Bush Faculty Development Committee
Susan Bies, Nola Bormann, Gary Earl, Andy Eastwood, Sherry Fienstein, Joe Pagone, and Harriet Scott attended the February Collaboration Conference "Engaged in Learning: Building Student Responsibility Through Active Learning" in Bloomington, MN, Feb 15-16, 2001. Following are some reflections by Sherry and Nola.
From Sherry Feinstein
The Collaboration for the Advancement
of College Teaching and Learning Conference held in Minneapolis, February
15-16 focused on establishing student responsibility through active learning.
I found the highlight of the conference to be the keynote and closing speakers.
Dr. James A. Anderson from North Carolina State University spoke on creating
the ideal undergraduate experience. Implementing Best Research, Best Practice,
and Best Models is key to the success of the college. In this endeavor
of enhancing the undergraduate experience he believes that inquiry incorporated
into all disciplines is a key component.
From Nola Bormann
As a relatively new faculty member I am interested in learning new techniques and approaches to foster student learning and critical thinking skills. With that goal in mind, I attended the 2001 winter conference focusing on building student responsibility through active learning.
The conference began with a keynote address "Articulating and Implementing the Ideal Undergraduate Experience" by James Anderson, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Affairs at North Carolina State University. Based on a learning program implemented at NCSU as well as successful programs at other universities, James Anderson summarized basic criteria that must be present to develop a successful student-centered, outcome-based model of student learning. Two major criteria that must be present in a successful program include clearly defined, measurable outcomes and early application. To have a significant effect, the program must begin at the point of first contact with a student. For example, first-year students in the program at NCSU live in an academic living center that mimics the class environment with tutors and faculty offices present in the center. Students who live at this academic living center see their advisors more than 40 times a year rather than the 1.4 times a year for the average student residing in a regular dorm. James Anderson concluded his address by emphasizing that universities should prepare students for the realities of the 21st century. Employer surveys indicate that while many graduates have broad academic knowledge, they fall short in other areas including writing ability, problem-solving abilities and the ability to work with people.
Individual sessions emphasized service-learning and active-learning techniques that enhance student learning. The LiNCs program, designed by Dr. LaDona Tornabene for her health education class at UMD, enables students to get hands-on experience in an area of health program planning by having students work on projects in area businesses for 2-3 hours a week. Other sessions highlighted specific techniques (i.e. case-learning: use of real-world situations with the teacher acting as a discussion facilitator; small group discussions instead of lecturing; short reflective writing assignments to encourage critical thinking, etc.) and changes required to actively involve students. A general theme that ran through many of the sessions is that all active-learning techniques require a change in the balance of power (from an autocratic classroom to a more democratic one) and a change in instructional skills (from declarative explanations, listing of basic facts to a more responsive style involving questioning and discussion). I also attended a grant writing workshop presented by Bill Campbell, Director of Grants and Research at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. This workshop focused on Department of Education grants, but emphasized basic principles that apply to any grant source. Basic principles of good grant writing include knowing your audience and writing to it. Successful grants make it as easy as possible for the reader. Readers have several proposals to read in a limited amount of time. All requests for proposals should have a scoresheet. Use this scoresheet or outline provided by the funding source to write your narrative. In addition, keep in mind that proposal writing is different than scholarly writing – redundancy is not always bad in a grant proposal! Put all appropriate information in each section even if this information was included in a previous section. Bill Campbell also summarized the top ten ways to blow a grant proposal. (If anyone would like a copy of this list, feel free to contact me.)
Closing Plenary Session
The closing address by Alexander Astin from UCLA highlighted the value of active learning as demonstrated by recent research studies. Based on yearly surveys of freshman classes, there has been a steady decline since 1966 in the amount of student studying, class attendance, student enthusiasm with classes, and the amount of student participation in political affairs. One contrary trend is that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of freshman volunteering in the last decade. A basic conclusion from these studies is that the key to developing student talents to their fullest requires getting students involved and actively engaged in the learning process. An effective way to increase student engagement is to incorporate service-learning opportunities. In comparison with students in traditional classes, a greater percentage of students in service-learning courses actively participated in discussions with class members and with their professor. Service-learning courses lead to outcomes we should be trying to enhance in our students, including increased communication skills, problem-solving skills, teamwork and leadership skills. In particular, teamwork and leadership are two qualities that employers indicate recent college graduates are often lacking. Service-learning activities enable students to leave the boundaries of the classroom walls, apply what they have learned and acquire essential skills needed to meet challenges in the 21st century.
I not only gained many new teaching strategies from the organized sessions, but I also got many ideas from informal conversations with other conference attendees. As a bonus, I was also able to get to know some other Augie faculty from other departments better! Devoting two days to attending this conference gave me an opportunity to focus on effective teaching strategies and changes I can make in my own courses to enhance student learning.
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New in the Faculty Resource Collection – Located in Ole's Oasis in Mikkelsen Library There are More on The Way – Watch for Details
Teaching Contemporary Theory to Undergraduates, Sadoff and Cain, eds., PN86.T43 1994
Teaching Literature and Other Arts, Barricelli, et al., NX280.T417 1990
Service Matters: The Engaged Campus, Caron, ed., LC220.5.S46 1999