In order to engage students with the liberal arts mission and increase their ability to think critically about important societal problems, faculty members of the Innovative Course-building Group have designed and developed a cohort of courses using important civic and social issues as the impetus or theme for teaching the course.

[briefly describe the courses and give examples of student push-back]

The faculty experience in these courses has highlighted an important disconnect between faculty and student expectations.  The courses are rich with experiences that engage students actively with the issues and content material in the course.  These experiences have been met with resistance from students.  Feedback from students highlights impatience with unfamiliar classroom situations, particularly situations where they are expected to indicate their current knowledge about a particular concept or issue.  This impatience often stems from an underlying fear of not coming up with the “correct” answer and thus an unwillingness to let others observe their understanding of the concept.  An illustrative example of this occurred recently in a an introductory critical thinking course for freshman entitled, Critical Thinking: Chemistry & Climate.  As a part oft he Critical Thinking courses in the liberal arts curriculum, students use chemistry to critically analyze data related to climate issues.  In the first class students were asked in groups to construct an atomic model from memory and subsequently use their textbook to identify evidence to support or contradict elements of the model.  After a gallery walk, where students and professors provided leading comments about the models, the students were expected to revise their model and develop a table of crucial experiments that helped develop modern atomic structure.  This activity was met with anxiety and resistance in the classroom.  Remarkably, over 40% of the students dropped the course after the first week. [THIS NEEDS TO BE MUCH SHORTER]


In our efforts to mitigate student resistance and help students develop the confidence needed to persevere when challenging learning situations arise, we have decided to design a course that has the explicit goal of developing imaginatively engaged learners by providing them with the context for understanding the importance of flexibility and imagination in learning.  The course will use the

  • To develop the flexibility, intentionality, and agency of the imaginatively engaged learners by
    • developing independent and flexible thinking skills.
    • critically analyzing their own capacity for imaginative thinking.
    • establishing a value for imaginative thinking.
    • investigating the role of imaginative thinking in K-12 and higher education.

Notes / things I cut / etc.

In 2006 two members of IC-bG, Amy Kelley and Julia Metzker, developed a cluster of courses for freshman consisting of an introductory math class, a general science class and an orientation seminar.  This cluster of courses was intentionally designed around a thematic topic, HIV-AIDS, in order to increase student engagement in math and science.  This first course was unsuccessful in achieving engagement

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