A RECORD OF SUCCESS: PROFESSIONAL PROFILE AND PROJECT SNAPSHOTS
Hi, I’m Leonard Geddes, founder of The LearnWell Projects. This page shares a little bit about me and some of our exciting ongoing projects.
The LearnWell Projects’ partnerships are diverse, ranging from collaborating with institutions to develop comprehensive plans to enhance student learning and invigorate the teaching culture to improving the academic performance of specific groups such as student-athletes or first-generation students. Whether working with administrators, teachers, learning support professionals or directly with students, The LearnWell Projects employs an empathic design approach that consistently exceeds clients’ expectations.
Empathic-Design? View the short video below to see how the approach has solved systemic problems in the education field.
Once during an interview, I was asked to describe myself in one word. Observa-think-anator, I blurted out.
The team of interviewers tried to redirect me by saying I must use a real word. I knew at that moment that I would not take the job. What one word can define a human? How can someone else’s word define me? I thought.
The interaction described above reflects my life. The ability to think flexibly and imaginably, extending the bounds of possibility, has been a consistent professional (and personal) asset for me. I don’t have a defined skill set; rather, I have a distinct intrinsic perspective for which I’ve developed complementary skills.
As an Obsera-think-anator, I’m a skilled observer, an integrative thinker, and an emphatic designer with a history of churning out solutions to complex problems.
My professional assets are my:
- curiosity and keen observational skills,
- ability to cognitively balance broad spectrums of salient factors,
- resilient attitude toward complexity,
- unwavering belief in people, and
- codified method for generating high impact solutions.
These assets have produced synergistic solutions that have exceeded clients’ expectations and produced enduring results for institutions.
I founded The LearnWell Projects to help educators, institutions and communities solve problems. Like objects in a vehicle’s side mirror, solutions to problems are often closer than they seem. Partnering with organizations to find real solutions is intrinsically rewarding. Below are some of the projects that The LearnWell Projects is currently facilitating or have previously engineered.
Life is but a series of problems; living is the opportunity to solve them. Leonard Geddes
University of California at San Diego, 2017~Present
Headline: University Known for Breakthrough Research Seeks to Establish Cutting-Edge Learning Center
Project Summary: In this partnership with the Engaged Center for Learning + Teaching at one of the nation’s top ten research institutions, we’re developing the Triton Achievement Center, a pioneering academic center that simultaneously optimizes student thinking, maximizes academic performance, and equips graduates with requisite skills to lead in the knowledge economy.
Outcomes: Preliminary indicators are favorable.
Samford University, Birmingham, AL, 2016~Present
Headline: From Good to Great: A University Seeks to Make the Most Difficult Leap of All
Project Summary: The LearnWell Projects was contracted to help the institution develop an institutional Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) as required by its accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). The resulting project consists of a five-year, comprehensive plan for strengthening identified areas of student learning.
Samford is a strong institution that is seeking greatness. In less than a year, we developed an excellent solution to a problem worth solving. Samford’s QEP presents an integrative approach to enhancing student learning without unnecessarily burdening faculty with well-meaning, but often unnecessary and inauthentic assessments that are added on to the learning experience.
Level Up: Transformative Learning Through Powerful Assignments is an innovative initiative that emphasizes the critical role that faculty-created assignments can play in symbiotically strengthening student learning and pedagogy. Powerful Assignments (PAs) are empathically designed activities that amplify student learning outcomes by making the abstract components of learning visible and the outcomes concrete, measurable and meaningful.
Why focus on assignments? In addition to wanting to improve students’ thinking, learning and performance, Samford wanted to establish a professional development culture that unified faculty throughout its varied disciplines. Assignments were selected as the central mechanism for the QEP because they, perhaps like no other entity at faculty disposal, transcend academic content and domains.
Powerful Assignments are consistent with the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment’s (NILOA) effort to use assignments as a means of assessment. Their research suggests that, “The design of assignments is one of the most creative and consequential tasks that faculty undertake in their work as teachers, calling on knowledge of the field, their understanding of how students learn, and their expert judgement about the kinds of tasks that help students strengthen learning while also providing evidence of it.”
In the early stages of the partnership, we discovered that there were several missing pieces, unasked questions and absent processes. However, through training, consultations and trusting the iterative process, we developed an excellent solution that can help Samford move definitively closer to greatness. If successfully implemented, they’re on a clear path to greatness.
Samford’s Powerful Assignments are multi-impactful actions that are expected to produce the following six outcomes over the five-year period:
- Enhanced Student Learning– By making learning more visible, students will more effectively manage their learning and produce satisfactory products.
- Increased Range of Assignments – The broad applicability of the topic will produce a wide range of assignment types among and throughout the disciplines.
- Increased Institutional Exemplars – The completion of successful assignments will generate an ever-growing list of Powerful Assignments from which faculty from all disciplines can draw.
- Energized Faculty – Research suggests that students’ increased performance on authentic “tasks of value” are not only rewarding to students, but they also promote greater satisfaction among faculty.
- Institutional Transformation – The process of creating PAs among faculty and participating in PAs among students will establish a vibrant academic culture where learning is enriching and rewarding.
Status: The SACSCOC evaluation committee approved the QEP. The committee indicated that the plan is certain to become a future national model.
University of the Cumberlands (UC), Williamsburg, KY, 2014~Present
Headline: A Small College Solves a BIG Problem: A University Seeking a Solution to a Small Problem Discovers Answers to Many Others
Project Summary: The relationship began with the institution engaging in a series of “metacognitive testing” events. The measurable impact of these discrete actions evolved into a two-year consultancy that produced profound results, including a sharp rise in student performance, increased retention, an energized teaching culture, and new career possibilities for faculty members. This led to a year-long consulting relationship to develop a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) for the university’s accrediting body. The early success of this project inspired a collaborative student-athlete study hall program that produced unprecedented increases in academic performance among a previously low-performing population.
The seminal project Think for Tomorrow: Preparing for Tomorrow Today, is a metacognitive QEP that emphasizes a pedagogical approach that helps students access and judiciously deploy their thinking skills in ways that achieve defined learning outcomes. The QEP established and aligned outcomes between faculty and students, and developed clear links between the skills valued by the institution and those that are in highest demand in the knowledge economy. The SACSCOC committee approved the plan without conditions and deemed it a “dream QEP.” They also considered the plan’s design a national model.
Within the first semester of implementation, the QEP yielded impressive results across a variety of disciplines and faculty profiles. The success led to the training of student-peer mentors and most notably, a metacognitive-based student-athlete success program. This program has lifted its student-athletes’ academic performances to unprecedented levels of success.
The Pre and Post
Prior to our partnership, University of the Cumberlands produced significant quantities of sound data suggesting that it wasn’t maximizing its learning potential, and the situation was negatively impacting the academic culture and the institution’s numbers. This led to a series of well-intentioned actions that made some progress, but did not have the measurable impact the university desired. However, after discovering a surprising data-disconnect, unraveling a series of concomitant misinterpretations, and rectifying a string of negative consequences, UC has the appropriate lens through which to view its challenges, and it’s equipped on several fronts to provide an enhanced learning environment for students and a vibrant workplace for faculty. The success among early-adopters has already begun elevating faculty to institutional leadership and national distinction.
QEP Introductory Video
Louisiana State University, Shreveport, LA – 2014~Present
Headline: Institution Strikes Gold, but Nearly Throws it Away
Project Summary: After initially working with the institution on behalf of SACSCOC as a QEP evaluator, the school later partnered with The LearnWell Projects to help implement its plan. The QEP is a metacognitive project. Our relationship consists of trainings, resourcing and consultancy meetings.
Metacognition: Learning Through Engagement is a QEP that develops students into strategic thinkers and learners. The newly established Student Success Center has emerged as an institutional leader in working toward the QEP goals. The center has instituted a metacognitive tutoring program that is generating critical data, which is helping the university move beyond its service orientation to a solving orientation. In this data-rich environment, sources of student-learning challenges are being identified and learning problems are being solved.
The Pre and Post
The LSUS community has identified the proper research construct for the problems it wants to solve. However, problems during the early days of implementation hampered progress. The work we’ve been able to accomplish through the Student Success Center has been recognized and will become even more pronounced in their new, expanded facility. The director will be sharing his center’s story at the 2017 National College Learning Center Association’s annual meeting in San Antonio, TX.
Lenoir-Rhyne University, Hickory, NC, 1998 ~ 2015
Headline: Long Tenured Employee Finds Several Solutions Hidden in Plain Sight
Tenure Summary: Keen observational skills, demonstrated educational expertise, sound business acumen, and an ability to cultivate strong relationships enabled me to launch or upgrade a diverse portfolio of programs that exceeded expectations and were sustained over time.
Relevant Titles Under Which I Worked at LRU: Associate Dean of Students, Director of Co-Curricular Programs, Director of the Learning Commons, Director of Orientation Programs, Director of Homecoming and Family Weekend, Director of Multicultural Student Services
Teaching and Learning Solutions
- Created a metacognitive tutoring program that measurably enhanced the academic culture; presented the program’s framework at the 2013 National College Learning Center Association.
- Developed a metacognitive curriculum for first-year and transitioning college students; data suggested program improved student learning and performance.
- Established a student-athlete study hall program that generated unprecedented academic success in the first year; the success was sustained over a five-year period.
- Reconstituted and managed university convocation program; new program operationalized core tenets of the institution’s mission, vision and values in systemic and measurable ways.
Student Affairs/Life Solutions
- Established a multicultural department that produced the university’s first black Greek organization, instituted a regional minority-focused conference.
- Dramatically upgraded the university’s orientation program, improving its participation rate from 60% to 98% the first year and scoring satisfaction rates above 90% from students, faculty and administrators. These numbers were sustained over a six-year term.
- Enhanced Family Weekend and Homecoming Events. Both experiences realized 200% gains in participation in the first year.
The range of positions and roles I enjoyed at Lenoir-Rhyne University afforded me numerous opportunities to respond to a variety of challenges. Though a long-time employee of LRU, I consistently observed situations anew. My ability to look with an empathic mind, and my unwavering commitment to an integrative approach, allowed me to provide solutions that not only solved problems but extended the scope of possibility.
Education and Affiliate Organizations
- M. A. (Agency Counseling, consulting concentration), Lenoir-Rhyne College, Hickory, NC, 2006
- B. A. (Business Administration, marketing concentration), Lenoir-Rhyne College, Hickory, NC, 1998
- SACSCOC, Approved Evaluator
- National Center for Developmental Education, Faculty Fellow
- National College Learning Center Association
- College Reading and Learning Association