Chronicle of Higher Education, Section: Commentary
Jan. 23, 2009 (Volume 55, Issue 20), Page A34
By KAREN GROSS and ANNE MYRKA
No major social problem can be solved within any single field of study, yet traditional academic silos often fail to demonstrate to students the interdisciplinary nature of our world’s problems — and, unfortunately, many students rarely cross those invisible lines between disciplines. While some institutions have developed bold and creative multidisciplinary courses and majors, such programming can be difficult to carry out at institutions that lack abundant resources, especially in an economic climate that dictates frugality.
In an effort to find a feasible way to provide quality interdisciplinary teaching on a small campus, Southern Vermont College has introduced a program called Roving Professors. A select group of professors — the Rovers — visit multiple classes across the college’s five divisions, and each one integrates his or her specialty into each course visited, illustrating how subjects interrelate and how different disciplines are synergistic. Roving differs from team teaching in that it does not occur regularly within a single course over the semester, and the Rover is not a contributor to overall course planning or grading.
How the program works: Professors chosen for interdisciplinary roving must be excellent teachers in addition to having broad-reaching understandings of their fields. They have to be comfortable leading classes that are not their own and able to show students the sometimes hidden connections between seemingly disparate concepts. Rovers must be flexible and well-rounded, capable of responding to questions and material outside their primary fields of study, and able to navigate classroom skepticism of the relevance of interdisciplinarity.
(AAC&U News, September 2008)
Oklahoma City University Integrates Art Across the Curriculum
Oklahoma City University professor of history Marie Hooper, in her ninth year of teaching multiple sections of World Civilization to 1500, is familiar with challenge of making a survey course engaging. “This course is five thousand years of history in fifteen weeks,” she says. But a few years ago, Hooper found that her students became much more interested in the material when she made one important curricular change: adding art. “Most world civilization texts focus on people and issues and throw in the occasional illustration,” she says. “The students don’t get it, they don’t get the connections. But using art can help students focus on the distinctions, see that all ancient civilizations were not the same. They learn to see art as an artifact of the civilization that produced it.”
Arts across the Curriculum
Hooper’s innovative approach to teaching world history is part of a larger movement. Many colleges have well-developed “writing across the curriculum” models, and more schools are developing similar approaches to teaching quantitative and other skills. At Oklahoma City University, an organized effort is in place to integrate the arts across the curriculum, and especially in general education courses. The university’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) and its Fine Art Institute (FAI), both created in 2005 as part of a $4.6 million grant from the Robert and Ruby Priddy Charitable Trust, are dedicated to fostering appreciation for and engagement with the arts across the university curriculum—not just in arts courses. Through faculty workshops, portfolio training sessions, conference travel grants, and an annual arts curriculum guide, the CETL and FAI support faculty and students in arts-related endeavors…. Read more here.
Do you know about Oberlin’s “Languages across the Curriculum” (LxC) initiative?
(Inside Higher Education, September 5, 2008)
Most faculty hiring is done department by department — a method that many scholars say contributes to the difficulties for those whose teaching and research can’t be neatly placed in one departmental box. Professors have complained for years that to do interdisciplinary work, they need to get hired by one discipline (playing down out-of-field interests), and then post-hire or post-tenure, they can branch out. After all, many a search committee is more impressed by a willingness to teach survey or intro courses than a desire to work with the department across the quad.
Seeking to break that pattern, Michigan Technological University used a new system in hiring this year. As in past years, it had about 25 professors’ slots open to fill existing positions on its faculty of 305. In recent years, the university has been able to replace those who leave, but hasn’t added positions. This year, the university made seven hires on top of replacing the existing faculty positions — but none of these searches were managed by departments. While those hired are working with one or more departments, they applied and were evaluated universitywide, and all around a single theme: for their ability to contribute to the study of sustainability. … Read more at: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2008/09/05/michtech
What do you think? Worth exploring?