Jan Marie Traynor

The end of the semester

Blog Post created by Jan Marie Traynor on Dec 21, 2010

One event that we added to our end of the semester activities is the "Design Review". It started when outcomes assessment became a focus on our campus. While some departments embedded test questions into final exams for their outcomes assessment I was not comfortable with that. I wanted a way to have our student learning assessed that was truer to what we ask of them - and a large part of that is their ability to demonstrate what they have learned by doing, by creating, by building something.


The design review works like this: students in Design and Planning complete a residential design project and develop storyboards illustrating their project. I invite professional landscape designers, landscape architects and design/build professionals to come to our design review session which is usually held in the early evening. The reviewers are provided with the criteria and design project information which the students worked with. I also bring lots of food. Our students set up their storyboards around the classroom and the professionals move from student to student either individually or in teams of two or three. Each student gets the chance to "present" their work in a less intimidating and more intimate setting and also gets feedback from 5 - 10 different professionals during the event which typically lasts about 2 hours. There is a chance for all to take breaks and get something to eat, there is lots of mingling and networking and my students often tell me that it is the single best thing they did in college - high praise indeed.


I also ask the design professional to complete a simple survey at the end of the evening which asks them to tell me how well I did my job - in other words - how well did the students learn what they need to know as professional designers - this is the outcomes assessment component. I get great feedback that has helped me be a better teacher.


I think there are several lessons here - but maybe the best is that, as teachers of agriculture, we should embrace the professionals and encourage them to interact with our programs and with our students. I know that, for new teachers, the thought of asking a farmer, or veterinarian, or greenhouse owner to help may be intimidating. Start by introducing yourself - especially if you are new to the community. Get them involved in your advisory committee, ask about field trip opportunities or if they would come to do a guest lecture to your class. Maybe even ask them to come at the end of the school year to see and review student projects. Your program will be stronger for it and your students will gain so much from these interactions.