Students at Kapi'olani Community College explore issues of sustainability, learning to do stream assessments in their Teagle Learning Community combining English 100 and Biology 124, 'Decade Zero: Understanding Climate Disruption'
Six community colleges – Mesa, Kapi’olani, Delgado, Kingsborough, Queensborough, and Raritan Valley – have come together to reflect on the larger aims of liberal arts education and develop replicable models that build students’ current and future commitment to civic and moral responsibility. Their work is relevant not only for community colleges - where close to half of all undergraduates nationally are enrolled - but to all higher education stakeholders looking to foster civic and moral responsibility in its students while bettering the communities they serve.
As of Spring 2016, 60 faculty at the six participating community colleges have embedded a big question - How do we build our commitment to civic and moral responsibility for diverse, equitable, healthy, and sustainable communities?—into their courses, meaning that over 3,000 students have been involved to date. Courses range from Social Psychology to Film Production. Details of what’s happening in all of the projects can be found at on the project website.
Jan. 2013-May 201660
Jan. 2013-May 201670
Integrative courses run
Jan. 2013-May 20163,000
Participating faculty have developed a shared rubric to assess the learning happening in the courses. In Spring 2015, a total of 164 student capstone essays were rubric-scored project wide. Prompts begin with “Identify the issue you focused on (such as homelessness) and explain how it relates to diversity, equity, health or sustainability” and progress to prompts such as, “As an informed individual and citizen, discuss the issue you focused on as a public problem as well as possible solutions to the problem.” The shared rubric facilitates informal benchmarking among faculty on the effectiveness of their teaching practices; based on the results, participating faculty reflect on and share strategies that seem to be especially effective in sharpening students’ writing and critical thinking skills. Project leaders expressed that this collaboration is encouraging greater experimentation among faculty in how courses are designed and developed, and how campus-community partnerships can be strengthened.
To complement the qualitative approach with the shared scoring rubric, a quantitative pre- and post-survey methodology is currently being refined for campus use. This methodology focuses on the constructs of civic and moral responsibility, diversity, equity, health, and sustainability, with five survey items per construct. The two assessment tools complement each other: the rubric assesses student gains in knowledge and attitudes, while the survey assesses changes in student attitudes and behaviors. The two tools will be disseminated nationally after a process of iterative refinement in early 2017.
Each campus has a community of 8-12 faculty members driving the project in addition to staff, student, and administrative members. Project leaders then convene each year at the conference of the Community College National Center for Community Engagement based in Arizona, which hosts an annual one-day Teagle Institute, so that improvements can be made on a larger scale based on the experiences of the individual campuses. During these inter-institutional dialogues, faculty have identified strategies to scaffold student learning throughout the semester. This scaffolding better prepares students to write compelling capstone reflection essays and demonstrate their gains in learning over time in the form of written products. As of spring 2016, project faculty from the six campuses have presented at 15 regional, statewide, and national workshops (e.g., International Conference on Teaching and Leadership Excellence, NSF Science and Civic Engagement Summer Institute, and the 30th Annual Campus Compact Conference), and published one major paper (i.e., “More than Bells without Clappers: Students Finding Voice Through Civic Engagement with Big Questions, AAC&U Diversity and Democracy).
This collaboration is encouraging greater experimentation among faculty in how courses are designed and developed, and how campus-community partnerships can be strengthened.
Faculty Serving as Teaching Consultants to Each Other
The common rubrics have encouraged faculty participants in the project to serve as consultants to colleagues at their home institution and across institutions to encourage teaching and learning strategies that cultivate in students a sense of civic and moral responsibility. For example, at Raritan Valley Community College, faculty from History, Philosophy, Nursing, Science, Math, and Education have collaborated to develop service-learning projects. Their success with iterative and qualitative assessment led them to being invited to facilitate a workshop for their colleagues at their annual all-campus in-service day focused on assessing student learning outcomes. They also brought in Robert Franco, project co-leader and director of institutional research at Kapi’olani Community College, to serve as a guest speaker. Learn more from this video of the Raritan Valley workshop.
Modeling System-Wide Change
At Kapi’olani Community College, two faculty members designed a six-credit learning community course linking an introductory English course and an introductory Biology course called “Decade Zero: The Science and Rhetoric of Climate Change.” The interdisciplinary approach emphasizes communication about equity issues related to climate change such as displacement due to rising sea levels. Students engage in a 20 hour service project, choosing one of the following: stream water monitoring, cultural site restoration and removal of invasive species, on campus sustainability awareness, and teaching and assisting with an elementary school food garden where the College has a partnership. The learning assessment data is so encouraging that Kapi'olani is now serving as a model for all ten campuses in the University of Hawaii system to embed big questions about environmental responsibility through coordinated curricular, co-curricular, and community engaged work as part of the "Many Minds, One University" initiative.