This Week's Message
Measuring Student Learning With Peer Colleges
As the term comes to a close, I thought I would write you to let you know of some of the important work we are doing with the support of the Teagle Foundation. Thanks to the excellent reputation for student learning Augustana enjoys as a result of your work, Teagle has generously supported several projects we have developed in the past five years.
We have just completed our work with five peer colleges of our first Teagle grant (let's call it Teagle 1), which focused on writing, critical thinking and civic engagement. Congratulations to Michael Nolan, who as principal investigator has directed this project. I look forward to a conversation about what we learned from this work and how we might use that data to improve student learning.
Our second Teagle grant (Teagle 2) was awarded to us in partnership with three other schools (Wooster, Allegheny, Washington College) to study the effects on student development of senior capstone projects. Tim Schermer is co-director of this effort and faculty leaders include Ellen Hay, Kathy Jakielski, Jason Koontz, Todd Cleveland and Carla Tracy. Faculty across the campus have completed surveys of learning goals for the Senior Inquiry projects as a part of this grant.
Finally, we have begun another Teagle grant (Teagle 3) awarded to us and the five Teagle 1 schools (plus Washington & Jefferson) to study how our understanding of faculty work enables or constrains our use of high-impact practices in our classes. Our central question is, "How can we re-imagine faculty work to deepen student learning while easing faculty workload?" Lendol Calder, Margaret Farrar, Kevin Geedey and Reuben Heine are leading this effort. Our plan is to develop pilots on all six campuses and study both student learning outcomes and new faculty work.
A further word on this latest effort. An underlying premise of each of the grants, and a focus for the Teagle 3 work, is that Augustana and our peer colleges are uniquely addressing the needs of today's students and today's society through high impact pedagogies. We are now exploring ways to deepen student learning through a set of pilot learning communities/experiences called 'immersion terms', in which faculty teach, and students enroll in, only one intensive academic experience for an entire term. For example, Profs. Geedey and Heine are working on an initial model focused on water systems.
Such a pilot might eventually develop as a way to ease faculty workload while increasing student learning. It might also offer a powerful counter-narrative to the increasing commodification of a college education across the country (neither the University of Illinois nor the University of Phoenix can match the kind of experience Augustana students have: this project seeks to build on our success). We anticipate that the pilot experience will meet multiple gen ed and/or majors requirements, and we will thus be talking with relevant departments and with faculty committees about the model. Please see any of the faculty/administrators leading the project, or me, if you have interest in participating in a pilot, or in joining this exciting work.
I look forward to further conversation in the weeks and months ahead about these exciting opportunities for Augustana.