Faculty Learning Communities

A Faculty Learning Community (or FLC) is a group of interdisciplinary faculty who engage in an active, collaborative, year-long program. Each FLC focuses on researching and testing a scholarly and pedagogical topic that is important to the larger academic community.

Once the FLC begins, participants attend monthly meetings that include teaching and learning activities, development and training opportunities, and community building. An important component of an FLC is an emphasis on the scholarship of teaching and learning. Thus, participants will read the faculty development literature and design individual or small group projects for their department or college that allow the assessment and evaluation of these efforts, suitable for presentation or publication in a professional journal.

The LT&ITC, with major support from the Office of the Provost, offers support for several Faculty Learning Communities each academic year. The program includes a curriculum about enhancing faculty development with regularly-scheduled meetings and activities that provide participants with opportunities pertaining to the FLC’s major focus.  

Current FLCs

2020 - 2021

Failing to Learn, Learning to Fail

Description

“Everything grand is made from a series of ugly little moments…All the works of people you and I admire sit atop a foundation of failures.” –Peirce Brown, Author of Red Rising

Failure is indeed the key to learning and progressing in any field of study, whether it’s freshman composition, engineering, athletics, or psychology. Failure is also the key for our improvement as instructors. Through deliberate practice, self-reflection, and sharing failures with others in this FLC, we will use failure to learn and learn how to fail. We will grow professionally as we quest to become more effective instructors and blossom personally as we journey toward goals that are just out of reach. All of these potential victories come through learning from failure.

This new FLC quest will challenge participants in each monthly meeting to lean into failure in order to learn and grow as we discuss research from multiple domains on the power of failure as a learning tool. We will learn that experts become experts through failing, as outlined in Ericsson’s Peak: The Secrets From the New Science of Expertise. We will learn that creative breakthroughs hinge on failing, as detailed in Sawyer’s Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity. We will explore how embarrassment, shame, and fear of failure impedes risk-taking and experimentation for both instructors and students, as presented in Eyler’s How Humans Learn: The Science and Stories Behind Effective College Teaching and Newkirk’s Embarrassment and the Emotional Underlife of Learning.

From direct application of failure for learning in our classrooms to creating failure indices for our own reflection and growth, this FLC will be packed with practical applications of all readings, discussions, and activities experienced throughout the FLC experience.

FLC Goals and Key Ideas

  • Study failure through a multi-disciplinary lens to ensure that all participants can witness the power of failure as a learning mechanism within and beyond their fields.
    • Think of how many scientific discoveries were made through constant trial and error.
    • Think of how long it takes products to move from prototype to store shelf.
    • Think of how many zigs and zags, as Sawyer would say, a writer must endure before a novel is complete.
  • Enhance college class design to promote failure as a vehicle for learning.
    • Shifting to an environmental embrace of failure and trying again.
    • Integrating activities that harness risk taking and vulnerability in a safe space.
    • Daring to learn with and from each other as students and instructors fail together.
  • Explore failure as a gateway to mastery and expertise in the classroom.
    • Honoring the time it takes to truly learn something in any given field or domain.
    • Leveraging deliberate practice to help students try and try again.
    • Providing formative feedback to help students move toward mastery as we see errors as opportunities for growth.
  • Discover connections between the FLC and the MT Engage QEP at MTSU and student success, specifically:
    • connecting failure as a learning tool for both classroom and lifelong learning.
    • transferring knowledge about failure across disciplines and experiences.
    • using failure indices as a healthy and helpful tool for self-evaluation.
    • leveraging failure to create reciprocal relationships between students and instructors to improve student retention, progression, and graduation.

FLC Composition

Eight participants from across the university would be ideal for this FLC. Leveraging failure as a learning tool applies to all corners of the MTSU campus community. Diversity of domain, perspective, background, and talent is essential to our success and growth as an FLC team. The participants desired will be open to collaboration in diverse contexts and to testing out FLC ideas and concepts in their own settings to help students and ourselves see that errors truly are opportunities for learning.

Facilitator

Dr. John Lando Carter, College of Education

Gaming in the Classroom: A Look at Gamification

Description

In lecture-based teaching, the teacher generally acts as the principal giver of all material learned in the course. Lessons are frequently taught through long dialogues, and students can only ask questions at the end. Lecture-based instruction, a method exceedingly common at the university-level, is the type of instruction that we seek to improve in order to gain more student engagement.  Our goal is to use more Active Learning teaching strategies, defined as any instructional instrument that includes students throughout their educational development, in our classrooms (Prince, 2004). More specifically, our focus will be on incorporating gaming projects and activities into the classroom. Gaming, or gamification, in class engages students so that they learn while they play. Gaming strategies can create or enhance an engaged classroom. The MT Engage focus is on increasing student academic engagement by using High Impact Practices (HIP’s) and inspiring students to use integrative thinking and reflection. Gaming projects and activities in the classroom support the focus of MT Engage by including strategies that will foster student engagement and participation, integrative thinking, and reflection and the HIP of “Collaborative Assignments and Projects” (Kuh & AAC&U, 2008). With all of the uncertainty in higher education due to Covid-19, on-line and remote classes may become the mode de rigueur of providing access to higher education for the next academic year. Gaming strategies are especially applicable to on-line and remote environments and may be able to build collaboration in an isolating environment.

Kuh, G. D. & AAC&U. (2008). High-impact practices: What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities. Retrieved from https://www.aacu.org/leap/hips

Prince, M. (2004). Does active learning work? A review of the research. Journal of Engineering Education, 93(3), 223-231.

Goals and Outcomes of FLC

  • Participants will explore and research gaming activities and technology for their disciplines.
  • Participants will describe how gaming strategies can bridge their disciplines with the goals of MT Engage.
  • Participants will each read the assigned portions of the book, Power Up Your Classroom: Reimagine Learning Through Gameplay by Lindsey Blass and Cate Tolnai, and present during scheduled meetings.
  • Participants will identify resources on-campus that can aid in the gamification process.
  • Participants will each create, write and present a classroom game for the discipline.
  • Participants will produce a presentation and/or publication from the created game or gaming activity.
  • Participants will submit a summary of the accomplished outcomes to the facilitators.
  • Facilitators and available participants will present at the LT&ITC a hands-on demonstration of classroom game strategies and describe how campus resources can aid in the gamification process.

The FLC will meet 6-8 times during the 2020-2021 academic year over Zoom. We intend to meet at 10:00 a.m. on Fridays.

Members

The FLC is open to any faculty member interested in gamification in the classroom as well as deepening their knowledge and practice of Active Learning teaching methods. The FLC aims for a cross-disciplinary and culturally diverse cohort and consist of eight faculty members. Participants willing to present their completed game strategies at the LT&ITC in a hands-on demonstration will be given preference.

Facilitators

Drs. Christina M. Cobb and Meredith Anne (MA) S. Higgs (University Studies)

Previous FLCs

2019 - 2020

Inclusive Teaching

Description

Higher education’s student population is increasingly diversifying. The increase in student diversity warrants a responsive intervention to address the changing demographics. At this time, MTSU does not require students to meet a general education requirement in historical, social, and cultural diversity; however, faculty can still make stronger efforts to focus on diversity and inclusion in the classroom. This FLC meets two goals within MTSU’s Academic Master Plan: (1) promoting engagement that supports student success, and (2) fostering an academic community that celebrates and cultivates diversity in order to meet the needs of the University and the community. The FLC also connects with MT Engage and builds on the research of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) for inclusive pedagogy by providing students with nontraditional teaching and learning experiences. Therefore, the FLC will follow this concept by engaging faculty in teaching and learning strategies that address MTSU’s diverse student body – for example, creation of student learning outcomes, High Impact Practices (HIP), and beyond-the-class activities that emphasize the racial and cultural diversity of students and the community.

Goals and Outcomes of FLC

Engage in discussions about the benefits and challenges to create a safe and inclusive environment.
Determine three to five student learning objectives and three to five high impact and/or beyond-the classroom assignments focused on inclusionary teaching.
Determine a research question on inclusionary teaching and learning to publish in a scholarly journal.
Create a personal diversity statement to promote inclusionary teaching.
Create a workshop or conference proposal to promote inclusionary teaching and disseminate learning objectives and assignments.
The FLC will meet 6-8 times during the 2019-2020 academic year.

Members

The FLC is open to any faculty member interested in collaboration, embracing diversity/inclusion/equity in the classroom, as well as deepening their knowledge and practice with inclusive teaching methods. The FLC aims for a cross-disciplinary and culturally diverse cohort and consist of eight faculty members.

Facilitators

Dr. V. Nikki Jones (Social Work) and Carmelita L. Dotson (Social Work)

Navigating the Digital Humanities

Description

Over the past decade, the digital humanities (DH) have become a major focus of research and teaching across the liberal arts. DH researchers have developed ambitious scholarship using data visualizations, web interfaces, digital audio and video, and massive data sets, and have offered strategies for incorporating digital projects and texts into undergraduate and graduate humanities courses. Digital approaches continue to enhance and challenge traditional disciplinary approaches to research and pedagogy, opening new avenues of inquiry and knowledge production. This FLC will serve as an opportunity for DH community-building at MTSU, and is meant to bring together faculty across disciplines, departments, and university locations. Members of the FLC will

  • hold sustained discussions based on recent DH scholarship,
  • collaborate on and workshop pedagogical materials grounded in DH,
  • develop individually and collaboratively authored research and grant proposals focused on DH methods and practices, and
  • research and draft institutional guidelines and standards for assessing DH projects for tenure and promotion.

Goals and Outcomes of the FLC

The purposes of this year-long FLC are as follows:

  • Build a sense of community and familiarity with DH by discussing a set of readings, including Claire Battershill and Shawna Ross’s 2017 book Using Digital Humanities in the Classroom.
  • Share, workshop, and present course materials (syllabi, assignment prompts, etc.) based on DH principles, building collaborative classroom teaching and learning strategies.
  • Create a digital archive of publicly available versions of these pedagogical materials.
  • Publish an article detailing this public archive creation and its materials within the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.
  • Facilitate discussions of the role of digital projects in tenure and promotion, mapping out relevant routes for professional development in the case of junior faculty.
  • Research and develop a set of institutional guidelines for assessing DH projects for tenure and promotion.

Members

While the facilitators except this FLC to be of particular interest to faculty in the College of Liberal Arts, they also welcome members from other colleges and disciplines, including faculty in the College of Education, College of Media and Entertainment, and Walker Library. The first five people to sign up for the FLC will receive complementary copies of Battershill and Ross’s Using Digital Humanities in the Classroom.

Facilitators

Dr. Poushali Bhadury (English) and Dr. Eric Detweiler (English)

Offering a Blended Classroom at MTSU

Description

A blended or flipped classroom approach is an effective pedagogy instructors across disciplines are using to increase student engagement both inside and outside of the classroom. While the LT&ITC offers consulting and support for redesigning courses, there has not been a faculty learning community (FLC) effort towards identifying best practices in offering a redesigned class that utilizes technology in the classroom at MTSU. Many instructors have used or are currently using various tools and technologies to increase student participation and preparation in their courses. It would be highly beneficial for a new instructor or an instructor who has never offered a blended classroom to have certain guidelines in order to establish and develop their course content. This FLC will not only discuss all the issues and challenges in developing a blended/flipped class but will also provide common benchmarks for educators who want to incorporate this concept. There is not currently any formal training for faculty who are interested in utilizing a blended classroom approach. This FLC will enable radical rethinking of how we offer classes at MTSU as well as help those who want to fundamentally change the way their classes are taught for student success. This FLC does not propose offering distance learning courses but a course redesign which enables using technologies to support and enhance on-ground classroom learning and student engagement.

Members

An ideal participant would be the faculty who is implementing technology in classroom learning environment as well as faculty who are interested in learning the best practices to use technology in classroom to enhance students’ learning experiences. There will be a total of 8 members, who represent a multitude of academic disciplines throughout the campus.

Facilitator

Dr. Vishwas N. Bedekar (Engineering Technology)

Spatial Computing in Education and Learning

Description

The gaming industry has driven rapid advances in mixed reality (MR) systems that incorporate computer images into the real world. Computational, display, and sensor technologies now allow the use of spatial computing (SC) to design, construct, and utilize virtual 3-dimensional images in a variety of applications. Figure 1 (created by Magic Leap, Inc.) illustrates the differences between Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Spatial Computing (SC). The SC-FLC will use state-of-the art technology and an understanding of relevant social science and education research to design and develop applications that have the potential to impact learning at the college level.

Virtual Reality (VR): Digital environments that shut out the physical world. Augmented Reality (AR): Digital environments overlaid on top of the physical world. Spatial Computing (SC): Digital content interacts with the physical world - and you.

Figure 1. The progression of user experience from VR (isolated from real environment) to AR (superimposed on real world) to SC (interacts with real world). Source: Magic Leap

At this point, any developments in the area of spatial computing are new and can be publishable. However, the FLC will bring together faculty from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds to choose the best directions for exploitation of the Magic Leap technology and secure a leadership role in the field. The members of this FLC will learn about educational applications of AR and develop skills to create their own educational materials using this platform or find their niche in this exciting field.

Goals and Outcomes of the FLC

  • Study of the social science and education literature about human interaction with mixed reality;
  • Participation in workshops on how the latest AR technology works and hands-on demonstrations;
  • Conversations about design of educational activities using the best practices to date;
  • Lessons about the underlying software to build apps for use in classrooms using a template format;
  • Opportunities for integration into cross-cutting or departmental curricula;
  • Provide interdisciplinary peer support for projects and showcase results to campus.

This FLC will meet 6-8 times during the 2019-2020 year and hold 6 skill-building workshops.

Members

It is open to all faculty who are interested in using transformational AR technology in their classrooms. This may include tech-savvy or simply curious faculty looking for a niche research area with plenty of opportunity. The FLC is appropriate for new faculty, those who already have experience incorporating technology into their classrooms, or those with an interest in exploring the impact of new tools on teaching and learning.

Facilitators

Dr. Andrienne Friedli (Chemistry) and Dr. John Wallin (Physics & Astronomy)

The Works-in-Progress Writer's Collaborative

Description

Scholars have long debunked the idea of the solitary scholar composing as a writing ideal, yet daily faculty writing habits frequently still attempt to maintain this fiction. By instead including collaborators and supporters in the writing process, faculty can be much more successful and prolific in their writing endeavors. In the Works-In-Progress Writer’s Collaborative FLC, faculty will bring manuscripts and various works-in-progress, interact with each other, set writing goals, and subsequently read and respond to each other’s writing projects. Although the primary purpose of the FLC will be to support faculty in developing individual writing projects, a secondary impact may be that faculty who might not otherwise have the opportunity to meet and talk about their scholarship will identify areas for further collaboration in teaching, research, and service. We will meet 6-8 times during the academic year, and we will use Wendy Laura Belcher’s Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks as a shared text from which to draw strategies.

Goals and Outcomes

The purpose of this year-long FLC will be to

  • Support faculty in meeting their individually stated writing goals;
  • Hold faculty participants accountable to their self-selected writing projects and deadlines;
  • Increase scholarly productivity and develop healthy writing habits for participants;
  • Create the organic, ground-up space to build interdisciplinary collaborations;
  • Develop understanding and appreciation for writing across disciplines;
  • Design an LT&ITC workshop based on our FLC findings and experiences.

Members

The only requirement for faculty to participate is that they select a writing project to complete during their time in the FLC.

Facilitator

Dr. Kate Pantelides (English)

2018 - 2019

Best Practices for Career Preparation Courses

Description

Interest in and commitment to student career preparation and readiness is evident across the university. For example, our Quality Enhancement Plan (MT Engage), the MTSU Quest for Student Success, and our Academic Master Plan all include an emphasis on career preparation. There is a large number of career orientation and preparation courses across campus. In addition, although the state funding formula for higher education does not currently focus on job placement as an outcome metric for universities, the trend nationally shows increasing pressure from legislators toward greater accountability from universities in job placement and occupational success indicators. It appears that state dollars will, in the near future, be tied to institutional success in documenting student professional and career success post-graduation.

The major goal of this FLC will be to learn how different departments and disciplines facilitate undergraduate student career development and preparation. The existing literature on career preparation/readiness is very discipline-specific, with very little summative, best-practices work. Thus, bringing together teachers from diverse fields will be worthwhile when trying to develop general best practices that cross disciplines.

Goals & Outcomes

The FLC will meet between 7-8 times during the 2018-2019 academic year. As is typical with FLCs, the first meeting or two will include learning about what individual members do and bring with respect to the theme of the learning community. After this initial phase, FLC activities will become more focused and specific, depending on the interests and experiences of the members. Among the goals and expected outcomes are:

  • Learn how diverse MTSU departments teach undergraduate career preparation and readiness.
  • Consult and partner with MTSU Career Development Center to align careers course goals with that office’s practices and resources.
  • Examine and discuss the research literature on careers courses and career counseling.
  • Examine and define the major best practices for careers courses.
  • Create a SOTL publication, based on the best practices for careers courses developed by the FLC.
  • Identify a set of assessment components that focus on facets such as career decision self-efficacy, career indecision, and decision-making difficulties.
  • Determine ways to organize and streamline resources, learning activities, and materials for all modes of delivery (e.g., online resources that can be used for f2f, blended, and online careers sections).

Members

All faculty who teach or plan to develop courses on career preparation/readiness for their departments are invited to join. Ideally, the FLC will have a final number of eight faculty who represent a diverse group across all MTSU colleges.

Facilitator

Tom Brinthaupt (Psychology)

Incorporating Global Perspectives

Description

MTSU’s vision statement expresses a commitment to prepare students to be engaged global citizens and to foster a community of learners that respects diversity and appreciates different perspectives. Diversity/global learning is included on the MT Engage Course Certification form as an example of high impact pedagogy, but what does global learning involve beyond course content that references events and scholars from different geographic locations? This Faculty Learning Community will explore current scholarship about global learning and develop strategies to incorporate global learning into specific courses. We will also consider ways that other MT Engage pedagogies such as reflective thinking, integrative thinking, and beyond the classroom experiences can be used to help incorporate global perspectives into the curriculum.

Proposed Activities

  1. Researching global learning pedagogy and studying current scholarship about reflective thinking, integrative thinking, and cross-cultural beyond the classroom experiences to explore how these pedagogies could support global learning.
  2. Developing, workshopping, and building a shared repository of assignments that use integrative and reflective thinking to challenge students to engage with global frameworks and cultural difference and to locate their beliefs and experiences in relation to global perspectives.
  3. Developing global learning signature assignments for use in MT Engage courses, considering ways to use the e-Portfolio to facilitate global learning across courses, and applying for MT Engage designation for courses.
  4. Identifying, evaluating, and acquiring content resources that would support the inclusion of global perspectives in the curriculum.
  5. Cultivating local connections that would create opportunities to make guest speakers, field trips, volunteer and internship opportunities part of the revised curriculum.
  6. Sharing our findings about global learning pedagogies and our ideas about course design with our home departments and with the larger university community through workshops and presentations.
  7. Having FLC participants keep a journal of their observations and experiences during the FLC so that they gain first-hand experience with processes of reflective and integrative thinking and maintain a record of their developing thinking about global learning that can serve as a resource for presentations and publications.
  8. Disseminating our findings to the larger academic community through reports in professional organization newsletters and, ultimately, a journal article that addresses links between global learning and reflective and integrative thinking.

Facilitator

Laura White (English)

MTSU General Education Redesign

Description

This FLC seeks participants who are passionate about teaching general education and who want to be active contributors to its redesign at MTSU. MTSU is poised to begin a redesign of its general education program. The purpose of the redesign is to create a comprehensive, coherent, academically challenging program of integrated learning that prepares students for their majors and for life beyond college in the 21st century, a program that serves as the core of a university education and that everyone—students, parents, employers, and faculty—can recognize as valuable.

The purpose of the Faculty Learning Community is to initiate and take the lead in a university-wide conversation, over the course of the 2018-2019 academic year, about the parameters of that redesign. There will be two FLCs with ten members each, representing each of the eight colleges as well as Student Affairs and the Library.

Curriculum redesign is and ought to be the purview of faculty. But good redesign must take into account the needs of all stakeholders. I am looking for faculty and staff who are enthusiastic about general education, see it as foundational for a university education, and are willing to be creative and flexible in thinking about the possibilities for change.

Both FLCs will pursue the same agenda. Participants will:

  • Learn the landscape of general education redesign and become familiar with the extensive literature on the topic, as well as with the elements of programs at universities that have successfully implemented a redesign
  • Identify stakeholders among faculty, students, and administration
  • Engage in information gathering and interviewing of key stakeholders and report back to the FLC
  • Define potential program outcomes, framed particularly in terms of LEAP rubrics
  • Explore potential alliances with MT Engage, considering especially the e-Portfolio and other high impact practices
  • Track relevant legislation that might affect redesign
  • Brainstorm a process for redesign, including a tentative calendar

Members of the 2018-2019 FLC will be eligible to serve subsequently on the Core Planning Team that will attend the AAC&U Summer Institute on General Education Redesign in May 2019 and guide future redesign and implementation OR on the General Education Redesign Task Force that will serve in an advisory capacity for redesign and implementation.

Excerpts from Selected Readings:

  • Gaston, Paul L. General Education Transformed: How We Can, Why We Must. AAC&U, 2015.
  • Gaston, Paul L., and Gaff, Jerry G. Revising General Education—and Avoiding Potholes. AAC&U, 2009.
  • Hanstedt, Paul. General Education Essentials. Jossey-Bass, 2012.
  • Kotter, John P. Leading Change. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2012.
  • Logue, Alexandra W. Pathways to Reform: Credits and Conflict at the City University of New York. Princeton University Press, 2017.

Facilitator

Susan Myers-Shirk (Director of University General Education & Department of History)

Seeking Community, Support, and Growth for Black Faculty Members

Description

It is MTSU’s self-accepted responsibility to meet the needs of diverse individuals, which includes Black faculty and staff. Meeting these needs include putting measures in place to focus on increasing opportunities to receive mentoring, professional development, an amplified cultivated sense of community, and research and creative activity development. A way in which to meet this need is to create a Black Faculty and Staff sponsored, Faculty Learning Community where faculty can cultivate a sense of community and obtain professional and academic research development opportunities.

The FLC will meet approximately 7-8 times throughout the 2018-2019 academic year. The first two meetings will consist of relationship building and developing goals based on the membership’s needs and interests. Possible goals and outcomes include:

  • Examining and discussing the current literature on Faculty of Color thriving in and surviving the Academy.
  • Examining and discussing the importance of mentoring and its implications on faculty success.
  • Developing a mentoring community to aid in accountability and resource sharing.
  • Developing a research and creative activity agenda for the next 2 years.
  • Creating a resource guide for the Black Faculty and Staff MTSU community.
  • Actively working on presentations, articles, or research proposals.
  • Serving as peer reviewers on presentations, articles or research proposal products.

Members

An application exhibiting a willingness to participate, interest in mentoring, and a well thought out scholarly agenda will be required. Faculty actively seeking tenure or promotion are encouraged to apply. There will be a total of 8 members, who represent a multitude of academic disciplines throughout the campus.

Facilitator

Dr. Michelle Stevens is an Associate Professor in the College of Education here at MTSU. She teaches in the Educational Leadership Department for the Professional Counseling Program. By trade, Dr. Stevens is a Licensed Professional Counselor who has over 15 years of group facilitation of process and topic related groups. Her research areas include mentoring, the experiences of Black professors at PWIs, and the Implications of Historical Trauma in the Black Community.

Signature Thinking: A Framework for Enhancing Creativity

Description

Creativity has been studied in various disciplines across centuries and is increasingly acknowledged as a critical element for a rich and enduring educational experience. The Signature Thinking FLC will engage faculty members from any discipline in opportunities for improving student learning through authentic creative expression as well as consideration of potential pitfalls and erroneous thinking about creativity and learning. This FLC will intentionally link the elements of the Signature Thinking Framework to the contexts and conversations of the university setting.

Participants will explore how to intentionally design classroom environments and curricular experiences to ensure creative thinking and risk-taking occurs in their classrooms while also balancing the crucial need for foundational knowledge. Furthermore, participants will learn how to design projects that encourage and require students to think, re-think, and to deliberately and consistently ask “what if?”

Ultimately, this FLC experience will challenge participants to reexamine their course design and delivery as well as discuss to what extent they promote, permit, or prohibit creativity. Through this discourse, participants will reflect on opportunities to apply the framework in their unique contexts and share how signature thinking can promote deep, lasting learning for students and create dynamic classrooms that are suited for the MT Engage QEP.

Goals

  • Enhance college class design to promote creativity and lasting learning.
  • Describe, explain, and apply the Signature Thinking Framework in college settings.
  • Discover connections between the ST Framework and the MT Engage QEP at MTSU.
  • Foster collaborative efforts to apply the framework in diverse academic settings, to reflect and discuss learning outcomes/impacts, and engage further in opportunities that might lead to team publications in relevant academic outlets.

Facilitators

Kevin Krahenbuhl & Lando Carter (Educational Leadership)

Students as Knowledge Creators

Description

The traditional model in which higher education operates casts instructors as information disseminators, and students as sponges for that information. This model is criticized from many vantage points. This FLC will examine pedagogies that support students as knowledge creators, not just as passive recipients of information disseminated by their instructors. We will focus on knowledge creation through intentional assignments/assessments (written papers, ePortfolios, digital presentations, videos, podcasts, posters, apps, art, infographics, workshops, etc.), and also will consider the potential these original contributions have for reaching an audience beyond an individual classroom.

The members of this FLC will discuss a variety of issues related to a knowledge creation pedagogy, like:

  • intellectual property and ownership of student artifacts
  • ethical issues (e.g., ensuring the quality and expertise exhibited in student work)
  • students’ coherence to disciplinary and program standards
  • critical examination of specific assignments
  • conversations about MT Engage and/or general education
  • high impact pedagogies to support students as knowledge creators

This FLC will meet 6-8 times during the 2018-2019 year, and is open to all faculty who share an interest in teaching students to rethink their roles as information consumers to become new knowledge creators. This may include faculty teaching novice first-year students who are new to the concept of knowledge creation, faculty who have experience overseeing student-produced work (e.g., undergraduate research, audio-visual content, creative works, honors and graduate theses and doctoral dissertations, etc.), and faculty with an interest in exploring this kind of teaching.

Facilitators

Ryan Korstange (University Studies) & Jason Vance (Walker Library)

Using a Showcase ePortfolio

Description

Consistent with the MTSU Quality Enhancement Plan goals to enrich the undergraduate student experience, the MT Engage Program, EXL, and the LT&ITC are sponsoring this Faculty Learning Community on Using a Showcase ePortfolio.

In 2016, ePortfolios were added to the list of High Impact Practices (HIPs) by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). A benefit of ePortfolios is that they (1) facilitate student reflection upon their learning over time and across experiences, which aids in integration of their learning (a higher order thinking skill) and (2) facilitate self-reflection for professional development. They also provide a way for students to demonstrate their knowledge, skills, and abilities for future employers and graduate study. The AAC&U noted that ePortfolios are “an ideal format for collecting evidence of student learning, especially for those outcomes not amenable nor appropriate for standardized measurement,” (https://www.aacu.org/eportfolios).

This FLC will be devoted to identifying best practices related to using ePortfolios across a major and/or in a course that lends itself to a “showcase” ePortfolio. This FLC would be particularly applicable for program coordinators or instructors of capstone, practicum, study abroad, or other courses where students can “showcase” their learning across time in an ePortfolio. Members of the FLC will meet 6-8 times in fall and spring to explore the topic of showcase ePortfolios, work on an ePortfolio culminating assignment for their course or work on a plan for the major to incorporate an ePortfolio for assessment purposes, and then present information in the Fall 2019 at a workshop in the LT&ITC and/or MT Engage Summer Faculty Institute.

Goals

  1. Identify best practices in ePortfolio pedagogy for their discipline/course content.
  2. Identify best practices for incorporating ePortfolio pedagogy across the major and a capstone or similar course in the major.
  3. Explore the use of ePortfolios for assessment purposes.
  4. Discuss how their major can use the ePortfolio across classes to document student learning outcomes.
  5. Participants will be asked to share what they have learned about the use of ePortfolios in a capstone course/major and for assessment purposes in a workshop in Fall 2019 held at the LT&ITC or in the MT Engage Summer Faculty Institute.

Members

Faculty most likely to benefit from this FLC will be Program Coordinators and/or instructors of capstone, practicum or other courses that lend themselves to “showcase” ePortfolios.

Facilitators

Dianna Rust (University Studies) & Carol Swayze (Director of Experiential Learning)

 

2017 - 2018

Academic Rigor and Grade Inflation

Description

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.

Facilitator

Dr. William Levine, Professor, English Department

Open Data in Academic Teaching, Learning, and Research

Description

Open data refers to data sets that can be accessed by anyone. Open data is part of a larger movement in scholarly sharing, and every academic discipline benefits from the availability of open data. This faculty learning community will be a community of practitioners and early adopters who understand that there is a need and a challenge to bring greater awareness of open data and data sharing to MTSU.

Open data and analytics are a key component of today’s business, communications, science, health, education, social science, humanities, and technology environments. Researchers are working in an environment in which they use open data and are required to create it. Open data can support preliminary research on the topic and make researchers more competitive for external funding. Students should expect to understand and use open data in their professional lives. The size and scale of research data available is growing daily and data sets are multifaceted. It is therefore challenging for professors and students to use the data effectively and make meaningful and valid interpretations of the data.

The FLC will meet at least monthly throughout the academic year. Participants will also talk to campus constituencies about current uses of open data on campus in teaching and research.

Goals

  • Develop a better understanding of what open data is, how to find it, how to use it, and how to teach about it.
  • Determine current applications of open data in MTSU curricula.
  • Ascertain if support is needed for faculty and students using and creating open data.
  • Share knowledge and best practices of open data use on campus.
  • Explore and share how open data can accelerate preliminary research and support external funding proposals.
  • Provide training to faculty to use open data in courses.
  • Share pedagogical approaches to teaching students about open data.
  • Disseminate findings and best practices of open data in the curriculum beyond the MTSU community.

Facilitator

Mary Ellen Sloane, Science Librarian, James E. Walker Library

Problem-Based Learning

Description

Consistent with the MTSU Quality Enhancement Plan goals to enrich the undergraduate student experience, the MT Engage Program and the LT&ITC are sponsoring the Faculty Learning Community on Problem-Based Learning.

Problem-based Learning (PBL) is shown to increase the connection between academic content and the world of actual practice, in that PBL uses real-to-life simulations to frame the learning of specific content. This approach to learning is well supported by successes in the training of physicians, business leaders, engineers, teachers, and many others. It has been successfully used at all grade levels, and will work in virtually any classroom situation.

In crafting a PBL it is important to create a “solution space” wherein learners will work to solve the problem. PBL practitioners write job-specific scenarios for use in experience-based learning. Students use a PBL Learning Grid to identify the problem(s) associated with the PBL scenario. The Grid allows students to list what they know, need to know, and to pinpoint sources of information. Instructors, in turn, use the Grid in the writing process. By establishing desired outcomes and working backward, they are able to more clearly visualize the solution space that they expect their learners to create. This approach to education is fundamentally different from traditional lecture methods, and results in learners that are more engaged in the content of the course.

Goals

  • Enhance undergraduate student success at MTSU.
  • Strengthen a learner’s ability to function in tasks that require skills in managing group learning. Such skills include leadership, time management, self-confidence, self-motivation, and the use of technology.
  • Assist instructors in their efforts to encourage the use of problem-solving skills and critical thinking in their students.
  • Support curricular efforts that foster research/scholarship skills among MTSU undergraduate students.
  • Develop an instructional approach that emphasizes communication (oral presentation skills, written skills, and personal communications)

Activities

The interests of this FLC will emerge from a collective inquiry into the nature of androgogy as well as pedagogy, problem-solving, the development of critical thinking, and the role that PBL can play in effective instructional practices. Anticipated activities of the FLC may include, but are limited to, the following:

  • FLC participants will collaborate in a PBL environment that addresses the effective use of PBL in university courses.
  • Individual research into topics of interest to each FLC participant.
  • The sharing of resources relevant to the topics identified by the participants.
  • Coursework designed by FLC participants for use in their own classes.
  • Special guest speakers who will describe best practices in PBL.
  • Panel presentations/workshops on the use of PBL in university settings.

Members

This FLC will be composed of 8 faculty members drawn from across the university, with the goal of a broad representation of university colleges. Preference will be given to those who have an interest in learning more about PBL and those who want to use PBL in their courses. We encourage the application of instructors whose courses are related to the MT Engage program.

Facilitator

Dr. Terry Goodin is a nationally recognized practitioner of problem-based learning. He has worked with leaders in the field in the design and implementation of PBL at all levels of education, from elementary school to graduate schools, and in a variety of disciplines, including education, business, engineering, liberal arts and sciences. His ten-year tenure at MTSU has been marked with the use of PBL in numerous courses, and with the development of the Residency I experience of the teacher preparation program known as Ready2Teach. The Residency I Program was recently recognized nationally as an Outstanding Program by the Association of Teacher Educators. He conducts workshops on the use of PBL, and works with individual instructors and teachers in developing the PBL approach for their classes. His model of PBL development was adopted by the six state universities in Tennessee and he delivered training in PBL across the state.

Teaching Students in a STEM Major

Description

There currently exists no formal training program (either required or optional) for early career faculty in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences (CBAS) as it relates to the scholarship of teaching and learning. Early career faculty are often required to begin their academic career as a Lecturer or Assistant Professor with little or no formal training as it relates to best practices for teaching students in a STEM major.

In an effort to address this issue, the STEM faculty learning community will bring together faculty from across the College of Basic and Applied Sciences to develop recommendations for a formal training program for early career STEM faculty looking to be effective an efficient educators. Additionally, MT Engage will be an important component of this FLC, and participating faculty will be encouraged to certify their courses as MT Engage courses.

Members

Full-time faculty from across the College of Basic and Applied Sciences are invited to participate in this FLC. In particular, faculty with an interest in the scholarship of teaching and learning are especially encouraged to apply.

Facilitator

Dr. Brian Slaboch, Lecturer, Department of Engineering Technology

Teaching Trios: Sharing Our Classrooms to Promote Faculty Reflection on Teaching and Learning

Goals

The intended goals of the Teaching Trios FLC are twofold:

  • Goal 1: (For the FLC participants) To promote productive discussion and reflection on teaching and learning among FLC participants, who are also faculty in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences (CBAS).
  • Goal 2: (For the representative departments of FLC participants) To develop a formative process useful and unique to each represented department in CBAS, which promotes productive discussion and reflection on teaching and learning.

As a whole, the Teaching Trios FLC serves as one of several initiatives directed by the CBAS Committee on Teaching to promote a culture of active reflection on classroom teaching and learning within the college. The main activity is to have participating faculty work together in their departmental three-person teams to observe one another’s instruction using research-supported observation protocols and then to use what they learn to consider how to best promote reflection on teaching and learning within their respective departments.

Member Composition

Teams of three faculty members from within four of the CBAS departments will constitute the participants of the Teaching Trios FLC (3 x 4 = 12 total participants). Each team of three should represent a diversity of rank and professional interests, when possible. So, for example, in the Department of Biology, a team of three may include a new faculty hire, an associate professor, and a full professor. Moreover, the team may include an ecologist, a biology education researcher, and a molecular biologist.

Each CBAS department will be invited to apply for the Teaching Trios FLC. We will encourage teams of three from within a department to self-select and apply to participate in the FLC. Each team will be asked to write a brief (1 paragraph) reflection on what they hope to gain from their participation in the FLC (at the individual level and at the departmental level). If more than four teams apply, we will use these narratives to select the four teams whose goals are best aligned with the FLC project goals.

Facilitator

Dr. Sarah Bleiler-Baxter, Department of Mathematical Sciences

 

2016 - 2017

Graduate Education

Description

Consistent with the College of Graduate Studies (CGS) Institutional Effectiveness goals to enhance the graduate student experience and the MTSU Student Success Initiative, the CGS and LT&ITC are sponsoring a continuation of the 2015-2016 Graduate Education Faculty Learning Community.

Intentional support for graduate faculty and for graduate student mentoring as aspects of the student success goals has historically not been a focus of the MTSU campus nor of the LT&ITC. Students, through our exit interviews or conversations with CGS in general have noted that some faculty do not alter their classes to better reach and challenge the graduate students, and that mentoring for GTAs is hit and miss depending on the program of study, as is career mentoring. Further, graduate students and graduate faculty alike note that research mentoring can be difficult at best, particularly in the thesis/dissertation stage.  

In an effort to address these issues, the 2015-2016 Graduate Education FLC produced a number of recommendations and action items. Although this FLC was very productive, much of its work involved the assessment of the current state of graduate education at MTSU. They identified several issues and topics that require additional exploration and discussion (e.g., workload credit; research surveys). They also began work on creating 2-3 LT&ITC workshops for the coming year; however, additional work and planning for these workshops is necessary. The 2016-2017 FLC will continue and build upon the work of the 2015-2016 FLC.

Goals

  • Enhance graduate student success at MTSU.
  • Understand and establish best practices faculty pedagogy for MTSU graduate faculty– teaching and mentoring.
  • Help to create a more nuanced working relationship between LT&ITC and CGS.
  • Help to create more effective and efficient working relationships between graduate faculty and graduate students in Programs of Study across campus.

Activities

Although particular activities of any FLC are emergent, we hope that among the many possible topics/activities relevant to graduate student success, the following will be considered. These are based on the recommendations and action items contained in the 2015-2016 FLC’s final report:

  1. Panel presentations/workshops on “Working Effectively with Your Graduate Mentor” (for graduate students); “How to Effectively Mentor your Graduate Students” (for graduate faculty); “Best Practices for Applied Masters Programs.” Additional work on the creation and delivery of these workshops is needed, in conjunction with the 2015-2016 FLC members.
  2. Graduate Mentor and Mentee Support Resources – Collection of resources and materials for graduate student mentoring; to be housed on the LT&ITC website (needs to be created).
  3. Further examination and critical review of MTSU “Guidelines for Determining Faculty Workloads” document. The guidelines should ensure that graduate faculty consistently across all colleges receive support for student mentoring and research, and that this support should be flexible and scalable as programs grow.
  4. Based in the work of the FLC, a series of feedback documents will be created to both present findings and recommendations to the larger MTSU community, as well as to allow the identification of future directions for needs, resources, training ideas and general support for graduate students and faculty.

In addition, the 2016-2017 FLC will be encouraged to address fully the following new topics/activities: (5) The department chair’s or program director’s roles in assisting faculty in working with graduate students; (6) Consideration and development of GTA certificates of excellence, perhaps an outgrowth of the Academy of Teaching Excellence; (7) Graduate student career mentoring; and (8) Unique issues and challenges for mentoring graduate students and teaching within diverse programs

Members

All new and established graduate faculty who work with Masters and/or Doctoral students in the classroom, lab, or through thesis/dissertation mentorship will be invited to join. Ideally, the FLC will have a final number of eight faculty who represent the diverse graduate programs across all colleges at MTSU.

Facilitator

Dr. Tom Brinthaupt has served as Director of Faculty Development for the LT&ITC since 2010. In this position, he has overseen the planning and development of the Center’s workshops and events and has worked toward identifying and implementing broader Center goals. Over the past six years, Dr. Brinthaupt has also served as facilitator of the eLearning Pedagogy, Faculty Development, and Graduate Education FLCs as well as the Mid-Career Faculty Development Program. He is in a unique position at the Center to facilitate the goals of the proposed Graduate Education FLC and to ensure that the newly developed program will be sustainable within the normal functions and operations of the Center.

Interdisciplinary Learning Community

Description

Although the national trend is for students to move into majors increasingly early, and to place out of general education courses that would invite them to work outside of their field, students are not served by the increasingly disparate disciplinary silos. Faculty Learning Communities work against disciplinary isolation, therefore fostering integrative thinking, connections across academic disciplines, and reflection on multiple contexts and educational experiences. This Interdisciplinary Learning Communities FLC makes these practices central. Building on the success of Raider Learning Communities already in place at MTSU, our year-long FLC takes as a subject of study the effectiveness of innovative, interdisciplinary curricular pairings. This FLC provides an organic space to build interdisciplinary relationships, therefore creating Interdisciplinary Learning Communities from the ground up.

Goals

  • Create the organic space necessary to make ground-up relationships that foster the development of interdisciplinary learning communities;
  • Develop a database for faculty who would like to participate in interdisciplinary learning communities across campus
  • Develop an FLC e-portfolio to store documents developed in the FLC and facilitate faculty understanding and buy-in of e-portfolio use in preparation for course integration;
    • Augment understanding and appreciation across disciplines and initiate interdisciplinary collaboration and communication across campus;
    • Develop a workshop based on our findings for the LT&ITC;
    • Publish an article of our findings within the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning;
    • Propose an MTEngage course at the conclusion of the FLC;
    • Create an assessment for Interdisciplinary Learning Communities.

Members

Full-time faculty from across the disciplines are invited to participate in this FLC. The interdisciplinary relationships forged in this FLC will be central to the success of subsequent Interdisciplinary Learning Communities.

Facilitators

Meg Brooker, Assistant Professor, Department of Theater and Dance
Dr. Kate Pantelides, Assistant Professor, English Department

MT Engage

Description

MT Engage Faculty Learning Community (FLC) is devoted to identifying best practices related to academic engagement and integrative thinking and reflection and using ePortfolios. Members of the FLC will also design classes for Spring 2017 or Fall 2017 that meet the goals of MT Engage.

Goals

  1. Identify best practices in academic engagement pedagogy for discipline/course content.
  2. Identify best practices for incorporating integrative thinking and reflection in college courses.
  3. Design class for Fall 2017/Spring 2018 that meet the goals of MT Engage:
    1. Choose high impact pedagogy
    2. Design beyond-the-classroom experience
    3. Design assignments that require integrative thinking and reflection process across multiple contexts and educational experiences
    4. Choose artifact(s) for students to place in their MT Engage Portfolio

Activities & Timeline

September - October 2016

Read and discuss research literature about the following:

  1. Best practices for academic engagement in the discipline/ content area
  2. The value of integrative thinking and best practices for incorporating in college courses
  3. The value of reflection and best practices for incorporation into college courses

November - December 2016

Make Preliminary plans for MT Engage classes:

  1. Choose high impact pedagogy 
  2. Design beyond-the-classroom experience: service-learning, research, co-curricular activities, attending campus related events, attending off-campus events, etc.  (Could also include mandatory tutoring, RTTP small group meetings outside of class, ect.)
  3. Design assignments that require integrative thinking and reflection across multiple contexts and educational experiences. Identify MT Engage rubric indicators and questions for reflection that map to the rubric-See MT Engage Student Learning Outcome and five student indicators below.
  4. Choose artifact(s) for student to place in their MT Engage ePortfolio: Students will develop an ePortfolio which will showcase the integration of the knowledge, skills, and abilities gained during  time at MTSU.

Student Learning Outcome

Students will use integrative thinking and reflection to demonstrate the ability to make connections across multiple contexts and educational experiences.

The following five student indicators, adapted from the AACU Value Rubric for Integrative Thinking, will be used to assess students' integrative/ reflective thinking.

Choose two of these four:

  1. The ability to connect relevant experiences and academic knowledge (connections to experience), 
  2. The ability to make connections across disciplines and perspectives (connections to discipline),
  3. The ability to adapt and apply information to new situations (transfer),
  4. The ability to use effective, appropriate, and various forms of communication to enhance the quality of their assignments (effective and integrated communication), and
  5. The ability to demonstrate a developing sense of self as a learner, building on prior experiences to respond to new and challenging contexts, especially as it relates to their personal and professional development (self-assessment and reflection). This indicator must be evaluated.
January-March   2017   Finalize plans for MT Engage Class (see above) 
Mid-March  2017   Faculty submit revised course syllabi and MTE certification form
May  2017   Faculty submit Final Reflection Report and Extra Compensation paperwork
June  2017   Give presentation at MT Engage Summer Institute

Members

10 faculty members will participate in the FLC. These faculty members will teach an MT Engage section of their course in Fall 2017 and/or Spring 2018

Facilitator

Dr. Dianna Rust has served as the chair of the Quality Enhancement Plan that developed MT Engage since 2014 and as an Associate Professor in University Studies. In addition, she facilitated a work group that redesigned UNIV 1010 to align with MT Engage and will be teaching UNIV 1010 honors section as an MT Engage course in Fall 2016.

Principles of the Mind and Student Success

Description

This Faculty Learning Community will build a collaborative relationship through the discussion of Why Students Don’t Like School, a provocative and engaging book with direct relevance to any educator.  While this group will be using a book as a baseline for interactions, it will extend beyond merely read and discuss and consider specifically ways to implement these principles, connections with engaging learners, and critiquing the various ideas in the context of diverse experiences and disciplinary expertise.  Through this experience, participants will be immersed in the latest findings of how the mind works and be better equipped to critique and integrate various pedagogical practices in their own contexts.

Goals

  • Understand, articulate, and apply nine cognitive principles with direct implications for student learning
  • Improve student success through intentional application of cognitive principles into the university classroom
  • Discuss and reflect on connections between these principles and the MT Engage QEP at MTSU
  • Foster collaboration among FLC participants and with colleagues of FLC participants

Activities

Although particular activities of any FLC are emergent, the following list identifies some of the driving learning activities of the group. These are based on the recommendations and action items contained in FLC approval:

  1. Read and discuss the engaging and concise book, Why Students Don’t Like School, by eminent cognitive scientist Daniel T. Willingham
  2. Discuss nine principles of cognitive science that have direct implications for teachers at any level
  3. Collaboratively develop ideas for integrating these principles into university classrooms and testing them out to critique what worked, what didn’t, and make connections to goals for MT Engage

To complete these activities and achieve the goals, the FLC will meet once per month throughout the academic year (excluding December & May) and consider opportunities to bridge with other areas of expectation for faculty including potential co-authoring of a peer-reviewed publication to be submitted, development of training sessions for others, and possible round-table discussions with others.

Members

All instructors teaching an MT Engage course during the 2016-17 academic year will be of particular interest for participation in this FLC. Ideally, the FLC will have a final number of eight faculty who represent a variety of academic programs and experience levels across all colleges at MTSU. 

Facilitator

Dr. Kevin Krahenbuhl is Assistant Professor of Education in the Assessment, Learning, and School Improvement doctoral program in MTSU's College of Education. In addition to normal professorial duties, Dr. Krahenbuhl has led and collaborated in sessions building partnerships with other learning institutions. Over the past four years, he has published eight articles related to learning, has presented at international conferences, and also trained hundreds of teachers in effective integration of technology into the classroom.  Dr. Krahenbuhl has taught K12, community college, undergraduate, and graduate courses. He is passionate about learning, about higher education, and about engaging with others and can’t wait for this group to begin meeting.

Sustainable Study Abroad

Background

A robust menu of study abroad programs is a strong indicator of the academic “health” of students at an institution of higher learning, with strong impacts on both student recruitment and student retention. Specifically, 55% of high school students rate study abroad as something they hope to do in college. A further 27% was “absolutely certain that they would do everything [they] could to participate in study abroad.”1 Study abroad also correlates strongly with degree completion time2 and graduation GPA, and has a particularly strong effect on the retention rates of minority students.3 Despite these strong correlations, study abroad is often perceived by students (and faculty) as a potentially problematic deviation from the academic career rather than its most sensible complement. The result is a study abroad culture that is more reactive than proactive, and programming which lacks cohesion and sustainability. In the 2014-15 academic year, just 1% of MTSU students studied abroad through either an intramural (faculty-led), extramural (affiliate or consortium), or exchange program.4 This figure is slightly below the national trend of 1.5%. Although MTSU study abroad declined 17% from 2013 to 2014, this decline conceals a tenfold increase in MTSU study abroad since 2001-02.5 Clearly MTSU study abroad tends to follow the ebbs and flows of faculty and student engagement rather than responding to a comprehensive, integrated vision.
Study abroad is a “high impact pedagogy” and therefore a natural fit for the MTEngage initiative, which aims to connect students to both experiences and disciplines. By design, study abroad provides a platform for experiential off-campus engagements, and the more experiential these engagements are, the greater their allure seems to be. For example, the 2014 KIIS Cuba program (which I directed at the time) included a Spanish service learning course that was the most popular course in the program. The challenge for study abroad program coordinators and administrators is to find ways to bring study abroad within reach of more students, to define what priorities and practices make it sustainable, and to determine how study abroad can be put in the service of student success on an ongoing basis.

Sources

  1. American Council on Education (ACE), Art & Science, and College Board. 2008. https://www.acenet.edu/Documents/2008-Student-Poll.pdf, Chart
  2. According to institutional studies done at Indiana University, St. Mary’s College, UC San Diego, University of Georgia, and University of Minnesota. At Indiana University, a 2009 study determined that students who studied abroad had a probability of 0.91 of graduating within four years, versus 0.84 for their peers. The findings are particularly compelling for minority students: a University of Georgia Study (2004) found that African American students who studied abroad had a 31% higher four-year graduation rate than their peers. A University of San Diego study (2011) found that retention rates increased after a second year study abroad experience was instituted: freshman retention rates rose from 85% to 88%, and sophomore retention rates rose from 77% to 81%; both rates were record highs. Source: http://globaledresearch.com/study-abroad-impact.asp.
  3. U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges 2016, p. 23. Statement refers to a study conducted by Michigan State University.
  4. According to the MTSU Office of International Affairs, in 2014-15, 311 MTSU students studied abroad, That is 1% of the total student headcount of 22,729.
  5. MTSU Office of International Education, Facts & Figures.

Goals

This FLC aims to answer several intertwined questions relating to the sustainability of study abroad programming:

  • Who is studying abroad and why?
  • How do study abroad programs evolve over time and how should faculty and students both anticipate and respond to this evolution?
  • What academic models are most conducive to study abroad programming?
  • How should study abroad be tooled to best serve student success?

FLC participants are likely to be current or former study abroad program coordinators, though anyone with an interest in study abroad or alternative pedagogies is encouraged to participate. In spring 2016 I was tasked by the dean of the College of Liberal Arts to identify ways to boost retention and recruitment in the College. This FLC is a continuation of that research and, if approved, may count on my energetic participation.

Activities

The Sustainable Study Abroad FLC will meet monthly (excluding December) from September 2016 through April 2017. Each meeting will focus on identifying curricular, academic, and even administrative practices that maximize the potential of study abroad as an experiential learning platform, in the broadest sense, at MTSU. In conjunction with the Office of International Affairs, the FLC faculty will host a workshop in spring 2017 for faculty who may be interested in developing a study abroad program or simply participating in an existing one. Individual research projects will be completed during summer 2017.

September  2016 Organizational Meeting 
October  2016 Discussion: Who is studying abroad and why?
November  2016 Discussion: The Evolution of Study Abroad at MTSU and Elsewhere
Guest discussant: Dr. David Schmidt, MTSU Office of International Affairs
January  2017 Discussion: Academic models for study abroad
February 2017 Discussion: Study abroad and student success
March  2017 Wrap-up meeting, broad strokes, reflections, workshop planning
April  2017 Hosted workshop: “Sustainable Study Abroad at MTSU”
Summer  2017 Prepare papers for presentation or publication

Facilitator

Dr. Ric Morris is a professor of Spanish and Linguistics in the Department of Foreign Languages & Literatures. During his 18 years at MTSU, he has been involved in no fewer than 15 study abroad initiatives led by the department of Foreign Languages & Literature, the School of Nursing, and the Health, Wellness, and Recreation Center. He has also led study abroad programs to Cuba and Costa Rica through MTSU and the KIIS consortium, and has served on the KIIS executive board. In 2015 and 2016, Dr. Morris served on the College of Liberal Arts Strategic Planning Committee and as an administrative fellow advising the Dean of Liberal Arts on matters of recruitment and retention.

Teaching and Mentoring International Students

Description

According to the 2015 Open Door Fact Sheet about Tennessee, MTSU is reported to be an institution with some of the highest number of foreign students (total 1,545 students) compared to other peer institutions in Tennessee. Like most international students, it was reported that international students face challenges including lack of English proficiency, having less of an understanding of important academic ethics (i.e., plagiarism), and experiencing huge culture shock upon first coming to an American campus. These issues may result in unsuccessful academic performance in classrooms, tension between faculty members and students, and ultimately retention failure.

With growing numbers of international students at MTSU, faculty can play a key role in supporting students’ academic and social success. The Office of International Affairs suggests that it would be good to provide faculty with programs on improving empathy and cultural-sensitivity toward international students in the classroom.

Teaching and mentoring international students Faculty Learning Community is instrumental in developing cultural sensitivity and awareness among faculty as well as effective pedagogical skills to teach and accommodate international students in MTSU classrooms, which ultimately enhances the success and retention of international students at MTSU.

Members

All new and established faculty who have expertise in research and the teaching of cultural issues as well as international faculty who are open to teaching and mentoring international students will be invited to join. Ideally, the FLC will have a final number of eight faculty members who represent the diverse programs across all colleges at MTSU.

Facilitator

Dr. Yang Soo Kim is an associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies. His research interests are intercultural communication competence and cross-cultural adaptation among international students, expatriates, and immigrant youths.  He now serves as a department representative on the faculty senate and a member of the University Committee on General Education. He has presented a faculty diversity workshop (“Managing Cultural Diversity: Understanding/Accommodating International Students”) at the Learning, Teaching & Innovative Technologies Center at MTSU (April 13, 2016).