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Departmental Partnering Between Academics & Military Staff
St John's Military School
Andy England firstname.lastname@example.org
Noticing an unacceptable amount of uncompleted homework and a need to improve internal communications between the academic faculty (homework assigners) and the military staff (homework supporters), we implemented a series of steps designed to improve departmental information sharing, encourage accountability among cadets, and increase the amount of completed work and its quality.
The base element is each instructor sharing a list of their homework assignments on a shared drive, which is accessible to the military staff and cadet academics officers. After reviewing this document, the staff is able to address work requirements with cadets, assist as needed, and ensure that work is done in a timely manner. Additionally, the military staff is able to provide cadets with assistance in organizing their approach to completing immediate work requirements v. those with a more long range completion date. We have found this invaluable in dealing with some cadets coming to us with little or no understanding of how to organize and complete school work.
Military staff members attend weekly faculty meetings and visa versa. These meetings provide the opportunity to identify students routinely struggling with on-time work, and the establishment of positive plans of action to address them. Additionally, the teaching faculty are given the opportunity to fully comprehend the amount of after school activities that cadets are involved in. This has resulted in a higher level of dedication from the military staff regarding academic performance.
The academic department heads and senior military personnel meet quarterly to assess the effectiveness of these measures and address needed improvements. The result has been a staff wide focus on academic performance, positive development of student skills pertaining to the prioritization, organization, and completion of work, and higher GPA performance driven by a decrease in zero grades for unfinished work.
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New Mexico Military Institute
Section 1 Overview
Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one
not only power of concentration but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.
In a very significant way, these words by Martin Luther King resonate with the role of academics at a military school. However, this chapter is not simply about academics. Its focus is broader; it is about learning of which academics is a part for inherent in that concept can be found the underlying reason if not foundation for the military school. This chapter therefore is written to be a bellwether in comprehending why we must have military schools and learning must be a part. Learning, after all, has the power to "transform today's promising ideas into tomorrow's powerful outcomes." It does so because it entails knowledge through education of the mind, skills through training of the body, and experience with which to exercise both upon which character and leadership emerge. As such learning is the lynchpin of the essential and fundamental systems upon which every school and learning enterprise is founded and functions. Those systems derive their purpose and direction from the institutions' vision and mission development through a strategic planning organization and process and identified in its Strategic Plan. The systems include:
1) The Learning System that encompasses what is to be learned and the associated pedagogy - in brief the curriculum.
2) The Support System which entails all the structures, organizations, resources and processes to enable the learning to take place. Admissions, food services and facilities are a few examples.
3) The Accountability System centered on the school's vision and mission which includes the organization and process for assessing the level of student learning in terms of learning outcomes and those for evaluating the support programs in terms of goals and objectives centered within the Strategic Plan.
The purpose of this chapter is to provide insights into the learning system and how it is central to answering "the why" of a military school. It is to pose some key questions and suggest the answers. The components of the two other systems are treated elsewhere in this work.
Question 1: What is the relationship of Learning to the Military School? The Essential Elements
In writing about why military schools are critical in the formation of character and leadership, Dr. Kelly C. Jordan quotes Colonel Robert S. Goss, Superintendent of the New Mexico Military School. He quotes:
"Let it be clearly understood that if this is not a military school it is nothing. By this is meant not only the outward forms and visible signs of military government - the drills and parade - its tinsel and glare, but what is of more importance, the indoor government - the inner, private life, manners and habits of the cadet, the close, constant, kindly supervision over the cadet in every respect - checking him here, urging him there - in the privacy of his room , at his meals, in recitation or at drill - on duty - off duty - at work or play - is the spirit and purpose of [a] military school."
Jordan continues by pointing out "this quotation...captures beautifully the subtle, timeless, potent and effective process of formation and development that occurs within military schools... the combination of military structure and educational focus."
President John Kennedy put it this way, "Leadership and Learning are indispensable to each other."
As one begins their tenure at a military school, the central and enduring question that they must always ask: Is leadership and learning central to the mission of this school that I now head? If it is, they must know that success is only possible if these two concepts, are effectively and productively related. To relate that to what Colonel Goss said, I would put it this way:
"If we do not inspire in the cadet a passion to lead and learn by inquiring, discovering, and understanding the world within us and around us, we do nothing and our academy, it is nothing."
That is the central challenge to the new President, Chief Academic Officer, Commandant, Headmaster or Principal. Answering the challenge is where they must start.
Question 2: How Do We Get Started?
The military school is first and foremost a learning enterprise dedicated to preparing the graduates for success at the next step of their development. It must provide a solid foundation in learning upon which to design a career, not just to make a living, but more importantly a life. Because the demographics of our student bodies are diverse in age, background, preparation, interest and commitment, it is not about defining for them a specific future, but it is about discerning for them the pathway to that future.
The critical task for the leader for this to occur requires the designing, development and implementation of the curriculum, the mortar that holds every academic institution together. It entails both content and methodology. The origins and sustainability of the curriculum are found within the school's mission statement which for the military school is leadership. It is that emphasis on leadership that distinguishes the military school from the many other educational institutions at all levels in the United States. That curriculum must be built on two foundational and enduring principles of learning. 1) a liberal education, and 2) through the development of the whole person - mind, body, and soul/character.
The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) defines Liberal Education as "an approach to learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity and change. This approach emphasizes broad knowledge of the wider world (e.g. science, culture and society) as well as in depth achievement in a specific field of interest." The Association points out "reflecting the traditions of American higher education since the founding, the term 'liberal education' headlines the kinds of learning needed for a free society and for the full development of human talent, liberal education has always been this nation's signature educational tradition...(building) on its core values: expanding horizons, building understanding of the wider world, honing analytical and communication skills and fostering responsibilities beyond self."
While the focus of these statements deals with colleges and universities, the guidelines and promise of a liberal education that integrates liberal arts (music, language, psychology, the arts, etc.) with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) are applicable to primary, secondary and post-secondary levels of learning.
Recognizing the centrality of leadership, the second organizing principle that encompasses the curriculum content of a military school is rooted in the "whole person" concept - development of the mind, body, and soul or character. The tenets of such curriculum are not new; in fact, they date back to the ancient Greek city-states of Athens and Sparta. To develop the "whole person," the military learning model integrates two worlds which many think of as the antithesis of one another - the military and the intellectual or academic. John Lovell explores these two worlds and their relationship in his book, Neither Athens Nor Sparta?. The city-state of Athens valued learning, education, inquiry, the development of the mind, the arts; its citizens were to be learned. Athenian democracy required it. The city-state of Sparta, on the other hand, valued the martial arts, discipline, courage, character, honor, the development of the body; its citizens were to be warriors. The learning model of a military school integrates the values of Athens and Sparta into a single curriculum translated into a hierarchy of learning outcomes. The learning outcomes link those aspects of the curriculum that are the responsibility of the Dean (mind), the Athletic Director (body), and the Commandant (leadership/character).
Question 3: How can You Sustain the Effort? Benchmarking Attributes
There are certain attributes, I would say benchmarks that must be constantly assessed and evaluated if success is to be sustained. When these are not met, the entire institution will suffer. These include:
A curriculum that is relevant real world oriented focusing on the fundamentals and one that advances learning in core disciplines in the liberal arts and STEM inculcated with a value system upon which character and leadership can be founded.
A pedagogy that recognizes that all students do not learn the same subjects, the same way in the same time frame and effectively blends personal one on one contact between the teacher and the student with state of the art educational technology
A highly qualified faculty that can address the needs of all students regardless of achievement level or socioeconomic position
A learning environment that is safe, secure, healthy and drug free
Necessary resources and facilities sufficiently maintained and upgraded
Partnerships with all sectors of the community and the school's parents, alumni and other shareholders
Continuous review of the interface and integration of the learning, support and accountability systems - their organizations and processes
An established cooperative, coordinated, consensus oriented, and mission driven decision environment especially between the Dean and the Commandant
In the benchmarking of these attributes, the leader must be attentive to the shortcomings present in much of America's education today. These include: lack of creativity, innovations, self-discipline, and organization; in ability to work as a team; shortfalls in communication competencies, analytical reasoning, the soft skills, and the importance of civic service; and above all the lack of emphasis on integrity and values. It is these shortcomings that must not exist at a military school, and the academic leadership must be responsible to guarantee that.
Question 4: What is the Future:
I always liked Yogi Berra's answer to this question when he opined the future ain't what it used to be. These words offer us a caution. Education in America for the past twenty years has been undergoing a significant and long lasting transformation. It is nothing less than the development of a new paradigm of learning that impacts every aspect of a school's organizations and processes. It has been precipitated by what some have termed the crisis in education and resulted in the development of a series of alternatives to how our youth are educated. The growth and diversity of charter schools, expansion of home schooling, and online schools are a few examples. It is not within the scope of this chapter to discuss these. However, it is important that the new academic leader understand the parameters of this new paradigm for the tenets may challenge some of the major structured aspects of the military school.
I like to think of this transformation in learning occurring in two phases. A "First Phase" to design a new paradigm for learning is not new. It actually dates to before the beginning of this century with an emphasis on the learner rather than the instructor and on learning assessment through the development and identification of learning outcomes. Some would argue this transformation began with a small Catholic nursing school in Milwaukee. Realizing it was no longer meeting the needs of the medical institutions in Milwaukee, and facing declining enrollment, Alverno College took a drastic step by developing an approach to learning focused on an ability-based curriculum and what it termed an "assessment-as-learning approach to education". The centerpiece of the approach requires students to master eight core abilities that include communication analysis, problem-solving, valuing in decision-making, social interaction, developing a global perspective, effective citizenship, and aesthetic engagement.
Nationally, the major catalyst of this first phase was the Association of American Colleges and Universities, AACU, which in 2005 launched a decade-long initiative titled, "Liberal Education and America's Promise (LEAP)". In 2007 the publication, College Learning for the New Global Century (LEAP) appeared. The publication sets down the essential learning outcomes and guiding principles for America to compete globally. According to the AACU "The essential learning outcomes provide a new framework to guide students' cumulative progress from school through college". In 2008, they became formalized in the publication by the AACU of the Strategic Plan 2008-2012. The five goals that underlie all aspects of the effort include:
A guiding vision for liberal education that rejects a view that liberal education is more than students in the arts and science disciplines and that it is non-vocational
Intentional and integrative learning
Civic diversity and global engagement
Authentic evidence through advance assessment practices
The resulting essential learning outcomes to be realized by the application of knowledge, skills and responsibilities included:
Knowledge of human culture and the physical and natural world
Intellectual and practical skills
Personal and social responsibility
However, it is what I categorize as the "Second Phase" of the effort to transform learning that is new and that offers the greatest challenge in the years ahead to a military school. In part, this phase is a result of technology, which in a number of ways makes it possible. However, it is more than hardware, software, and the latest fad in educational technology. It is an overall and comprehensive approach, perspective, framework or paradigm of learning that challenges the way earlier generations learned. The new paradigm replaces the traditional pedagogy with concepts like "classroom without walls", "project-based learning", and "learning anytime, anyplace, 24/7". It argues that the school as it has been known will no longer be the "self-contained center of learning". Sir Ken Robinson, author and educator wrote,
"The current systems of education were developed in the 19th century to meet the needs of the Industrial Revolution, and it shows itself in two ways. One is in the organizational culture of education, which for the most part is very regimented. It's organized a bit like an assembly line. Children are divided into age groups, for example, as if the most important thing they have in common is their date of manufacture. Why? We don't do that in families or in the general community. It's done in schools for reasons of organizational efficiency, not for effective education. We divide each day up into 40-minute periods, for the same reason. And then the day is divided in to separate subjects. We have standardized testing at the end of it. It's very much like an industrial process, and it's not an accident, because our systems of mass education were developed in the 19th century to meet the needs of the new industrial economies and they were designed for efficiency, like other systems of mass production."
A recent analysis in The Economist summarized this new future "Now at least a resolution is underway. At its heart is the idea of moving from a 'one-size-fits-all' education to a more personalized approach with technology allowing each child to be taught at a different speed, in some cases by adoptive computer programs, in others by 'superstar' lecturers of one sort or another, while the job of classroom teachers moves form orator to coach..."
The challenge this approach poses to military schools across this nation is better understood by listing a series of contrasts between the old paradigm and the new.
Each of the new paradigm traits may challenge the traditional structure of a military school with its learning environment bounded by a highly regulated top-down, directed and mandated plan of the day. But, it would be incorrect to conclude that the two forms of learning are mutually exclusive or that the new paradigm should be completely rejected.
Rather, the vision, initiative, ingenuity and commitment of this generation of military school leaders will ultimately determine how the two paradigms can be effectively integrated into the military school curriculum (content and methodology). In accomplishing that not so easy task, they might well provide the model for all of education and learning. What a future that might be!
Question5: What Are Some Best Practices?
Having briefly looked at the future, we now return to the present to identify ten best practices among the many that, if implemented, might help us realize that future.
Insure the leadership uses contextual intelligence obtained by numerous interfaces with all constituents, parents, alumni, and local community.
Develop linkages with academic institutions and associations both nationally and internationally. This would include public and private schools at the primary, secondary and post-secondary levels and organizations such as AMCSUS and AACU.
Faculty should engage with the accrediting organizations, and the President/Superintendent and senior leadership must become familiar with the accreditation process.
Define roles for faculty and staff in shared governance.
Promote practices, committees, projects that force the interaction of the Commandant and Dean and their staffs focusing on the institutional learning outcomes and mission.
The Senior leadership, not just the Chief Academic Officer or Dean should attend academic conferences.
Support faculty professional development initiatives.
Promote new pedagogies especially all aspects of education technology.
Keep current with critical educational issues at the local, state, and national levels and how they impact your school.
Understand the academic learning factors that impact access, persistence and completion.
Conclusion - Leadership and Learning
This chapter asked five fundamental questions whose answers identified the essential elements of academics at a military school. However, in the overview, it was pointed out that the focus of the chapter was more comprehensive and inclusive than just looking at academics. The subject of the inquiry and the results encapsulating all five questions and thus the essential elements can be characterized this way.
The role of the military school is to meet the learning needs of our cadets with an exceptional learning model founded on the tenets of a liberal education that helps shape the whole person, ensuring that each graduate is prepared to succeed at their next level of learning and inevitably become a leader serving others in whatever sector of society they enter. Our role, then, is one of example, yet also it is to reach out and share that others might adopt best practices from what we do. In that effort, our graduates are often our best ambassadors. Contextual intelligence alerts us that this role is more important than ever in light of the challenges this nation and our graduates will face in the near and long term in a global society and economy. This role is our heritage! It must be our destiny!
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