Student success initiative derived from self-help book

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Faculty worry 4DX subtracts from time spent with students.

By Bleah B. Patterson

bpatterson13@student.alamo.edu 

The district has trained 200 faculty and staff members across the five Alamo Colleges for implementation of FranklinCovey’s “4 Disciplines of Execution,” or 4DX.

Through weekly team building and planning sessions, 190 teams span district offices and the colleges.

During the spring, the district began 4DX, an initiative requiring staff and faculty districtwide to undergo training and create progress boards for each unit.

The cost for training was $6,500, said Linda Boyer-Owens, associate vice chancellor of human resources and organizational development, who leads the district’s 4DX program.

Each unit is required to collaborate to construct a goal for the department, ultimately helping the district achieve its “wildly important goal.”

The wildly important goal, or WIG, is the first of “Four Disciplines of Execution,” defined in the self-help book of the same name authored by Sean Covey, son of Stephen Covey who authored “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

To increase degrees and certificates from 6,300 to 7,000 by fall 2015 is the college district’s chosen WIG. “Sub-WIGS,” determined by the district are increasing the fall to fall persistence rate, or measure of returning students from the previous fall, from 60 percent to 67 percent by August.

Another sub-WIG calls for increasing course-based success from 77 percent to 80 percent by January.

Boyer-Owens said, “We have a very student success-centered goal.”

She continued saying, “The model is from the group up, beginning with employees. That’s the really unique thing about this program. The district has given them their WIG and now they get to choose, department by department, how to make that happen.”

The second discipline of execution is to “define lead measures,” or “deciding what creates success. That means finding out what leads to degrees,” Boyer-Owens said.

“It’s one thing to plan great things, but it’s another thing to do them. This plan is training us how to execute those plans and see results,” she said.

“A compelling score board,” is the third discipline. Often used in a corporate settings, Boyer-Owens said, each team will create a board of accountability.

“When a team picks their goal, they’ll create a compelling board and keep track of their success weekly. After 12 weeks, according to the disciplines, they’ll have successfully made their goal a reality and can take down the boards,” she said.

The weekly meeting is the fourth and final discipline. Boyer-Owens said the meetings are ideally 15-20 minutes.

The success of 4DX hinges on accountability, and weekly meetings serve as an opportunity for unit members to be accountable.

“However, in the beginning we expect the meetings to take longer as the teams get into the groove,” she said.

Mike Burton, English and reading and education chair, said his department is behind the district curve.

“I just did my accountability training to use the online system last week,” he said. “And we didn’t have enough personnel over the summer to start training team leaders so we’re just beginning to start the process.”

“I’m not sure it’s effective for us,” Burton said. “I mean, for people who actually spend everyday with students. It keeps us occupied, but it keeps us from students.

“From what I can tell it works really well in industries. The marketing shows 4DX is clearly a great tool for corporations, but here it’s just a bit of a distraction.”

Burton said his department plans three teams once the leaders have access to the 4DX online curriculum. The teams have already begun working on “small scale charts.”

“I think it’s something the district is putting a lot of emphasis on,” he said. “Resistance is futile.”

Department chairs and coordinators are expected to report their weekly unit meetings to college administrators and progress presentations are made at board meetings.

Team leaders are required to enter the results of weekly meetings on a website operated by FranklinCovey.

Mathematics and computer science Chair Said Fariabi said he hasn’t heard any complaints, and his faculty members enjoy the weekly meetings.

“They’re a chance for us to talk about what’s going on in the classrooms. Our goal is to interact with five students a week – we do a lot more than that – but we like talking about the experiences faculty have during those interactions,” Fariabi said.

The office of student life also questions the programs necessity.

Carrie Hernandez, senior specialist in the office of student life, said student life has a Marvel Comics superhero-themed progress board.

“Over here, we think it’s great, but we also think that we do it all the time,” she said.

Hernandez said student life’s goal is to engage 90 percent of all students on campus on a weekly basis.

This means making a point of greeting students and interacting with students they see in passing on campus.

“We get to meet a lot of students. I’ve been here for 30 years and I see it everyday. Now we just have charts and more paperwork to keep us busy and take up more of our time,” she said.

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