Academic Rigor FLC

In an effort to revive faculty discussion and activity on how the learning atmosphere on our campus can best be transformed from a "culture of forgiveness" to a "culture of responsibility," the FLC on Academic Rigor will devote its first three monthly meetings to examining literature and statistical information on grade inflation, its next three meetings studying pedagogies of critical thinking that are compatible with the aims of MT Engage, and its final two sessions on generating scholarship, planning intramural proposals and initiatives, communicating its findings to the campus community, and preparing a group article for The Chronicle of Higher Education or Inside Higher Ed that reflects the FLC's collective thoughts and observations on academic rigor. Each of the meetings will require at least one participant to lead a discussion on an article or chapter of one of the assigned books (Academically Adrift, Grade Inflation, e.g.). The discussion sessions may involve some added research on successful precedents for implementing better standards of academic rigor here and elsewhere. All discussions will steer towards practical, on-campus interventions and strategies that could lead to course and course sequence redesign, consensus on the integrative thinking and reflective skill sets that warrant specific grades, the types of assignments and learning activities that best measure such aims, and the problems of applying rigorous academic standards to the efforts of a widely underprepared student population in general education and other core classes, many of whom need to be held regularly accountable for basic course requirements, much less the quality of their work. The measurement of longitudinal, cross-disciplinary, and integrated, multi-faceted skill quality in a hypothetical set of MT Engage student portfolios could also serve as a capstone discussion that will arrive at specific recommendations.

The initial focus on grade inflation will serve as a window into larger problems of inconsistent standards and indeterminate learning objectives within and among comparable courses, departments, and instructors, even among those relying on the same basic rubrics. If it is unrealistic to expect large numbers of instructors and departments to implement sweeping changes in the grades they assign and the standards these grades reflect, the FLC, ideally made up of faculty who regularly teach required general ed or core courses, can perhaps identify particular courses or sequences in which the disparity between grade distributions and departmental assessments of student work would encourage the introduction of more rigorous standards and practices, as well as ensuring that a wider proportion of students can meet more sharply defined, rigorous goals and thus have a better chance of graduating. The FLC's study of "critical thinking pedagogies" and their most effective on-campus applications will be restricted to methods of synthesis, analysis, comparison and other higher-order cognitive processes (even among students requiring a large extent of remediation) that are entirely compatible with MT Engage's emphasis on the transferability of knowledge and skills across disciplines and varied experiences or perspectives, as well as the ability to precisely communicate and reflect on the acquisition of such knowledge. The readings on critical pedagogy study and apply paths of learning that are not unique to any single discipline or only a pre-professional conception of educational training.


Dr. William Levine, Professor, English Department

If you are interested in participating in this particular FLC, please complete the application.