Books Across the Curriculum

Lots of places, as part of the freshman experience, require all first year students to read the same book. My cousin’s kid had to read a book about water–she hated it (“I mean, it’s like, water, you know? I don’t know how anyone could say so much about water,” she said, baiting me, I think).

Here’s a list made up of top suggestions from NPR listeners. Some good ones on there (I’ve read three of them). Some puzzlers, too. And some interesting possibilities…

ReinQuestion?–Vol. 5

ReinQuestion? appears every Thursday and is an open thread for members of the HW and CCC community to post questions about the ongoing Reinvention. Any and all questions are invited, and anyone who knows an answer to any question posted is encouraged to answer it in the threads below.

First off, apologies for the late posting; by way of explanation, I wanted to let the snow closing stay on top for the early birds, in case they missed it.

So, we left off last week with a few lingering questions whose answers required a little patience. They were:

1) What now? (expressed in more specific terms as: A) What is our relationship with the Reinvention Team (RT)? B) Does a member of the RT contact our local president? C) Does our district-wide president communicate with the RT? D) If RT has not contacted FC, do we plan on getting in touch with them? E) Am I being too idealistic or does it make sense to have this relationship in place?)

2A) Will Cecilia [Lopez] make unilateral decisions regarding curriculum? (This question arose due to Cecilia’s calling of a meeting “to discuss English developmental courses” that did not include the members of the Task Force)

2B) Will the task force have any role in curriculum decisions and if not, what is the point?

1) The answer to Question #1 is still evolving, and, again, I should have more information after next week’s HWFC meeting (Tuesday @ 3:30, room 1046 (for now), but it might be moved next door pending turnout), when we will be visited by Theresa Carlton (Remediation Task Force) and hopefully the other HW members of the task forces for updates on their activities and process so far. It will be a great opportunity to hear directly from the task force members and get a better sense of what Reinvention actually looks like.

(Theresa also emphasized that she is willing to take any and all questions and seek out answers from district honchos, fellow task forces, or the powers of the universe, so long as she gets them early enough to direct them at the right people; so if you have a question, post it!)

I think everyone–local FC, FC4, and the Task Force members–is still feeling out how to build effective communication channels and gather and share information. For example, our local FC has been contacted by a couple of members of another Task Force (Staff and Faculty Development) who are going around to all of the Faculty Councils to conduct focus group meetings in order to gather information about faculty conceptions, desires and needs with respect to Professional Development. I will have more information on this meeting for you as we work out the format and logistical issues, but you should pencil in late afternoon on February 22nd if you are interested in hearing/talking about those issues.

As our relationships (and understanding) of the task forces grow, we (HWFC) are still looking at a few different plans for how HW faculty and staff can engage with and take advantage of the process and opportunity for self improvement that the Reinvention represents. Let’s face it–there’s lots of stuff that we’d all like to change for the better. I mean does anyone think that our purchasing process is sensible? Does anyone think the hiring packet is awesome? Does anyone think that the student advising (not just the advisors–I’m talking about faculty advising for classes, ongoing advising by everyone for graduation and transfer, etc) is the creme de la creme? Does everyone love our registration policies and processes? Is there anyone at all out there who thinks that teaching and curriculum and student support could be improved?

My point is that Reinvention–whatever else it is–represents a great opportunity to develop some consensus (locally) about how we’d like things to run. If we can get those ideas into the Reinvention Recommendations, so much the better; if we can’t, well then, we’ll have them at the ready for future experiments and reinventions or possible replacement suggestions should the reinvention recommendations prove ineffective.

We have a few morphing plans for “what’s next” locally under consideration at the moment, but should have something more complete worked out in the next FC meeting.  Rest assured, we are trying to figure out something that will work, be useful, and create opportunities for broad participation.

2A) Something of a loaded question here–prior questions that we need to get answered (and are seeking answers for) are a) was there a meeting? b) what was it about? c) who was there? d) what were the results/action goals? Perhaps the meeting led to a consensus about the effectiveness (or lack) of Intcom 100, or maybe it was merely a brainstorming session. Maybe it led to a unilateral decision (which would seem to imply a decision made by AVC Lopez that ran against the opinions and advice of everyone at the meeting (in the world?). Maybe not. In my own experience with her, that has not been her approach to such situations. She certainly has ideas about what ought to happen with respect to certain things, but in my experience with her through four years as a department chair, she has always been very responsive to both well developed counter-arguments and new information/evidence.

Personally, I don’t see the non-presence of a Task Force member at the meeting as a problem. The Task Forces are conducting inquiry, right? They are formulating questions, hypothetical answers to those questions, developing data sources to support or refute their hypotheses. In the meantime, practical decisions have to be made–decisions about the fall schedule for example, and what programs/classes will be offered. The Task Forces will make their recommendations (along with the other advisory panels, don’t forget) and those recommendations may very well overturn the decisions made now, but until they are made and weighed, why include them?

My concern would be if the meeting was about curriculum and had no FC4, Committee A, or local faculty representation. Ultimately, Cecilia is the #2 Academic person in the system, so it makes sense that the penultimate recommendation lies with her (recommended to the Provost, approved by the Chancellor). I would only see a problem if faculty had no input and/or no consensus agreement on the path forward, given faculty (and Faculty Council’s) responsibility for Curriculum recommendations.

This is a long way of saying that we will try to find out what the meeting was about, who was there, and what happened.

2b) As suggested above, I take the point of the task forces to be the conduct of an inquiry process into these various areas, with the goal of them making a set of recommendations. The recommendations will not be the only ones made, which has all of us a little nervous (or should), so their weight and likelihood to become policy is unclear. We should definitely not think of them as being in charge of or making curricular decisions, though. That is downright dangerous. We have a strong, effective, peer-review curriculum process already–one that generations of administrative teams have tried to skirt, ignore, or bullrush in one way or another, sometimes at the behest of individual faculty members, sometimes in contradiction to the wishes of all of them–and we should all work to make sure that process is understood, recognized, and protected by demanding that any and all curriculum recommendations that are made as a result of Reinvention or anything else be subject to that process and, so, be understood and ratified (or modified) by faculty.

Please keep your questions coming, and keep your eyes out for more information as things develop over the next week or so.


Should Financial Literacy Be Part of Our Curriculum?

At Champlain College it is. What about us? Check this out:

An education is one of the best defenses against financial flimflam, but many students never learn the things that help. Only a handful of states require schools to teach basic personal finance, and it’s often of the old-fashioned, balancing-the-checkbook variety. Also, it tends to come at a stage in life when students are years away from putting the knowledge to practical use.

So I was heartened to hear about Champlain College here, which recently started requiring all undergraduates to attend two sessions in financial literacy.

Where should it be? Everywhere? Nowhere?

Updated Info for Curriculum Committee

In case you didn’t see it, Theresa Carlton (Curriculum Committee Chair) sent me some updated information about the Curriculum Committee, including their membership, charge, and meeting schedule. Check it out here (or by clicking on the Curriculum Committee page above).

As slg noticed and recently noted, not all of the pages have been updated with information. I’ve reached out to people in regard to each of the listed groups, and received information from a few, promises for information from others, and total radio silence/non-responsiveness from yet others. nd if you are a leader or member of a different committee and would like me to post information for you (membership, minutes, etc.), drop me a line with the info and I’ll happily do it. Better yet, volunteer to be the information liaison for your committee, and I’ll put you onto the Lounge as a person with “Contributor Power” so you can update us with information on the page and occasional posts, too. All are welcome.

And if I’m missing a committee that faculty participate on, please let me know. I know there are a few more out there, including all the Heritage Month Committees, but I wasn’t sure about their current status, so I didn’t put them up yet. Let me know if you’d like to see a committee listed that isn’t, and let me know what the committee info is, too.

Website Wednesday

Website Wednesday is a regular feature in which we highlight one (or a couple) of sites from the Billions floating around the Intertoobz that just might help you with your Herculean task of educating inquiring minds. Any and all suggestions for future editions are welcome.

We were joined at one of our December Faculty Council meeting by Yev Lapik, and the topic of Differentiated Instruction came up. She mentioned that she would be interested in any resources on the topic and I promised to send her a link to a web site with some good ones.

In a turn of events that, I’m sure, will surprise no one who know me–I never did that.

At last, though, this is me making good on my promise. The link that I was going to send Yev is to the Web site of ASCD (formerly, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Design) that has morphed into “a membership organization that develops programs, products, and services essential to the way educators learn, teach, and lead.” Here is a link to the home site, and here is a link to the section about Differentiated Instruction.

A lot of the focus is (understandably) on K-12, but, given the fact that some of our students are essentially learning at 10/11/12 levels, some of the resources are applicable and the research is interesting. Plus, this sort of site, I’d argue, gives us some insight into the trends and practices of K-12 education, and thus into our students’ experiences.

I’m highlighting Differentiated Instruction in particular due to a conversation I had with Associate Dean Brown Monday. If you didn’t know, Monday was the first day of summer registration, and he said it was “like open registration down there,” as in full and busy. He also said that he was shocked by the number of students who were from out of town, who’d flown into Chicago for a few days to set up summer housing and, while here, come to the school to get registered for a class or two, and he said that he expects the trend to continue. “You’ve been around long enough to see how our student population has changed. I expect that to continue, and to a greater degree,” he said. By that I took him to mean that he expects us to continue to get more and more students, younger and younger, who are less and less local (as in, right out of CPS).

One thing that has been true about the student body of HWC since I’ve been here is that it features a diversity of diversities, including and especially in regard to academic preparation. The decision to teach to the talented tenth or the lowest common denominator or somewhere in between (or, as in differentiated instruction, all of the above) has long been what I’ve identified as one of the toughest aspects of teaching at a community college, and I expect that as colleges like ours become more attractive options for college-going students–whether for economic or academic reasons–the gap between our “top” students and our most challenged students will only grow, making the need for the capacity to differentiate our instruction all the more urgent.

Anyway, check it out. And while you’re there, check out the stuff on 21st century curriculum and the brain and learning, too (under “Research a Topic” under “More”)…