Monday, June 10, 2019

A professional editor -- I don't need no stinkin' professional editor!

Have you ever heard yourself saying that? You are a good writer, right? You don't need a professional editor, do you? Well, I am here to tell you that we can all benefit from the work of a good editor. A good editor makes you sound smarter. A good editor understands that the work is your work, not his/hers, and strives to make your work better. A good editor will understand your vision of the work, the essential storyline, and the proposed audience. A good editor will ensure your work is seen for the brilliant work it is, not for the typos, problems with flow, grammatical errors, plot drops, or missing punctuation.

As you can tell, at MEREA we recommend you engage a professional editor. However, we know that sometimes you simply can't afford a professional editor. So what to do then? One of the greatest challenges in writing is ensuring that what you meant to write is what you actually wrote. Human nature leads us to read our own work with blinders on. So, how do we overcome that propensity?

Here are six tricks to help you carefully edit your own work:

1. Focus on cutting your text 30%. I know, I know . . . that sounds like a LOT! But authors often over-write or rely on words like "that" and "the" which, when removed, smooth the flow of the text. Look for unnecessary paragraphs, asides that don't contribute strongly to the storyline, and tangential comments in dialogue you originally thought were clever but now realize were not. Delete all duplications.

2. Set your work aside for a significant period of time (two weeks or more), then go back to it for a read through. This strategy tricks your brain into paying more attention to the words. When you are reading your work without anticipating what the next words should be, you will recognize errors in what the next words are.

3. Read whole sections of your work backwards. You will be surprised how many errors show up when you read backwards.

4. Read your work out loud. You'll quickly hear stilted language and redundancies.

5. Run Spellcheck and carefully decide on each proposed edit.

6. Run an online, free grammar check software like Grammarly and carefully decide on each proposed edit.

Good luck with your next writing project!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

REU Evaluation: Determining what works!

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has a wonderful program which provides funding to research institutions so that undergraduate students can receive educational opportunities directly conducting research. The funding program is titled Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs). The REUs provide valuable hands-on learning opportunities for future scientists. 

As scientists, faculty involved in REUs want to know which components of the experience function at capacity, as well as where improvement efforts should be focused. MEREA Consulting has developed an effective evaluation process for REU awards. This process provides formative and summative results intended to improve the research experiences. We believe front-loading an effective evaluation system provides timely program monitoring. Timely program monitoring yields appropriate adjustments that can maximize the REU experience for the participants, leading to achievement of the NSF goal – more participation in science!

Below is an outline of the evaluation report format we use:

Program Background — Title of REU program, number of participants, dates of program, where participants lodged, where participants worked, overview of research projects, and overview of project faculty.

Evaluation Components — Formative (obtain feedback regarding quality of current program), summative (inform next program), pre- and post-program self-evaluative process measuring changes in skill and knowledge as a result of program experience, evaluation questions for participant (to include, but not limited to, extent of increase in skills, extent of increase in knowledge, program experience satisfaction, research experience satisfaction, faculty knowledge satisfaction, faculty pedagogy satisfaction, lodging satisfaction, meals satisfaction, transportation satisfaction, and suggested program changes)

Evaluation Methods — Electronic survey emailed to participants prior to arrival at program facility and after program conclusion, survey hosted on SALG (Student Assessment of their Learning Goals), pre-program analysis will be provided electronically to program coordinator within 3 weeks of the beginning of program, post-program analysis will be provided within 3 weeks of the conclusion of program.

Data Analysis — Graphs of all questions for participants by percentage using Likert Scales, along with anonymous comment highlights of all questions for participants.

Ancillary Information — Executive summary, list of participants with contact information, list of faculty, copies of the pre- and post-surveys, overview of participant projects (including titles, authors, mentors, and brief descriptions).

Cost — The full evaluation services are provided at 4.5% of annual award.

Additional Services — Additional customized evaluation methods are available. Please contact us with details of your request for a quote.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Evaluation Works!

As the director of licensure for the Public Education Department of the State of New Mexico, I knew I had accepted a huge responsibility. I was responsible for serving every public school district and every public school in the state. Superintendents and principals depend on having appropriately licensed teachers in every classroom to ensure that learning at the appropriate pace occurs. For superintendents and principals, having a licensed teacher is a must! My responsibility was to support these superintendents and principals with their challenging, yet rewarding job.

When I accepted this responsibility, it took the Professional Licensure Bureau 12 weeks to issue a license – from the time the application was received until the license was viewable on the state website. As a life-long educator, I knew this was not acceptable. The students, teachers, and administrators in New Mexico schools deserved better. As an experienced teacher, coach, and administrator, I knew that the problem was a systems issue. A systems issue that had to be fixed. New Mexico students, teachers, and administrators were depending on it. I knew that we needed to evaluate our internal systems at the Professional Licensure Bureau. I knew that we needed to evaluate what was working and what was not.

Fortunately, I had a dedicated staff of 10 individuals who were willing to embark on this evaluation journey. I said at the beginning of our efforts that the evaluation of our daily work would be hard but it would be rewarding. I said that, if we stayed the course, we would like the results and New Mexico schools would benefit. Through our evaluation process and constant monitoring and adjustment, that dedicated staff cut the time in issuing licenses from 12 weeks to one week! 

Who was the winner for implementing this evaluation effort? New Mexico students, teachers, and administrators. Evaluation works!

Phil Baca

Thursday, March 9, 2017

I am an Educator Hero! I am responsible for Your learning, and Yours, and Yours . . . .

Today I will be responsible for the learning of 163 twelve-year-old minds and bodies that walk through my classroom door and for the health, safety, and welfare of 532 students that attend my school! Piece of cake, I got this, I am prepared. These are the thoughts that run through my mind.
I have prepared a variety of exciting and engaging learning activities. My students will love this class, it will be what they look forward to every day. Then I hear some of the student responses - I’m Scared! There is nothing to be afraid of here at school. This is a safe place. No one gets beat up at school. Don’t be afraid, focus on learning, it is important. I’m hungry! There is no food at home. Didn’t you eat breakfast? Don’t be hungry, focus on learning, it is important. I’m sleepy! Didn’t you sleep last night, you need to get a good night’s rest. Don’t think about being sleepy, focus on learning, it is important.  I can’t be his partner; he’s dirty and he smells! He has to have a partner, he needs you and he wears the best and cleanest clothes he has. Don’t think about him being dirty, focus on learning, it is important. I have no friends! What do you mean? Everyone likes you. Don’t think about it, focus on learning, it is important.  I can’t concentrate, my dad left, now it’s just me, my brothers and sisters, and my mom! I am so sorry your dad is gone, it will be alright, don’t think about it, focus on learning, it is important.

These are real conversations that occur every day, in every classroom, in every school. These perceptions that students share with their teachers and principals are their reality, and as educators these realities must be confronted and solved before real learning can occur. The educators that accept this charge are heroes! Let’s not even think what statistics would be like if our society didn’t have the educator heroes performing their very important role. Instead let’s focus on how our educator heroes succeed in the face of these challenges. In good schools, teachers, students, parents, administrators, and support staff all accept their respective role as vital to the success of the learning community. The learning community is big, it is important, and it requires engaged participants at every level. No member of the learning community is on their own, they all feel the support of the community. The learning community is collaboration at its finest! To educator heroes across America – Thank You! You got this!

 -- Phil Baca

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Acknowledge Excellent Instruction

As instructional leaders we encourage, train, model, and strive for excellent instruction as measured by student engagement and student learning. Why is it then that we do not publicly acknowledge that excellent instruction as measured by student engagement and student learning? We recognize excellent instruction when we see it in our walk-through observations. We are in awe of excellent instruction when we engage in the formal evaluation process. Yet, in both cases, we share the excellent instruction, the kind of learning-focused instruction we want for all students, only with the teacher that demonstrated excellence. That makes no sense! After all, that teacher knows they are proving excellent instruction as measured by student engagement and student learning. They know, because as professionals they have worked tirelessly to get to that point, and even so most likely they are not satisfied and will continue to fine-tune their craft.

As instructional leaders we need to share excellent instruction with the teacher next door, all grade level teams, all content area teams, our learning community, our fellow instructional leaders, our supervisors, and definitely with the public. We need to shout it from the rooftops! We must toot the horn of our colleagues, toot the horn of our supervisors, and yes, when necessary, even toot our own horn. We cannot fear being singled out for being excellent, nor can we fear the organizational cultural consequences of acknowledging excellent instruction that exist today. We cannot concern ourselves with who’s feelings may be hurt because they were not acknowledged. We must take the leap of acknowledging excellent instruction so that excellence is highly sought after, is worked hard for, is repeated, and – before long – is the norm.

As instructional leaders we love nothing better than to acknowledge excellence achieved by our students. We tell everyone willing to lend an ear when a student of ours accomplishes something great. We do this because of pride. As proud professionals we must acknowledge and share excellent instruction as measured by student engagement and student learning. Excellent instruction happens consistently, it happens every day, in every school.

As instructional leaders we must begin to embrace our professional need to acknowledge excellent instruction. We must practice and perfect our system for doing so. We must get comfortable with singling out the excellent teachers. Only then will excellent instruction become the norm – and wouldn’t that be great?