Winter 2018 Learning Community Course Development

Ten teachers working in five teams are working on eight new Learning Community courses this winter.  Under development are three new course pairings, and two new General Education courses with integrated co-curricular activities.  Read below for an introduction to each team and their work.


First Choice Science

Physics: Mechanics & Calculus I – Chris Roderick, Jean-Francois Briere (Physics), Andreea Staniu-Panait, Ben Seamone (Math)

Building on the work of Janet Wyman (Biology) and Yoon-Seo Uh (Chemistry) in developing paired courses for General Biology II and Organic Chemistry I (W17 Learning Community Project), and on the continuing changes to the First Choice Science profile that seek to develop learning opportunities that are more engaging and interconnected, our work is focused on developing paired courses for Mechanics (Physics) and Calculus I (Math). The plan is for the integrated course pairing to be offered to the incoming F2018 First Choice cohort.  The future of learning at Dawson is clearly oriented towards enriched educational experiences (see Strategic Plan 2016-21). By engaging students, creating learning communities, and stimulating a more holistic learning experience, the changes being made to the First Choice Science profile seek to develop a curriculum that better reflects Dawson’s mission statement and its values, and is in line with the ongoing provincial-wide process of re-writing the science program.  A large step in this process of change is to encourage cross-disciplinary co-instruction such that the connections, content and language used in the teaching and learning of science are rich and coherent.

The disciplines of physics and mathematics share a deep and intertwined set of roots and the courses of Mechanics (203-NYA) and Calculus I (201-NYA) are a perfect pair for this project. Developed by Isaac Newton, classical mechanics and differential calculus were literally made for each other and so the coordination of their presentation to science students only makes sense. Beginning with notions of motion and rates of change there are many opportunities to both enrich and streamline each course. The idea would be to teach sections of Mechanics and Calculus I back-to-back so that integrating concepts and examples while harmonizing language, the timing of content and even evaluations is made possible.

Social Science General Studies

Western Civilization & Introduction to Psychology – Lisa Steffen (History) and Susan Finch (Psychology)

We are working on the creation of a Learning Community for first-year General Social Science students. As these students must choose two compulsory classes in Term 1, it seems that an ideal pairing is that of 350-101-DW: General Psychology and 330-101-DW: Western Civilization. How wonderful it would be if these non-profiled students were part of a cohort as they adjust to and navigate through their new Dawson community!  First semester students experience a myriad of challenges as they transition from high school to CEGEP. While many benefit from participating in a profile, the majority of Social Science students remain unaffiliated. This may lead to a sense of alienation, of frustration or of disengagement. The students may go so far as to drop-out. A loss to them and to us. A learning community seeks to counter this and helps to improve retention, motivation and individual interest. If we can design our paired psychology and history classes to focus on competencies, analytical thinking and problem solving, then we are helping these students build skill sets within the first term that can carry over to success in their other courses.

We want to explore several different modalities that might prove most efficacious to achieving the goals of student retention and student engagement—and dare we say student enthusiasm and excitement? One of the things that we both need to explore and understand better is how to cover the content required in each of these introductory courses while at the same time working together to create a cohesive experience. We both are committed to the Peace Certificate, and so perhaps this will be a lens through which to explore connective themes between our disciplines. Our intention is to create a model not just for our exclusive use, but which could serve all Social Science teachers.

General Education / Certificates / Special Areas of Study

Humanities: “Green Business Ethics” integrated with Entrepreneurship/E-Week – Carl Saucier-Bouffard (Humanities)

Given the growing awareness and concern regarding the environmental impact of business activities, a course on Environmental Business Ethics, taught by an ethics teacher, would appeal to a large group of Dawson students. All students (regardless of program) have to complete the general education Ethics course (345-BXH-DW). Moreover, this new course on Environmental Business Ethics would offer a strategic fit with many activities co-organized by Dawson College’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Education, as well as with a future “Environment & Sustainability Certificate.”  This newly created course would focus on delivering “green business ethics” using a practical approach. During the first part of the course, students would be taught the main concepts of the two most influential theories in normative ethics: Kantian ethics and act utilitarianism.  Students would then be exposed to the real-life challenges in running a business that includes corporate environmental responsibility efforts. To illustrate the ethical dilemmas faced by entrepreneurs, the instructor would rely on his own experience as the founder of a small business selling ecologically friendly handbags (i.e. “Les Sacs Éthic”). In at least one of their assignments, students would have to reflect on a real-life business problem and would have to argue in defence of a solution that meets ethical requirements.

To incorporate experiential and integrative learning approaches, students would have to play an active role in some of the activities organized by Dawson College’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Education. Moreover, this course would apply a case-based approach in bringing principles to life. With the rising social environmentalism trend, there are many corporations recognized for their sustainability efforts and these examples would serve to illustrate the need to apply green business practices in today’s marketplace. Finally, in order to foster learning outside the classroom, field trips would also be organized. For instance, one class would take place on the premises of La Gaillarde, a non-profit boutique in St-Henri that is specialized in eco-fashion.

Complementary: Contemporary Issues “Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies” integrated with Women’s and Gender Certificate – Pat Romano (Humanities)

Along with a team of WGS teachers, I’m working on the development of a foundational course for the women’s/gender studies certificate that will be team-taught by 5 or 6 teachers from different disciplines/programs. The course, constructed as a complementary course, will be led by a main teacher/coordinator and include a variety of themes/topics, each one taught by a different teacher, that introduce students to the interdisciplinary nature of women’s/gender studies, while illustrating the extent to which feminism has reshaped our world.  In this course, students will have a chance to get to know fellow students and multiple teachers in the certificate, while being immersed into this rich interdisciplinary area of study. This course will allow us to meet several long-standing needs of the certificate:

  • Create the opportunity for interested women’s/gender studies students to follow a course together, helping us build a strong sense of community between students and certificate teachers.
  • Encourage students to recognize the extent to which a gendered perspective has transformed knowledge across the disciplines (possible themes that could be addressed include gender representation, women in science, women in political movements, sexuality, masculinities and feminist fiction)
  • Support on-going co-curricular women’s/gender studies activities and projects that will be connected to the course (e.g. It Happens Here, International Women’s Week).
  • Support cross-disciplinary collaboration and exchanges between faculty members.

Our goal is for this course to serve as a central hub for women’s/gender studies activities at the college. This is a grassroots initiative supported by faculty members in the certificate, and our hope is that there will be much diversity in both themes and participating teachers across the semesters. We are also considering the possibility of making the course schedule available to all women’s/gender studies faculty to encourage interested faculty to attend a class on a theme that interests them. With an ever increasing enrollment in the certificate, we think the time is right. This course will likely count for 2 credits (out of the required 5 credits needed) for the women’s/gender studies certificate so as to make it of significant value to the certificate students, while still ensuring that the certificate remains as accessible as possible.

Humanities World Views & French Language and Culture “La democratie en question” – Sean Elliott (Humanities) & Carmen-Silva Cristea (French)

Au moment de l’effondrement des régimes totalitaires de l’Europe de l’Est, Francis Fukuyama publiait un article intitulé  « The End of History ? »,  à la fois provocateur et optimiste, qui annonçait la victoire universelle de la démocratie libérale.   Or, les événements politiques qui agitent la scène internationale depuis quelques années semblent remettre en question la thèse optimiste de Fukyama.  La démocratie libérale a-t-elle encore un avenir ? Représente-elle encore un modèle universellement applicable ? Ce sont des questions qui  reviennent en force hanter la scène politique actuelle et qui constitueront le noyau de la réflexion menée dans notre cours.

Ce cours jumelé se propose avant tout de sensibiliser les étudiants à des questions qui tourmentent notre société, tout en stimulant leur pensée critique et leur capacité d’analyse et de compréhension des problématiques contemporaines.  Nous ambitionnons de rendre nos étudiants plus réceptifs à ces questions de société, et en même temps, de leur inculquer le désir d’être des citoyens actifs, capables de se positionner par rapport à ces problèmes de société et de proposer des solutions. Les travaux proposés dans le cadre du cours permettront également aux étudiants de développer des compétences inhérentes aux disciplines que nous enseignons : comprendre et analyser un texte, expliquer  une théorie,  synthétiser et organiser des idées, rédiger un texte en français et en anglais.

Nous inciterons les étudiants à réfléchir sur les questions suivantes :

  • le rapport individu/ société
  • la relation entre la liberté individuelle et la responsabilité
  • l’interprétation différente voire divergente de la notion de liberté en fonction du contexte social, historique ou politique
  • le rôle et l’importance des différentes institutions de l’état démocratique
  • la relation entre éthique et liberté
  • l’état providence versus le néolibéralisme

Ce cours – dispensé en anglais et en français –  accordera une place importante aux discussions de groupe, aux débats argumentés et aux projets d’équipe interdisciplinaires et/ou multimédias.  Nous envisageons également d’inviter des conférenciers pour partager leur savoir en la matière et témoigner de leur expérience civique ou politique.


Watch for updates later in the spring, when the teams are well advanced in the course design process.  At that point, they’ll be sharing their ideas for integrative assignments, and presenting draft versions of their common course schedules.