September 09, 2009
Rollins has long been recognized for its commitment to innovation and experimentation in the areas of curriculum and pedagogy. A distinctive feature of a Rollins education has been the strong emphasis on the liberal arts coupled with recognition of the practical need to prepare students to be responsible leaders and global citizens. The renewal of the general education curriculum at Rollins is being undertaken in the spirit of these defining commitments.
In September 2008, Arts & Sciences faculty approved a pilot program for consideration of a new general education curriculum to begin during the 2009-10 academic year. The pilot program, called the Rollins Plan (RP), is comprised of a series of seven courses balanced across divisions and focused on a “big idea” or theme. The program is designed to actively engage students both in and outside of the classroom, and deepen the connection between theory and practice, as well as the relationship between the College and the larger community. RP courses also integrate methodologies from different divisions, developmentally build academic skills, and foster curricular innovation and flexibility.
Earlier this year, five teams comprised of faculty from across divisions and disciplines submitted RP proposals for selection. Two themes, Global Challenges: Florida and Beyond and Revolution, were chosen to become pilots.
Mark Anderson, professor of mathematics, served on the curriculum review committee at Rollins, and is currently assisting with the implementation of the two RP pilots. “Rollins faculty have a history of offering cutting-edge courses and programs for students. Building on this tradition, the faculty have redefined the way we think about general education at Rollins. This is the largest transformation of the curriculum to take place in over thirty years," he said.
“The Rollins Plans brings cohesion and strength to the general education at Rollins by examining a single big idea from a variety of viewpoints, culminating in a capstone course in which teams of students integrate these various ways of approaching the big idea in a cooperative project," he said. “The RP pilot program is bringing together faculty from disparate fields to design these new programs creating an atmosphere of excitement among faculty, staff and students.”
Archibald Granville Bush Chair of Science and Professor of Physics Thomas Moore and Debra Wellman, associate professor of education, were interested in working together on an RP proposal for consideration for the new pilot program. While contemplating developing a proposal, they decided to get a fresh perspective from some of the younger faculty members at Rollins. Moore said, “We invited a few of the newer faculty members to a meeting where Deb and I could just listen. It was a truly refreshing experience; our young faculty are incredibly imaginative and innovative. The stimulating idea of using Revolution as a ‘big idea’ came from that meeting.”
“In essence, this entire program is a study in the history of thinking outside of the box," said Wellman. She describes Revolution by stating, “Every field of study can be characterized by a series of revolutionary ideas or events crucial in its development. The underlying assumption of this program is that the educational goals that are now being achieved through the general education curriculum can be achieved in a more holistic, tangible, and interesting way through studying the revolutions that have occurred in the arts, humanities, social sciences, and sciences.”
One of the other fundamental reasons to focus general education courses around a “big idea” or theme is that it allows the opportunity to consider current problems, topics, and issues that are shaping the world in which we live. This is evident in the motivation for the formation of Global Challenges: Florida and Beyond. Bruce Stephenson, professor of environmental studies and coordinator for the Florida program said, “Global forces drive and force change and it essential to educate students to adapt to a world where lifestyles, expectations and markets are being radically altered. Florida, as the mortgage crisis has exhibited, is a laboratory for solving problems that will determine how we live in the future.”
According to Dean of the Faculty Laurie Joyner, this curricular initiative is exciting because it is built on the historical commitment of Rollins to provide a pragmatic, liberal arts education with the goal of producing graduates with the knowledge, skills, and wisdom to effectively address the most pressing problems facing our world today. “The adoption of a common set of student learning outcomes as part of our curricular renewal effort is allowing us to further integrate academic and student affairs initiatives as we strive to provide a seamless educational experience for our students that recognize learning opportunities both within and outside the classroom," she said. Each of the two pilots will introduce and reinforce learning outcomes and developers will list goals and assessment measures for each learning outcome. The expectations of the RP pilot program is that it will create a common experience for students, develop a better understanding of Rollins’ institutional mission and priorities, and provide new opportunities to enhance what knowledge, skills and virtues a liberally educated person should possess. Ongoing updates and assessment will be presented to the full faculty during the pilot period.
For more information on the Rollins Plan pilot program, please visit www.rollins.edu/rollinsplan.