Scaling Up

The benefits of focused investments of time and energy in course-level assessment work tend to accrue to the course itself; that is, when we redesign our course's final exam or major project, we believe our students' learning will improve in that course (and rightly so). But redesign work in any course will also reverberate throughout the curriculum, especially in those courses that come immediately before or after the redesigned course.

In the midst of the pandemic, we are looking at what is, perhaps, the largest single instance of course redesign work around the country. Yet, because the impetus for this work was unplanned and sudden, we have mostly focused narrowly on our own courses and our own students in the moment. We haven't had the bandwidth to consider how all these idiosyncratic course-level changes and improvements -- however skillful and well-intentioned -- affect the curriculum's interpretability and accessibility from the students' perspective. 

The project of this year's SLS is to make this connection: leveraging excellence in individual course assessment to improve our study of student learning at the level of the program. Hopefully, you have had the opportunity to peruse some illustrations of great work on this website. With those exemplars in mind, here are some reflection questions and resources to consider before attending the SLS: 

  • When was the last time your departmental colleagues all became excited about an initiative or revision to your curriculum? What prompted that excitement? How was it channeled into producing results?
  • How do change processes work in your department? Who leads the charge and who carries out the work?
  • What occasions exist in your department -- informal or formal -- for talking about teaching and learning?
  • Have you ever convinced a colleague to adopt one of your assignments or project prompts? Has a colleague convinced you to do so? What did that conversation look like and what about it was persuasive?
  • Does your department have a course (most likely a capstone?) that is intended to be a summative embodiment of learning throughout your curriculum? What does assessment look like in that course? Are there practices in this course that could be deployed at other stages of the curriculum?
  • "Why Does the Faculty Resist Change?" by John Tagg in Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning (2012). Article can be accessed on ResearchGate without creating an account.
  • "Transforming Undergraduate Education from the Middle Out with Departmental Action Teams" by Daniel L. Reinholz, Mary E. Pilgrim, Joel C. Corbo, and Noah Finkelstein in Change: The Magazine of Higher Education (2019). Pre-print version accessible on the author's homepage.
  • "The Context of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Identification and Understanding of Different Microcultures" by C Kjaer, Rie Troelsen, Katarina Martensson, and Torgny Roxa, presented at the Conference on Transforming Patterns through the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (2017). Article can be accessed on ResearchGate without creating an account.

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February 25, 2022

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