Grants in Higher Education

February 23, 2007


Click here for other projects in Teaching and Learning

February 2007
Barnard College
"Reacting to the Past": A Pedagogy for Curricular Innovation
Project Leaders: Mark Carnes


$99,900 over 27 months. A subset of institutions in the "Reacting to the Past" Consortium—Barnard College, Drake University, Loras College, Queens College (CUNY), Smith College, Trinity College (CT), University of Georgia, and University of Texas at Austin—will develop ways to construct and implement a coherent general education curriculum based on the "Reacting to the Past" pedagogy. "Reacting to the Past" consists of elaborate games, set at pivotal moments in the past, in which students are assigned to roles informed by classic texts. It seeks to draw students into the past, promote engagement with big ideas, and improve speaking, writing, and leadership skills. The project will assemble four working groups of faculty to address curriculum design and implementation issues. Each group will construct curriculum modules that can be grouped together in various configurations to fulfill specific general education objectives. A final White Paper will provide the foundation for a "Reacting" general education curriculum, as well as an outline for future curriculum development and faculty training opportunities. More generally it will serve as a model for engaged pedagogy that can be adapted to various institutional and curricular contexts.

Georgetown University
Defining Social Pedagogies and Their Relevance to Liberal Education
Project Leaders: Randy Bass


$83,867 over 30 months. Georgetown University will work with Alma College, Borough of Manhattan Community College, California State University at Monterey Bay, Hope College, Skidmore College, and University of Kansas on a project that will create a framework for designing better general education experiences through "social pedagogies"—pedagogies through which educational environments in which learning occurs in the context of a community. Arguing that they are applicable and adaptable in diverse fields and at various curricular levels, the group will explore the effectiveness of "social pedagogies" in developing students' "adaptive expertise," that is, their ability to use knowledge fluently and flexibly, to manage and proceed confidently even if they begin from a point of uncertainty, and to be aware of their own knowledge. With three principal phases, the group will:
  1. Create a general framework for the development of "social pedagogies," documenting examples of existing courses that use them, and then drafting rubrics that outline qualities shaping adaptive expertise, as well as the criteria for evaluating student work in such courses;

  1. Test the framework by using it to revise current course components or to develop entirely new ones, as well as create assessment protocols to measure its effectiveness;

  1. Produce a guide and digital archive that will outline the framework for social pedagogy, and will include case studies; as well as discussions of how to align goals, teaching strategies, and assessment; and of how the social pedagogy framework can be applied across diverse curricular contexts.

New York University
Educating Citizens: Civic Education, Ethics, and the Liberal Arts
Project Leaders: Joy Connolly


$65,000 over 27 months. What is the role of the liberal arts in preparing students for life in a liberal democracy? More specifically, what can be gleaned from ancient and pre-modern literature, art, philosophy, and history—that is, those subjects that have been traditionally viewed as the humanistic core of a liberal arts education—that may enhance students' development as citizens and reform educational practices at colleges and universities? Distinguished scholars and teachers from New York University, Miami University of Ohio, Northwestern University, Oberlin College, Princeton University, and University of Michigan who share common interests in the scholarship of education; in Greek and Roman literature, culture, and political theory; and in the reception of the classical tradition from early modernity through today, will comprise the working group. They will examine the relationship of this humanistic core of a liberal arts education to the broader enterprise of civic engagement, looking especially at how colleges and universities may enrich students' understanding of the history and purpose of the liberal arts by framing their core humanities curriculum as a project of civic engagement. They will also conduct focus groups with faculty from their own and neighboring institutions, to gather a range of opinion about civic education, to generate curricular proposals, and to identify ways of integrating faculty initiative with the goals of the administration. The group will organize a conference on civic engagement, one product of which will be a collection of essays for public readership. Focusing on the unique past, present, and future contributions of ancient and pre-modern studies, the collection will address common misperceptions of liberal arts education and make a case for the liberal arts' involvement in education for democratic citizenship.

Project Pericles
Civic Engagement Courses | White paper
Project Leaders: Jan Liss


$100,000 over 30 months. Believing that preparing students for civic engagement should be integral to the educational mission of colleges and universities, Project Pericles will work with 22 Periclean institutions (Allegheny College, Bates College, Berea College, Bethune-Cookman College, Chatham College, Dillard University, Elon University, Hampshire College, Hendrix College, Macalester College, New England College, The New School, Occidental College, Pace University, Pitzer College, Rhodes College, St. Mary's College of Maryland, Spelman College, Swarthmore College, Ursinus College, Wagner College, and Widener University) to explore the incorporation of civic engagement into academic programs. Building on a pilot project which ran from 2004 - 2006, the working group will solicit 40 proposals for humanities and science courses that attend to issues of civic engagement, and will fund their development, testing (teaching), and evaluation. Course proposals will be peer reviewed and funded on the basis of criteria such as academic rigor, creativity, feasibility, articulation and measurability of concrete goals, and transferability to future years and other schools. The final White Paper will serve as a guide for incorporating civic engagement issues into higher education curricula and will contain:
  • Background on the need for academic courses that incorporate civic engagement issues;

  • Summaries and evaluations of the completed courses, including related materials;

  • Description of methods, including procedures used to develop, teach, and evaluate the courses, as well as best practices;

  • Guidance on transferability to other institutions;

  • A bibliography.

Skidmore College
Engaging Sophomore Students with Deliberative Dialogues: A Pilot Project to Enhance Liberal Learning | White paper
Project Leaders: Michael Ennis-McMillan


$100,000 over 27 months. The "sophomore slump"—what happens when a second-year student lacks the motivation to achieve academic, personal, and career goals—is a persistent problem in undergraduate education. Skidmore College, Colorado College, Connecticut College, and St. Lawrence University seek to address this issue, particularly at liberal arts colleges, by developing frameworks for small group dialogues which they argue will enhance sophomore engagement and learning in the liberal arts. These dialogues will bring students closely together with faculty and staff to discuss the goals of a liberal arts education, how to draw on that education to explore personal identity and examine ethics and values, and how to commit to a liberal learning approach as a critical means of discovering one's place in the world. The project has three principal phases:
  1. The group will begin by establishing baselines on student achievement and engagement. They will meet—face to face and electronically—to learn about sophomore initiatives on the four campuses, and compare existing institutional (on retention, GPAs, declared majors) and survey (e.g. NSSE) data. Additionally, they will administer pre-test surveys on "reflective judgment" and on sophomore engagement. They will also conduct interviews with students following a Perry scheme of intellectual and ethical development.

  1. The group will run a two-year pilot with at least two dialogue groups on each campus. General dialogue structure will be determined by the group at its first meeting, and then adapted by a "dialogue leadership group" comprised of faculty, staff, and students on each campus. Students will undertake post-test surveys and interviews. Progress, results, and strategies will be shared at a series of joint meetings.

  1. The group will produce a comprehensive guide on "academic interventions, best practices, and strategies for enhancing sophomore engagement on liberal arts colleges." Findings will be presented at professional meetings. Skidmore College will develop a project website that will "present results and provide resources for faculty working for sophomores."

Williams College
Teaching Big Science at Small Colleges: A Genomics Collaboration | Project website
Project Leaders: Lois Banta


$97,884 over 29 months. Undergraduate colleges face serious constraints in incorporating "big" science (which typically requires the resources of large research institutions) into discovery-orientated lab curricula. In May 2006, a group of fourteen colleges agreed to take on this challenge by partnering with the Columbia Genome Center (CGC) to scale the big science of genomics to the capacities of small institutions. By providing undergraduate departments with access to state-of-the-art genomics instrumentation and highly trained research staff, the colleges' partnership with the CGC aims to make it possible for undergraduates to use genome sequence data to answer novel questions and to participate in authentic science discovery. Now faculty members from four of these colleges—Barnard, Carleton, Vassar, and Williams—will form a working group to provide leadership for this effort as it goes forward. The group will host a series of workshops centered on genomics curricula and pedagogical methodology, as well as a competition—open to faculty from all 14 colleges—to develop curriculum, courses and / or modules for use in courses for non-science majors through upper-level electives. Courses and modules will be developed during the first academic year of the project, presented at workshops the following summer, and then taught and assessed in the second year. A website will be created with an eye to its becoming a leading resource in undergraduate genomics pedagogy. The website will facilitate communication among participants during all stages of the project, and enable interested faculty and colleges to access courses, modules, and all associated supporting materials. Key outcomes will be a set of web-based courses, modules, and teacher's guide, and a framework for further curricular innovations using emerging genomic sequence data from the CGC.