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The Global Future(s) Faculty Studio Welcomes First Faculty Cohort

After launching in the spring, the Global Future(s) Curriculum Studio is announcing its first cohort of faculty-led projects.  In partnership with the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship’s ITEL program, the Designing the Futures(s) initiative will convene this cohort in a series of meetings, workshops, and design sessions tailored to provide participating faculty with opportunities to explore new modes of teaching. These academically rigorous and innovative curricular structures will more deeply and effectively immerse students in creative and critical approaches to complex, interdisciplinary problems and provide rich contexts to bridge theory and practice.

As part of the Studio, the selected projects are on some level

  • intersecting the nexus of global themes, pedagogical innovation, and inventive structural modalities
  • designing with the Magis Measures in mind, and
  • engaging the three elements of a university, as outlined by President DeGioia:
    • the formation of young people,
    • inquiry, or the creation of knowledge,
    • contributing to the public good and the common good.

To begin, faculty participating in the Studio will develop the following curricular projects during Fall 2015.

Urban Studies Studio

Faculty Leads: Laurie King, Sherry Linkon, Brian McCabe

This is a new interdisciplinary minor that uses project- and studio-based learning to help students build skills as researchers, activists, organizers, planners and observers of city life while creating a vehicle for students to create meaningful change in Washington, D.C. and other cities nationally and internationally.

Engaging African Pentecostals Online

Faculty Lead: Alex Thurston

This project proposes to immerse students in high-impact research and digital learning to explore key questions about where African Christianity, and global Christianity more broadly, is from political and cultural perspectives.

Collaborative Environmental Research and Action

Faculty Lead: Dana Luciano

This project will bring a multidisciplinary, humanities approach to bear on contemporary environmental crises in part by asking students to engage representations of environmental catastrophe in literature, arts and media.

Borders: An Online Course that Crosses Boundaries

Faculty Lead: Elizabeth Stephen

This project seeks to develop SFS’s first on-line course offered during the academic year and will take a multidisciplinary approach to explore the historical and modern forces that shape borders and their effect on the economic, social, and political fabric of countries.

Enhancing ITEL and Student- Centered Learning in Cultural Studies

Faculty Lead: Henry Schwarz

Built on the practices of studio-based design, mentored research and project-based learning, this course will ask students to develop independent research projects on the critical analysis of contemporary culture.

Enhancing Language Learning for the Professions with Computer-Mediated Communication and Focused Instruction

Faculty Leads: Joseph Cunningham and Anja Banchoff

This project will implement a newly designed course where students explore topics and themes relevant to professional language and culture in Germany and apply their knowledge routinely through online engagement with German professionals.

“What is Indigeneity?” Creating a Course and a Network

Faculty Leads: Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer and Bette Jacobs

This project will advance a network of scholars at Georgetown who study indigenous peoples and create a flexible, project-based course that engages students in mentored research to enhance their understanding of the multidisciplinary, practical, ethical and human rights synergies that come together under the rubric of indigenous studies.

Issues, Not Disciplines

Faculty Lead: Mark Giordano

This project will develop 1) an interdisciplinary course on biotechnology and 2) explore how the lessons from the experience can apply more broadly to curriculum development related to interdisciplinary issues, rather than disciplines across the university.

Check back in the coming weeks for the new Global Future(s) Curriculum Studio web page, where you’ll be able to learn more about the Studio and each of these projects.

Future(s) Initiative Supporter Commends Impact of the Red House

Comments offered by an anonymous donor on the Red House activities and Georgetown’s tradition and values. 

 

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For us [the Georgetown Learning Initiatives Committee], the Red House symbolizes GU’s commitment to thinking “outside the box” when searching for possible solutions to the issues confronting higher education. It would have been very easy for the University to just have some committees that meet once a month in White-Gravenor or Healy and say,”we tried” but we couldn’t come up with anything. The Red House, to us, is a place where there are no rules or boundaries, no bad ideas and where failure of an idea is not “failure” but an effort to move the University forward in the process of “Reimagining the University”. I guess I should correct the last statement; there is one rule — GU will always be a Jesuit, liberal arts institution with a goal of developing women and men for others. After that, rules or boundaries only force one back to the status quo of escalating costs in higher education. So, the Red House represents a challenge to the status quo as part of developing the Georgetown education of the future, while preserving the educational rigor, the traditions and the experiences that we all cherish.

Ruth Deakin Crick: Measuring Resilient Agency at Georgetown and Beyond

In a seminar hosted by Designing the Future(s) and the Formation by Design team on March 6, I facilitated a group of over twenty-five Georgetown University faculty members in experiencing the self-assessment of their learning power and coaching conversations to deepen their understanding. This is a topic which has been a key focus in my research career for over 15 years. During our discussions, we explored the deep connections between learning power and student formation. Formation is, after all, a learner-centred concept: it is a relational and embodied process through which one engages with knowledge, traditions and values and expresses them through action in the world.

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CLARA self-assessment

The tool that Georgetown faculty used to assess their own learning power that snowy afternoon is a revised and more robust version of our original work at the University of Bristol: the Crick Learning for Resilient Agency Profile (CLARA). CLARA is a self-administered questionnaire that provides rapid feedback as a visual analytic to help guide a coaching conversation. It measures eight dimensions of learning power, described in greater detail here. Each one incorporates values, dispositions and attitudes and is relatively ‘plastic’ in relation to context. In practice, the dimensions work together, providing the vital link between purpose and identity and knowledge creation and performance.

CLARA self-assessment sample report

Figure 1. CLARA self-assessment sample report.

I see CLARA as a learning analytic that re-defines how to measure the holistic learner qualities necessary for 21st century society; qualities that are increasingly more important but which are hard to evidence. It’s a ‘practical measure’ that my colleagues and I have used to stimulate change in individuals, teams and organisations, through the same rapid feedback mechanisms that form part of the emerging field of ‘improvement science’.

During the development of CLARA, and in the years since, my colleagues and I have continued to refine our conceptualization of learning power. As part of the Learning Emergence Network, I help to co-ordinate an international network of scholars and practitioners dedicated to advancing dialogue and research on this topic. What we have arrived at as a definition in our latest study is Learning Power as:

‘an embodied and relational process through which we regulate the flow of energy and information over time in order to achieve a particular purpose of value.’

The dimensions of learning power reflect the ways in which we develop resilient agency in learning by regulating this flow of energy and information in order to engage with challenge, risk and uncertainty and to adapt and change positively.

Self-awareness, ownership and responsibility in learning are the broader goals of CLARA. Using and improving learning power requires an awareness of self in relation to each dimension, and in different contexts. The rapid analytic feedback forms a framework for coaching conversations that enable reflection, affirmation and challenge. With the insight the visual analytic and the coaching conversation provide, users get to know themselves as learners and are more able to cultivate their authentic selves and to inhabit a sense of personal responsibility for their learning journey over time. For example, for someone with a CLARA profile like the diagram below, the challenge is to develop mindful ways to strengthen his sense of belonging to a community and find relationships to help strengthen his learning capabilities. At Georgetown, the Formation by Design team has identified this tool to measure an integrated set of outcomes which bridge the academic and pastoral, the formal and the informal curriculum.

Ruth Deakin Crick is Professor of Learning Analytics and Educational Leadership at the Connected Intelligence Centre and School of Education in the University of Technology Sydney, as well as a consultant to Designing the Future(s)’ Formation by Design initiative. She is also Reader in Systems Learning and Leadership at the University of Bristol where she works in the Systems Centre in the Faculty of Engineering. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Rick Vaz: Immersive High-Impact Learning: From WPI to Georgetown

While many higher education institutions are still grappling with the transition from traditional to more project-based experiential curriculums, a private research university in Worcester, Massachusetts has been an innovator in this area for more than 40 years. Worcester Polytechnic Institute upholds a standard of learning that requires students to immerse themselves into hands-on, project-based learning and apply their in-course knowledge to real-world problems. Invited by the Red House, in December 2014, Rick Vaz, Dean of Interdisciplinary and Global Studies at WPI, spoke to a group of Georgetown faculty and students to pinpoint about trading courses for experiences. Following his presentation, we spoke with him about his viewpoints on the current and future state of higher education across the nation and at WPI.

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1. What is the biggest hurdle standing in the way of expanding experiential learning at colleges/universities? How do we get traditionalists in academia to embrace this gradual shift in the educational sphere?

The biggest challenge for most institutions is carving out sufficient curricular turf for the experiential activity to have impact. Experiential learning requires students to devote substantial time and attention to something outside the traditional curriculum – that activity has to map into students’ curricular requirements. Of course, it demands faculty engagement as well, so a second challenge is for the experiential learning to map into faculty loading models and reward structures. The interdisciplinary nature of authentic learning experiences adds to both of those mapping challenges.

 

2. The Interactive Qualifying Project has had great success at WPI, particularly in regards to students completing IQP at one of WPI’s centers overseas. How much does studying internationally have an effect on the success of the program and the success that students have upon receiving their degree (versus completing the IQP strictly at WPI)?

For those unfamiliar with it, the IQP is an experiential general education requirement, equivalent to three courses. Even though half of our students complete the IQP overseas, we never envisioned the project as an explicitly international experience. Our primary objective has always been for students to experience deep, impactful learning from solving authentic problems, with particular emphasis on critical thinking and writing, and on understanding the social and cultural context of those problems. Over time, we’ve found that when that problem solving happens in cultures outside of our students’ prior experience and comfort zones, the learning opportunities are greater. And of course, those experiences can layer a range of global learning outcomes on top of the problem-solving abilities.

Assessment of students’ project reports shows clear benefits of projects completed off campus – every single learning outcome is demonstrated more strongly than for projects done on campus. A study of our alumni has confirmed this effect – alumni who completed projects off campus reported greater long-term benefits from the project work in 33 of 39 areas related to professional success and personal fulfillment.

 

3. Where do you see the IQP project in the next 5 years?

Based on the evidence I just described, WPI is committing to providing an off-campus project experience for every student. That will mean establishing new off-campus centers, both domestic and international, and it’ll mean raising money both to build those programs and to make participation possible for all students, regardless of their ability to pay.

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4. As a professor, what have your students — current and past — told you about their overall college experience? What have they said is missing or needs to be improved upon in the curriculum? Based on your observations as a dean and professor, what separates IQP students from those who do not have such a program at their institution?

Most WPI students major in engineering or science, and many of them come to us with very specific technical and scientific interests. However, it often takes less than a year or two for them to start getting very excited about the humanities, social sciences, and their interdisciplinary project work. That’s why we’re building more project work into the first year – it lights a spark for many of our students that burns throughout their time at WPI. The result, I think, is graduates with multiple interests and foci – they may be experts in mechanical engineering or biotechnology, but their passions are often based on global problems such as sustainable energy, food security, or global health.

 

5. The Designing the Future(s) initiative places a great emphasis on high-impact learning by way of interdisciplinary learning, credit-based research immersion and the fusion of theory and practice. In a time where the value of a college degree is being constantly questioned, how do you see these elements increasing the value of obtaining a higher education?

The most pressing problems facing mankind are messy and interdisciplinary, demanding solutions that are based on an understanding of science, technology, economics, cultures, and communities. I can think of no more relevant task for higher education than to prepare students to tackle those ill-defined, complex problems. That requires more than academic preparation – it requires practical experience and also the development of a sense of mission.

Dr. Rick Vaz is the Dean of the Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Division at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts. Dr. Vaz’s investment in immersive learning and international learning is evident, as he has advised hundreds of undergraduate research projects across the globe. He is active in the institute’s required program, Interactive Qualifying Project, which merges curricular learning with real-world application and training.