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- Notes from LSA Leadership
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One of our greatest avenues for impact around diversity and inclusion is in our classrooms. Some 3,000 classes are offered each semester by 1,200 instructional faculty members across more than 70 departments. We want to encourage our instructional faculty to use evidence-based techniques and best practices, as well as inclusive pedagogies across the LSA curriculum, in our classrooms and related interactions with students.
Inclusive classroom practices and pedagogies mean teaching in ways that do not exclude students, accidentally or intentionally, from opportunities to learn. Inclusive teaching strategies also refer, perhaps more fundamentally, to “any number of teaching approaches that address the needs of students with a variety of backgrounds, learning styles, and abilities.” In the succinct formulation provided by the Center for Teaching Excellence at Cornell University: “These strategies contribute to an overall inclusive learning environment, in which students feel equally valued.”
Our Five-Year Goal is to spread this sensibility—and expectation—across the LSA curriculum in the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. To accomplish this goal, we will use a combination of increased resources for faculty development for all instructional faculty, both tenure stream and lecturers, as well as GSIs.
We will also spend the 2016–2017 academic year further exploring three broad curricular-based initiatives:
- Discussing the recommendations from the 2015–2016 review of the Race & Ethnicity Degree Requirement in order to improve the learning experience for students enrolled in R&E courses.
- Improving the learning experiences for students enrolled in first- and second-year introductory courses in the natural sciences in ways that, though broadly applicable to all students, target specific strategies around the retention of URM and women students as STEM majors. In addition, working collaboratively with other schools, colleges, and units on campus to create a multi-phase “pipeline” of students, particularly women, URM students, first-generation students, and students from lower SES backgrounds, from pre-college to college to graduate and professional programs and into STEM careers.
- Supporting the further development and growth of community-based learning and engaged learning opportunities in diverse spaces and across the curriculum.
The specific recommendations that follow are the result of extensive consultation with LSA faculty members, including those who have participated in LSA Diversity & Climate Institutes, in the IGR-CRLT Dialogue Institutes, and in forums held as part of the 2015–16 R&E Review. Consultations were also held with CRLT, which also did focus group work with members of the LSA and U-M faculty, and with members of REBUILD.
Also of great use was the April 2016 summary report of CRLT’s four, 90-minute focus groups with 27 faculty members in December 2015 and January 2016. Participants included faculty representing 16 U-M schools and colleges in a range of roles and ranks (lecturers as well as tenure-track faculty, including clinical faculty) with diverse social identities, as well as self-reported experience with inclusive teaching practices.
“Overall, faculty at the focus groups felt that inclusive teaching is important, but they identified several barriers or challenges, many of them with respect to participating in professional development about inclusive teaching as opposed to inclusive teaching itself,” the report’s authors write. “Barriers raised by participants were institution-level (e.g., institutional culture that values and rewards research over teaching), as well as individual-level (e.g., faculty lack of awareness about the need for inclusive teaching strategies). Incentives to teaching more inclusively that were discussed primarily included time (e.g., course release) and financial resources to support time spent on teaching improvement and professional development activities.”
The report also summarizes some of the concrete steps proposed by participants, including the need for “better alignment between these various levels of the institution,” so that messages from all levels, from senior faculty in departments to chairs, deans, and provosts, all align on the importance of demonstrated commitment to and excellence in inclusive teaching practice.
Faculty in these focus groups also frequently emphasized that change efforts must be integrated into the systems already in place for rewarding and recognizing faculty success in terms of the institution’s goals and values. They also asked that we recognize risks and trade-offs to changing teaching practice: “Focus group participants emphasized that changing one’s teaching can feel like a high-stakes activity and bring with it several possible negative consequences: e.g., receiving lower student ratings during a period of experimentation with new pedagogies, being perceived by colleagues as insufficiently invested in research, or losing time that could be devoted to other high-priority activities.”
Finally, they asked that we avoid disproportionately burdening new faculty. They emphasized that meaningful institutional change has to include participation, active engagement, and accountability on the part of senior faculty.
Inclusive Practices: Accountability and Professional Development Opportunities
Highlight excellence in inclusive teaching practices and pedagogies.
This should be a key dimension in the LSA Teaching Awards for the next five years. Also, consider creating a new award for this purpose. Awards are moments of recognition that help to set and reinforce expectations.
Have the LSA Executive Committee consider including inclusive practices as a dimension in the College’s tenure and promotion and LEC review files as well as hiring dossiers.
This practice, which is being discussed and instituted in various ways at other institutions, would help to make us all accountable at all faculty ranks for the individual and collective success of inclusive teaching and learning.
Have the LSA Executive Committee consider asking teaching statements to address inclusive teaching and mentoring practices as part of the hiring dossier.
Maintain a strong emphasis on inclusive pedagogies in the LSA Teaching Academy, while creating more avenues for professional development and training for all instructional faculty at every stage of their careers.
The LSA Teaching Academy is one of the major ways the College approaches faculty development and training. A collaboration between LSA and CRLT, the Teaching Academy was first offered in 2009. It is required for all new assistant professors in the College, regardless of discipline or prior teaching experience. LSA participants in the Michigan Society of Fellows, who hold non-tenure track assistant professor titles, are also encouraged to attend. To date, 224 faculty members have participated in the LSA Teaching Academy.
In fall 2015, we partnered with CRLT and used the existing LSA Teaching Academy as a pilot program for the faculty professional development model that was designed to enhance inclusive teaching skills for new faculty. We plan at the end of the year-long academy to include a retrospective pre-/post- assessment of confidence with a variety of skills, including the four items directly connected to diversity and inclusion. This effort will be ongoing.
Recognize that other means and methods to promote faculty development opportunities are also essential, while acknowledging that in some cases, the most valuable resource is time.
We must also grapple with the feasibility of one-time course releases/buy-outs for completely overhauling courses and instructional techniques.
Use “NiNi” Grants administered by LSA’s Instructional Support Services (ISS) to enhance use of new technologies in classroom and lab instruction.
ISS runs multiple grant programs for faculty to enhance the use of new technologies in classroom and lab instruction, and among these are the New Initiatives/New Infrastructure grants, “NiNi” for short. Over the past five years, an average of five proposals have been funded per year, at an average annual level of $45,000 per proposal.
Technology grants can be used to fund the following: hourly wages for graduate media assistants; software not available through LSAIT; costs for digitizing images and texts; fees for access to databases; one-time equipment purchases; consultant fees for technical support; supplies; and project evaluation expenses. We are proposing to dedicate the bulk of this funding, $200,000, to the building of LSA inclusive classrooms for the next two years in an effort to support and encourage all of the initiatives and ideas contained in this section of the LSA DEI Plan.
Create more avenues for instructional faculty through the Inclusive Pedagogy Committee and other “local” sources.
The Undergraduate Education Division’s Climate Committee is structured around five subgroups organized around different projects. One of them is the Inclusive Pedagogy Committee, which seeks to develop a robust collection of electronic resources on inclusive pedagogy (focused on undergraduate education) that can “teach by example.” These resources will be on an easily accessed University website and will include guided activities, annotated discussion prompts, tips/considerations, testimonials, and video excerpts of these activities and discussions in practice.
The development of this pedagogical resource bank will be informed by faculty members’ expression of their needs through focus groups, interviews, and surveys. (This project was awarded a $10,000 Faculty Development Fund grant from CRLT.) In addition, the committee will seek input from a broad, diverse set of students to learn firsthand about how students experience climate in their learning environments and to get their perspectives on faculty best practices in inclusive teaching and areas for further faculty professional development and coaching.
The committee’s work includes efforts to build a network of faculty experts who are skilled around curriculum design and instruction related to inclusive pedagogy, and to engage this network as active resources. These faculty members would offer mentoring and consulting to instructors who are trying to implement new pedagogical strategies or who encounter challenging classroom experiences related to climate and inclusiveness. A related idea is to develop this group into a sustained faculty learning community focused on campus climate and inclusive pedagogies. Given several other campus projects on inclusive teaching, the committee also aims to coordinate its work to maximize leveraging the campus community’s resources and to have the resources it develops be tailored to LSA faculty and student needs. The committee also hopes to become a focal point for increased student involvement in curricular and pedagogical issues, including some of the student-generated ideas, some of which are included in this section of the DEI plan.
Assessing the Race & Ethnicity Degree Requirement
Throughout the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion engagement process, no single issue generated as much response from students as the LSA Race & Ethnicity Requirement. From town hall forums with the LSA dean to the Plan-A-Thon, the status of the R&E degree requirement discussion has been probing and lively. Students have suggested that the course is poorly administered and that it is insufficient. A number of students have wondered about whether the course ought to be increased to two semesters as opposed to one. Some have suggested that there really ought to be diversity and multiculturalism requirements, while others have insisted that issues of race and racism, ethnicity, discrimination, inequality, and power remain central.
During the 2015–2016 academic year, LSA undertook a major review of the requirement, which has been part of the liberal arts core since 1990. Dean Andrew Martin charged this committee to review the current state of this requirement, and to make specific recommendations after examining the following questions:
1. What are the goals for this degree requirement?
2. Are these goals being met?
3. How are these goals and their outcomes currently being assessed and evaluated?
4. Should the LSA faculty consider changing the R&E degree requirement in any way, including intensifying or eliminating the requirement?
As the committee writes in its executive summary, which is quoted here at length, the first question was in many ways the most challenging. The LSA Curriculum Committee has historically focused on content criteria when approving courses for the R&E requirement. The review committee recommends that the College take steps to clarify the learning objectives of the R&E requirement: updating the original language of the requirement and approving and disseminating a student-facing statement of goals and expectations as well as a faculty-facing one, both of which incorporate the best efforts of the review committee to articulate a set of learning goals.
In fall 2015, the committee performed indirect and direct assessments (interviews and evaluations) of student learning in R&E courses, and in winter 2016 used a pre- and post-test, course-embedded assessment of student learning using the committee’s articulated goals. All forms of assessment yielded positive results in terms of the degree to which R&E goals are being met in these courses. To further assess and evaluate the courses, the committee recommends requiring R&E courses to include two R&E-specific questions in their teaching evaluations.
The committee does not endorse eliminating the requirement, and at no point during the review did anyone we spoke with go on record advocating this as a real possibility. Nor does the committee recommend intensifying the requirement by requiring additional courses or credit hours. The committee also rejects the idea that the R&E requirement ought to focus exclusively on U.S. topics, or solely on present-day matters. They endorse a broad range of offerings, including historical and international courses, and a variety of formats, with a priority on seminar-sized class formats and smaller discussion sections for large lecture classes. They do not shy away from recommending further improvements.
Increase the visibility and transparency of R&E courses.
Require an R&E-specific description in the course guide and syllabus for each individual course, and by featuring R&E courses on College and advising websites and in other materials.
Create avenues for faculty and GSI professional development and training.
This includes the creation of a position for a CRLT-based R&E consultant and a suite of professional development opportunities for faculty and GSIs. These might focus on topics such as how to generate an atmosphere of respectful, productive, and informed intellectual exchange among students who may profoundly disagree with one another.
Promote discussion and dialogue in R&E courses.
Examples include limiting the section size in large courses to 18 students and developing more First Year Seminars that are approved for the requirement.
Provide resources for students enrolled in R&E courses.
Explore potential dimensions of an R&E resource center that would be comparable to what the Science Learning Center and the Language Resource Center provide for science education and language study, respectively, and what Sweetland provides for the Upper Level Writing Requirement and writing across the curriculum.
Provide positive incentives and rewards for R&E teaching.
Examples include creating a program to encourage teaching innovation and best practices for R&E structured on the model of the CRLT Large Course Initiative, and establishing a new Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education Award that specifically recognizes R&E excellence.
Simplify the R&E course approval process for faculty who have already had two courses approved for R&E certification.
The committee completed its review with a grateful sense of the hard and dedicated work that instructors and students bring to the curricular examination of race and ethnicity. Following discussion with members of the LSA community and after extensive assessment of R&E courses and learning goals, the committee believes that the requirement is academically sound and intellectually healthy.
Be more innovative and creative with R&E.
Finally, over the course of the past academic year, the committee explored avenues of innovation and renovation for designing and teaching R&E courses. These materials can be found in the appendices of the committee’s report. Given the overall soundness of the requirement, the committee believes that the next few years represent an opportunity for LSA to bring a new level of creativity and energy to this degree requirement.
New initiatives may include “Global R&E,” which would seek to group the sizable proportion of current R&E course offerings that deal with international and global (and non-U.S.) content. Currently, 64 (58%) R&E courses are non-U.S. focused. This curricular innovation would be designed to be attentive to how issues of race, ethnicity, national belonging, citizenship, legal status, and so forth have shaped and will continue to shape the social world and the global landscape. “Global R&E” might, for instance, comprise a series of individual courses deliberately tailored and/or designed with the R&E degree requirement in mind, with co-taught courses as an option. R&E courses taught in a single semester could incorporate lecturers and events, sponsored by the International Institute and other units on campus, to open up more spaces for dialogue and discussion and to demonstrate the relevance to contemporary questions and debates, such as human rights, human trafficking, the rise of Islamophobia, and ethnic violence. Faculty and professionals at the International Institute have already expressed interest in this idea.
New initiatives may also include “R&E Engagement,” in partnership with the Intergroup Relations Program (IGR). “R&E Engagement” would encompass ideas for building support to increase opportunities for students to engage in discussion and dialogue, especially while enrolled in large R&E lecture courses with recitation sections.
The Review Committee was struck by how often our students referenced the desire for more IGR courses and training. They value the ways that dialogue skills help them work across differences and break down stereotypes, ensuring that all voices are heard while de-escalating conflict around controversial topics, stepping back from normative narratives, and evaluating marginalized issues and voices.
We want to pilot a series of engagement interventions, including training for GSIs to lead discussion sections using dialogue methods for active, engaged learning; an IGR Common Ground workshop retreat as a course component; a dialogue assignment option in which students can participate in a six-week intergroup dialogue in place of a research paper; and a dialogue mini-course or co-curricular experience attached to or following the course. Such “dialogic opportunities” can help students bridge the theoretical content of courses with lived experience around race, ethnicity, and social identity.
We also want to find ways to encourage faculty members and GSIs to view undergraduates themselves as active partners in R&E instruction and in the creation of inclusive classrooms more broadly. The Office of the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education has been experimenting with the use of undergraduate “course consultants” to assist faculty seeking to redesign approaches and incorporate more inclusive pedagogies. This has worked well, especially in cases where those students have already been trained in IGR techniques.
New initiatives could also encourage more R&E community-based learning options. There is solid research that illustrates that retention toward graduation and students’ feelings of belonging (and perception of the campus climate) are positively affected by their participation in service-learning courses. Experiential, place-based courses like these engage students with each other and their studies in community settings. Student learning is most effective when it involves academic rigor and when substantive reflection is an integral part of the learning (Gallini & Moely, 2003). Research also shows that even when race, ethnicity, and culture are not the explicit focus of a community-based learning course and reflection prompts do not raise those issues, the students working in diverse settings write about and reflect critically on those topics (Dunlap,1998). None of our current, officially “tagged” CBL courses meet the R&E requirement; this is a missed opportunity.
Consider developing an R&E student advisory committee.
We should consider actively experimenting with the creation of a student advisory committee on R&E and find creative and meaningful ways to involve undergraduates, formally and informally, in the redesign of courses and in the creation of new methods to provide support and feedback for faculty and GSIs struggling to make their classrooms more inclusive. In one of their Plan-A-Thon proposals, students in the Michigan Community Scholars Program put forth the idea to create several “Student Advisory Committees on Diversity”—on admissions policies, on “STEM for Women,” on “Administrative Diversity Accountability,” and on R&E. These committees would be standing “watchdog/advisory committees comprised of undergraduates offering feedback about ongoing areas of diversity-related concerns.” They would help to “keep us honest” and would serve as mechanisms for “useful, ground-level feedback on the impact of administrative policies.”
Improve STEM Education
Students from underrepresented backgrounds enter college with similar levels of interest in STEM fields, however they are less likely to persist during their undergraduate experience when compared to non- underrepresented counterparts (Griffith, 2010), (Barr, et. al., 2008). And we know that the experiences of women in many STEM fields are far from welcoming and supportive.
In her DEI proposal, one of our students writes that the fundamental challenge is “to engage and encourage” women and underrepresented minorities. A department can only hire a more diverse faculty, she notes, “if there exists a diverse pool of applicants.... Therefore, there needs to be long-term goals in supporting diversity.” Indeed, the problem in undergraduate education compounds forward. Graduate schools in STEM and health-related fields such as medicine, dentistry, nursing, veterinary medicine, and biomedical sciences continue to have stagnant numbers of underrepresented students in their programs. This challenge remains despite national and local institutional efforts to shift the demographics of these fields.
With these local and national challenges in mind, as part of the LSA DEI process, we are channeling more of our STEM-based efforts in two major directions:
- Inclusive STEM classrooms in partnership with CRLT and REBUILD dedicated to improving the quality of undergraduate introductory science courses using evidence-based techniques.
- “Growing STEM: Pipelines, Collaborations, and Pedagogies for Diversity and Inclusion at Michigan.” The Growing STEM proposal involves colleagues from dozens of different units across the University. The full proposal will be submitted separately as part of the University-wide DEI process, and can also be found in appendix E of the LSA DEI Plan.
Evolve strategic partnerships to support inclusive STEM classrooms.
There is a growing sense nationwide that undergraduate STEM education is not as effective as it could be; some would even say it is lacking. As a recent perspective in Nature summarizes, “Too often, faculty members talk at students rather then engaging them in activities that help them to learn and apply core scientific concepts and skills. Despite growing scholarship about effective teaching methods and meaningful ways to assess them, research universities rarely provide adequate incentives, support or rewards for the time that faculty members spend on improving teaching. And faculty members assign a low priority to undergraduate teaching compared to research.” In sum: “Efforts to improve undergraduate STEM education have been slow and piecemeal at best” (Bradforth, et. al., 2015).
LSA faculty in natural science units have been working individually and in teams to deploy a range of evidence-based teaching strategies and engaged learning pedagogies to begin to reimagine the shape of undergraduate education, especially in large introductory courses for first- and second-year students. Our faculty are using a variety of University and College resources: Third Century grants, substantial federal and private foundation funding, CRLT’s large course initiative, and even departmental colloquia to learn, devise, and share new techniques and assessment methods.
For many members of the faculty, their dedication to inclusive teaching and learning is propelled by recognizing that many women, underrepresented minorities, and other students are particularly disadvantaged by more traditional and rigid instructional methods. Instead of “solving” the problem of the loss of potentially excellent STEM majors by making these students “fit” better into an existing (not-so-great) structure, a growing segment of our faculty believe that we should, instead, seek to change the structure in ways that would benefit diverse students while also providing all students with a better educational experience.
Within LSA, REBUILD—Researching Evidence-Based Undergraduate Instructional and Learning Developments—has been at the center of these efforts. Funded by a $2 million NSF grant, and with additional contributions from LSA, the College of Engineering, and the U-M Office of Research, the project emerges from a desire for teaching that is scholarly: informed by research, attentively monitored, and adapted in response. Increasing the number of STEM majors is a national goal, and improving introductory education is the front line in this effort. Introductory STEM courses can carry weighty grade penalties, awarding grades substantially lower than students receive in other courses. More troubling, grade penalties in some introductory STEM lectures show substantial gender and race disparities.
Addressing these issues requires rethinking our approach to undergraduate STEM education. A tremendous amount of research shows the benefits of active and engaged learning in the classroom. Further, instructors are better able to engage students when they use evidence from their own courses to inform their teaching during future iterations of each class. U-M instructors have taken important steps toward more engaged classes, implementing Authentic Research Design in labs, and working to transform large lectures into workshops. But real barriers, both technical (e.g., teaching spaces) and sociological remain. The REBUILD project’s overarching goal is to provide knowledge and resources to help people working in these courses to make evidence-based instruction the new normal.
But REBUILD and its aligned faculty are not enough. College and central university support is essential, especially around issues of classroom spaces and lab reconfiguration. Some, perhaps many, would argue that teaching spaces are a major barrier to instituting instructional changes, and that an institutional commitment in this area would be an equally major catalyst for change. A 2016–2017 goal ought to be a serious feasibility study around our existing spaces and the possibilities for new ones. A corresponding Five-Year Goal should be a major overhaul to better align instructional spaces with these evidence-based instructional techniques.
To spread the message of change to all STEM faculty and students, the REBUILD team has developed research-to-reform presentations describing evidence-based instructional methods and reporting detailed results of their application at the University of Michigan, which are being delivered in more than 20 regular department colloquia across the STEM disciplines. Since beginning in January 2014, REBUILD has worked to create an interdisciplinary nucleus for culture change in STEM instruction. As the project enters its final year, its central goal is to find a way to institutionalize this promising beginning.
The commentary in Nature identifies this kind of “bottom-up” faculty-to-faculty (and graduate student and post-doc) approach as essential in any serious effort at institutional change in STEM education. It also identifies the need for “top-down” support from senior administrators to encourage faculty buy-in, recognize and reward good teaching, centralize and make accessible data and analytics, and use teaching improvements as a fundraising lever. Many of the faculty colloquia described above remain quite small. REBUILD, for all of its efforts, has found it difficult to obtain its goal of being a “nucleus” for change. Getting to the next step of more faculty buy-in and departmental support is going to take a more strategic, multi-level approach. If we are serious about improving the overall quality of STEM instruction and promoting more accountability in undergraduate education, then learning from the experiences of our “reformers” and promoting a stable platform on which they can act and recruit is required.
A powerful example of this top-down approach, the authors contend, is openness to the creation of endowed chairs for teaching excellence and tenure-track positions for Discipline Based Education Research (DBER) faculty. This approach has already been adopted by the College of Engineering, which has created four tenure-track positions in Engineering Education Research spread across the college. Keeping them focused on the goal of instructional reform and creativity while balancing the needs of their own research agendas is a major concern.
Finally, the commentary insists that these top-down and bottom-up approaches have to be solidified in the middle—in colleges and departments that “foster a team culture of continuous teaching improvements.” This team-based approach to introductory STEM courses already partly exists, but it should be acknowledged and receive continued support from the college level. The departments have an important role to play as well. Transformation of introductory science education—shifting to active learning, studio instruction, the incorporation of Authentic Research Design—all have to be departmentally sanctioned and aggressively supported.
In the 2016–2017 academic year, we want to begin a study of our existing spaces and the possibilities for new ones. A corresponding Five-Year Goal could be a major overhaul to better align instructional spaces with these evidence-based instructional techniques.
We also want to help further evolve the partnership between REBUILD, CRLT, and the LSA Dean’s Office to explore opportunities to improve the quality of undergraduate introductory science courses using evidence-based techniques. REBUILD and CRLT have already begun to convene faculty discussions about the next phase of REBUILD’s work, which will entail a shift toward a focus on “Foundational Courses” across the curriculum.
Encourage coordination among student learning communities and support offices.
Look for synergies with the “Growing STEM” community to build a sustainable pipeline, particularly for URM students and women, into STEM fields, from pre-college programs through medical and professional school. This collaboration within LSA and between LSA and CRLT (and CRLT-Engin) would also help to ground and propel a cross-campus initiative: “Growing STEM: Pipelines, Collaborations, and Pedagogies for Diversity and Inclusion at Michigan,” which was conceived as a response to the disparities present at almost every level of STEM education. Faculty and leadership from the College of LSA, the medical school, and the College of Engineering have come together to build a sustainable and strong pipeline particularly for underrepresented minority and women into STEM fields. This pipeline is open to all interested individuals, programs, schools, and colleges at the University of Michigan and would encompass:
- Pre-college outreach, recruitment, and admission
- First- and second-year undergraduate STEM education and retention into STEM majors
- Preparation and mentorship for undergraduate students into graduate and professional programs
- Ideally, this pipeline would encompass all stages from K12 outreach through graduate and professional schools, postdoctoral fellowships, and entrance into careers.
The full proposal for “Growing STEM” can be found in appendix E of the LSA DEI plan and will be submitted as part of the University-wide DEI process. This initiative is ongoing and increasingly based within LSA’s National Center for Institutional Diversity.
In all of these efforts, we recommend actively involving students, both undergraduate and graduate.
The LSA student’s central idea—apart from the call for public acknowledgement that this is an institutional problem—is essentially the creation of more course-based student learning communities using the model established by the Douglas Houghton Scholars Program (DHSP) attached to Math 115/116. DHSP offers additional class time and extra support, intensive focus on mentoring, and the creation of a diverse community. In the student’s view, a similar structure could be used for courses such as ENGR 100/101, EECS 183, Physics 135/140, Bio 171/172, and Chem 120/210.
More Active, Engaged, Community-Based Learning in More Diverse Settings
Active, academically engaged and community-based learning (CBL) initiatives offer a third large segment of the LSA curriculum in which to think about inclusive pedagogies. In 2013, LSA established the Center for Engaged Academic Learning (CEAL) to organize and support a variety of preexisting programs, such as the Prison Creative Arts Project in the Residential College, Project Community in the Department of Sociology, and the Semester in Detroit Program, and to begin to develop new directions. CEAL aims to promote pedagogical innovation through initiatives that help students become adaptive, creative, and impactful in their engagement with the world.
These kinds of programs promote creativity, problem solving, intercultural communication, civic responsibility, ethical reasoning, collaboration, teamwork, and self-agency, including the ability to understand and manage risks. They are also part of a promising strategy for reducing disparities in educational attainment.
According to the American Association of Universities and Colleges, “College students who participate in high-quality community engagement programs experience a wide range of benefits: increased interaction with faculty and peers, opportunities for reflection, more meaningful learning, and an enhanced sense of belonging. These benefits apply to all students, but the National Survey of Student Engagement has suggested that ‘historically underserved students benefit more from engaging in these activities than white students in terms of earning higher grades and persisting to the second year of college’ (Kuh et al. 2007). When community engagement initiatives link college and K-12 students, they can extend these benefits to younger students as well, improving their academic preparation and aspirations by connecting them with older role models” (“Promoting Inclusive Access and Success Through Community Engagement,” Diversity & Democracy pub of AACU).
We recommend finding more creative ways to support and grow these curricular initiatives.
CEAL will continue to provide one important outlet for this effort. While it may cease to function as a stand-alone center it will continue to promote the integration of classroom and experiential learning; seek to increase the quantity and quality of engaged learning opportunities; facilitate department and faculty engagement; and provide a platform for increased student participation, at both the graduate and the undergraduate level, in the design of CBL courses and opportunities.
Learning in diverse spaces outside of classrooms and embedded in communities of various kinds has also been deliberatively programmed into CSP’s Bridge Second Summer, opening up options for students to study at Camp Davis in Wyoming; in New England at NELP; at the Biological Station, which is launching a series of engaged learning initiatives of its own; in the Semester in Detroit program; and at various global locations through LSA’s Center for Global and Intercultural Studies (CGIS) and its Global Intercultural Experience for Undergraduates (GIEU) programs.
Support curricular innovations for Project Community.
The sociology department submitted a proposal to strengthen the course, one of the oldest service-learning courses in the nation. This is an ideal moment to revitalize this multi-tiered course, in which learning happens in classroom reflection and at a variety of project sites organized around education, criminal justice, and public health. The successfully-funded proposal highlights internship and field placements in sites involving criminal justice and mass incarceration, which are growing areas of commitment for many members of the LSA faculty. We anticipate being able to mobilize resources within the Office of the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education, CEAL, PCAP, and other programs to make Project Community once again a national model for engaged, community-based education.
Thinking ahead to the creation of Five-Year Plans and Goals, we recommend increased resources for transportation and logistics to support these programs.
Above all, this includes ongoing conversations about the UM-Detroit Connector Bus Service, as well as ongoing support for the growth of the Semester in Detroit Program and other Detroit-based learning opportunities such as the UROP Summer Community-Based Research Program that will need a new and improved UM-Detroit Center.