Grants in Higher Education

November 12, 2004


Click here for other projects in Teaching and Learning

November 2004
American Council of Learned Societies
"Scholar-Teachers and Student Learning" | White paper
Project Leaders: Steve Wheatley


$92,100 over 22 months. ACLS will convene a working group of liberal arts faculty, institutional leaders, educational researchers, and learned society leaders who will address the vitality of the teacher-scholar model and its relation to the success of general liberal arts education across the institutional spectrum of higher education. In today's changing educational environments, tight budgets pressure institutions to use adjunct faculty, students are less likely to grasp the value of studying the liberal arts, and assessment of learning outcomes play an ever-increasing role. How should we think about the career development of faculty in relation to the educational development of students? We need a "unified field theory" of academic effectiveness. This need is especially critical for education in the liberal arts. That students specializing in a particular discipline will benefit from their teacher's identical specialization seems apparent. What is less clear is the effect disciplinary research may have on the more general goals of a liberal arts education.

Using quantifiable as well as descriptive research methods, the group will analyze the conceptual connections between the teacher-scholar model and a focus on learning outcomes, asking whether there is a relationship between the "value-added" of educationally successful institutions of higher education and their local institutional cultures of professional expectations. It is hoped that this research will seed a trans-institutional network of scholars and college/university leaders concerned with the viability of faculty-powered, student-focused liberal arts education, a network in which ACLS will be an active participant.

Barnard College
"Integrative Learning in Liberal Education: A Case Study" | White paper
Project Leaders: Stephanie Pfirman


$75,951 over 12 months. The project at Barnard College will address two pressing and persistent challenges - developing effective interdisciplinary course content and instituting successful learning strategies for such curricula. In collaboration with a number of varied institutions in the Hudson River Valley, Barnard will lead an inter-institutional faculty seminar on "River Summer." This place-based five-week summer course will take students and faculty on a voyage of inquiry and discovery from the headwaters of the Hudson to the sea. The seminar will review and incorporate proven student-centered learning strategies based upon current research in cognitive learning science (PDF). At the same time, faculty will consider ways to realize the interdisciplinary potential of this extraordinary natural environment. In addition to several day-long seminars prior to "River Summer," the working group will also meet twice to review lessons learned and begin the assessment.

In addition to developing this specific, creative interdisciplinary curriculum that integrates effective pedagogy, the working group will have tested a collaborative model that can be adapted by others committed to the power of contextual learning. Barnard will disseminate key concepts and approaches so that faculty at other types of institutions can make positive contributions to the advancement of core values associated with liberal education.

Brown University
"The Values of the Open Curriculum: An Alternative Tradition in Liberal Education" | White paper
Project Leaders: Paul Armstrong and Katherine Bergeron


$98,245 over 12 months. An "open curriculum" that emphasizes student choice, exploration, and discovery constitutes an important alternative tradition in American higher education. In light of recent debates about the purposes of liberal education, it is timely to assess what has been learned from this tradition of innovation and to formulate the challenge that it offers to conventional approaches. The lack of a coherently articulated explanation of the values of this tradition has prevented its assumptions and purposes from being recognized and debated with the precision, rigor, and intelligence that a serious discussion of the purposes of liberal education deserves.

A working group of representatives from a small set of colleges where the open curriculum thrives will summarize and compare what they have learned in more than forty years of experimentation. Led by Brown University, where granting students the freedom to craft their programs of study is a cornerstone of the curriculum, the working group will bring together institutions with open curricula of various kinds. Institutions that have expressed an interest in participating include Amherst, Smith, Wesleyan, Hampshire, Evergreen, New College, Sarah Lawrence, and Antioch. The goals of the project are: to explain the assumptions and aims of such a curriculum by studying the various ways in which it has been imagined and implemented on different campuses; to identify what other institutions can learn from these pedagogical and curricular reforms whether or not they adopt all of the features of an open curriculum; and to develop assessment measures that will evaluate the concrete outcomes of this curriculum for several generations of graduates in order to test its claims.

Cornell University
"Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in College Completion and Achievement: A Teagle Working Group on What Works and Why" | White paper
Project Leaders: David Harris


$99,978 over 18 months. With generous support from the Teagle Foundation, Cornell University has initiated a working group on diversity, college completion, and achievement. We are fortunate to be joined in this endeavor by four nearby liberal arts institutions-Colgate University, Hamilton College, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and Wells College. Although our institutions are not currently collaborating on diversity issues, each member is independently pursuing a range of diversity-related initiatives. Bringing together faculty, administrators, and undergraduates from these five institutions will allow us to learn from each other's experiences. It will also provide a diverse range of perspectives from which to explore and evaluate programs designed to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in college completion and achievement.

Each member institution will host at least one meeting of the working group. The project will culminate with a report that: (1) provides a detailed list of how colleges and universities attempt to create supportive learning environments for minority students, (2) explores arguments for and against these programs, (3) develops detailed best practices for managing a racially and ethnically diverse campus, and (4) offers guidelines for how to evaluate the effectiveness of diversity-related programs.

Click here for an interview with principal investigator David Harris.

Social Science Research Council
"Assessing Interdisciplinary Products of Work and Habits of Mind in Liberal Arts Education" | White paper
Project Leaders: Diana Rhoten


$99,990 over 12 months. A "catch fire" idea of 21st century liberal arts education has been renewed enthusiasm for interdisciplinarity. This has resulted in the diffusion of new practices touting various forms of integrative learning and understanding. It has done so, however, without the design of appropriate frameworks to assess if and how these programs are actually advancing student thinking, being, and doing in ways different than those of their departmental predecessors. In fact, today, the lack of criteria for judging the quality of student cognition, motivation, and action is the biggest challenge to interdisciplinary theory and practice, in large part because these are least understood and understudied aspects of the question - particularly at the undergraduate level.

Focusing specifically on undergraduate students engaged in interdisciplinary programs at liberal arts institutions, the Social Science Research Council will convene a Working Group of higher education researchers and liberal arts leaders to address this critical shortcoming in the literature and practice.

Toward the design of an empirically-grounded and action-oriented framework for assessing the value of interdisciplinary programs in a liberal arts education, the Working Group will accomplish the following tasks: 1. Define what is meant by "interdisciplinarity," in terms of undergraduate students' habits of mind andproducts of work. 2. Develop "value-added" indicators and measures that will identify presence of and measure progress toward integrative learning and understanding in the habits and products of undergraduate students engaged in interdisciplinary programs versus disciplinary majors. 3. Determine possible implications (positive and negative) of different interdisciplinary versus disciplinary program types for the development of student cognitionmotivation, and action.

Washington and Lee University
"Technology Fluency and its Place in Liberal Education" | White paper
Project Leaders: Hank Dobin


$80,000 over 18 months. Washington and Lee University will convene a group of colleges and universities in a Teagle Foundation Working Group focused on the issue of technology fluency and its place in liberal education. Despite the pervasive nature of digital technology in our world and the breathtaking pace of innovation, most of the nation's best colleges and universities have not directly faced the challenge of first deciding what level of familiarity or competency our students must attain and how to deliver that knowledge, and second integrating technology as a topic of inquiry within a broader liberal arts education with emphases on values, personal enrichment, career preparation, and civic life. The working group will explore questions such as: How do we define what constitutes technological fluency? What is the responsibility of higher education to prepare our students as informed consumers and producers of that technology? How should the goal of technology fluency best be accomplished in the context of a liberal arts curriculum? How do we assess the success and value of such instruction?

Faculty and IT professionals representing Dartmouth, Drew, Lafayette, Maryland, Penn, Princeton, Rutgers, Stanford, Swarthmore, Yale, and Washington and Lee will meet twice between fall 2005 and summer 2006 with the goal of producing a white paper, articulating a consensus on goals and priorities, for dissemination by the Foundation. In addition, each institution will have an internal working group to develop institution-specific responses and concrete curricular and initiatives.

Washington University in St. Louis
"Re-Thinking the Pedagogy of Ethnicity" | White paper
Project Leaders: Ryan Balot


$95,275 over 18 months. Washington University in St. Louis plans to sponsor a Teagle Working Group focused on the teaching of ethnicity. By "ethnicity" we mean, provisionally, a form of group-based identification, revolving around a socially constructed set of markers or indicators of group allegiance, such as genealogy, history, territory, culture, religion, language, and names. Our goal is to unite theoretical, historical, and literary exploration with a concrete interest in classroom teaching. The central question is how best to discuss this thorny topic with students, so as to make them better informed, more tolerant, and more active citizens. We will first try to theorize ethnicity from an interdisciplinary perspective. Then, through examining "test-bed" courses and typical pedagogical situations, we will work to make our theoretical gains accessible to teachers of undergraduates. The Working Group includes scholars from Austin College, Luther College, Millsaps College, Ohio Wesleyan, and Union College.

Yale University
"Strengthening Liberal Education through Special Collections" | White paper
Project Leaders: Ann Okerson


$98,830 over 18 months. The Yale University Library proposes to explore the strengthening of liberal arts education through making students aware of special collections materials and objects and helping them use and even create such materials. "Special collections" is a commonly used term for items or archives that are unique, singular, source materials or media that, because of their scarcity, are specially housed and treated by academic libraries. The premise of this proposal is, nonetheless, that such materials deserve to be widely known and used, that they are not in short supply (but can be found in many academic institutions or can be created), and that their use and/or creation can facilitate learning and bring excitement into the classroom.

Partners in this venture, led by Yale University Library, will include community colleges (such as Naugatuck), four-year liberal arts colleges (such as Connecticut College), and small universities (such as Wesleyan). The project structure includes "anchor" events at the beginning (to define the opportunities, best practices that exist, the specific participating individuals, and a work plan) and at the end (to bring together what has been learned and to result in a concluding "White Paper"), as well as three practical workshops at intervals in between. The workshops will focus on specific special collections challenges such as Bringing Students to Collections; Oral Histories as Enticement; and Students and Active Learning. Each workshop will also result in a descriptive work. All timelines, deliverables, participants, and the concluding paper will be made available, as developed, on the project Web site.