Strategic Planning and Budgeting Committee

Teaching and Learning Work Group: Roger Schnaitter and Marina Balina (co-conveners), Wes Chapman (faculty), William Munro (faculty), Frank Boyd (Melon Center Director), Linda French (FDC Chair), Connie Dennis (CC Chair), Stacey Shimizu (staff), Suzanne Wilson (staff), Lauren Fisher, Todd Kumler, Ryan Smith, Alyssa Stone (student reps.)

Schedule of Work Group Meetings: The group met seven times (10/19; 10/26; 11/02; 11/09; 11/16; 11/21; 11/30)

Teaching and Learning Goal: Augmenting teaching and learning resources to match our increased student body size, emerging curricular expectations, and growing student expectations.

Strategy A:  Beginning with a review of both  curricular offerings and faculty resources, devise and implement a plan to develop and refine the curriculum and to increase faculty and support resources in such a way as to advance the mission and vision of the university. 

Rationale: Several factors combine to require the university to undertake a thorough, combined review of faculty resources and the curriculum. IWU has not had a systematic review of faculty resources since the CARP plan of 1988.  Our curriculum and our faculty have therefore grown without a comprehensive process by which we can prioritize between competing interests and needs. At the same time, our mission and vision statements identify areas for new curricular growth including social justice, internationalization and sustainability, and alumni report the need for additional preparation in still other areas, such as oral communication. Yet many faculty are concerned that the integrity of the traditional disciplines has been weakened by the proliferation of interdisciplinary programs and our criteria-based general education program.  Several departments report that they do not have sufficient faculty to serve existing programs, much less to expand into new areas, even as students report an insufficient number of classes and in some areas of general education.  Because curricular offerings are necessarily limited or determined by the faculty available to offer them, the review of faculty and the review of the curriculum must be part of the same process. 

Strategy B: Strengthen and integrate advising and other academic and student support structures to enhance student learning inside and outside of the classroom.

Rationale: IWU’s commitment to lifelong learning must be coupled with the dual recognition that teaching and learning are not restricted to the classroom and that effective teaching and learning depend on strong academic and student service structures.  To enhance learning outside of the classroom, we must (a) ensure that those support structures respond to student needs, (b) better coordinate and integrate the work of all support structures (departments, offices, programs), and (c) couple the work of student support services with our curriculum. 

Assessment data suggest a number of areas in which IWU can—and should—improve student services to and provide a more supportive campus environment.  The area in most pressing need of improvement is academic advising: first-year advising, advising within a major, advising for students with multiple majors, international student advising, and consistency of advising across campus.  Students also express a desire for greater non- or extra-academic advice to help them lay the foundations for their lives—educational, professional, and personal—post-graduation.  IWU’s growing commitment to diversity and internationalization requires us to provide guidance and training, outside of formal advising, to help students negotiate intercultural, social, and civic interactions.  Furthermore, national data indicate that students entering college today come with greater medical and mental health needs and learning disabilities.

To address these various student needs and, more generally, to enhance learning outside the classroom, we must coordinate and expand existing campus support structures, including (but not limited to) the Registrar’s Office, the Career Center, the International Office, the Multicultural Affairs Office, Information Technology, The Ames Library, the Writing Center, Counseling, and the Health Center.  Moreover, we should incorporate learning throughout the undergraduate experience by integrating curricular programs with co-curricular offerings.  Finally, IWU should expand and continue to invest our physical and virtual learning spaces, from enhanced classrooms, field sits, language labs, and tutoring centers to online learning communities and electronic resources.

Strategy C: Foster innovative and intellectually challenging teaching practices that actively engage students’ critical and creative faculties and that address their diverse needs, backgrounds and ambitions.

Rationale: At the core of IWU’s educational mission lies the ability of its faculty to teach effectively. As the profile of the student body changes and new teaching technologies become available, and as the curriculum moves in new directions, new expectations and opportunities arise for the faculty to reassess and improve their teaching practices. At the same time, many faculty report that they lack the resources and time to reflect upon their teaching, to gain exposure to recent research on teaching and learning, and to become acquainted with new teaching technologies now available on campus. And assessment data indicate very mixed results with respect to graduates’ sense of their preparedness to enter the workforce (in terms of communication skills, analytical/critical abilities, work-oriented knowledge, and confidence). It is therefore imperative that the University provide development resources to the faculty to enable them to respond to these challenges. Areas of teaching innovation may include: refining interactive teaching techniques or developing pedagogical activities outside of the classroom to promote active learning; introducing new types of assignments; including experiential learning or action research experiences; sharing learning environments between classrooms or across space through technology, and developing grading strategies that facilitate learning as well as produce a grade.

Strategy D: Recognizing the interdependence of teaching and research and the multiplicity of the relationship between them, strengthen and expand the existing support structures for scholarship and artistic production, develop new initiatives to promote a rigorous scholarly and creative environment, and foster productive cooperation between teaching and research in and outside of the classroom.

Rationale: Research promotes inquiry-based learning and as such should be identified as one of the major tools in meeting our educational expectations. E.L. Boyer, in his study of the relationship between research and scholarship stated in 1990 that “…the time has come to move beyond the tired ‘teaching versus research ‘debate.” Currently, the academic community is invited to give the term “scholarship” a broader meaning and recognize its importance in enriching the quality of learning experience for both faculty and students. In recent years, IWU has taken significant steps to promote research and make it more visible on campus (such as the Faculty Colloquium Series, ASD grants, Junior Semester Leave, Senior Course Release, and John Powell Student Research Conference). However, the study of available data suggest that a significant number of faculty at IWU raise serious concerns about unclear expectation for balancing teaching and research. In addition more clarity is desired in the evaluation of their scholarly/artistic achievements, the standards for which, at this point, are reported as being inconsistent and often narrow.

In numerous assessments, demands upon faculty time have been identified as the most pressing issue for the teacher/scholar in our academic community. The available data suggest that the majority of IWU faculty see course reduction (six to five) as a necessary measure to ensure future growth in scholarly/artistic productivity as well as in faculty/student creative collaboration.

Understanding this action as a long-term strategy, IWU needs to identify research as an integral part of our academic life and see in it a vehicle through which active research faculty are able to bring contemporary issues to class. New initiatives such as flexible teaching loads and/or special accommodations for faculty/student joint research projects might be introduced as a short-term response to our faculty research needs. 

Strategy E: Reform and improve the all-university writing program at IWU, with particular attention to issues of staffing, training, consistency, quality, and faculty incentive in Gateway Colloquium and Writing Intensive courses (or courses that replace them in a reformed program). 

Rationale:  Although writing instruction is part of the curriculum as a whole and thus might be considered as part of the curriculum review called for in Strategy A, it merits separate consideration.  Writing is of the highest importance both in college and beyond: it has both expressive and communicative functions, yet it is so integral to intellectual activity in all disciplines that it transcends both.  Writing well is thinking well, and learning to write is learning to think critically, to be attentive to nuance and complexity, and to organize ideas.  Moreover, the need for reform of our all-university writing program is particularly urgent.  The Gateway Colloquium has had staffing problems since its inception, problems which have had adverse effects on morale and collegiality.  Students report wide variations in quality and workload in both Gateway and Writing Intensive sections.  Some faculty express anxiety about teaching writing, and note a lack of incentives, or even significant disincentives, for participating in the writing program.  Training in teaching writing is not mandatory for participants in the program; the optional training sessions offered are often poorly attended.  Responsibility for supervision of faculty in Gateway courses is unclear, and coordination of the writing program as a whole depends largely two persons with half-time administrative positions, multiple responsibilities, little formal training in composition and rhetoric, and no supervisory authority.   

A list of persons and groups consulted thus far:

  • Two Open Forums scheduled for December 8, 2005 – will be carried by various members of the T and L Work Group.
  • International Studies, consultation was carried by William Munro
  • Environmental Studies, consultation was carried by Frank Boyd
  • TLTR, consultation was carried by Marina Balina and Roger Schnaitter
  • Student Senate, consultation was carried by Todd Kumler
  • Consultations with various faculty and staff in different parts of campus carried by the members of the group

A list of evidence/resources/documents examined:

  • Statements from Council On Undergraduate Research.
  • Statements and documents from American Association for Higher Education.
  • Statements and documents from the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.
  • Statements and documents from the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship.
  • Teaching and Learning strategies from different universities across United States: the survey was prepared by Suzanne Wilson.
  • 2004 SSI (Student Satisfactory Inventory)
  • 2004 YCFY (Your First College Year)
  • 2004 NSSE (National Survey of Student Engagement)
  • 2004 CIRP (Cooperative Institutional Research Project)
  • 2004-05 FSSE (Faculty Survey of Student Engagement)