Strategies for supporting integrated learning

Our objective is to build students' capacity for integrative learning. Our program strategies provide students with training in recognizing, adapting, and applying ideas from one context to another. This will facilitate development of students' abilities through engagement—either as individuals and as parts of multi- disciplinary teams—with open-ended and ill-structured real-world and research problems.

Curriculum Development

To facilitate learning across course settings, we are building explicit linkages between specific pairs or sets of STEM courses. These include (i) using common language to address common concepts in introductory courses, (ii) employing common modules or class meetings for courses where the same problems can be addressed with different disciplinary tools, and (iii) connecting classes across terms by creating materials in one to be used in another, among other techniques. Workshops, interdepartmental meetings, and grants for curriculum development support this work.

Cohort Programs to Broaden Access

Because building and maintaining integrative skills supports the persistence of students in STEM, we (i) have continued to support our summer research cohorts targeting students from underrepresented groups early in their time at Carleton (Summer Science Fellows), and (ii) extended our academic-year cohort (FOCUS) into the crucial sophomore year, when students declare their majors and navigate the difficult transition to advanced coursework.

Assessment of these cohort programs over the past four years validates a model in which academic success and persistence in science and math depends on three factors: drive to succeed, support for learning, and a sense of belonging in science and math fields.

Enhancing Student-Faculty Research

Working on research is a fundamental and well-recognized way to apply learning to new, complex problems. We are (i) developing modules to incorporate more research experiences into existing coursework, (ii) continuing to support summer student-faculty research, and (iii) forming student research cohorts to maximize the educational impact of student- faculty research.

Academic Civic Engagement

Since experiential learning in a real-world context facilitates integrative learning, we are expanding, coordinating, and providing expert support for students to have significant experiences beyond the academic setting, including community-based learning and community-based research. In the 2013-14 academic year, we will also create a statistics seminar in which students from multiple majors will serve as statistical consultants for community partners.

Teaching as Learning

More than half of our science and math majors serve as teaching assistants or tutors; others do volunteer teaching in the local community. As students teach, they review, deepen, and integrate their previous learning. These experiences are most valuable when they include formal opportunities for students, to reflect upon their teaching and experiences. Under the direction of a new staff member, we will create mindful cohorts of students teaching on campus, in the community, and in our summer program for high school students.