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Foundational Course Initiative

In early 2016, the REBUILD committee harnessed the momentum provided by REBUILD to launch a university-wide Foundational Course Initiative. In partnership with Michigan’s Center for Research on Teaching and Learning (CRLT), we talked to hundreds of administrators, faculty, staff, and students representing numerous schools and colleges, departments, student support programs, residential learning communities, and other units at Michigan. This conversation explored some of the most progressive topics in higher education today: the purpose and future of grading, the evidentiary basis for teaching, the importance of inclusive classrooms, the use of digital technology to enable personalized learning at scale, and the power of learning analytics. Over the course of a year, collective learning around these topics in forums such as focus groups, learning communities, seminars, faculty meetings, informal conversations and a Provost’s Seminar on Teaching gave rise to a shared vision and agenda for foundational courses at Michigan.

The vision is that by 2025, Michigan foundational courses in all disciplines will be nationally recognized as a model for engaging diverse students at scale. Multi-generational instructional teams will use evidence-based pedagogy, student data, and appropriate technologies to deliver high-impact, personalized and engaged instruction in learning environments that support students with a wide array of differences. New approaches to teaching these courses will improve learning outcomes, optimize equity in learning, and enhance student experience.

To realize this vision, REBUILD and CRLT are developing a proposal to the Provost’s office advocating for a new collaborative course design program. Multi-generational course teams will join with CRLT instructional consultants to form collaborative course design teams. Through a multi-year process, these teams will design, develop, and deliver the next generation of foundational courses across campus. In the design phase, each team will work closely with the home department to define explicit, course-specific learning goals. These learning goals will provide the central organizing element for four dimensions of course design, development, and delivery:

  • Pedagogy: using evidence-based pedagogies
  • Technology: harnessing appropriate educational technologies
  • Student support: Supporting the success of diverse students
  • Assessment: implementing assessment strategies that measure and improve student learning

In addition to advancing teaching and learning in foundational courses, the initiative will provide an unprecedented national laboratory for learning analytics and education research. Collectively, these courses present new opportunities to mine and analyze diverse types of large-scale, long-term student data and measure student learning gains in the context of experimentally implemented pedagogies.

The Foundational Course Initiative will also serve as a model for supporting the success of diverse students at scale. We propose to hire a specialist as part of our team of instructional consultants whose primary responsibility will be to ensure that redesigned foundational courses support the success of all students, achieve a positive classroom climate, and incorporate strategies to promote equity in learning. This specialist will coordinate between instructional teams and an extensive network of on-campus student support resources. Key resources include campus-wide academic support structures such as the libraries, residential learning communities, and more targeted resources such as services for students with disabilities, counseling services, and a center for LBGTA inclusivity.