Thinking About and Creating IDEAS on Your Campus
Faculty experience surprise, if not frustration, over limitations in the basic academic skills of some students. IDEAS—Integrated Disciplinary Education For Academic Scholarship—a grassroots faculty development initiative, may help.
Designing and implementing your own version of IDEAS is a win-win-win experience that will positively impact your students’ educational life, improve the quality of assignments you receive from them in your classes, and generate collegial exchange that is “priceless.”
Suggesting that faculty include practice in basic academic skills—reading, writing, thinking, communicating, research, and studying, and even address social and emotional competencies—is a daunting request.
Integrating all this, without taking time away from content area objectives and overburdening ourselves, does take some doing. Further, in these precarious economic times, one might question just how an institution could support and implement such a program.
For sure, it is a process—a faculty development process that looks inward at what already exists within your institution. The cornerstone of IDEAS is its respect for the collegiality and expertise of campus faculty. Faculty enrich their pedagogy by engaging with, collaborating with, and learning from their colleagues.
The IDEAS model consists of three major components, all depending primarily on in house expertise waiting to be accessed. These include the Consortium, the Annual Symposium, and the Faculty Learning Community. Consider the structure of your own campus as you read about the IDEAS model. Could IDEAS be redesigned for your college?
The IDEAS Consortium
The Consortium is our “task force.” Chaired by the program coordinator, it represents a cohort of administrators and faculty, across disciplines, who support the IDEAS mission and meet and discuss its development, design, and implementation.
At Nassau Community College, the Consortium began within the area of arts and humanities, whose dean graciously provided a “home” for IDEAS. Interest grew and so did the Consortium. Now we include faculty from math, social sciences, physical sciences, and programs such as marketing and fashion design. The interdisciplinary nature of the group is fundamental.
The Consortium meets twice a semester to create and support the endeavors of IDEAS. Members plan and implement our annual symposium, contribute to the development and assessment of the Faculty Learning Community (FLC), develop and maintain the IDEAS Web site, and act as liaisons to their respective departments regarding the efforts of IDEAS.
The Annual IDEAS Symposium
Each fall, the Consortium presents a college wide symposium highlighting a skills area to integrate across instruction in all disciplines. The day-long event includes presentation of theory, research, and literature review. However, the thrust of the event is action and exchange.
The program follows a workshop model, actively engaging participants to apply best practices that integrate academic skills across areas of study. We have addressed exploratory writing strategies in “Writing to Learn: Literacy Across the Disciplines;” active reading skills in “Close Encounters: Reading Across the College Disciplines;” critical thinking in “Mind Over Matter: Critical Thinking Across the College Disciplines;” and, most recently, competencies in social and emotional intelligence as underpinnings for college success in “Affective Strategies for Effective Learning: Engagement Across the Disciplines.”
Program leaders come from both outside and within our college community. The breadth of expertise right on campuses is profound. It serves as a great resource from which we can learn in a collegial and relatively inexpensive way.
The Consortium invites faculty from neighboring campuses to participate in our events as well. Sharing concerns and ideas among campuses has been enlightening and gratifying. It reminds us that we are professionals together in a larger “village.” Though from different institutions, we share common ground, and do, indeed, need one another to vent and learn.
The IDEAS Faculty Learning Community
On campuses we are often estranged from our colleagues in different departments. Like the students of a community college, we find ourselves coming and going with little time for the “pedagogic talk.” We miss opportunities to learn from each other and to harvest feelings of connection by interacting with professional peers.
To address this need, we’ve established an IDEAS Faculty Learning Community (FLC). Twelve faculty members voluntarily form an interdisciplinary group to meet for eight sessions throughout the semester. They actively immerse in the review and development of pedagogic theory and strategies that foster integration of basic academic skills into their instruction.
The IDEAS coordinator, who serves as FLC session leader, designs the program. Each session addresses a different basic skill and is facilitated by group members or “guest” facilitators who have expertise in the area of focus. Topics we’ve covered have included active reading and textbook management strategies, writing to learn, time management and self-monitoring strategies, methods to generate lively classroom discourse, critical thinking, and an on-site library experience to foster information literacy via quality research assignment design and use of databases.
FLC participants write reflections on readings or sessions, and create original lesson designs that are compiled in a monograph. A “reunion session” during the following fall has become tradition. All take pleasure in recounting the impact of the FLC experience on their teaching.
Keep the Conversation Going
Use your campus technological resources to disseminate information about your mission, events, and activities. We have developed the IDEAS Web site to publicize events, make available information, and share references and resources. Visit us at http://faculty.ncc.edu/ideas. Interactive potential is in the works.
Discover the Impact of IDEAS
At the end of each Faculty Learning Community and at every symposium, we gather participant feedback. Here are some excerpts from “Two-Minute” Reflective Journals used in the assessment process.
“The experience focused my thinking about interdisciplinary teaching and learning….”
“Workshops encouraged me to go beyond my frustrations… to challenge students in small, non-threatening ways to
“Now I pay more attention to my textbook, use strategies to engage students and make them better readers ….”
“I devote class time to helping students manage their time, and it goes a long way—fewer surprises, fewer late papers ....”
“Writing is at a higher level—more cohesive because I am clearer in my instructions and share models of quality work ....”
“I learned through the library session that our databases are incredibly helpful. I was able to lead a research workshop and have since used library resources for my own lesson planning ....”
“In biology, having students write chapter summaries and their own questions has made a real difference….”
“I motivate students to work hard on their journals by allowing them to use them on a final exam ....”
“More than anything, I have gained a sense of collegiality outside my own department ... a true sense of fellowship.”
Each campus is unique, with varying needs and resources. By sharing the IDEAS paradigm, I hope you will be inspired to look inward, too. IDEAS offers potential to enhance student outcome, retention, and skills proficiency. It provides a comfortable forum for faculty engagement. It is rooted in the capacity of professors to grow as educators, and relies heavily on the expertise and collegial spirit of faculty to make it happen.