Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Principles of Academic Success and Mentorship: An Interview with Saundra McGuire

Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Principles of Academic Success and Mentorship: An Interview with Saundra McGuire

Article excerpt

Dr. Saundra McGuire is Assistant Vice Chancellor for Learning and Teaching and professor of chemistry at Louisiana State University (LSU) where she has actively worked with university faculty and students to engage them in the proficiency of learning theory within the study of the sciences and other disciplines. Prior to her position at LSU Dr. McGuire held faculty positions at the University of Tennessee, Alabama A&M University, and Cornell University, where she received the 1991 Clark Distinguished Teaching Award and served as director of the Center for Learning and Teaching and senior lecturer in the Department of Chemistry. Among her numerous awards, the most recent include being named a 2008 Distinguished Alumna by the Department of Chemistry at Southern University; the 2007 Diversity Award from the Council on Chemical Research; and the 2006 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring, awarded in a White House Oval Office Ceremony. McGuire was also the recipient of the 2005 National Service Award and the 2002 Dr. Henry C. McBay Outstanding Chemistry Teacher Award from the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers.

Kenyatta Y. Dawson (K.Y.D): Your chapter, "Authoritarian Holistic Education: Efficient and Effective," in Methods and Techniques of Holistic Education (1985) focuses on holistic education, educating the whole person to improve both visual and metacognitive learning. The Center for Academic Success at Louisiana State University not only educates the whole person but also the community by educating faculty and advisors to become more proficient educators. What are some of the important variables you have come across when educating faculty and administrators about learning assistance?

Saundra McGuire (S.M.): That is interesting because I had to make that transition to educating the whole person myself. When I came to LSU from Cornell University, I did not know most of the things that I know now about teaching students how to learn. I really credit my colleagues, specifically Sarah Baird, whom I acknowledged at the National College Learning Center Association (NCLCA) conference, with introducing me to a lot of the strategies of learning assistance professionals.

Faculty, advisors, and administrators need to recognize tìiat the behaviors of students, when it comes to their learning behaviors, are often not due to indifference. It has much more to do with their past learning experiences. Typically in high school, students have been in what I call memorization and regurgitation mode. The emphasis in high school, in terms of assessment, is frequently on standardized tests. High school instructors have to make sure they "drill and kill" information because student test scores have an effect on their teaching careers. There are all sorts of negative consequences. As a result, most students have not had to do a lot of critical thinking and preparation prior to college.

Another important variable is helping faculty and professional staff to understand that we often cannot judge students' potential for success on their current behaviors. Many students are just being good scientists. They are using all the data points that they have accumulated in the past 12 years and are making predictions on their performance based on what had been true in the past. If we start from that premise, we are in a much better position to help students better understand themselves, their learning styles, and their personality and how these factors impact learning strategies.

From there we can introduce information like Bloom's taxonomy and give them strategies like the study cycle adapted from the Frank L. Christ (1997) method. We can give students specific strategies that they find easy to implement and that will yield immediate and dramatic returns. Once students start implementing these strategies, they become successful. …

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