FCI: Departmental Commitment

Foundational Course Initiative

Departmental Commitment

The collaborative course design process offers host departments unprecedented support for revision of foundational courses. To take advantage of this opportunity, departments will have to commit to full participation in this approach. This commitment will typically include several elements essential to successful launch of a foundational course. Departments who choose to participate will commit to:

Provide stable staffing throughout the CCD process

The literature of course reform is filled with stories of initially successful reforms upended by ill-planned changes to instructional staff. To ensure the success of the CCD process, interested departments should commit to staffing the course with individuals willing to participate in the process through the design and development process and into the delivery stage. This does not mean that every participant will teach the course every term, but that they will participate as part of the team throughout the process of reform, with overlapping, multi-year commitments. To make reform stick, a significant subset of students, faculty, and staff in the department must commit to the process.

Support the faculty who commit to participate in reform

This collaborative course design process will provide instructional teams with unprecedented forms of support. Nevertheless, it is likely that the design process will require unusual commitments of intellectual energy and time from everyone involved. To some extent, this increased focus will be its own reward, but it is important that host departments recognize and, as much as possible, reward the faculty involved in these reforms for their additional effort. These commitments of support may include elements like ‘counting’ course design work as part of faculty service, offering course releases or summer salary support, or recognizing peer reviewed education publications which emerge as research contributions.

Commit to participation in the CCD process

Collaborative course design is essential to the foundational course initiative. For a department to enter into this process, it is essential that they should commit to this model of course reform: extended in time, conducted by a multigenerational team within the department in close collaboration with professionals from CRLT, and focused on evidence-based methods. This team should include faculty, postdocs and staff, graduate students, and undergraduates. Together, all members of the team will explore and receive training in evidence-based teaching methods, gain experience with these in class, and emerge with new expertise. As with all collaborative projects, details of the roles taken by the participants will vary, but explicit advance commitment to the principle of collaborative course design is essential to success.

Develop explicit learning goals for the course

A defining feature of foundational courses is a widespread, shared, slowly evolving understanding of course goals. Often this sense is already shared by a discipline more broadly, expressed in textbooks and comparable courses nationwide. It is essential to the CCD process that these goals be clearly and explicitly expressed. The practice of defining learning goals remains unfamiliar to many faculty members at Michigan, so this work will take place as part of the CCD process, with the professional support from CRLT, and participation from the full CCD team. But the department must commit to participating fully in this process.

Develop methods for measuring and reporting student growth toward these goals

Foundational courses with clearly defined learning goals are the ideal environment for careful measurement of student learning. As such, the department will commit to work with the FCI team on the development and testing of methods for measuring student growth toward the course’s learning goals. The goal is to create stable, slowly changing methods for measuring learning which operate in conjunction with regular, graded evaluation of student work. These can be as simple as well-designed and validate pre and post-testing, or as complex as protocols for sampling student work by experts. Transparent reporting of the outcomes of these measures will also be an essential element of all foundational courses.

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