Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Designing SUSTAIN-The questions

At the beginning of December 2011, a mixed group of community members, students and faculty got together for the third design meeting for the SUSTAIN launch. They created a sticky wall of questions that they are asking as part of SUSTAIN.

There questions fell in four categories and are presented here:

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Feedback from our National Science Foundation program officer

Here is the text of a letter that our NSF program officer gave us after visiting in Oct. 2011:


I wanted to share some observations and thoughts while they were still fresh in my mind and before I get distracted with the next objectives of my trip.  Please feel free to share these in toto or selectively with anyone you choose.  Also note that these observations are made in the role of your NSF program officer.

First let me state that I am impressed with both the scope of what you are trying to accomplish as well as your actual accomplishments.  You are trying to fundamentally change faculty perspectives, and this is a critical and poorly understood step in improving our educational system.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

We're not alone in these radical ideas of education

Sometimes I get the feeling that our vision for education is "off base."  It's rare, but it is always nice to hear others advocate for the same kinds of things.  Here is an example, compliments of Ruth Rominger:


An excerpt:
"To succeed in our fluid/agile world, we need to think less about defining/measuring a fixed content/curriculum, (less about worrying and playing defense), and more about creating some overarching patterns evidenced in the process of learning to learn. Not only does that make learning/life more fun, intellectual learning and affiliated capabilities are amped as the motivation is intrinsically driven by the pleasure of finding things out and by understanding wicked problems."
Four suggestions for what they call "detox"...1. Notice the unlikely; 2. Dream boldly; 3. Connect to people/info and ideas; and 4. Do what matters most. 

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

"If colleges want to justify the value of their degrees in the future, they better start creating learning environments where their students can be creative, try things out, and on occasion fail without being penalized. Where should they begin?"

"Don't Lecture Me" - articles on college learning today
Disruptive Innovations in the Classroom
Inquiry-based Learning for mathematics

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Community steps toward the Project Fair

On August 15, the faculty collaborators gathered together with community partners to essentially "learn by doing" a pseudo project fair. We only allowed ourselves about 30 minutes for the faculty to rotate to different tables in a kind of "speed dating format," with faculty asked to manage their own time.

We first describe to the community members that the SUSTAIN-SLO inititiave is really inside of a larger, 15 year effort of change. Through this effort, we have discovered that some types of projects are less suited to what we want to do.

We have found that projects can focus on the relationship between the community and the Cal Poly partners, or can focus on the transaction that needs to be completed.  In our experience, projects that have a focus on the transaction can lead to unintended consequences, such as students' and faculty members' attention on completing the project for a grade, rather than meeting the community agency's needs. This is what can often happen in traditional service learning.

We are seeking projects that focus on the long-term well-being of the relationship between participants. Some agencies have a simple need for arms and legs to get something done (a transaction) and these projects can be enabled by VolunteerSLO (http://slovolunteerworking.wordpress.com/ ) or other volunteer matching services.

After our pseudo project fair, we did an after action review and learned the following:

Community Partnerships
They called for a means to craft and scope projects that are the kind of relational projects that have a high overlap with our learning objectives. They also want to have a better understanding of the other agencies involved.

Faculty Partners
They recognized that the projects can serve as powerful learning tools for the material that the students are to lear. However, we need the time and space for faculty to understand the depth of projects enough to see into the layers of different disciplinary involvement. We expect this to be an iterative process of project scoping with potential community partners to tailor projects to meet the needs of all involved (students, community partners, faculty).

Suggestions: workshop with faculty and students; office hours with faculty to enable iterative project scoping; Pre-workshop communications; web-based information clearing house prior to project fair; making learning objectives clear.

Next steps: By September 1, the SUSTAIN group will send to the community members a project template that helps community members develop an appropriate project scope. The SUSTAIN folks will also create a means for all to see learning objectives and community agency "drafts" for the project fair. They will also identify and time and place for either a workshop or a kind of office hours for community members to iteratively and collaboratively scope their projects.

We will also set a date and venue for the project fair, which is likely to be ON CAMPUS and near the end of September.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Day 3 & Day 4: SOAR-discovering what we didn't account for

On days 3 and 4, we had no one come to the sessions. Nick and Nina heroically went out and found groups to talk to.  The good news is that roughly two of every three freshmen we speak with are interested in participating.  Of course, we don't know what this will translate into in terms of actuall "enrollment," but it seems that there is enough in the description that attracts students.

What we didn't account for was that we are not actually on the SOAR schedule for the students. Nick discovered that although students get a sheet of workshops, the formal SOAR agenda has every minutes "scheduled" for the students and the workshops are not actually on the schedule. The only way in which people show up to the workshop is if something went wrong in the timing of their formal schedule or if they are sufficiently bored by the formal activities that they abandon them and their SOAR leader happens to drag them to our workshop.

Also, of the 200 students who visit the campus each SOAR day, 100 are whisked away somewhere, so we only have a chance at the 100...again, only in the circumstances that something goes wrong in their formal schedule. 

Attempts at more visibility are turned down. Nick discovered that there is a morning "fair" where students learning about all the activities on campus. The SOAR people would not allow us to be there and set up an information booth. 

More to come.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Winter & Spring '12: Areas of opportunity & risk

Here is what we have in the way of commitments and partial commitments. The red areas represent uncertainty.  We can treat these as areas of opporutnity/risk.  Right now, a primary area of risk is that if we have 100 students, we may not be able to accommodate all course needs.  To compensate, we could:
1. Let go of the criteria that all courses be in the SUSTAIN "grouping".
consequences: Students are likely to be more and more fragmented in competing course formats. 
2. Create an elective 270/470 course that relates to the project.
consequences: There will be a handful of majors that do not have free electives, so will not be able to participate. 

Details of the Winter'12 and Spring'12 schedule

After meeting with the good folks in scheduling and registration, this is what we are looking at in terms of the winter and spring schedules for the SUSTAIN courses.

Notice the "Major orientation" listing.  This came about at Kathryn's suggestion. Many majors have freshmen courses that meet once per week and are 1-2 units.  This may not be needed for all majors, or may even be waived for some majors.

Day 2 of SOAR: Engineers!

New discoveries (for me):
SOAR is organized by college. Today we had about 30 engineers.

Today's group was markedly quieter and somehow exhausted at a visible level.  Groups continue to show up with absolutely no knowledge or context of what we are doing. 

Biggest challenge: communicating the message of what it is, answering questions, getting their input, debriefing their input in under 30 minutes.

Students' response: What would make the the experience worthwhile to them? 
potential to enhance employability; learning valuable skills in the "real world" (the most responses on this theme)
having fun, opportunity to travel
no lectures, meaningful projects
keeping on track to graduation

There seemed to be a high level of engagement from a subset
All students expressed intrigued when first hearing about it. There were several questions about the details. At the end, about 8-10 students remained interested and added their names our contact list. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Day 1 of SOAR

I'm happy to report that Day 1 "recruiting" gained us some new insights. Joy, Nick and I worked with a group of 15 students. 

The plan was to answer any questions for those who came, assuming that they came after reading about it. We were also going to use the time to do a "sticky wall" activity based on "What would make the 100-freshmen  learning initiative valuable to them?"

15 students came because their SOAR host "dragged them there."
We *thought* people would be self-selecting to come to our session based on the description we provided. We found instead that all students had been dragged there by their SOAR host, that none of them knew anything about SUSTAIN-SLO. 

All students were interested in the initiative after we described it
Each of the 15 students said they were interested in the 100-freshmen learning initiative when hearing a 2-minute description of what we are envisioning. 

Sticky wall results: What would make this a valuable experience?
relationships: The chance to make significant connections with students and professional connections
engaged learning: The opportunity for hands on learning and learning from others in the projects
meaningful activities:The potential to impact the disenfranchised
freedom from burdensome assessments: No tests. Some identified these as pressure inducing without yielding a real measure of what one knows

Suprise: Strong enthusiasm from upperclassmen 
The SOAR host spontaneously began advocating for the initiative, saying she felt this was an exciting way of learning and she thinks it will be a lot more engaging and meaningful than the "traditional" classes. 

What we learned and need to adjust (make it concrete; don't lose sight of sustainability):
1. Near the end, a student said "Is this real or just an idea?" When they discovered it was happening, and when it was happening, their questions were more focused.  We need to make clear that it is happening, when it is happening, when the application period is, how to get more information. 
2. The "sustainability" part keeps getting lost in the conversation.  We need to find a way to communicating this in non-politicizing language. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011


We have some great opportunities to get the "word out" for SUSTAIN:SLO.

We will have an information booth at all the SOAR session lunches in August so we can talk to parents and students about the learning initiative.

We will also run an information session during SOAR for students who want to learn more. I imagine that we will have a fun activity, maybe a "Sticky Wall" or a community based project.

During WOW we will have a booth downtown during SLOBound.

We are also planning information session in the dorms during the first weeks of class.

This might really happen!!!!

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Head's Up for Recruiting Timeline and Needs

The process that we are not following puts a couple of stringent requirements for recruiting. The most critical one is that we must, but October 8, create a list of all 100 students in the test cohort and each of their MATH/STAT needs for the following quarter.  We must do the same for the 100 students in the quasi-control cohort.  That is:

By October 8, 2012, we have:
List of 100 SUSTAIN freshmen and their MATH/STAT needs for W'12
List of 100 "similar" freshmen and their MATH/STAT needs for W'12

I believe we also need:
List of 100 "similar" freshmen and their ENGL/COMS needs for W'12
Why do we need this listing? It seems that to keep the integrity of the research, we want the "quasi-control" to have at least half of their courses similar to the "test" cohort.  All students need ENGL and MATH, so it seems that if we block enroll these students in these courses, we can ensure that at least half their experience will be similiar.  [This reasoning is of course open for examination.]

What will we do with these lists?
100-SUSTAIN: We will map these students into individual MATH sections offered in W'12 prior to noon and submit this list to the MATH department.  If they approve of the listing, the list will go forward to enrollment/scheduling, for those students to be block enrolled prior to the registration process.

100-QUASI-CONTROL: We will create a similar mapping for the MATH and the ENGL courses for each student, W'12. Or, we may submit the information to enrollment/scheduling for them to block enroll. TBD.

Recruiting. The SOAR contact may prove to be very important. The person to speak with is :Andrene Kaiwi-Lenting.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Winter 2012 & Spring 2012 Grouping of Courses

FTF = face-to-face time

The structure we will start with is to
1. Require all students to take a math course prior to noon.  (This will 4 of their 16-18 units)

Rooms are available for this schedule which gives us 16 hours per week:
MTWR 4-6
Friday 9-5

Winter 2012
ENGL134 (2 sections), time: between 12 and 2 PM  (An additional 4 units for those needing ENGL134)
[4 hrs FTF time/week] Those who don't have ENGL134 will have COMS102.

Grouped together, with students taking 2 or 3 of the courses. [16 hours FTF time scheduled/week]
COMS102 (55 students projected) - Truch
PHYS 141 (30) - Schwartz/Vanasupa
PHYS 131 (5) - Schwartz/Vanasupa
PHYS 121 (30) - Schwartz/Vanasupa
PHYS 104 (40) - Schwartz/Vanasupa
HIST 216 (50) - Trice
ECON 201 (50) - Villegas
ECON 221 (15) - Villegas 
STAT 217/218/221 (30) - Frame

Options to account for the project activities:
UNIV 125 (up to 100 students) - 1 unit activity, 1 unit lecture [3 hours FTF time/week] 
or something like "270" course, such as IME270, AGB 270 or MATE270 or even ME270. 
Possible faculty: Schlemer, MacDougall, John Chen

Spring 2012
Again, MATH would be scheduled early in the day. 

ENGL 145 (3-4 sections)
PHYS 132 (30) - Schwartz/Vanasupa
PHYS 122 - (30) - Schwartz/Vanasupa

SS 121 (40) -
BIO 114 - Ritter
STAT217 - Frame
STAT218 - Frame
STAT252 - Frame

We could use a partner in a liberal art area. Candidates: Psychology, Ethnic Studies, Philosophy, Art. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How it might work...

I'm sharing this process with you not so much as "what we will do," but as an example of how things can work.

In my imagining of how I would "teach" in the SUSTAIN experience, I began by imagining what I would like each day to be like as a "teacher".  I left this out of my narrative and I'm sorry I did because it was the driving for my design.

So, I began by envisioning what I want the experience to be like and it looks like this to me:
Notice my criteria under "core experiences." 

Then I began to consider the time of the SUSTAIN "classroom."  We set up a structure that looks like this:

In my model, the pre-noon time is reserved for an additional "course" that is needed for students to progress in their respective majors.  For engineering students, this would be a math course.  The hours of 12-2 have been set aside for students taking ENGL145.  The SUSTAIN cluster of courses is from 2-5 (3 hours per day) for 5 days.  Notice that this is 15 hours of face time, or equivalent amount of time to 3-4 unit lectures + a 2-unit activity;Add in the ENGL course (4-unit lecture) and you now have 16 units; Add in the additional course in the pre-noon hour and your are above the 16.  So, it it likely that any one student would not be taking any more than 4-4 unit lectures + the 2 unit activity.  But the time is blocked as so as an example and to accommodate those who might have a 3-unit lecture + 1 unit lab in the mix of the courses they are taking--the face time can be equivalent for those people.

Now, imagine that you have 100 students in the 2-5 time period.  The will be taking HIST216 + another course or 2 other courses if they are not taking ENGL45.  In my model, this 2-5 time slot would be an open studio format, where students have prepared by working on the foundational knowledge a priori. The open studio time would be used to work on projects, get assistance from peers and/or faculty on more difficult applications or concepts.  There also might be a spontaneous or planned mini-lecture for those who might be struggling with something.  They might use the time to meet in small groups about their projects or meet with the community partner on their project. Or, there may be some other activity designed by the faculty collaborators. The point is that the previous artificial boundaries between the courses that they were "taking" would be removed--the faculty and students in those previously separated courses would be talking to one another. Notice that we are talking about 3 or 4 different faculty people at this point.

This way of working would obviously require a lot of preparation on the part of the faculty, although they would not know entirely ahead of time how things would unfold.  They would have to be agile enough to make course corrections during the learning experience.  How would a faculty member prepare?  For me, the preparation looks like this. 

This all happens before the quarter starts.  Ideally, at the beginning of the quarter, I have constructed at least:
  • The difference between necessary learning objectives (LO)and auxillary (step 3);
  • A preliminary mapping of where LO would fit projects (step 4);
  • A mapped path through resources for self-directed learning through all LOs (step 5);
  • 50% of the self-paced formative assessments to check learning (step 6);
  • An draft idea of the summative assessments I might use.
From having done this in the past, I know that things change as one goes. I know that students make requests in areas where they are confused. I also know that they are really happy to have the freedom to learn when they want to and access to material that takes them forward when they want. 

I've done this with an 8-unit junior level engineering course.  I must remember that students are at a higher level of capability by that time. But I also know that at the lower levels, the material is less challenging. 

In my view, the formative assessments are ideally self-paced and without penalty.  That is, a student can take them, say 3 times, and get the highest grade.  I have also found that without any grade attached to them, they would be very challenged to complete them. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Contraints for the Narrative

Alright all!  Imagine the following:

Imagine that we have 100 freshmen in Winter 2012 who are going to participate in 2 consecutive quarters (I've dropped one because my attention ); See below how this class shakes out.

You are the faculty member. How will you prepare for this thing to work out successfully (however you define that).  Bring a narrative of this for this Thursday if you have the creative spirit to do.  Have fun!

 I've only done 2 quarters to simplify.

Students are from all colleges: CLA (15); CSM (15); CAED (15); COB (15); CAFES (20); CENG (20)
They are engaged in groups of 5-8 in up to 15 different projects selected from the list of available themes posted on the April 15 blog entry.

Winter 2012
Courses clustered: HIST216 (all 100 students); ENGL134 (20 students); ENGL148 (25 students); COMS102 (55 students); PHYS141 (30 students); PHYS121 (40 students); PSC110 (30 students); 2 unit university activity; Priority registration for a course offered in the morning (recommend MATH)

Spring 2012
Courses clustered: ECON201 (70); ECON221 (30); ENGL148 (50); COMS102 (45); BIO114 (100); MATH142(30); MATH118 (20); STAT217 (20) STAT252 (15) STAT 218 (20); 2 unit university activity; Priority registration for a course offered in the morning

The structure of meeting:
Looks a little like the May 2 blog entry on structure.
Monday through Friday, block schedule of 3 hours 2:00-5 PM.
Hours of 12-2 are set aside for faculty who want to meet daily for an hour (e.g., ENGL148).

Friday, May 6, 2011

Tentative Matrix of Courses

Here are our results at our first cut of populating the matrix of courses that would make sense to put together. There are several outstanding questions at this point.  Our agreement was to sort of sit with this first cut and see what emerges.  This is a little like putting together a very complex puzzle...one often has to stare for a long time and the different pieces when suddenly it becomes clear how they can go together.

The outstanding questions:
1. What do we do in the disciplinary places where we don't have a known participation (e.g., MATH)?
2. How do we deal with the famous "upside-down-curriculum" that embeds early, specific, disciplinary courses into the freshman year? In these cases, it appears that students will either not be able to participate or that they will have a substituted experience.
3. Doe the economic model still hold?
4. What do we do with the sophomore fall term?

You can click on this image for a better view in your own image viewer.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Form of the100-Freshman Experience

We developed a series of models to consider how learning might take place in this experience. Below is a sketch of the most generic version, which can accommodate a range of activites that we might imagine taking place.

I've reframed our conversation a bit into the Kolb learning cycle. This cycle was useful for me as a framework to describe the range of things that we might undertake together.

The qualities of this model of learning are:
1. Whole set of activities is based on the Kolb learning cycle;
2. Students will be engaged in individual versions and groups versions (project) of each step in the cycle;
3. The time is structured to allow self-organization, self-direction, individualized learning ("studio") and guided instruction ("structured");
4. The faculty's main role is creating a path for self-paced learning prior to the projects (won't work for all subjects), formative and summative assessment of mastery of learning objectives, guidance/teaching as needed.

Our next step is to do the detailed work of laying out the exact courses and their sequence, beginning with a winter-quarter freshman cohort. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Making progress-April 21 Meeting

(This is a posting by Liz,...I was sadly not there).

We had a really great meeting today with the faculty collaboration. Roger helped us use the "sticky wall" to try to solve the puzzle involving.....

Course and projects
Projects and Topics
Students and Projects
Faculty and Topics

After a lot of discussion we looked at a ridiculous project of "playing basketball for 2 hours a week" to see if even such a seemingly meaningless project could incorporate the topics from our course. A bit of a disclaimer in case someone misunderstands this example. We want to have students working on meaningful community based projects like described on our SUSTAIN SLO blog, and we are not saying Basketball is meaningless. This is just an illustration.

We all became energized around this. Below are some really great contextual examples around basketball.

acceleration, motion, collision of elastic and non-elastic objects.
 - varying rates of movement. Balls traveling in a parabola. Maximum and minimum points using derivatives
Statistics - Free throw percentages, is there such a thing as a "hot" shooter? Probability of making a shot from different points on the floor.
Economics - Diminishing marginal returns, opportunity cost, consumer choice model, institutionalization of basketball, wage comparisons
English composition - Anything mentioned in economics can be formed into an argument, Analyze the voice, Analyze trash talk.
Communications - verbal and non-verabl communications, strategy of movement
Audience analysis, who sits where and why (i.e. Jack Nicholson)

Next week we will discuss various models of illustrating the interplay between course, students, time, projects, faculty, and anything else that matters. There are many ways to look at this, a request was made of the group in general to bring your favorite model to share.

I think we are making progress.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Range of Possible Community Projects

These are some of the projects that are emerging in partnership with community agencies.

USDA Grant Partnership with the Food Bank for Hunger Free Communities
The Food Bank and non-profits involved in HEAL-SLO, the County Health Department, Cal Poly, and the local farming and business community have received a planning grant to assess local hunger needs and resources, and establish a coordinated strategic plan to meet the needs of those who suffer from food insecurity. potential disciplines needed: Sociology, geographic information systems, statistics, Spanish, Agriculture, Nutrition, Journalism, Graphic Design, Economics, Kinesiology, Food Science, Dairy Science

Trial Site for Sustainable Living
A group of Cal Poly faculty and students are working with the administration to establish a physical site dedicated to testing permaculture and other alternative technologies. potential disciplines needed: engineering, agriculture, ornamental horticulture, agribusiness, biology, architecture, Art and Design, Food Science & Nutrition, religious studies, philosophy, psychology, anthropology

Live Classical Music in Public Spaces
The San Luis Symphony is interested in supporting arts education and culture. There is interest in creating the possibility of live, small but high-quality free public performances that enrich our community awareness of the performing arts. What would it take for this to happen? potential disciplines needed: art and design, music, theatre and dance, journalism, English, marketing, graphic communication, psychology, education

Aquaponic Development of Local Aquatic Protein Sources
Aquaponics is a method to produce aquatic protein and plant food sources in a symbiotic sustainable environment. There is a small interest group who desires to develop and trial local aquaponics systems. potential disciplines needed: Biology, Crop and Soil Science, Food Science and Nutrition, statistic, chemistry, sustainable agriculture, engineering, marine biology

Biochar for Reducing Atmospheric CO2 Content & Improving Soil Properties
Biochar is the product of combusting biomass. It captures and stores atmospheric carbon dioxide while increasing the soil fertility and improving its capacity to filter water. There is an interest group in further developing biochar for local use. potential disciplines needed: Biology, Crop and Soil Science, physics, chemistry, engineering

Gleaning System for the Food Insecure
Each year, tons of local food is left unharvested while tens of thousands of people in our community qualify for food stamps. There is a group of individuals who have begun to conceive of and develop a local gleaning system with local farmers to provide food for the food insecure. potential disciplines needed: Art & Design, Graphic Communication, marketing, economics, computer science, geographic information systems, engineering, statistics, agriculture, journalism, psychology,

Re-Skilling for New Local Economies
Within our community, there are elderly populations that posses the knowledge of preserving food, hand crafting clothing and other skills. These skills are being lost to emerging generations. There is interest in designing how we might learn these skills and create new local economies. potential disciplines needed: gerontology, agriculture, sociology, journalism, engineering, graphic design, political science, history, fruit science, food science and nutrition, accounting, statistics

San Miguel Community Partnership for Sustainable Development
San Miguel faces long-term water scarcity issues along with socio-economic challenges. A growing partnership with key San Miguel agents is envisioned to begin systemically addressing the long-term community goals through trial sites within the community. potential disciplines needed: Viticulture, engineering, agriculture, watershed management and hydrology, tourism planning & management, ethnic studies, statistics, soil science, political science, education, statistics

Latino/Latina Success in K-12 & Beyond
Cal Poly is surrounded by Latino communities, yet its student Latino/a population is less than half the state population. This group is interested in systemically working toward equitable educational outcomes. potential disciplines needed: education, ethnic studies, Spanish, math, chemistry, physics, statistics, sociology, geographic information systems, political science

Natural Resources Management
This area is rich with wildlife and land, much of which would benefit from greater attention and management.  For example, there are small bodies of water in Morro Bay that would benefit from experimentation with "living machines" to reverse their eutrophication. There is also a need to work with local agencies to enable fewer wildlife deaths through better design and management of human/wildlife habit intersections. potential disciplines: botany, biology, geography, engineering, chemistry, journalism, political science, art and graphic design, English.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Intent + Alternative Learning Resources

We are now in the process of considering the design of the learning experience.  We need to detail out 3 critical areas: the form (or structure), the process of learning, and the materials that would be used to learn.  We are to consider these inside the intent of the 100-frosh immersion initiative.

The intent of what we are doing is to add value to the students' learning experience in four critical areas (the underlined items are the four essential learning outcomes of an educated person in the 21st century, according to the American Association for Colleges and Universities):

  • Integrative learning within an interdisciplinary setting;
  • Focusing on sustainability as a way to gain knowledge of human cultures and the natural world;
  • Learning in the context of community-based projects as a means to cultivate personal and social responsibilities;
  • Develop the capacity for systems thinking as an intellectual and practical skill.

Potential Resources for Process and Material in some cases
If you're teaching something that is kind of "linear," where one concept builds on the next, or there are foundational skills that enable higher-level skills, you might want to consider the following resources.
www.saylor.org - complete courses for college
www.openculture.com - educational media managed by Stanford University
www.khanacademy.org - short video clips for learning a range of topics
www.oercommons.org - a searchable database of learning materials
www.oli.web.cmu.edu - higher education course designed by content experts and learning scientists
www.hippocampus.org - higher education courses with video clips and closed captioning
i tunes university - a compendium of podcasts from places like Stanford, MIT, Yale, Oxford + more

Next move: Detailing how we'd learn

Today we attempted to talk about a potential project to see into how we actually might learn.  We spoke about the "Hunger Free Communities" planning grant and how that represents a kind of complex, authentic project that would have a great deal of room to learn all sorts of principles.

Some of the things we established were:
1. The project provides meaning and motivation. There is no need to have a 1:1 correlation between the content of the project and the learning objectives--that is, there can be a logical learning schedule that sits outside the project but ties into the project at reasonable places;
2. While we may value the relationships that students are building between one another and their benefits, we must do the rigorous work of creating a strawman learning plan for those who have a different value system (e.g., parents?, colleagues?, students?).  This would look like a schedule of what is learned, approximately when,  roughly how, and how it will be assessed;
3. A sufficient variety of simultaneously-engaged projects may be required to ensure that a range of "content" can be relevant (e.g., a project around only statistics of hunger and food insecurity may not address issues found in mechanics, although it could address something about physics if in part of it they were to compute energetics of locally growing food or something such as that).

Our next step is to consider a specific example of a quarter, imagining what students' learning needs could be and how you might address this from your teaching perspective.  For example, if you taught physics and you saw that of the 100 students, you'd have students at maybe 3 different levels of learning physics, how would you address that?

For next week, we are to bring topical weekly lists of what you might cover. In making this transparent, we may begin to see overlapping in the learning of concepts.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Example Project: Food and Community

Last quarter, Liz Schlemer (Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering) worked with a group of non-profits that have self-organized into a Food Coalition. They began asking the question, what would we need to do in order to get locally-grown food to the food insecure in a way that builds social fabric amongst neighborhoods.

The link below describes the vision of the food system.  If you are able, look at the picture by itself and follow the strands out to the descriptions of what people imagine it could be like.  Also, if you can, imagine the richness of narrative, thought, experimentation, required to bring something like this into existence.

Link to vision of a food system.
This link will take you away from this website.

Working with the Strawman

In our meeting last week, we looked at the details of the original "strawman" design of the 100-freshman immersion experience.  In doing this, we were wanting to see what the "boundary conditions" were and trying to consider how we might deviate from the strawman design to enable the best learning.

The boundary conditions are:
1. We must cluster existing courses (no new courses);
2. The faculty of record for these courses will be someone with the disciplinary expertise to serve in that capacity (either has taught the course or could be assigned to teach the course);
3. The faculty of record would hold the responsibility for enabling students to meet the existing learning objectives and assessing their mastery of them.
4. The face-to-face time formulas for the clustered courses would not change from the existing clustered courses.

The strawman design looks something like this:

The cohort:
100-freshmen students in a cohort, taking a series of courses together;
Roughly proportional participation from each college based on the proportion of majors at the university;
Roughly 50%: 50% female:male ratio, ideally balance within each college;
Stratified by traditional predictors of success (e.g., SAT scores) to determine if this type of learning works for all students;

The experience:
Three consecutive quarters with possibility of including transitions periods of prior and post quarter;
Taking only the clustered courses ("immersion"), no other courses "on top" of the experience;
Meeting weekly for regularly-scheduled blocks of time;
Clustered in teams around authentic projects with community partners which inform the learning, but do not entirely "drive" the learning content;
Flexible in the learning in all other ways (e.g., could have 1 solid week of economics followed by 2 solid weeks of English Literature, etc.; project teams could be different than learning teams);
Learning resources can be of any type (on-line, printed matter, field work).
Three full-time faculty coaches from differing epistemological traditions (e.g., liberal arts, natural sciences, a practice-based professional degree) during the quarter;
Supplemental learning from 1 additional full-time faculty member during the quarter;
3-15 "part time" faculty, depending on the needs of the projects.

Which courses would be clustered?
This is a "chicken and egg" type of problem, since we don't know what the students will need, yet need to schedule the faculty far in advance of knowing the students' needs.  We will most likely approach this "problem" by choosing a sub-set of courses that can be taught by faculty who are willing and able to work with us.  Based on a study done by Liz Schlemer, MOST majors can be accommodated by a series of 10-12 courses a quarter.  This implies that some faculty would need to teach 2-3 different courses during their quarterly involvement.  For example, a calculus based physics would be learned along side of a non-calculus based physics by different students.

How will students learn?
This is the thing we haven't worked out exactly, because we need the faculty with the disciplinary expertise who would be teaching those courses to make those decisions.  That is the challenge of this group.  Some of the things that have been considered are for some subjects that are "linear" in nature, such as math or physics, or statistics, which builds on foundational knowledge, to have students learn concepts on-line and work on more complex application in the projects and the classroom.  This approach may also work with learning a subject that requires a base-line working vocabulary, such as economics or biology. What about ENGL?  We don't know.  Perhaps if there were a literature or poetry class, it would sit outside of the projects.

What is next?
We will take a look at a potential example project so that we can begin to consider what learning would be like.   To be posted soon.

Next meeting: Thursday, April 14, 12-2 PM, Kennedy Library 202A.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Faculty Design Meetings

The interdisciplinary faculty collaboration will be meeting this quarter to design the details of the 100-Frosh Immersion Project set to launch in January 2012.

These are the dates and locations where we are meeting:
Tuesday, March 29, 3:10 PM- 5 PM | Kennedy Library 510B
Wednesday, March 30, 11:10 AM - 1 PM  | Kennedy Library 510B

Thursdays, 12:10-2 PM | Kennedy Library
all weeks in April, Room 202A
all weeks in May & June, Room 202B

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Student Recruiting

Now that we have a start date we are beginning to think about the steps necessary to recruit 100 freshman in January 2012. The recruitment subcommittee met on February 24. After checking in and getting a caught up on the status of SUSTAIN, we decided on a couple key action steps.

1) we developed an approximate timeline for recruiting students. See the image to the right.

2) we decided that we wanted to generate some "teasers" for Cal Poly's Open House in April. We began investigating what that might look like

3) we started a facebook page with the help of a student on the committee. Here is the link if you have facebook yourself.

Stay tuned for more information on student recruitment.

Friday, February 11, 2011

3rd Person Call Network -2: Working within the culture

The Research Group convened for their second call. As we described what we were experiencing within our system, they acknowledged that we needed to find a way to work within the current culture, which can be characterized as overwhelmingly busy.

The NSF officer confirmed the national interest in the process of institutional change around transformative learning and teaching initiatives like the one we are attempting to grow.

The new MATH, STAT and ENGL folks have joined us as thought partners as a result of our shifted strategy to find partners.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Announcing ENGL, MATH & STAT thought partners

We are happy to welcome Kathryn Rummel (English),  Samuel Frame (Statistics), Ginger Hendrix (English), and Colleen Kirk (Math) as thought partners for the Spring 2011 quarter.

They will be among those really asking "What would it take to launch the envisioned 100-student freshman cohort?" from the angle of the learning that should take place.

The faculty group meeting to consider these questions will be:
Lynn Moody (Soil Science); Matt Ritter (Biology); Peter Schwartz (Physics), Kathryn Rummel (English),  Dan Villegas (Economics), John Chen (Mechanical Engineering), Samuel Frame (Statistics), Colleen Kirk (Math), Ginger Hendrix (English), Tom Trice (History), Linda Vanasupa (Materials Engineering), Nina Truch (Communication Studies), Neal McDougall (Agribusiness), Lizabeth Schlemer (Industrial Engineering) and Craig Stubler (Soil Science).

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Planning, Recruiting and Seeking Key Partners

Given the institutional deadlines for scheduling, we will use Fall 2011 for recruiting freshmen for the Winter 2012 full-scale start date. We will not attempt a 1-quarter trial with sophomores.

Block-scheduled freshmen in Fall 2011 courses are being analyzed for their value as places to recruit or find freshmen design partners for the Winter 2012 start.

We are in need of key faculty partnerships from math, English and probably statistics departments. We would like to purchase a full course release for a faculty member from each of these places to participate in our Spring 2011 on-going planning.  If you're interested, MATH/ENGL/STAT interest.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

3rd Person Network Initiated

In early December 2010, the network of external advisors met in cyberspace. This group of 14 practitioner researchers are interested in the process of change in education.  This group will meet once a month to witness the process and serve as thought partners.

Interdisciplinary Faculty Collaboration begins a stepped start

The field testing has begun...10 faculty representing all six Cal Poly colleges have initiated field tests so prepare for the full-scale launch. We are experimenting with peer-to-peer learning, team-learning, self-directed learning, using social media and on-line resources to enhance intrinsic motivation and learning.

Given scheduling dates, the group decided to set January 3, 2012 (Winter quarter) as the official launch date for the planned 100-freshmen student cohort. They are also considering a 1-quarter trial in Fall 2011 with sophomores.  More to come...

You can access the on-going record of faculty experiences and meeting summaries at this blog.

Input contributed by: Neal MacDougall, Nina Truch, Pete Schwartz, Liz Schlemer, Tom Trice, Dan Villegas, Lynn Moody, Linda Vanasupa, Matt Ritter, and Craig Stubler, Colleen Kirk and Liza Demsetz.