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.