Purpose of the ShenEd Curriculum Design
ShenEd emphasizes learning across discipline boundaries and supports pedagogical innovations that use interdisciplinary and co-curricular experiences to enhance classroom learning.
ShenEd encourages students to draw connections between classes in their general education program, between their general education classes and their major, or between their general education classes and their experiences outside the classroom. ShenEd is designed to create these connections while maintaining flexibility (it follows SACS requirements and still allows students to easily transfer credits from other institutions).
ShenEd is structured to move beyond simply requiring students to take courses from different disciplines by incorporating integrative learning into the distribution model. ShenEd follows the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ (AAC&U) definition of “integrative learning” – “an understanding and a disposition that a student builds across the curriculum and co-curriculum, from making simple connections among ideas and experiences to synthesizing and transferring learning to new, complex situations within and beyond the campus.”
Integrative learning currently is woven through multiple components of the ShenEd structure. Other experiences or models may be added, while existing experiences may change or be eliminated.
Integrative learning curriculum design at the course level
Faculty development workshops will be offered regularly to enhance the integrative learning already occurring in their classroom and/or to develop new integrative learning strategies. ShenEd courses will be required to apply at least one integrative learning component into their classroom. The following are examples of where integrative learning occurs already in classes and how integrative learning can be developed more intentionally in ShenEd:
- Individual courses where the focus is on a single field or topic but lectures, discussion, and assignments are designed so that students examine the implications of the course material on the nonacademic world. For example, political science professors who use real-life case studies to teach theoretical concepts.
- Individual courses that incorporate learning objectives or goals from other ShenEd spheres to enhance student learning in the “home” sphere. For example, professors teaching a biology course assess all of the scientific inquiry learning objectives, but also incorporate ethics discussions throughout the course as students discuss the impact of science in daily decision making and policy development
- Individual courses that incorporate learning objectives or goals from the other region in their ShenEd sphere. For example, professors teaching a class in the Cultural Understanding region in the Navigating Differences sphere incorporate learning objectives from the Ethical Reasoning region.
- Individual courses that require students to attend a Conservatory performance or a Student Life program that links to one or more ShenEd learning objectives (see “Bells and Whistles”).
Integrative learning curriculum design at the program level
This involves multiple ShenEd courses that share commonalities
- The Town Hall program where students in multiple courses approach the same social issue and share their research under the guidance of a community expert. Town Hall classes are optional and not a graduation requirement.
- First Year Seminar (FYS) where entering students approach common learning objectives from different disciplines across the University. FYS is required of all first year, first time students.
Integrative Learning Curriculum Design Assessment
The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE)
The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) collects information from first-year and senior students about the characteristics and quality of their undergraduate experiences. NSSE allows SU to review levels of student engagement in a variety of areas as well as examine the amount of time and effort students put into their studies and other activities. Reflective and integrative learning is a category found within the Academic Challenge section in NSSE.
Integrative Learning Survey
Integrative learning is about making connections and this learning may not be evident in traditional academic artifacts (such as research papers, exams) unless students are prompted to draw implications for practice. These connections often surface in self-assessment.
The integrative survey questions from NSSE will be compiled into a shorter survey that will be given to sophomores at the end of the Spring semester. Results will indicate if students are able to draw connections between classes in the ShenEd program, between their ShenEd classes and their major, or between ShenEd classes and their experiences outside the classroom. Data will help to inform future programmatic decisions; the ShenEd committee will review survey results and identify possible areas that might be considered weaknesses of the program.