Winter 2016: Learning Community Course Development

brstrmingSince January, meeting every Wednesday afternoon, eight teachers have been at work on the development of four different paired-course pilots for the F2016-W2017 semesters.

These paired courses – two courses, two teachers, one co-enrolled cohort – are defined by several features:

  • Silo-busting interdisciplinary approach to a complex contemporary problem
  • Assessments emphasizing integrative learning
  • Activities in & outside the classroom fostering closer social relationships in support of
    learning objectives
  • Significant impacts on student engagement and learning

The aim of the pilots is to develop over the short term a set of unique Dawson adaptations of the evidence-based learning community model – with the long term objective of inspiring similar adaptations across programs, profiles, and certificates.

  These learning community courses are defined by their interdisciplinary nature, and their focus on a complex problem or topical issue:

Imaging Violence and Nonviolence (Humanities 102 & Imaging BWT) – Women and Gender Studies Certificate, Pat Romano (Humanities) and Kim Simard (Cinema and Communications)

Journeys Program (English 102 & Humanities 101) – First Peoples Initiative, Susan Briscoe (English) and Anjali Choksi (Humanities)

The Evolution of Urban Neighbourhoods: Shaughnessy Village – (Social Science RM & Geography 309) –  Mark Beauchamp (History)  and Geoffrey Pearce (Geography)

Of War and Peace (History 325 & Humanities BXH) – Reflections, Michael Duckett (History) and Julian Nemeth (Humanities/History)

Moving forward from the clarification of course themes and objectives, the teaching teams are currently fleshing out curricula & course schedules, and designing integrative assignments & projects.

At the centre of the Humanities & Cin-Com course pairing being developed by Pat Romano and Kim Simard is the problem of violence in our real and virtual worlds.  This LC will place a particular emphasis on how violence is legitimized, but also resisted in direct political action and through interactive media.  Pat and Kim are planning an integrative project organized around the West African concept of the “fambul tok,” or family talk.   Building on an interdisciplinary foundation of readings and viewings that will include Carolyn Nordstrom’s The Shadows of War, Nan Goldin’s The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, and the Sara Terry documentary Fambul Tok, students will devise a multimedia project that combines humanities perspectives with technical skills in image creation.  Browse Pat and Kim’s Powerpoint below for a in-progress glimpse of the evolution of their ideas for this course:

Pat Kim fambul tok in progress

Mark Beauchamp and Geoff Pearce’s The Evolution of Urban Neighbourhoods: Shaunghnessy Village, will pair Social Science Research Methods with Geography.  The idea is to use the neighbourhood right beside the Dawson campus as a resource for the integration of oral history research skills and data visualization through map-making.   See Mark and Geoff’s first draft course schedule below:

Susan Briscoe and Anjali Choksi, in collaboration with Michelle Smith (Cinema & Communications), are developing a unique cluster of courses for the Journeys program, the curricular component of the First Peoples Initiative.  Using the cultural, political and personal significance of storytelling as a thematic frame, these English, Humanities and academic skills courses will provide Fall 2016 Journeys students with a supportive community of peers and teachers as they transition into Dawson life and academics.

Finally, Reflections teachers Julian Nemeth and Michael Duckett are pulling together the elements of a new History & Humanities pairing that examines Tolstoy’s War and Peace from historical and ethical perspectives.  A first draft version of their central  integrative assignment outlines the questions students will be invited to consider as they apply the historical and ethical lessons of the novel to their own lives:

What role does the individual have in shaping history when compared with historical forces connected to economic transformation, social convention, and great power politics? In what ways are the characters of War and Peace products of history but also historical agents with the power to shape the future? How have historical forces determined your own experience and what kind of agency do you see yourselves having shaping your own life and that of your society?  How do the characters of War and Peace face moral choices as they attempt to survive in war and thrive in peace? And how can these choices can be compared to the moral choices that we face today in our chosen fields of study and future professions?

MandGLC project teachers are also now able to take advantage of the new faculty project room for meetings.  Amazing how a well-designed  environment puts people in the right frame of mind to work together!

project room

Kudos to designers Kurt Holfeld & Anne Marie Legault (Interior Design); Plant and Facilities; Chris Adam; Barbara Freedman & Rob Cassidy in the OAD; and to the many others who contributed to the vision for and realization of the space.

If you’d like to drop in on the ongoing work of the LC teachers, visit the faculty project room in 3F on Wednesdays between 1-2.30.  Have some ideas about how the learning communities project could mesh with developments in your program, profile, certificate, area of study,  or co-curricular initiative?   Get in touch with Rob Cassidy (OAD), Ian MacKenzie (English/WID) or Chris Adam (CRLT/Living Campus)