Roanoke College has been awarded nearly a half million dollars in a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to implement faculty development initiatives that support the college’s revisions to its general education curriculum.
The three-year grant, totaling $452,039, is from the department’s Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) and supports projects considered promising as models for higher education. Roanoke’s project will design, implement and assess a faculty development program that supports the college’s integrative learning experiences.
Called “Preparing Faculty for Creating Integrative Learning Experiences,” the project is timed to coincide with Roanoke College’s development of a new curriculum, which implements the new liberal learning goals the college adopted last year.
“This award recognizes the innovative work of our faculty,” said Dr. Sabine O’Hara, president of Roanoke College. “We are in the process of re-evaluating our general education curriculum to better serve our students and the demands they will face in our fast-paced and changing world. It is very gratifying that this award affirms the direction of this work and its emphasis on integrating the learning that goes on in and outside of the classroom.”
Integrative learning refers to a way of teaching and organizing the curriculum that combines different subject areas and ways of learning so that students can see the connections between different fields and topics learned from experiences as well as from class work.
“This grant will help us develop and sustain faculty conversations across disciplines and between theory and applications in the education of our students,” said Dr. John Day, vice president and dean of the college. “My thanks to Professors Bloss and Hanstedt, who were the principal authors of the grant and who will be the co-project directors for the grant activities.”
Roanoke’s project includes three initiatives: integrative teaching initiative grants, annual faculty retreats and e-portfolios. The project will also integrate three categories of assessment—national and local student surveys, student work and results of qualitative face-to-face interactions—and is expected to improve inquiry and decision-making for both faculty and students.
Dr. Paul Hanstedt, who is associate professor of English and the director of the College’s general education program, says the proposal made the argument—supported by experiences with programs like the College’s Writing Initiative Grants and the Faculty-Staff Learning Community. “If we could carve out time in the busy lives of our faculty to discuss what matters most to us—our students, our classes and the life of the mind—great things happen,” he said.
Dr. Adrienne Bloss, professor of computer science and assistant dean for curricular and faculty development, says that in any curriculum-reform process it is important to have effective, sustainable faculty development—creating space and time for faculty to work together to realize the full potential of the new initiatives.
“This is particularly important for our focus on integrative learning, which, of course, relies on integrative teaching and effective collaboration between faculty members,” Bloss said.
Roanoke College, the country’s second oldest Lutheran-related college, is an independent, co-educational, four-year liberal arts college. Roanoke is one of just 270 colleges nationwide with a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honor society. The Princeton Review names Roanoke as one of the “best in the Southeast.” Roanoke’s 1,970 students represent 40 states across the U.S. and 26 foreign countries.