Reflections on the Loyola University Chicago Focus on Teaching and Learning Conference

by Jessica Mansbach and Kristina Wilson

Introduction

Twice a year, the Faculty Center for Ignatian Pedagogy at Loyola University Chicago (LUC) holds a Focus on Teaching and Learning conference where faculty and staff gather to share innovative teaching strategies and case studies. The goal of the event is to “contribute to a faculty and staff life that involves active scholarship, candid and vibrant collaboration, and innovative activities that reflect the University’s mission.”

A cadre of representatives from the Distance Learning team–Learning Designer Jessica Mansbach, Information Design and Strategy faculty member David Noffs, and Learning Designer Krissy Wilson–headed up to Loyola’s Lake Shore campus in Rogers Park to see what our Chicago-area peers were up to. We were impressed with the range of activities and presentations the day had in store! Read on for reflections on the event.

Ignatian Pedagogy Paradigm

Jessica attended the What is Ignatian pedagogy and how does it influence learning? session.  SPS DL is always focusing on the quality of its teaching, so I wanted to find out if there were any aspects of Ignatian pedagogy that we could implement in our courses.

Doctors Carol Scheidenhelm and Ann Marie Ryan from Loyola University’s Faculty Center for Ignatian Pedagogy began by giving an overview of the Ignatian Pedagogy Paradigm.

Image retrieved from Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning.

 

The Paradigm has five components: context, experience, reflection, action, and evaluation. Each component of the paradigm should be considered when designing a learning experience. Considering the context (who your students are) and the experience (the kinds of activities students will do or have done) lays the groundwork for helping students to reflect (think about what happened or why things happen) on what they are learning, take action (think about how to use what they are learning to change their lives or the lives of those around them) and then evaluate (think about the impact of the action) their success.  The presenters stressed the importance of the reflection and evaluation components of the Paradigm and urged instructors to think carefully about attending to this piece of the learning process in order to help students make sense of how what they are learning can be used outside of a classroom context (Loyola University’s Faculty Center for Ignatian Pedagogy, n.d.).

By keeping this Paradigm in mind, SPS DL instructors can systematically think through how to design learning experiences that consider not just students’ academic growth, but also how students act on, reflect on, and evaluate the success of what they learn outside of the classroom.

The Evolution of Higher Education: Integrative Designs in a Dis-integrative Age

David found the opening session on “The Evolution of Higher Education: Integrative Designs in a Dis-integrative Age” by Dr. Randall Bass, stimulating as a way of re-examining how we view curriculum in the modern era. Dr. Bass is Vice Provost for Education and Professor of English at Georgetown University where he also leads the Designing the Future(s) initiative and the Red House incubator for curricular transformation.

Using a theory usually applied to evolution as a metaphor for institutional academic change, Dr. Bass questioned, “How can we, in institutions of higher education thrive in an era of punctuated equilibrium?”

According to Dr. Bass, universities are confronted with the choice between two paradigms during this time of dramatic technological and societal change. The first, dis-integrated education, is caused by what he calls the “five horses” of contemporary education. These are public funding, technology (he cited Lynda.com as an example), attempts to scale online learning, unbundling of curricula, and non-profits eating for-profits.

The second, integrated education, is teaching the whole person. Integrated education seeks to rebundle the educational experience by evolving into a new curriculum for the 21st century. Dr. Bass urged the audience to, “create a new context for education” that is not disruptive, but rather generates variations to the curricula that can succeed.

Dr. Bass is exploring these variations at the Redhouse incubator at Georgetown. Some of the curricular experiments include social justice and service learning courses bundled together as part of what he hopes is reimagining how we build our core curriculum for the 21st century. For example, the Redhouse has developed Bridge Courses, “…an exciting new series of 1 credit classes exclusively designed for seniors and young alumni.”

Other examples include, Intersections, “…a summer course designed for students who are engaged in social justice immersion experiences all over the globe” and Core Curriculum Pathways, which allows students to self-select a theme in navigating their core curriculum. The inaugural theme this year is Climate Change.

In order for institutions to adapt through this period of change, Dr. Bass stressed that we must strive for inclusion, diversity, and equity, rather than becoming victims of evolutionary changes beyond our control.

One Hybrid History Class, Two Universities

For the third session of the day, Krissy attended “Opportunities and Challenges of a Multi-Site Synchronous Humanities Course.” Appropriately, Dr. Kyle Roberts, Associate Professor of Public History and New Media and Director of the Center for Textual Studies and Digital Humanities at LUC joined the attendees in person while his peer instructor, Dr. Ben Bankhurst, Assistant Professor of History at Shepherd University, participated by videoconference.

They showcased their undergraduate history course, Creation of the American Republic: 1763-1801, which was taught for the first time in Spring 2017 after about a year of preparation. In addition to an asynchronous online component and cross-university group work, the instructors had students join weekly synchronous online sessions remotely, during class time. They even had to consider the time change!

SPS DL will be working with faculty on digital humanities courses in the future, so this session was a valuable peek behind the scenes. In addition to using Sakai, the LMS used by both institutions, they developed a course website, revolutionwillbedigitized.wordpress.com. The assignments in the course aimed not only to meet the learning objectives of the course relating to history, but also to cultivate critical digital literacy skills, such as establishing a blog.

The keystone assignment in the course revolved around student roleplay groups known as Households, where, blogging as a group, they considered an event or theory from the perspective of each member of a household. These households were geographically and demographically diverse, and required students–from both universities, who were mixed in these groups–to embody different identities.

A writing-intensive course, students were also assigned a variety of digital projects, such as transcribing documents from Digital Paxton, using Voyant to analyze a text from the era, creating data visualizations with Google Fusion Tables, and creating an interactive timeline using the Knight Lab’s TimelineJS. They also had a choice between writing a final paper and creating a final project.

Conclusion

Attending the Focus on Teaching and Learning event at Loyola University was a great opportunity for us to see how other universities do things and to add some additional tools to our pedagogy toolboxes. We look forward to attending again next year.



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