Assessing Early Integrative Learning

By Braid, Bernice; de Schrynemakers, Gladys Palma et al. | Peer Review, Fall/Winter 2011 | Go to article overview

Assessing Early Integrative Learning


Braid, Bernice, de Schrynemakers, Gladys Palma, Grose, Alan W., Peer Review


In fall 2003, the Brooklyn Campus of Long Island University implemented a revised core curriculum that created a more collaborative learning environment, one built on a foundational course: Core Seminar (COS), The Idea of the Human. This course introduces students early in their academic careers to the methodology of open-ended inquiry in pursuing questions and answers that transcend any particular department or discipline. It not only makes liberal learning a shared activity for students, but also provides faculty with unique interdisciplinary development opportunities and an engaging teaching laboratory. This article traces how AAC&U s integrative learning rubric in particular has helped the campus navigate the intricacies of involving faculty in assessing experiential learning effectively in the larger context of understanding how students think. The course provides faculty an opportunity to shape assignments and design assessments through a portfolio review process. Students also use the integrative learning rubric to frame their own final self-reflection essay.

The mission of this campus is, in part, to "open the doors of the city and the world to men and women of all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds who wish to achieve the satisfaction of the educated life and to serve the public good." The Long Island University student body is 71 percent female and 20 percent male and composed of 39 percent black, 27 percent white, 22 percent Asian and Pacific Island, and 14 percent Latina/o students. One of its greatest strengths is the diversity of its students and faculty, mostly residents of surrounding urban communities. Our core curriculum builds on the multiplicity of languages and cultures students bring with them. It situates them in the context of a unique metropolitan area, one that mirrors their breadth with exceptional cultural resources. The core curriculum review and redesign process has helped contextualize general education by using the city itself as a primary laboratory for learning and for fuller student development.

CORE SEMINAR

The second of three required writing-intensive courses, COS falls between first-year English and a departmentally designated writing/research course in the major. Its objectives include writing with clarity, information literacy, critical analysis, posing new questions, and understanding process. Above all, it aims to provoke students to see themselves in relationship to others and to the world. At the heart of this course is a challenge: to think differently about familiar topics, and to think deeply about unfamiliar, even uncomfortable ones. The course reader provides material from disparate fields, assembled into three sections: social commentary, scientific inquiry, and artistic expression. All selections raise questions about language, insight, and the construction of meaning around an organizing theme, the idea of the human.

Students bring their own distinctive experience into the mix, and because of the seminar format - cross-section joint sessions, small-team deliberation, and explorations off campus - they are encouraged to think critically throughout the course. Students explore one another's neighborhoods to see and hear with fresh eyes; they read philosophical and theoretical works so as to question their world and themselves; and they write so as to sharpen their thinking. Small-team structured field experiences lead them into new sites and settings. Presentations of their findings, often in workshops with students from other sections, hone their listening skills and presentational prowess. In library sessions students explore their own preliminary questions, and learn to tailor them into topics worthy of in-depth consideration. They learn to measure their impressions and their findings, to pose more complex questions, and to refine their own thoughts.

Because students write about the entire process (in journals, response papers, and research projects) and compile their own portfolios, they accumulate a compendium unusually rich in knowledge, insight, and reflection. …

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