Listenings

To assist us in thinking through issues in higher education, the Teagle Foundation from time to time convenes administrators, faculty, and others from the higher education community to talk with us about issues of particular importance. Groups ranging from 15-50 come together in guided but generally informal discussions called Listenings. These discussions help the Foundation shape its policies and initiatives.

Attendance is by invitation.

Below are reports on our Listenings.
 

College Community Connections  
On November 4-5, 2013 the Teagle Foundation gathered grantees and other special guests to focus on its  "College-Community Connections" (CCC) initiative.  Started in 2005, the CCC program established partnerships between New York City community-based organizations and college and universities. Within each of these eleven partnerships, academically ambitious programs have been developed to expose financially disadvantaged but talented high school students to the rigors of a college liberal education while also encouraging them to think expansively about the colleges to which they might apply. During the convening, attendees explore several topics including liberal education as it relates to democracy and opportunity, “college match” for underserved students, and the sustainability and replication of the CCC partnerships.

For more information, see:
Cheryl Ching's report on the Convening.

Faculty Work and Student Learning in the 21st Century  
On April 11 and 12, 2013, the Teagle Foundation convened a meeting focused on its “Faculty Work and Student Learning in the 21st Century” initiative. The RFP was released in 2011 and seeks to explore what the changing nature of liberal education—increasingly defined as the development of intellectual and personal capacities, and increasingly shaped by a tough economic climate and by the continuous emergence of new online technologies—means for how colleges and universities and their faculties in the arts and sciences educate undergraduate students. Among the over 50 faculty and administrators present were representatives of the nine grant-funded projects as well as other special guests. The meeting was comprised of several major presentations, responses, and facilitated discussions on each of the major themes of cognitive science, technology, and the changing forms of faculty work.

For more information, see:
Peg Miller's report on the Convening.

View the keynote presentation, "Student Learning & the New Online Technologies."

What Works and What Matters in Student Learning  
The Foundation held a convening from June 7-9, 2012 focused on the question, “What works and what matters in student learning?” The “what works” aspect of the convening was centered around what we know about helping students achieve at the highest level possible. The “what matters” aspect of the convening honed in on the aims, form and content of undergraduate liberal education, especially in the humanities. President Richard L. Morrill’s introductory essay and the program agenda for the convening can be found below. Approximately 90 participants gathered for this meeting New York City, including presidents, faculty, consortia leaders, education researchers, foundation officers, and higher education press members. The ideas generated at the meeting help to inform the Foundation’s future work in this area. As one way to gather feedback on the meeting, the Foundation asked two convening participants to offer personal interpretations of the meeting sessions. Their essays can be found below. Ashley Finley, Senior Director of Assessment & Research at the Association of American Colleges & Universities, reflected on the question of “What works in student learning?” Laura Rosenthal, Professor in the English Department at University of Maryland, offered insights on the question of “What matters in student learning?”  

For more information, see:
Teagle Introductory Essay and Program Agenda

Ashley Finley’s “What Works” report on the Convening

Laura J. Rosenthal’s “What Matters” report on the Convening

Presidential and Board Leadership in Student Learning  
The Foundation convened a Listening on April 15, 2011 on the topic of Presidential Leadership in Student Learning, which brought together college presidents, foundation officers, researchers on student learning, board members, and representatives of professional associations of board members. The purpose of the Listening was to advance the discussion on the responsibilities of presidents in assessment and in the improvement of student learning as well as the role of the governing board in the assurance of academic quality.

For more information, see:
Peter Struck's report on the Listening.

Re-imagining Liberal Education The Foundation convened a Listening on September 30 - October 1, 2010 to explore the question of what a re-imagined liberal education might look like. Critical to the discussion were a number of recent trends in higher education that have changed the way liberal education is understood and practiced at colleges and universities across the country: the re-conception of liberal education as a range of broad cognitive abilities and personal and civic competencies, not only as the accumulation of content and knowledge; the desire, as well as the pressure, to know that students are achieving these outcomes; the increasing interest in applying research from the cognitive sciences on how people learn to teaching, as well as to approaches to student development outside the classroom; the implementation of "engaged learning practices" such as study abroad and undergraduate research that have been shown to have a positive impact on students' cognitive growth, academic performance, and motivation; the evolving sophistication of online learning environments that do not seek to replace face-to-face instruction, but to support and enhance it; and the 2007-2009 financial crisis, which has affected the circumstances of all institutions of higher education. College deans and presidents, faculty, heads of consortial organizations, researchers, foundation colleagues, and others explored the implication of these trends for teaching and learning, and offered possible directions the Foundation might take in furthering the development of an initiative to re-imagine liberal education.


Using Evidence to Improve Student Learning In October 2009, the Foundation gathered faculty, assessment experts, and representatives of national consortia of colleges and universities for a one-day Listening on how to put existing data to work to achieve demonstrable improvements in learning outcomes. Specifically, the meeting explored the obstacles and impediments that hinder full use of student learning data on college and university campuses, as well as identified potential cost-effective and sustainable ways of increasing the educational benefits from such evidence.


Graduate Student Teaching in the Arts & Sciences  
There have been many rapid changes in undergraduate education, and faculty members often find themselves confronted with expectations that did not exist even a few years ago. At many previous Foundation Listenings and meetings, we have heard repeatedly that one way of responding to this situation is by ensuring that future faculty, that is, today's graduate students, enter the academic workforce equipped with new knowledge and tools about how to bring student learning to the highest levels. To better understand current efforts to prepare future faculty, as well as to explore possible strategies for future work in this area, the Foundation convened a day-and-a-half Listening of graduate school deans, faculty, directors of teaching and learning centers, graduate students, and others in August 2009 in New York City.


How Can Student Learning Best Be Advanced? Achieving Systematic Improvement in Liberal Education  
How can processes of systematic improvement help bring student learning to the highest possible level? This was the driving question of a national conference sponsored by the Teagle and Spencer Foundations at the Washington Duke Inn in Durham, North Carolina on October 9-11, 2008. Over 120 faculty, staff, administrators, accreditors, leaders of national organizations, and foundation officers were present to think hard about how student learning can be advanced, to discuss the movement towards systematic improvement of educational results, and to find more concerted, pro-active ways for the leadership of higher education to address these and related issues. More information on the conference, including the agenda, participant list, and podcasts of selected presentations can be found here.


Teaching and Learning Centers and Enhanced Student Learning  
How do we use the new knowledge about how students learn (especially in cognitive psychology and neuroscience), our improved understand of effective teacher, and better assessment techniques to enhance undergraduate student engagement and learning? What, if anything, is happening "on the ground" at college and university campuses in this regard? Has any of this new knowledge made its way to faculty and the classroom? If so in what way? To help us think through these questions, others like it and possible strategies going forward, the Foundation gathered twenty participants from teaching and learning centers at liberal arts colleges and research universities, foundations, and regional consortia for a day-long Listening in New York City.

For more information, see:
Cheryl Ching's report on the Listening.

Research Universities and Student Learning  
At its September 2006 Listening on "Leadership for Learning," the Foundation heard the call, from many participants, for working with graduate schools to ensure that teaching and learning are taken seriously from the start of faculty careers. Mentioned too was the importance of research universities to this process since it is their graduate programs that serve as the training ground for the majority of future professors. In response, the Teagle Foundation held a Listening with twenty-eight participants—high-level administrators and faculty from private research universities, graduate students, foundation colleagues, and board members—at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on the role private research universities might, and indeed can, play in increasing undergraduate student engagement and learning in the liberal arts.

For more information, see:
Peter Struck's report on the Listening.

Leadership for Learning  
For its third Listening on the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina from September 7 - 9, 2006, the Foundation pursued further the question of how to increase student engagement and learning in the liberal arts and sciences. In recent years, we—that is, those of us concerned with liberal education—have learned a lot about how to achieve more robust teaching and learning. Much of this knowledge, however, is still fragmentary and not widely used in the classroom. What would it take to genuinely improve student learning? The Foundation believes that part of the answer is surely well-crafted assessment, which in turn takes leadership, both administrative and faculty. What else? Over 70 invited participants—leaders of Teagle-funded projects, college presidents and administrators, foundation colleagues, Teagle board members and staff, and others—helped the Foundation think through these questions and outline some possible strategies going forward.

For more information, see:
Cheryl Ching's report on the Listening.

Academic Disciplines and Student Learning  
Sensing the need for a fresh look at disciplinary learning in a liberal arts education and motivated by ongoing debates on liberal education, the major, and pre-professional courses in undergraduate education, the Foundation invited faculty members, college presidents and administrators, foundation colleagues, and board members for a day-long Listening to explore these and related issues. The Listening took place on March, 10, 2006 in New York City.

For more information, see:
Cheryl Ching's report on the Listening.

Religious Work  
Taking place in the Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina, from September 8-10, 2005, this Listening helped the Foundation think about and start to shape new, productive ways to support “religious work” within the context of liberal education. The Foundation gathered around 60 participants, including junior and senior faculty, presidents, provosts, deans, chaplains, and undergraduate students from across the country. Public as well as private colleges and universities were represented, as were both secular and religiously affiliated institutions. The Listening consisted of five panel presentations, a working group lunch, and open Q&A and discussion sessions.

For more information, see:
Bob Connor's draft bibliography on "Religious Work" and Liberal Education

Peter Struck’s report on the September 8-10, 2005 Listening
 
Cheryl Ching's report on the September 8-10, 2005 Listening

Liberal Arts Outcomes: Assessing Teaching and Learning in English  
In Spring 2005, the Foundation held a virtual listening (an asynchronous, electronic discussion forum) entitled “Liberal Arts Outcomes: Assessing Teaching and Learning in English.” We posed the questions: What can be gained from systematic assessment of teaching and learning in the discipline of English? What assessment efforts are currently underway in departments of English across the country? Are there discipline-specific concerns that demand particular assessment practices, and do those practices exist, or could they be developed, given the appropriate time and support? The report from this virtual listening can be found here.

Big Questions and Liberal Education  
In Fall 2005, the Teagle Foundation probed the big question of “Big Questions” in liberal education. We wanted to know whether a more direct engagement with the “Big Questions” would help invigorate students’ liberal education. One of our Listenings on the Blue Ridge, a Virtual Listening (an asynchronous, electronic discussion forum) over the internet, and various conversations and other exchanges has brought some complicated issues to the fore. We haven’t tried to define those “Big Questions,” but we gave, as examples, such questions as “Who am I? What am I going to do with my life? What are my values? Is there such a thing as evil? What does it mean to be human? How can I understand suffering and death? What obligations do I have to others? What makes work, or a life, meaningful and satisfying?” We were also curious about shifting student attitudes (including their interest in religion and spirituality), about issues of value and meaning, and power and morality, and their place in undergraduate experience today—in the curriculum and beyond. We wanted to know if such questions might be in eclipse in liberal education today. The report from the virtual listening on big questions can be found here.
 
Disciplinary Considerations: Classical Studies  
Using Classics as a test case, the Foundation convened two Listenings to explore issues surrounding disciplinary study in liberal education. Each gathered a small group of participants—faculty, provosts, and deans from private undergraduate colleges, larger research universities, and other institutions. The first Listening, on December 3, 2004, was a wide-ranging discussion of various issues. The second, on April 16, 2005, considered the potential value of a discipline-based initiative to support more systemic assessment of teaching and learning in higher education. At its May 2005 meeting, the Foundation’s Board of Directors approved a grant to the Center for Assessment of Higher Education at the University of Maryland, where Rachelle Brooks will lead a project to develop an instrument to assess undergraduate learning outcomes in Classics.

For more information, see:
Peter Struck’s report on the December 3, 2004 Listening
 
Bob Connor’s report on the April 16, 2005 Listening
 
Rachelle Brooks' assessment instrument development project
 
Value-Added Assessment  
This Listening took place at the Blue Ridge Mountains from September 9-11, 2004. Slightly larger than other such events, it was designed to help the Foundation determine the most productive ways in which we could support the movement toward value-added assessment in liberal education. The group attending numbered about 50, and included some of the leaders in this movement, the heads of consortia that are committed to strengthening the movement, teams (usually a faculty member and senior administrator) from a dozen or more private liberal arts colleges, and some thoughtful observers and commentators of higher education. Unlike other Listenings, this one was structured much like a conference, and featured a few formal presentations as well as comments, questions, and discussions from the floor. It proved very helpful in shaping a Request for Proposals for collaborative work in Value-Added Assessment. Grants that emerged from this RFP were approved during the Teagle Foundation's May 2005 Board meeting.

For more information, see:
Peter Struck's report (PDF) on the September 2004 Listening
 
List of grants for collaborative work in Value Added Assessment
 
Further Resources