2014–2015 Provost's Initiatives

     "History of Britain, History of York," Professor Susie Steinbach, College of Liberal Arts 

     Course Description: 

    I developed a new special-term course, “History of Britain, History of York,” in which students learn the history and then produce a website the presents that history to the public. The contexts: I wanted to develop a course that challenged students to think about history and about the role of examples/case studies in new ways. I also wanted to develop a course that could start as an on-campus special terms course, but then move to be taught as the special-term course for the Hamline in York Programme. In this second iteration (to be taught September 2015) it will have a further immersive component, in which the group visits many of the physical historical sites featured in the history and on the website. Finally, I wanted to develop a course that used the time-bound nature of special courses in new ways, beyond the standard MTWR 9:00-12:00 schedule, which I find ineffective.

    The course met all day, two days per week, rather than half-days, four days per week. We met Mondays and Thursdays, 9:00am-4:00pm (with one lunch and two short breaks). Students learned about the histories of both Britain (a very large state) and York (one city in that state) over a very long stretch of time (just under 2000 years). All work was group work. All products—presentations, parts of the website—were group submissions. The final course product was a website that presented the “History of Britain, History of York.” It is aimed at college students and a general interested audience.

    The new schedule worked extremely well and I highly recommend it. In the traditional MTWR 9:00-12:00 schedule, I find it difficult to ask much of students in terms of reading, writing, and thinking, because when class lets out, it will meet again in only 21 hours. In the new MR 9:00am-4:00pm schedule, when we left each other on Monday at 4:00pm, students had two-and-a-half days until class met again. This allowed for reading, writing, and thinking on their part, and grading on my part. Working on a publicly-available final product worked extremely well. It shifted the students’ perspective from a child-like ‘how can I please the instructor’ to a more self-possessed, adult attitude of ‘we’ve got something to do; I need to work with these people, whether or not I respect them or get along with them, to produce something I am proud to have my name on’.



     Students really liked making something that would be used, not (just) graded. Could we build by developing more courses in which the students’ final product is something that someone—Hamline University?—actually needs. A brochure? A web page on hamline.edu? a script for Admissions’ Tour Guides? Students really liked the schedule, for the same reasons I liked it. Can we do more of this?   


     "Introduction to University Honors," Professor Susie Steinbach, College of Liberal Arts  

    I formed a group of faculty from across undergraduate teaching. We began with two longer, intensive meetings during summer 2014, and then moved to a one-hour weekly meeting format for AY 2014-15.
    The group developed goals and a syllabus for a one-credit course, HONS 1000 “introduction to Honors,” in which students develop a cohort and a community, learn about themselves as learners (StrengthQuests etc), learn about opportunities on campus (ex Collaborative Summer Research), and articulate a sense of themselves as intellectually curious, ambitious learners. The course is being offered this semester (Spring 2015), with committee member Jenny Keil as instructor and all committee members as guest speakers/contributors. We plan to offer the course every (traditional-length) semester and are experimenting with timing/formats. Spring 2015 the course is taught by Jenny Keil and meets every other Tuesday evening; Fall 2015 the course will be taught by Gary Gabor and will meet the first seven and the last Tuesday evenings of the semester; Spring 2016 the course will be taught by Deanna O’Donnell and will meet in 4 three-hour sessions, evenings or weekends 

     Suggested Next Steps:  

    We are already in progress to deliver two other types of one-credit honors course that complement Honors activity: HONS 5000 “Capstone to Honors,” in which students reflect on their college and honors journeys and prepare for their Honors capstone presentations, and HONS 3000 “Topics in Honors,” which will be interdisciplinary courses (on topics such as “China” or “Why People do Bad Things”) to which a wide variety of instructors lend their expertise by leading for one of the seven sessions. We like the one-credit support-of-a-larger-program format and would be happy to share it with other programs. Student Success? LEAD? Athletics?


    •   "History of Britain, History of York" Syllabus (Professor Steinbach's Comments: This course requires students to work entirely in groups to produce a website. Perhaps the most significant thing about it is its schedule: we meet on Mondays and Thursdays, all day, rather than four days a week in the mornings. This allowed students to really prepare and then to work effectively in groups. It was a new and more creative way of using J-term.)  
    •  "Introduction to University Honors" Syllabus (Professor Keil's Comments: This is the syllabus from Honors 1000, the introductory class that all University Honors students take. The course is designed to introduce the four pillars of the honors program, to help students understand and use their strengths and personality, and to allow students to practice public speaking skills.)