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:
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;
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.