Faculty Senate plan to incorporate more integrative experiences in curriculum
To embellish the Concordia ideology of BREW, faculty, administration and students have been devising a potential curriculum change that would push students outside the classroom several times throughout their academic career.
At the Faculty Senate meeting on Sept. 21, faculty voted in favor of requiring two integrative learning experiences and removing the core capstone requirement.
Intensive Integrative Learning Experiences is a proposed change to the curriculum for students to gain experience “that would provide…opportunities to apply knowledge, skills and attitudes in situations involving complexity and uncertainty,” according to the Curriculum Committee. These experiences can happen within a class, study abroad, internships, research and credit bearing or non-credit bearing experiences.
The Calendar Change Committee formulated the idea of implementing IILE into the curriculum in the summer of 2014, according to Dr. Jean Bokinskie, associate professor of nursing and chair of the Curriculum Committee. In Sept. 2014, her committee had been given the task to develop two integrative learning experiences.
“As a committee, we decided that we wouldn’t define it [the experiences] so tightly,” Bokinskie said. “We wanted to have the ability for creative thought for ideas and experiences from both the student perspective and the faculty perspective. It might be an individual student project, it might be an entire class, it might be classes that come together to bring in the real world, real life experiences into the classroom and outside of the classroom.”
Dr. Kirsten Theye, associate professor of communication studies and theatre art, joined the Core Committee two years ago. After attending a conference and workshop about integrated learning, she agrees with the idea of IILE.
“It’s a bold move, but IILE is in alignment with students’ needs and wants,” Theye said.
If enacted, an IILE would have to adhere to five criteria, according to Bokinskie. Bokinskie outlined the tentative five criteria to be venturing outside the classroom, working with others while addressing complex situations, creating interdisciplinary responses to these encounters while ruminating on diverse perspectives, experiencing frustration and ambiguity that lead to the discovery of issues outside what is stated in the syllabus and sharpening skills to prepare students for future employment. If IILE is implemented, these standards would need to be passed by the faculty senate.
Kiersten McMahon, student representative for the Core Committee and faculty senate and academic affairs officer for SGA, supports the concept of the new curriculum.
“It’s a great idea,” McMahon said. “It allows the students in education and nursing to keep doing what they’re doing because they do a lot of off-campus work that is required by the state already. It would also open up opportunities for the rest of the students because things like internships and co-ops and study abroad could count as those highly integrative learning experiences.”
A student would be required to have an IILE during their freshman or sophomore year, then take the second one during their junior or senior year. A student may have more than two experiences during their academic career.
IILE would be implemented no earlier than the fall of 2017. Whether students will be immersed into IILE completely or gradually brought into it is still up for discussion, according to Bokinskie.
“I don’t know what the future holds,” Bokinskie said.
While the new curriculum idea has been extolled, some questions did arise from other faculty during the meeting. Dr. Dawn Duncan, professor of English and global studies, had several concerns regarding the removal of the Core Capstone.
“I’m usually one of the first people on the bandwagon for change,” Duncan said. “I love new and innovative ways of doing things, but this isn’t new, it isn’t innovative. Those Core Capstones were.”
The Core Capstones had been implemented into the curriculum in the 2010-2011 school year. The purpose of the Capstone is to “provide transitional learning experiences as students move forward from a period of study and preparation, and…apply their knowledge through real-world encounters,” according to the application guidelines for the Core Capstone Course. For a Core Capstone to be approved, it has to be writing intensive, have a noteworthy experiential component, address an issue that has a global impact, allow students to reflect upon the process of BREW and to be taken during senior year, according to the Core Capstone application guidelines.
Some of the issues of the capstone that were voiced during the meeting include the limitation of having to take a capstone course during senior year, the unavailability of a capstone course in one’s major and lack of intensity in some capstone courses due to a dearth of prerequisites.
Since the vote was cast at the end of the meeting, allowing no further discussion, Duncan sent a document titled “Concerning the Removal of the Core Capstone Courses,” to the president, the dean and faculty senate representatives for each department. In this document, she noted three problems: the concern of availability of resources to provide these experiences to all students, the quick vote at the faculty meeting and the lack of intensity in some capstone courses. To amend these problems, she asks to vote on keeping the Core Capstone as one of the IILE, void the vote at the faculty meeting, change the name of the capstone to fit the new curriculum, provide support for professors and aid the Core Committee with turning down capstone courses that do not meet the standards.
“If I had a well-designed car that I was excited about five years ago and something goes wrong with it, do I let it die on the side of the road and go buy a new one and leave it unfixed and have poor trade in value, or do I fix the thing that was wrong because this is a great car and it can be around for another five to 10 years,” Duncan said. “In my mind, especially in this economic atmosphere, you don’t throw out that well-designed vehicle that has some portions that don’t run and get something brand new and hope that it will be economically worthwhile to have done so.”
Six departments replied to her stating they agree with her call for desired action and three people had responded stating their dislike to Duncan calling some capstone courses “watered-down.” Two days after Duncan sent her original proposal, she sent another email acknowledging the displeasure noted on her usage of “watered-down” with the capstone courses, but reiterated that it was her interpretation of what was said about the issues with capstone during the faculty senate meeting.
“That is my choice of wording, and I stand by it for the reasons given,” Duncan said in the email.
As for students, the worry of having a heavier load comes into question. Bokinskie, Theye and McMahon all said that a heavier load should not be a complication since many students are partaking in an experience similar to the idea of integrated learning — having internships, studying abroad or participating in research.
“To me, it wouldn’t be a huge stress to roll out [IILE] for every student,” Theye said.
“The definition of what constitutes as an ILLE is very broad to incorporate many things,” McMahon said. “If you studied abroad and had an internship, there are the two [experiences].”
Other concerns about IILE that arose during the meeting were about the delegation of professors’ time between their classes and the supervision of students who are participating in a non-credit experience, the availability of resources when developing an IILE class and about how it will be implemented. These questions cannot be addressed until an Integrative Learning Committee is selected, according to Bokinskie.
“Curriculum’s focus was creating the overall structure of the two experiences, where they would be placed [during a student’s academic career] and our recommendations,” Bokinskie said. “We brought forth the structure and now faculty senate and groups need to begin to put the flesh on it.”
“I think it’s important for every faculty member to have their voice be heard,” McMahon said. “This is going to be a huge institutional change and if faculty don’t feel like they were heard, then there’s going to be some resentment and pushback through the rest of the process. If the process is going to go forward, I want it, I want it with support and want it to go as smoothly as possible.”
Sage is the Co-Editor-in-Chief of The Concordian. She is a senior majoring in Multimedia Journalism and Spanish and minoring in Communication Studies.