Oberlin College AIRE Annual Report 09/98-09/99
Submitted by Jan Thornton, Oberlin College AIRE Project Director, 1/20/00
First Year Activities
Note: Additional information can be found on the Oberlin College AIRE website (www.oberlin.edu/~nsfaire)
A. Expansion of Efforts to Integrate Research and Education. During the first year of the AIRE award, Oberlin College laid the groundwork for a variety of efforts targeted towards further integration of research and education. These include:
1) Establishment of the Committee for the Integration of Research and Education (CIRT).
CIRT was formed as the committee to coordinate and administer the Oberlin College AIRE. CIRT members are appointed by the Dean of the College and the committee is chaired by Dr Janice Thornton, the AIRE co-principal investigator and project director. The CIRT committee includes four natural scientists and two social scientists as well as a representative of the Oberlin College Educational Plans and Policies Committee (EPPC).
The CIRT committee members for 1998-1999 are listed in the Oberlin AIRE website under Administration of Oberlin's AIRE.
2) Conversations between CIRT and the Committee on Teaching (COT)
Members of CIRT and Oberlin College's Committee on Teaching held a number of joint discussions on curriculum development issues. During these discussions, the AIRE project proposal was explained to COT members and a Brown Bag discussion was organized (see below). It was decided that other Brown Bag discussions would be organized (possible topics include Community-Based Outreach; How To Do It and Technology and Discovery-Based Learning). It was agreed that we would attempt to bring to campus a nationally known educator. Most faculty were interested in bringing in someone who could speak about learning styles of this generation of college students. It was agreed that Suzanne Gay and Jan Thornton (chairs of COT and CIRT, respectively) would explore some possibilities.
3) Faculty Brown Bag on Collaborative Learning, Feb 18, 1999.
Sponsored by CIRT and COT. Three faculty members gave brief presentations of models of collaborative learning that they use in their courses. The faculty presenters were Rob Thompson, Professor of Chemistry, Jan Thornton, Assoc. Professor of Neuroscience and Biology and Anne Trubek, Asst. Professor of Expository Writing. These presentations were followed by a discussion in which faculty members asked questions and shared collaborative learning techniques that they have found useful in their teaching. Twenty-eight faculty attended. A number of references on collaborative learning were made available prior to the discussion. See Oberlin AIRE website for more detailed description.
4) Curriculum Development grants awarded.
During 1998-1999 a Request for Proposals was sent to all members of the Oberlin College faculty. After careful deliberation, the Committee for the Integration of Research and Education awarded 14 curriculum development grants to 16 faculty members. Eight of these grants were for work to be carried out during the summer of 1999 (the rest were for work during 2000 or 2001). A brief summary of the 1999 grants is shown below. Further information on all of the grants is available on the Oberlin AIRE website. Additional grants will be awarded in future years of the AIRE.
Summer 1999 curriculum development projects:
5) Equipment grants awarded.
A number of equipment grants were listed in the AIRE proposal and these were awarded. These include the following.
B. Documentation and Evaluation
1) Plans to institutionalize mechanisms for evaluating curricular innovations and developments at Oberlin College.
Thornton spoke with numerous colleagues at a number of institutions about the best way to set up a framework for evaluating curricular reform. On their advice, we decided to hire a consultant, Elaine Seymour rather than on-site personnel for the first year. DR Seymour is Director of Ethnography and Evaluation Research, Bureau of Sociological Research, University of Colorado, Boulder. DR Seymour was highly recommended and we felt that our conversations with her would help us to decide what our goals are and so we know better what kind of evaluation personnel we want to hire.
DR Seymour also ran a workshop to help faculty begin to determine how individual faculty members can assess their own curricular innovations (see below).
2) Assessment Workshop July 8, 1999 at Oberlin College.
Much of Oberlin's AIRE is targeted toward curriculum development projects that will increase research experiences in the classroom. We also want to evaluate the effectiveness of these curricular innovations. To this end, we invited Elaine Seymour, Director of Ethnography and Evaluation Research, Bureau of Sociological Research, University of Colorado, Boulder, to run a workshop for faculty on how to evaluate research-embedded undergraduate courses. Nineteen faculty attended, including most of the recipients of AIRE curriculum development grants. DR Seymour developed a document that could be used at other institutions (see C2 below). On the Oberlin College AIRE website we have posted a description of the workshop, the documents devised by DR Seymour and a list of success indicators developed by the faculty at the workshop.
3) Survey with other undergraduate institutions about the possible benefits of faculty-student research.
Some of the AIRE Project Directors and Elaine Seymour had an informal get-together at the Director's meeting and talked about research at undergraduate institutions. We decided to get more data on the effects of summer research opportunities at the undergraduate level on both students and faculty. To this end, we began to develop a brief questionnaire. David Lopatto of Grinnell distributed it during the summer of 1999 and summarized it. Some of us are also talking about beginning a more extensive multi-institutional survey of the possible benefits and essential features of undergraduate research experiences.
C. Dissemination and Outreach
1) Development of an Oberlin AIRE website.
We have developed an Oberlin AIRE website which describes the award, what we have accomplished, etc. It is at www.oberlin.edu/~nsfaire. We will continue to update this web site as the award progresses.
2) Development and dissemination of materials to evaluate curriculum development projects.
As part of Elaine Seymour's efforts to help up institutionalize mechanisms for evaluating curricular innovations at Oberlin College, she developed a document titled, "Process for evaluation of research-embedded undergraduate courses developed at Oberlin College (a three-year project, beginning summer 1999)". This document includes a template for a common course description structure. We used this document at Oberlin as part of a faculty workshop run by Seymour. The document is posted on the Oberlin AIRE website. We will continue to use it in the future and plan to further develop and modify it.
3) Dissemination of information about the Oberlin AIRE award.
We have attempted to aggressively promote the AIRE at Oberlin College. A number of news articles about AIRE have been written. Jan Thornton has also written a number of articles about the integration of research and education. These are posted on our website. For example: Just Desserts; The NSF recognizes Oberlin's past curricular innovations and funds future ones, by Jan Thornton, Around the Square, 3/99. Research and Education: An important partnership, by Jan Thornton, Annual of the John Frederic Oberlin Society, vol 2, 1999. Evaluation projects under AIRE, Oberlin Online, 2/16/99. Outreach under AIRE, Oberlin Online, 2/17/99. Curriculum development under AIRE, Oberlin Online, 2/17/99.
4) Bennett/Spelman Curriculum Development workshop, Jan. 22-24, 1999.
Oberlin's AIRE Project Director Jan Thornton was invited to present at a Curriculum Development Workshop for science faculty members at Bennett and Spelman Colleges, sponsored by the Quality Education for Minorities Network. Title of the presentation was "An institutional curriculum/program model for the integration of research and education: Oberlin College".
5) AAHE Conference: Targeting Institutional Change-Quality Undergraduate Science Education for All Students, Nov 21-23, 1998.
Oberlin College sent a group of administrators/faculty/students to this conference to engage in a series of conversations about how to best integrate research and education. Themes that were discussed included; Improving Student Learning, Changing Institutional Structures, and Assessment and Evaluation. We also officially received the NSF AIRE award. AAHE recently published a report of this conference. At this meeting, many of the AIRE project directors got together informally and exchanged information about what was happening with the integration of research and education on their respective campuses.
6) AIRE Project Director's Meeting, June 24-25, 1999.
Jan Thornton (Project Director) and David Love (CIRT committee member) attended. Panel discussion groups covered such topics as Best practices- Strategies for integrating research and education, Best practices- Strategies for evaluation and dissemination of innovative activities integrating research and education, and funding opportunities for IRE. A report has been developed for this meeting ( this report can be found at www.nsf.gov/od/oia/programs/aire/proceedings99.htm). At this meeting, some of the AIRE project directors got together and discussed the possibility of a multi-institutional analysis of the possible benefits and essential features of undergraduate research experiences.
Goals for Year 2
A. Expansion of Efforts to Integrate Research and Education
1) CIRT-COT collaborations: We will invite a nationally known educator to speak about how students of this college generation learn. We will also continue to sponsor interdisciplinary discussions on effective ways to integrate research and teaching (see below).
2) Curriculum development grants. We will distribute another round of Request for Proposals to all faculty members and fund a number of curriculum development projects which will be targeted toward better integration of research and education in the classroom.
3) A continuation of cross-campus Brown Bag discussions on topics related to the integration of research and education. We have already had one Brown Bag discussion on New Techniques for Increasing Student Participation in Courses: Why Bother?, Nov 29, 1999. Bruce Simonson, Professor of Geology attended the Sigma Xi forum on reshaping undergraduate education. He discussed a series of workshops he attended on issues such as ways to use peer instruction to get students to think in class, instruction of non-science majors in science classes and tools for assessing inquiry-based learning.
4) Natural Sciences Technology and Teaching Workshop for faculty, June 5-9, 2000, Oberlin College. Recent developments in technology have enhanced opportunities to increase the amount of investigative and collaborative learning that can occur even in relatively large lecture courses. AIRE and the Oberlin Center for Technologically Enhanced Teaching (OCTET) will co-sponsor a workshop for Oberlin College faculty to update them on developments in technology and how these can be used to enhance pedagogy. Some of the topics that will be considered are using technology in large introductory science courses, ways to use technology to enhance collaborative learning and changes in technology and its effects on pedagogy in science education at Oberlin College.
B. Documentation and Evaluation
1) Further develop Oberlin College's efforts to institutionalize mechanisms for evaluating curricular innovations. We will continue to use Elaine Seymour as a consultant for the qualitative analysis of curricular innovations. We will also explore further how to quantitatively analyze curricular innovations. I anticipate that we will have a consultant come in and do a workshop for faculty so that we can better determine what our goals are and then probably hire an on site evaluation professional to help us achieve those goals.
2) Further develop the tentative multi-institutional analysis of the possible benefits and essential features of undergraduate research experiences.
C. Dissemination and Outreach
In the coming year we will further our efforts to disseminate the lessons learned at Oberlin and to learn from others. We will continue to develop opportunities and to seize other opportunities as they come along. We have already begun to organize a number of dissemination/outreach panels and workshops (see below)
1) Effective Ways to Integrate Research and Education, a panel discussion at the Council for Undergraduate Research meeting, June 2000.
Jan Thornton and Patty deWinstanley (CIRT member) are currently organizing this panel discussion which will reach faculty from across the US. It will be a good chance to let others know what Oberlin College is doing and to learn from them.
At the same conference, Jan Thornton will also be a panelist for Women in Science Activities: How to best incorporate events to encourage women in the sciences.
2) Participation in Sigma Xi's Workshop series on undergraduate science education reform.
Oberlin College has volunteered to do a workshop (organized by Jan Thornton and sponsored by Sigma XI and AIRE) aimed at disseminating effective practices in undergraduate education and promoting discussion on systemic, institution-wide reform in undergraduate SMET.
3) Summer workshop on Environmental Studies.
Oberlin College's new Lewis Center for Environmental Studies has just recently been completed. A workshop that highlights Oberlin student's participation in discovery-rich activities and experiential learning will be held at the Center to familiarize the public, developers, community leaders and others with integration efforts undertaken by Oberlin students and faculty. Possible topics include the economic and environmental benefits of auditing private residences for sustainability; the importance to the community of the geographical information system mapping project; in service workshops on environmental education for public school teachers and reports on the Center as a laboratory and demonstration site.
4) We will continue to update our Oberlin AIRE website.