drug overdoses are currently the leading cause of death in the US for those under 50 years old.
think about it

~80% of students unable to complete their college degree after 6+ years, when many advisors and administrators, state and federal authority policy & funding, expect us to finish in 4… if that isn’t a prescription for a nuclear disaster and untapped familial & societal potential, please tell me what ‘else’ is? Turn on your phone and open your email, but don’t forget to open your 👁️eyes👁️ – do you not feel the consequences when teaching and learning are not treated and funded as legitimate 🧫 petri dishes of cognitive kindness & sciences 🧫? When the DMV warrants drivers licenses (at least back in 2008) without ever guiding drivers to learn how to drive on the freeway, there are serious ramifications of this… There’s a concept of “Linked Fate” that I’ll expand on in a future post. But just because you have the driving skills and habits to be a safe vigilant driver, doesn’t mean you will be immune to the people who lack these skills when you’re on the road. Just because majority of your students pass, does not mean you have given them the lessons they need to thrive in the near future. Just because you live on higher ground, doesn’t mean you aren’t also needing to hold our collective breath during the record breaking wildfires of this year. Lets crown just-because-isms phenomenon as – JFIO Just Figure It Out.

What would it look like for our system to genuinely support the ~80% of students who do not finish in 6 years, systemically? Spoiler alert, want smaller student to teacher ratios, vote. Extra Credit Spoiler, focus on how to learn because the first person you gotta be teaching & leading is yourself… because when “the going” gets rough, we better hope we’ve set the foundation of sustainable learning habits and help seeking practices in our current college rhetoric, to fight the good fight. JFIO.

Why is there not a learning habits and study skills “funded” open access course (club, organization, support center) that leverages the social-cultural capital each and everyone of us embody, to develop agency in our challenging coursework? Who are the students who have the wherewithals to learn by failing multiple courses, and to re-enroll? Who really are the A students besides hard working, disciplined, and interested in the subject? More importantly, how do we not ostracize them just like we do our students with F-C grades? Isn’t infringement on academic integrity a symptom of JFIO(just figure it out)? How many learning disabilities arise due to JFIO? How many students drop out due to JFIO?

Why not give more of us a fair chance? Last spoiler alert, it’s up to us, as students to 1) slow down and critically think about our own academic plan & 2) find reasons to study the material beyond the learning objectives our professors have set for us.

There are ~5000 1st generation students at SJSU, 20% of that number is ~1000. A thousand first generation students who do not graduate per year at SJSU is on the smaller side of the ledger. If we multiply ~1000 by 20 pounds of bones per student body, that number becomes eerily close to the number in the first paragraph. Shame on me, Henry Fan, not graduating college should not be compared to tragic deaths due to merciless physical labor, but I argue they are similar, in a sense of a Death of a Dream. When my ancestors came here to help build the railroad or mine for gold, they were sold a dream for a better future. When my peers started their college education, they were advertised a dream they’ve been told can be achieved in 4 years for a brighter future, too.

Sobering Fact: I’ve interviewed 3 senior engineers that told me it took them 6+ years to get their undergraduate degree 12+ years ago… So why in the world are we being advised & pressured to graduate in 4? The truth is, many people (unfortunately including ourselves) are navigating college as if we were a Toyota Corolla in a production line. However we are all human, we are not cars.

With the developments in the digital age, I’d like to make a bet our STEM curriculum and course of requirements only had more stuff crammed into it, since. Solution? Teachers JFIO (just figure it out): Speak Faster *Jeff can you add your goofy sound byte here of, “don’t dooo ittt”? that would be perfect* We all been in those rooms when the only person in the loop is the speaker, that environment is not friendly and directly contributing to the ~80% of students who do not obtain their college degree…

This begs the question: do we have a “chance” at a college education? Do people in positions of power have our learning interests at the top of their minds or are they simply preserving rigor? Why do startup companies get more attention & assistance than the thousands of college students who do not complete their degrees? How do we get our demanding learning needs met, assuming we have our basic needs already? How the *bleep* do we JFIO?

Here’s some insights when vailent students try to advocate for themselves in addressing their learning processes in a standard computer science class. 

Summary Dialogue on Learning 

Student: *right after lecture in office hours* wow, that was a lot of content

Professor: Yes, and?

Student: How am I supposed to remember all that material, for my exam?

Professor: wow, I hope that’s not why you are trying to remember it

Student: what should I do then?

Professor: Come on Henry, I thought you knew better as a returning college student after working for 6 years after high school. You should be trying to learn something here. That way when you go off into the “real” world, you’ll understand how to apply this stuff

Student: hmm, I’m certainly trying to learn something… may you give an example?

Professor: You know like learn data structures, algorithms, and programming languages and then be able to apply it to your life and in the professional world.

Student: But I’m talking about making sense of lecture and making sense of the material you delivered along with the other 4 hours of non-trivial lectures today… rote or applied, how do I unpack that?

Professor: Tutoring, form study groups, revisit your lecture notes, ask questions, gotta spend the time, the standard stuff you were suppose to have learned in high school.

Student: *Inner Thoughts: 1) why do you have to throw less engaged students in the deep end then point to these bandaid services? 2) how might you address the issue of failing students at it’s source for genuine enlightenment for all parties involved *hint: pedagogy & TLC*? 3) the ethos of college is to toughen us up before industry, but who is that really serving and harming? As I flash back to high school experience, but never having practiced any of those skills my prof. recommended* Okay got it, thank you for your time. I wish our class was not overenrolled, because it’s conversations like these, where students stories may act as a catalyst, for real change to happen.

The End of a 2.0 GPA Drop Out

Before I met really student centered professors and staff members like Jeffrey Anderson and Katherine Lee at Foothill College, I felt there wasn’t a chance for me to graduate with a STEM degree because each STEM class was like a high intensity crash course in a whole new language. What ultimately relieved a ton of pressure from these oppressive dehumanizing feelings were deeply pragmatic ideas & methods of how learning works all while unpacking my social cultural identity to develop effective reasons to study, beyond the grade.

 

A primary motivation for all the work we do here at The Learning Code is help students feel and experience – AKA begin developing a track record of study skills & learning habits that can be leveraged term after term – that whatever it is they want to learn in their life – specifically in their courses they are investing thousands of 💵💵💵 for – they may learn and utilize in their professional & personal lives for many years to come. We genuinely believe you all are some of the brightest (AKA most hardworking) students on our campuses… not because of your GPA or how many clubs you’re involved with, but rather the humility through lived experiences we know so many of you embody. We can all use more people in our lives that believe in us, so let’s continue to build trust, to seek guidance and counsel on reimagining purpose and happiness, all while developing career capital, in our lives. What I am working to achieve through every bit of content whether it be blog or any form of media is to give you all an insider look on just how difficult yet fulfilling learning may be. Fair or unfair, we do have a chance, and The Learning Code exists to provide you skills, tools, mindsets, and encouragement that you can, Yes You Can.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s bold vision I recommend you read out loud:

“I have a dream that one day right here in Alabama little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed — we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream.”
What’s your Dream?

I have a dream that students will make the most of their “chance” to transform otherwise not engaging or relevant material in their lives either in or out of school, into profound pieces of knowledge to be benefitted from, for rest of their lives. I have a dream that no matter the “unrest” or academic performance anxiety students encounter, they will be seen as intellectual beings, who simply haven’t figured out the habits necessary to play the academic game. I have a dream that one day students of any race ethnicity gender socio-economic class will be given a fair “chance” to engage in discussions & intellectual collaboration around STEM and other disciplines, not because knowledge work is the magic bullet, but rather, it’s within those dialectical clashes and curiosity filled thoughts, are where our roots of quality and character have a chance to grow deeper. Those roots will emancipate us to solve problems we otherwise would not be able to solve in the world, abundant with growth & opportunity only to be realized by focal skills & thinking that requires deep contemplation.

Besides supporting yourself and your family what problems do you want to solve? What degrees or skills do you need to unlock, to position yourself to solve those problems? Is that pursuit one you’d like to be remembered for when you’re 80 years old? What is your safety net if you were to fall short of that aim?

I want to inspire you all (by extension myself, lol) to become self-regulated learners, not only because it’s one of the most important aspects to my education, but it is a valuable outcome that will pay us and our families (by extension our communities) in spades. Truthfully the journey to becoming a self-regulated learner requires a ton of independent heavy lifting, but research what that takes and continue to follow TLC to not be alone in that push. No, we do not bet on Tesla or Facebook or their shareholders to solve some of the most demanding problems that exist in our communities at their roots. Our bet is on YOU, the most important shareholders to the future of our cities!

I’ve worked in hospitality long enough to understand the differences between transactional vs. transformational service. The more student success equity committee meetings I participate in, the more I feel STEM education is becoming far too transactional in terms of standards, grades, and what they are aiming to deliver. I fault myself for not having the study skills and learning habits needed to see beyond the transaction-ality of grades, and I have the wherewithal to learn through failing class after class, and the great fortune of meeting life saving people at Foothill College, but what about the ~80% of maltreated students? What if those were your children?

I’ve been led to read some of Milton Freedman’s work in consumerism economics, by my all star Humanities professor Cynthia Rostankowski, and I’d like to paraphrase what she said during my check in with her today:

“…what Milton Freedman misses is that to be able to be as free as capitalists think the people in a economy should be, it requires others to have a duty to allow them to be that free – when they do not acknowledge the duty of others for them to have a right to make a pile of money, this leads to a failure of libertarianism in turn neoliberalism, and much much more…”
Words like: duty, right, free, will require me some time to wrap my head around

I encourage you not to pursue STEM (or any college degree) for the sole sake of obtaining rare and valuable skills for deeper pockets, but to realize your pursuit of a college degree allows you to exercise cognitive calisthenics long form thinking: all while actualizing your coexistence with the others around you, challenging with the better critique, comparing with a stronger alternative, deep research … you know, processes you’d normally practice on Yelp or Amazon but for your own personal vision & mission… because it’s within these stages of thought where we develop mindsets & skills that will ignite & propel our drive to become better version of ourselves – a global citizen.

I wrote this post instead of studying for my midterm to empower us all to focus on our learning, so that we develop more “chances” and opportunities in our lives to live out the potential we know we have. I see a ton of youth & adults without the ability to engage in long form contemplatory thought… and live in a whirlwind of anger, regret, and loneliness due to it. This is a very complex problem, and online-keyboard warriors screaming and bashing everything is a small warning sign. However, The Learning Code and Foothill College community has opened my eyes on what learning and living can be, so the least I can do is remind all of us: we have a chance, and the earlier we focus on what/who/why/how we’re learning while restoring our faith that 1) we need each other to thrive and 2) we are as hardworking and intelligent as our out-of-touch counterparts, the higher that chance will be.

Quarantining our Learning Needs

I’ve had incredibly good luck meeting the people I’ve met at Foothill College, SJSU, and at OpenStax – but having a good experience with higher education shouldn’t be a matter of luck.

“There are students so afraid of what the emancipatory practices are, so afraid of being able to live freely, so afraid of having a voice, so afraid of pursuing agency – that they would rather be normalized into a system of oppression”

Chris Emdin, at Teachers College of Columbia.

I am currently integrating teaching praxis, a year’s worth of research – without meriting my 8 years of hospitality work experience – in productivity, learning science, and critical race theory in my embedded learning assistant role with 30 students of the TechCORE Science Learning Institute program at Foothill College. I am helping my students feel like they belong, cultivate motivation, develop learning habits, exercise study skills, and most importantly, leave them feeling like computer science is learnable – even though our 3 week long summer crash course is quite demanding as the timeline suggests. In times of disequilibrium and unrest, the challenges to learning what we’re being asked to learn in college are perpetuated and magnified. 

My STEM instructors, particularly in an online learning setting, often assume that students have both the content-specific prerequisites and the necessary general learning skills “handled.” There are massive consequences to these assumptions, especially when professors do not have policies or practices in place to guide students to address any apertures in their knowledge and motivation. This kind of college culture is oppressive in its very nature. It’s sort of like throwing someone who’s never swam before into a body of water where their toes don’t touch the bottom. In order to “swim” – to learn the information the professor is delivering – students need effective & efficient learning habits and skills – so they witness how to learn what they are being asked to learn. But what about the students who might not have the same foundation of learning skills as those with college-educated parents, or those who went to rigorous well-funded high schools? Many students who’ve struggled with finding their academic identity have negative emotions when learning what they are being asked to learn.

The “just go figure it out” attitude is unrealistic and unendurable. Only ~20% of San Jose State University’s 1st generation STEM students graduate in 5 years. Some people in positions of power act like these achievement gaps are okay, are the norm – but I refuse to allow myself and my peers to be a part of this manufactured reality. The reality and narrative we work towards producing here at The Learning Code is that anything is learnable, and we’re going to empower students so they can articulate for themselves: what they are learning, why they are doing so, and how to go about that studying process – step by step. No flawed assumptions that ultimately turn into dehumanizing assertions onto a students’ belief, hope, and faith in the future.

Movements can change how we think and how we see the world, creating more evolved social norms. What was once accepted and thought to be normal may become unthinkable. What was marginalized or dismissed becomes honored and respected. What was suppressed becomes recognized as a principle.” Paul Hawkin from Drawdown.

Think about a time when you had to learn how to do something new, and you felt lost – maybe because the pace was too fast, there wasn’t a psychologically safe space for genuine inquiry to happen, or there simply was not enough feedback. When I started working at In-n-Out burger (and my 7 other jobs throughout the years) as an associate, there were times I certainly felt like this. I felt like there were principles to obey that were hidden and never explained thoroughly to me, so I was just to put my head down and work. That type of culture and environment is okay, but it’s really just that – okay. And at In-n-Out, the managers are paying me. This is not the case in college. When I’m paying my leader to teach, but there’s so little guidance and feedback, namely in the STEM fields, I sometimes feel cheated out of this education. I’ll be writing posts in the future on the assumptions and assertions by my professors, which lead to self imposed oppression on the students. 

In-n-out.JPG

Working at In-n-Out before COVID

When STEM leaders in academia teach theory so abstractly that only the most advanced learners and the most privileged get to understand that theory, it feels dehumanizing. The few students who are excelling in TechCore this summer all have either a large amount of prior programming experience, spend a ton of time outside our 10am-5pm days, 5 days a week self-learning because they are genuinely curious, or a parent who does their assignments for them. When professors assign so much to students who do not have strong learning skills (the how) and understand why they’re asked to do this work (the why) this leads to students just keeping their heads down and trying to get through the course, without ever even defining what they are solving or learning. It’s no wonder so many students lose faith in themselves; this is by perceptive design – unconscious incompetence: you don’t know, what you don’t know. Many of those students will think that this style of taking classes –  where we disregard the learning process (of ourselves and our peers) in the pursuit of grades –  is the norm. Then, students leave with the mindset that learning is something that people should just figure out on their own. And no, telling students to form study groups when you grade on a curve and give a limited amount of A’s, is not enough to address students’ learning needs. 

We maintain inequalities and inequities if we assume that all students must have skills we never explicitly teach. Just think about any time you had to learn something you ultimately felt really proud of. There was most likely some resource along the way that guided you in that process. Right now, those resources in an institution are office hours, tutoring, classmates, and study skill workshops; all of which are great, but fall short in meeting the students who need the most help where they are at. Teaching and learning must be considered as a legitimate science if we really want to empower more students; pedagogy must be considered an art form and skill just as much as content knowledge. Think about the art and skill of asking good questions. When the majority of students ask questions that make you facepalm yourself, this is not a coincidence. It is because we never taught many students how to ask critical questions.

As we invest and experiment with more distant & online learning, we need to think about how to make students truly feel like they can learn what they are being presented, by teaching learning habits and study skills, to level out the playing field with the advanced motivated learners in the class. When students are paying to inhabit a new space – higher education – we should help them learn the requisite skills and mindsets instead of telling them to “just go figure it out.” This advice only serves the most privileged in the system.

We have to ask: what are the essential skills that students of varying backgrounds are deficient in? Should they just figure it out, should I just point them to resources, or could I find ways to do better, such as making transparent the process of learning lectured material, and the long term value of getting grades, all while rewarding the peculiar curious head and heart developed along the way. This is not hand-holding – this is literally how learning works. There’s mountains of scientific literature published on this idea, if you would like me to point you to some. Susan Ambrose introduces her principles from her book How Learning Works here. Learning is demanding, as we all know; we have to rewrite the code of our subconscious and our beliefs all while healing from the trauma we all have due to an educational experience. However, what if we were to incentivize and motivate students to get work done outside of class so in class it becomes an active review session (assuming the professor is using a traditional lecture content delivery model). This is what I’ve found advanced learners in my classroom do for themselves, so we might actually want to teach that process and learning skill! 

I have the utmost respect and empathy for my instructors, but when instructors have the beliefs & attitude that “prereq is not my problem – learning how to learn is not my problem – scheduling is not my problem – motivation is not my problem – making the material engaging is not my problem,” students will believe that they are “not enough”. This is a travesty in the short term, and a source of major eminent societal problems in the long term. This type of leadership in the business world has led to problems like rank and yank, shareholder supremacy, hitting arbitrary quarterly projects while sacrificing the community, and mass layoffs.

A goal of my advocacy work with The Learning Code is to train embedded tutors and learning assistants to meet students where they are, and bring about some transparency behind what learning means, why we need to help students cultivate motivation and understand context, and how learning works. The work I’ve done in helping students cultivate motivation, learning habits, and study skills has become even more relevant in this time of disequilibrium and unrest, when challenges to learning are perpetuated and magnified.

If we cannot incentivize overworked and under-appreciated professors to think about pedagogy more critically, I know we can train fellow students as embedded tutors and place them in the classrooms to address the challenges that inevitably arise. Then and only then will we have more equitable classrooms – when learning in college can feel like learning how to ride a bike. With our safety pads on and our training wheels in place, we’ll be willing to make the investments we’ll need to make, to learn complex high-stakes content – all while beginning to experience the relevance and joy behind the process of learning, because we’ll see how to go about that journey. As Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist from Stanford said here, “urgency and focus must converge for deep work and flow to happen, so we must accept the periods of high stress and agitation in these high focus states.” So we might actually want to teach students how to accept those challenging times, to give them the agency they need be able to navigate out of them. 

I’ve worked in hospitality long enough to see the commonalities between shady business practices and what I’m experiencing in the education system. Students are being taught to be grade-centered, AKA product-driven.

“This similarity may be surprising to those with a vested interest in education systems remaining as they currently are, but it is one that powerfully exposes the role that business models, neoliberalism, and capitalism play in structuring what count as normative relationships, pedagogies, assessments, and learning outcomes in education. And when we dig deeper, as many students and faculty inevitably begin to do during budget crisis, we’ll quickly begin to unpack just how invested higher education systems are in predatory banking and lending practices, the accumulation of personal wealth at the expense of community wealth/resources, etc. Especially as is the case in the UC system where many of the regents are quite literally millionaire bankers, investors, etc.” – K. Lee, my academic mentor.

This gets to an idea that is larger than grades and funding. It’s an idea of who gets to construct truth. Right now in college we are not always taught how to seek truth, and it is difficult to speak out about how we feel when we are in these classes. But if we’ve learned anything from the recent events in 2020, it’s never been a more important time to reimagine and reinvest in communities. In our academy, that means the community of each and every class. Tutoring centers, success centers, and office hours are transformational spaces for the students who know how to navigate them, but they’re not so friendly to the students who haven’t yet been taught how to decode the what, why, and how of learning.

“These days I find myself filled with a strange dark kind of hope. When times grow dark the eyes adjust, what I see stirring in the shadows is people realizing that they neglected their communities, in an age of magic and lost. All around I see people awakening to citizenship. For decades we imagine democracy to be a supermarket where you went in whenever you needed something, however now we remember Democracy is a farm… where we reap what we sow.”

— Anand Giridharadas

The sooner we can guide students to refocus their attention and behavior on the process of learning by leading them how to do so, the closer we will be to fulfilling our mission and equity statements. Helping students learn is not too touchy feeling, artificially incentivizing, or coddling if done properly. Students need tailored, individual guidance, and an embedded tutor learning assistant who is trained with the skills and mindsets while working symbiotically with the professor can act as that untapped asset which rewards everyone involved with deep pockets of humanity and generosity. Students are looking for a learning roadmap that is understandable and transparent. Before we can help students master the discipline, we must engage and inspire them to do so. As so often in teaching and learning, we may end up having to pick up the lock (motivate students) before we understand how the key (student) fits into it (the discipline).

Our Mission at The Learning Code

Part of our mission here at The Learning Code is to help you develop habits of strategic deep learning. We focus our efforts on learners who want to complete a college degree in the United States. We do so by sharing with you a set of research-based learning principles designed to help you navigate your college experience. We also present you with a collection of effective learning practices leveraged by the college students that we work with on a daily basis. Further, we capture parts of their story that we hope will inspire you. Of course, we work hard to make sure that the principles that we share with you are universal and apply to anyone who has an interest in learning anything. But, the US higher education system is extremely complex and poses a seemingly endless sequence of unique challenges to each individual student. In this post, we discuss some of the shortcomings of the US college system and introduce our main goals for The Learning Code.

Continue reading “Our Mission at The Learning Code”