Advising Thesis Students


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This presentation was used as the basis for a workshop with faculty who advise social work Master's students.

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Advising Thesis Students

  2. 2. Presented February 7, 2009 Smith College School for Social Work Spring Research Advisors’ Meeting
  3. 3. Introduction • Liminality • Professionalization • Evidence-based practice
  4. 4. Introduction (cont.) • Processing differences – How advisee takes information into the brain – How advisee handles information in the brain – How advisee handles information output
  5. 5. Introduction (cont.) • Huge project • Isolation-real or perceived • Anxiety and comparisons • A lot to handle
  6. 6. What we will cover today • Why we are having this workshop – Case examples – Red flags • Research Advising as teaching • Strategies to use with advisees with learning issues • Tools • Putting it all together
  7. 7. And how we will do that • Slide show/lecture • Experiential exercises • Discussion • Demonstrations • Q&A • Handouts • Other resources
  8. 8. Laser-like case examples
  9. 9. Red flags • Your red flags
  10. 10. Red flags • Your red flags • Advisee doesn’t contact you the first week of placement • Advisee misses the proposal deadline • Advisee misses the LR chapter deadline • Advisee hasn’t given you a draft of the HSR application by mid December • Advisee drops out of sight (doesn’t call, doesn’t write)
  11. 11. Research Advising is Teaching • Understand what students take with them from Research Methods class • Become educated about ADD/LD • Think about all the ways students acquire information • Ask advisee about learning style early on • Ask advisee what kinds of help she needs – Who could help you with that?
  12. 12. Types of learners • Visual learners • Auditory learners • Read-write learners • Kinesthetic learners
  13. 13. Visual learners • Characteristics – Fast talkers – Exhibit impatience – Tendency to interrupt – Use words and phrases that evoke images – Learn by seeing and visualizing
  14. 14. Auditory learners • Characteristics – Speak slowly – Tend to be natural listeners – Think in a linear manner – Prefer to have things explained verbally rather than reading written information – Learn by listening and verbalizing
  15. 15. Read-write learners • Characteristics – Prefer information to be displayed in writing, such as a list of ideas or instructions – Emphasize text-based input and output – Enjoy reading and writing
  16. 16. Kinesthetic learners • Characteristics – Tend to be the slowest talkers of all – Tend to be slow to make decisions – Use all their senses to engage in learning – Learn by doing and by solving real life problems – Like a hands-on approach – Learn by doing
  17. 17. What kind of learner are you? • You may have parts of each of the types, but pick the one you most identify with. • Go stand with others in that group. • Discuss – Strategies for working with this kind of learner – What types of learners are the most difficult for you to advise? (learning types modified from Friedman, 2008)
  18. 18. What did you notice from doing this exercise? Discuss strategies. These learning styles apply to everyone, not just people with special learning issues.
  19. 19. What’s going on for people with ADD? • Executive functioning is impaired in 6 areas: – Activation: organizing, prioritizing, and activating to work – Focus: focusing, sustaining, and shifting attention to tasks – Effort: regulating alertness, sustaining effort, and processing speed
  20. 20. Executive functioning impairment (cont.) Emotion: managing frustration and modulating emotion Memory: utilizing working memory and accessing recall Action: monitoring and self-regulating action from Brown (2005, p. 22)
  21. 21. Other learning disabilities Impairments in • Language systems • Spatial and sequential ordering systems • Motor systems • Higher thinking systems • Social thinking systems (see Levine, A mind at a time)
  22. 22. Other issues • Physical disabilities – Hearing – Sight – Energy • Undiagnosed
  23. 23. What works Initially • Ask about learning style or issues • Diagnosis • Contact – Start early in September (or at end of summer session) – Frequent contacts – You may need to initiate more at first – You may need more than 3 meetings – Don’t take on too much in any one meeting • Ask advisees to use style manual and grad school guidelines format from the start
  24. 24. What works (cont.) • Write from the start (17, 64, 157) – Every day, 15-30 minutes – Writing journal (―My new best friend‖) • Date • Time • What you did (phrase) • Where to start tomorrow • Other – Check in with someone on a regular basis
  25. 25. What works (cont.) As the first semester continues • Set intermediate deadlines and help advisee work back – For proposals due in the fall, what are the steps to take to meet the deadline? When will your advisee have to do each of these steps? – What will the student need to do to submit her HSR by the deadline? • Break big projects down into very small, really doable pieces • See the big picture: spread out on a wall, large table, large bulletin board
  26. 26. What works (cont.) • Find a really good model • Get advisee to find different models for different parts of the thesis • Agenda setting for meetings – ask advisees about their agendas every time at beginning of meeting – this gives them a better sense of control and more buy in • At end of meeting with advisee, have the advisee make a list of next steps.
  27. 27. What works (cont.) • Get the student to be very specific about what she will do and when. Use SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Action oriented, Realistic , Time-lined). • Ask your advisee to email you the list • Stick to deadlines • Give positive feedback at every step along the way
  28. 28. What works (cont.) • Work from a plan – regular outline – Post it note outlines – Webs – Topic Sentence outline – What are the ideas you want to cover in this chapter? • Putting a lot of thought into data collection instrument up front makes the data analysis much easier than if there is not adequate thought
  29. 29. What works (cont.) • Resources – Books about ADD and/or LD – Books: grammar, literature reviews, APA – Handouts – Online resources • Outside help – Editor – Proofreader – Writing coach – testing
  30. 30. What else can help? • Group meetings – use bridge line instead of speaker phone • Working with others, if not with you • Get info in through senses: color coding, tactile (literally cut and paste), auditory (talk things out with a tape running in the background), grounding (change position, walk before writing, write standing up, etc.) • Repeat info/directions in a variety of ways • Build in exercise • Low stakes writing—zero drafts
  31. 31. When problems arise • Try to see problems from advisee’s point of view & verbalize it • Watch for anxiety and shame • Write letters to advisees who miss deadlines • Paper trail is important • Check in with faculty field advisor • Plan for an easy month when final project is due.
  32. 32. Particularly about the thesis • A clearly thought out, well articulated statement of purpose is essential • Be aware that you may have to explain things that you see as givens: – How to write a clear statement of purpose – What goes in each chapter – Parts of a sentence – Verb tenses – How to find out prior research – Primary sources
  33. 33. Human Subjects Review • Are all the pieces there? – Application – Informed consents – Sample recruitment materials – Data collection instruments – Referral list , – Letters from agencies
  34. 34. Human Subjects Review • Did they follow the directions in the User's Guide (or other grad school or department supplied document) instead of just copying someone else's? • Did they think about their research from the participant's point of view?
  35. 35. Tools • 5 minute writing exercise • Post it outline • Topic sentence outline • Powerful questions
  36. 36. Powerful Questions • The Exception Question: ―When has working on the thesis not been a problem for you?’ • The Consultant Question: ―What would you recommend that someone else in the same situation might do?‖ • The Small-Step Question: ―What is one small step you can take to move ahead?‖ – Pair this question with ―When will you do it?‖ and ―How will you let me know you’ve done it?‖
  37. 37. Powerful questions (cont.) • The Coping Question: ―How have you prevented this situation from getting worse?‖ • The Miracle Question: ―If you did not have this problem, how would life be different for you?‖ adapted from Johnson and Conyers (2001, p. 79)
  38. 38. Putting it all together •Q&A • Evaluation
  39. 39. Bibliography • Brown, T. E. (2005). Attention deficit disorder: The unfocused mind in children and adults. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. *Good explanation of what’s going on in the brain. • Friedman, B. D. (2008). How to teach effectively: A brief guide. Chicago: Lyceum Books. *Discusses the four learning styles. • Galvan, J. L. (2006). Writing literature reviews, 3rd edition. Glendale, CA: Pyrczak Publishing. *Excellent reference for how to write literature reviews. • Hallowell, E. M., & Ratey, J. J. (2006). Delivered from distraction: Getting the most out of life with attention deficit disorder. New York: Ballantine Books. *My favorite book for basic understanding of ADD.
  40. 40. • Hallowell, E. M., & Ratey, J. J. (1994). Driven to distraction: Recognizing and coping with attention deficit disorder from childhood through adulthood. New York: Simon & Schuster. *A lot of what’s covered in this book has been updated in their more recent books, but I still find their list of 100 diagnostic questions (pp. 209-214) and their 50 tips to manage ADD (pp. 245-253) to be excellent resources. • Jensen, E. (1998). Teaching with the brain in mind. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervisions and Curriculum Development. • Johnson, R. W., & Conyers, L. M. (2001). Surviving the doctoral dissertation: A solution-focused approach. Journal of College Counseling, 4, 77-80. *Excellent short paper, presents some powerful questions to use with your students. • Levine, M. (2002). A mind at a time. New York: Simon & Schuster. *If you want to get the basic information about learning disabilities, this is the book to read.
  41. 41. • Levine, M.(2005). Ready or not, here life comes! New York: Simon & Schuster. *Chapter 9, ―Instrumentation: Equipping a mind’s toolbox‖ offers useful skill building strategies. • Luna, C. (2002). Learning from diverse learners: (Re)writing academic literacies and learning disabilities in college. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 45(7), 596-605. • Miller, A. B. (2009). Finish your dissertation once and for all! How to overcome psychological barriers, get results, and move on with your life. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association. • Nadeau, K. G. (1994). Survival guide for college students with ADD or LD. Washington, DC: Magination Press.*May be a useful resource for our students, especially the section on ―Helping Yourself.‖
  42. 42. • Nathan, R. (2005). My freshman year. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. • O’Conner, P. T. (2003). Woe is I: The grammarphobe’s guide too better English in plain English, revised edition. New York: Riverhead Books. *My favorite grammar book, easy to read. • Quinn, P. O. (1994). ADD and the college student: A guide for high school and college students with attention deficit disorder. Washington, DC: Magination Press. *Good discussion of accommodations and legal rights. • Roberts, C. M. (2004). The dissertation journey. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
  43. 43. • Szuchman, L. T., & Thomlinson, B. (2008). Writing with style: APA style for social work, 3rd ed. Belmont, CA: Thomson Brooks/Cole. * A good workbook to help students with APA and sections of the thesis. • web address where you can go to sign up for a free bridge line for online groups with your advisees •
  44. 44. • Purdue OWL (Online Writing Lab) at has lots of helpful print able handouts such as – Social Work Literature Review Guidelines – Transitions and Transitional Devices – Creating a Thesis Statement – Proofreading Your Writing – Higher Order Concerns (HOCs) and Lower Order Concerns (LOCs)