November 27, 2009
Project engages faculty and studentsEvery year, thousands of students are accepted into undergraduate programs at the U of C. The majority take introductory courses in the arts and sciences. An innovative initiative to promote and enhance student engagement in these large-enrolment courses will be launched in early December.
Project Engage is a two-year pilot program that will provide selected faculty members with the support and resources they need to improve the learning experiences of students in their first-year arts and sciences courses.
From now until May 2012, a group of faculty members (currently nine participants) who teach these courses will be supported in the redesign of their courses as well as the implementation and evaluation of the changes to the design of these courses. There are 1,775 students enrolled in the participating courses.
Project Engage is sponsored by the University Teaching and Learning Funding Committee (ucalgary.ca/TLFC), a standing committee of the General Faculties Council that is committed to strengthening teaching and learning at the U of C. Provost and Vice-President (Academic) Alan Harrison has asked Leslie Reid to lead the project. Reid is the Tamaratt Teaching Professor in Geosciences (ucalgary.ca/~tamaratt) and the National Survey of Student Engagement Action Team Faculty Leader.
In 2007 and 2008, the U of C participated in the National Survey of Student Engagement (ucalgary.ca/nsse) and the Canadian University Survey Consortium. “We found out that first-year students think we need to address the quality of course instruction in order to improve student learning in the classroom,” said Clem Martini, chair of the University Teaching and Learning Funding Committee. “Related to this, and coming out of our student enrolment statistics, is the lower than desired retention of students between their first and second years, especially in programs in the arts and science faculties.”
Martini, Reid and Harrison are passionate about how student engagement promotes student success and are excited about the possibilities offered by this pilot project. “Our objective is to significantly improve the quality of the learning environment in these large-enrolment first-year classes, and to do so in such a way that the benefits are felt by as many students as possible,” said Harrison.
“We want to evaluate the effectiveness of Project Engage in supporting faculty in their teaching and contribute to the literature on faculty professional development, so we are using this opportunity to collect data on what improving the quality of instruction actually means to students and instructors,” adds Reid. “We will be reporting back to the campus community on a regular basis about what we are discovering.”
The outcomes of Project Engage will benefit students, faculty and the University of Calgary as a whole. Students will benefit from educational practices designed to improve the quality of their learning experiences. Faculty will benefit by learning about and applying effective and sustainable educational practices. The U of C will benefit as Project Engage directly targets the primary academic principle that underpins the priorities of the university―student success.