All Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Pedagogical Innovation Made Real

One of the hopes of the Designing the Future(s) Initiative was that the program might liberate faculty to mount courses in ways that made great pedagogical sense but did not fit the usual mold of a 3-credit, 15 week class, centered in a single school within Georgetown.

The Red House on 37th Street is used as the incubator for the ideas, and design assistants help to shape the ideas of the faculty into rigorous new practices. Since some of the courses truly span all schools, we needed to create new faculty academic review procedures to make sure perspectives from multiple schools were used in initial evaluation. Overall, we want to balance the need to get creative experiments into the system with an inclusive and deliberative process. The initial successes show how important wide faculty consultation assists experiments meant to flex our own model.

There are themes emerging in this work: enriching face-to-face interactions between students and faculty, maximizing experiential and research-based learning, combining theory and practice, fostering support for team-teaching and interdisciplinary collaboration.

All the work is now bearing fruit that offer new learning experiences for Georgetown students in the near term.

One example is a course that involves faculty from multiple departments on the main campus and multiple groups of the Medical Center. The course needs an interdisciplinary approach because multiple fields have contributed to the knowledge now viewed as key to understanding. The field in question is childhood, specifically children’s physical health, and cognitive, emotional, and behavioral development. These topics are covered with a keen interest in the interplay between these attributes of children and the social contexts in which they live, learn, and play. This is one example of scores of issues which have been studied from many different perspectives, each in itself focusing only on a part of the issues.

The design exposes undergraduate students across the university to this issues from multiple points of view–in both classroom and community (forcing students outside their comfort zone). The design lies outside the one-size fits all 15 week 3-credit course but retains a commitment to coherence and connection among the parts. It uses a set of 1-credit modules to give students flexibility in putting together an experience that links theory with practice with policy formation challenges.

A group of five faculty members coordinated the content of four one-credit modules. The first, “Principles of Challenges in Childhood and Society,” is required of all students. Those who desire only an introduction can take only that module. However, those who want a deeper exploration of the topic have three other modules (1-credit each) from which to choose. They are offered as four-week bundles, with 3-hour meeting blocks in each week. Some are mixes of multimedia-based learning and face-to-face interaction. One is a community-based learning module, with field placements in social service agencies, schools, and community-based organizations. Another is centered around a “hot topic” in the news related to children (e.g., cyber-bullying, school shootings), where students examine the existing research literature and attempt to apply theories to real events. Another is centered around policy issues, where students are asked to reflect on the real-world experiences they had in field placements or the Challenges course to prepare Congressional-style testimony or suggest a new set of policies improving child welfare.

Experiential learning, quick application of existing literatures to new events, exposure to multiple fields’ thinking on the same topic, theory and practice – all guided by talented, passionate faculty. This new structure and others like it hold great promise for Georgetown students. I am pleased to see it being offered next semester.

This post originally appeared on the Provost’s blog. To read more about the Challenges in Childhood and Society courses, please click here.

The Competencies vs. Credit Hours Conundrum

The Future(s) Initiative recently hosted Dr. Daniel Hickey, Professor at Indiana University’s School of Education, for a conversation on assessment practices and micro-credentials.

During a workshop with Georgetown faculty and staff explored the tensions that surface alongside major advances in instructional technology, particularly focusing on those that have emerged from massive open online courses, e-portfolios, and digital badges. On the one hand, some innovators aim to leverage these new technologies to support and measure self-paced learning around specific competencies, questioning the efficacy of conventional course credit simply tied to seat-time. On the other hand, however, many educators also believe that this approach bypasses the crucial forms of inquiry and social interaction that courses support. Dr. Hickey offered insightful commentary on the subject, sharing a host of promising efforts that seek to reconcile these tensions by integrating traditional learning with robust, technology-driven learning analytics.

After completing his Ph.D. in Psychology at Vanderbilt University, Dr. Hickey entered into a post-doctoral fellowship at the Center for Performance Assessment at Education Testing Service before becoming a faculty member at IU’s School of Education. He studies participatory approaches to assessment, validity, feedback, and motivation in technology-based contexts.

The SIT Model for Experiential Learning

On November 17th Dr. John Lucas, Provost and Executive Vice President for the School for International Training (SIT), joined our Global Future(s) Curriculum Cohort for a conversation on the SIT model for experiential education.

Founded in 1964, SIT prepares its students to be interculturally effective leaders, professionals, and citizens through semester-long study abroad experiences that integrate  mentorship, original research, and language training. Students begin their time abroad with an immersive, week-long orientation. Over the next several weeks, through a combination of field-based excursions and a series of language courses, thematic seminars, and ethics-based research tutorials, they engage deeply with a global issue of their choosing – for instance, international health, migration, or human rights. As the semester draws to a close, students spend the remaining five weeks delving into an original independent research project that builds on a subject of interest to them, concluding their stay with a presentation on their findings for evaluation.

As the Global Future(s) Curriculum Cohort explores new modes of teaching with a global dimension, the SIT model for experiential learning can inform the ways that Georgetown supports deep and immersive learning in a global context.

Dr. Lucas holds a Ph.D. and an M.A. in Spanish from Penn State University and an M.A. in International Education from SIT. He is fluent in Spanish, Catalan, and French with proficiency in German and Italian.

Experience Institute Founder Victor Saad Visits Georgetown


On September 29-30, Victor Saad, founder of the Experience Institute, visited Georgetown to share his perspective on experiential learning.

Mr. Saad began his visit with a design session for Vice Provost Randy Bass’s course, “Signature Semesters,” challenging students to take ‘leaps’ that emerge from the intersection of their aspirations, inspirations, and assets. Later, he led another design session for Georgetown alumni, asking participants to identify their most valuable learning moments over a lifetime and to imagine how they might use those moments to shape their futures. Mr. Saad brought his visit to a close with a final design session for a diverse collection of students, faculty and staff, where attendees exchanged ideas of how to integrate experiential learning into the formal curriculum, and to measure and account for it as well.

Throughout his visit, Mr. Saad shared his reflections on the founding of the Experience Institute, a center for experiential learning that took shape following a year-long, globally-focused, self-guided master’s program he calls “The Leap Year Project.”

Victor Saad’s visit marked the first event of this year’s Red House Speaker Series, which brings diverse experts—such as Rick Vaz, Gartner Campbell and Nadia Roumani—to the Red House to share their perspective on new approaches to education with our community. Learn more about the other speakers who have visited here.

Designing the Future(s) initiative welcomes its second class of Future(s) Fellows


On a September Saturday, the Designing the Future(s) initiative welcomed its second class of Future(s) Fellows with a retreat in ethicslab in Healy Hall.

Designing the Future(s) had a range of activities planned for the Fellows over the course of the four-hour retreat. The event began with a comprehensive look at the curricular programs being advanced through the Red House and presentations by Georgetown faculty and staff members involved in the work.

Fellows also had the opportunity to learn from each other and faculty mentors throughout the retreat, as they participated in discussions and design sessions about crucial questions in higher education. Fellows were asked to imagine the world as it will be in 2030, and to create new infrastructures—and dismantle defunct systems— for a university that would produce ethically-minded global citizens. When imagining a world full of new technologies, politics, and financial systems, Fellows explored how the institution of higher education might have to respond to continue to affect the world in a positive way.

The Future(s) Fellows will continue to meet throughout the semester to engage with faculty and guests in more design sessions, aid in the development of curricular projects, and help to reimagine a Georgetown education for the 21st century.

Disability Studies Course Cluster Begins This Fall at Georgetown


This fall, Georgetown University is welcoming its first Disability Studies Course Cluster. Piloted by faculty members – Julia Watts Belser, Rebecca Kukla, and Sara Schotland – this cluster of three related but separate courses will engage students in monthly lectures and interactive workshops with scholars and leading voices in the disability studies field. The cluster is comprised of the following existing courses: ENG 270: Introduction to Disability Studies, PHIL 441.01: Bioethics and the Abnormal Body, and THEO 211: Religion and Disability Studies.


The first workshop of the semester was “Disability, Dignity and Ablution: Rituals of Care,” led by Emory University Professor of English Rosemarie Garland-Thomson. This module challenged students to re-envision notions of dignity and disability –as they are influential on policy and social conversations – and examined religious and secular imagery that regard giving and receiving care as sacred and central acts of being human.


This monthly course cluster offers students an opportunity to extend the usual boundaries of the classroom by synthesizing methods, insights and theoretical questions raised in their courses in the context of  key issues in public life. Moreover, these courses advance Georgetown’s hallmark Jesuit values, by asking students to reflect upon core ethical questions, principles of empathy, a commitment to social justice, and a sincere appreciation for difference and cultural diversity through their academic pursuits.


If you would like more information about this course cluster, please contact Julia Watts Belser at


For over 100 years, the common unit of teaching and learning in a university has been the course. The 3-credit course is common, often lasting about 15 weeks. Universities typically require a certain number of credits/courses for a diploma in a program. Thus, it is a basic metric that garners the attention of students.

In parallel, the course is often the basic counting unit for the faculty workload. Faculty across universities ask each other what their teaching load is at their university. They’ll answer, “I’m on a 2-2;” “I’m on a 2-1.” This means “I teach two courses each semester;” “I teach two courses one semester and one the other semester.”

I can imagine there was a time in some universities that this metric was a useful description of the work of different faculty. Of course, it omits any commentary on the amount of faculty time on committee work for their units, on professional service to their professional organizations; on research; on mentoring and tutoring undergraduate students; on graduate student interaction; and on service on university committees.

Further, the course-based metric fails to recognize the large variation in amount of time spent teaching different courses (e.g., a class of four students versus a similar class of 40 students). It ignores the fact that teaching a course for the third time requires less effort than the first time. It ignores the fact that classes with teaching assistants have different time requirements than courses without teaching assistants.

It also is out of alignment with the merit review systems in place in most units, which evaluate faculty on teaching, research, and service.

It’s interesting to me to note that some Georgetown departments and schools have recognized the inadequacy of workloads defined only on a course basis. Some have invented counting rules reflecting that the variable amount of faculty time required of different courses. Others formally try to value the time spent in oversight of graduate students or project-based work of undergraduates. Such innovation, however, is not uniform across the Main Campus of Georgetown. Hence, the meaning of “I’m on a 2-2,” for example, is quite diverse among and within departments and units.

Finally, as we look toward the future, more and more faculty are interested in new course arrangements, ones that adjust the amount and character of “class” time to the nature of the material being presented (e.g., intensive two-week courses; year-long, project-based learning). For example, many of the faculty working on the Designing the Future(s) initiative are creating learning experiences that are far different from the traditional 15-week, 3-credit course.

For all the reasons above, it seems to be a good time to think carefully about whether Georgetown could create ways of measuring faculty workloads that more equitably and fully reflect the range of activities that faculty pursue in support of the mission of the university. Since the most precious commodity of faculty is their time, new counting rules based on their time allocation might be a starting point.

Over the coming days, I’d be interested in thoughts of faculty on these matters.

This piece first appeared on the Provost’s blog.

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.

Release of Formation by Design Symposium Keynote Address Video

The video of Daniel R. Porterfield‘s keynote address at the Second Annual Formation by Design Symposium, given on June 16, 2015, is now available. Part of the Formation by Design (FxD) Project, the Symposium addressed ways that higher education can shape not just what our students know, but also who they become.

View the video of Porterfield’s speech here:

Porterfield, a Georgetown alumnus, is President of Franklin & Marshall College and former Senior Vice President for Strategic Development at Georgetown. In his keynote, he emphasized that designing systems the support formation is about creating the right context in the right ethos so the difficult choices are easy to make in the moment, and symposium participants engaged in a design activity to prototype around his words.

One of the products that came out of the Symposium was an online interactive workspace for Formation by Design, a networked inquiry community that unites faculty, administrators, and innovators globally who are dedicated to designing for whole person learning in an informal and collaborative online environment.

Future(s) Team Members Participate in Georgetown’s First Studio Learning Symposium

Designing the Future(s) team members played a key role in Georgetown’s first Studio Learning Symposium this July, which assembled a diverse cohort of faculty, students, and administrators to explore the potential for studio-based pedagogies in Georgetown’s learning ecosystem. A studio learning environment, usually understood to emphasize project-based collaborative learning with an emphasis on feedback and iteration, is at the heart of many Future(s) projects. Studio is one important way in which faculty and staff have rethought traditional classroom environments, immersed students in experiential learning, and bridged the curricular and co-curricular.




The Studio Learning Symposium was co-sponsored by the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship and the Georgetown University Writing Program, and it was facilitated by Georgetown professors Maggie Debelius and Sherry Linkon. Debelius and Linkon are part of a team leading the creation of the Minor in Writing, Design, and Communication in partnership with the Red House. The new program would award students a minor for successful completion of one-credit studio courses and student-led projects guided by faculty mentors.


Read more about the Studio Learning Symposium here.