13 November 2007

student - faculty colloquia

As I think I mentioned awhile ago, the Dean of Arts and Sciences asked me to coordinate a new program for our University that would bring first year students and full-time faculty into closer contact. He had given me some general parameters within which to develop the program.

After gathering a small advisory group, we came up with something we are calling discourse. The idea is that pairs of faculty will meet with small groups of first year students in order to generate discussion around themes chosen by the faculty and related to their own areas of interest.

The program attempts to accomplish a variety of goals.

With regard to faculty it draws more full-time and newer faculty into contact with first year students. As a collaborative project discourse increases connections and interaction among faculty and across disciplines, inviting students in faculty interests and research.With its colloquium format, discourse provides an informal space to try out small group and active learning strategies.

With regard to students the program enhances the intellectual culture of the University community and demonstrates genuine faculty interest in student growth outside of the classroom, valuing and drawing out a spectrum of students, inculcating an appreciation of the University’s values and culture.

Here's part of the letter sent out to faculty we were trying to recruit:
You’re a dedicated teacher and committed to student learning.

But the semester draws to a close. And once again, it seems to end just as your freshmen are finally beginning to “get it.”

Now imagine you could hold onto a few students a bit longer...

Imagine you and a colleague could gather these students in a small group – at a café, in a dorm lounge, at your home, in Center City – and you could talk informally, freely, and enthusiastically about themes that interest you.

If that sounds attractive, then enter into discourse – an initiative enabling you to do exactly that.

La Salle will support student-faculty colloquia by providing structure, hosting development workshops, offering staff support, and underwriting the costs of light meals and travel, accompanied by assessment and follow-up.

discourse is part of a wider Freshman Year Institute pilot, initiated by the Provost and carried forward under the auspices of the Dean of the School of Arts & Sciences.

Goals of the pilot include increasing full-time faculty contact with first year students, improving our pedagogy, enriching freshman learning, and boosting freshman retention.

For the discourse pilot, we are recruiting 16 faculty members, who will organize into 8 pairs.

Each faculty pair is responsible for choosing a theme, drawing up a discussion plan, recruiting 6-8 students, and facilitating four colloquia during February and March of the spring term.
Well, that's the idea at least. Now, over the coming months, I'll be busy - along with participating faculty - in trying to bring that idea to fruition.