Problem-solving, critical thinking, and abstract reasoning – referred to as higher-order thinking skills – are the mental tools that can propel students beyond being simply receivers of knowledge and enable them to tackle increasingly complex problems. As students cultivate these skills, they become more active, self-directed, and effective learners.
At the same time, mastery of a subject requires that professors cover, and students understand, large amounts of information. With limited classroom time available, the demands of teaching of content may squeeze out coursework that nurtures higher-order thinking.
Introductory Courses and the Nature of Faculty Work
Call for Proposals
Deadline: December 21
With generous support from the Teagle Foundation, the ACM is embarking on Introducing Change: Introductory Courses and the Nature of Faculty Work, a project aimed at infusing higher-order thinking into the first courses students are likely to encounter when they get to college.
“Great teaching prepares students to be engaged and self-aware in the learning process,” said ACM Senior Program Officer Elizabeth Ciner. “It makes students into life-long learners, which is one of the aspects of liberal arts education that our alumni really value, both professionally and personally. The Teagle grant will help our colleges explore ways to deepen our students’ development of those crucial higher-order thinking skills as early as possible.”
The goals of Introducing Change are twofold:
- To help small teams of faculty re-think introductory courses (or a college’s roster of first-year seminars) in ways that promote higher-order thinking; and
- To identify and document ways that faculty work and its reward structures can change so that institutions can sustain these kinds of innovations.
“That second goal is very important, and is a key to making our efforts sustainable,” Ciner noted. “Recent research on learning suggests that good classes lead to new conceptual understandings, but students arrive with very different backgrounds, introductory courses tend to be large, and there are always department imperatives. How can we design approaches that encourage students to organize knowledge in meaningful ways? Are there ways to restructure even large courses to promote higher-order thinking?”
To get the project rolling, the Introducing Change steering committee has issued a Call for Proposals seeking small teams of faculty to design and lead classroom experiments to try out innovative ways of teaching higher-order thinking skills in introductory courses and first-year seminars. The deadline for proposals is December 21, and the committee expects to select up to nine teams from different ACM campuses to participate in the project. Stipends will be provided to faculty participants.
Introducing Change will unfold throughout 2013 and conclude in 2014, with the work of the faculty teams bracketed by two workshops. The teams will gather to discuss and refine their proposed curricular projects at a design workshop on February 8-10 at Macalester College in St. Paul, MN. They will continue preparing their experimental courses throughout the spring, including methods for assessing the effectiveness of the courses, and will offer the courses in fall 2013.
At an implementation workshop in early 2014, the faculty teams will reconvene to share the results of their experiments, discuss the implications of their findings, and outline their strategies for follow-up.
Details about the project and Call for Proposals are available on the Introducing Change webpage. Faculty interested in participating may also contact Elizabeth Ciner or Project Manager Cara Pickett at the ACM office (312-263-5000).