Ramapo College of New Jersey
2009 Greater Expectations Institute Action Plan
Back to Our Values, Forward to 21st Century Learning:
Creating High-impact Learning through Curriculum Enrichment
Ramapo College is grounded in a history of valuing experiential learning. This 2009 Greater Expectations Team has explored the potential of our five-hour experiential learning component; we will refer to this 5-hour component as “Curriculum Enrichment Component (CEC)” throughout this document.
The goal of this action plan is to develop a framework to engage the Ramapo Community in a dialogue focused on the intentional use of the CEC. Student engagement has been demonstrated to lead to better student learning outcomes and the experiential component has the potential to increase student engagement. We believe that student engagement through experiential learning is so important and integral to our mission and culture, we propose that the year 2009-2010 be themed, “Back to Our Values, Forward to 21st Century Learning.” This fortieth anniversary year would afford us the opportunity to purposefully develop a conscientious awareness of the ways experiential learning is already infused throughout the curriculum and co-curriculum. This purposeful engagement in dialogue will offer us the opportunity to develop a common language that clearly defines the Ramapo experience.
One goal of the proposed yearlong dialog is to strengthen the relationship between the curriculum and the co-curriculum as a means to further engage students in active learning. Ramapo College has a unique identity as “NJ’s Public Liberal Arts College.” As a founding member of COPLAC, Ramapo formally committed itself to liberal arts education. Since its inception, Ramapo College has recognized experiential learning as a hallmark of engaged learning. The mission of the College states: “The College provides service and leadership opportunities for students and faculty through a combination of internships, field placements, community service, study abroad, and cooperative education.” This list demonstrates the centrality of experiential learning broadly defined. The development of CEC is a natural extension of this commitment. In short, experiential learning is part of our institutional DNA.
Fully realizing the potential of CEC can be an opportunity to recommit to our unique identity and founding principles. It is time to engage in meaningful reflection about CEC and how it can be used to enhance student engagement and learning. For instance, there is data suggesting that student attendance at academic lectures and events has increased since the establishment of CEC.
CEC is the perfect vehicle through which to implement high-impact practices as defined by AAC&U in their 2007 report, College Learning for a New Global Century. Ramapo College already employs most of these practices, such as First-Year Seminar, common intellectual experiences, learning communities, service-learning, writing-intensive courses, collaborative assignments and projects, undergraduate research, study abroad and other experiences with diversity, internships and capstone projects. Such practices lead to increased student engagement which, in turn, increases the likelihood that any given student will succeed at college, meeting both educational as well as personal objectives. Besides increasing academic success, student engagement has been shown to promote mental and physical well being, community enrichment, personal and social development, ethical development, and global understanding.
Although all students benefit from participating in high-impact practices, research indicates that there is a compensatory effect when at-risk and historically underrepresented groups participate meaningfully in these high-impact experiences; that is, underserved groups tend to benefit even more from such practices than do their peers. Unfortunately, however, these historically underserved groups also tend to participate in these high-impact activities in much lower rates than do their peers. CEC is a wonderful opportunity to ensure that all students have access to the benefits of these high-impact practices as no student can avoid the requirement.
The implementation of this proposal will result in a number of positive outcomes. It will energize the campus around the potential in CEC. It will enable the community to articulate the value of CEC. It will help us pay attention to what we are doing well, and what we can do better. It will help us intentionally harness the potential of CEC as a catalyst for greater student engagement; ultimately leading to students’ increased success in meeting Ramapo’s expressed learning outcomes.
The framework of our Action Plan is depicted in Appendix One. The pillars of Ramapo College’s mission form the foundation of the plan; Student Affairs and Academic Affairs both deliver high-impact practices which can be realized through CEC; this in turn increases student engagement, which ultimately leads to students’ success in meeting Ramapo’s learning goals and outcomes.
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Process and Recommendations:
The Ramapo Community will be invited to engage in a year-long dialog about our values, student engagement, and high-impact practices centered on CEC.
We consider the ENTIRE campus to be stakeholders. However, the Provost will be asked to convene a Design Team which will be charged with implementing the recommendations herein. The 2009 Greater Expectations Team will make recommendations regarding the team’s composition, ensuring that all campus constituents are represented. Students will be engaged in every aspect of this process. We strongly believe that the composition of the Design Team is integral to the success of this process.
The charge of the Design Team is to:
- Engage the campus community in a year-long dialog revolving around CEC and how it fits within our mission. At the end of academic year 09/10 the Design team will submit a report which will include summaries of:
- the activities held during the year which focused on CEC,
- how CEC is currently implemented on campus
- recommendations on how CEC can be improved, in terms of better student engagement, more meaningful learning, etc
- how CEC purposefully links Academic Affairs and Student Affairs
- how CEC resources can be readily accessed by members of the community (e.g., database/website)
- recommended best practices for faculty involvement in CEC (with the recognition that faculty are not contractually bound to oversee the activities that define CEC)
- recommended requirements for students regarding CEC, such as the need to reflect on the hours spent learning experientially, etc.
In meeting its charge, we recommend that the Design Team:
- Determine a more meaningful way to refer to CEC. One suggestion is “REAL” which represents “Ramapo’s Experientially Aligned Learning”.
- Present the vision that Greater Expectations has developed to integrate Academic and Student Affairs though CEC to: Faculty Assembly Executive Council, Faculty Assembly, Ramapo Staff Association, DAC, Institutional Advancement, Enrollment Management, Student Affairs, Student Government Association, Student Leaders Coalition, Adjuncts, and Unions. In these presentations the project will be characterized as articulating shared goals rather than initiating change.
- Enlist the support of the Faculty Assembly Executive Council to allow to members of the community to present CEC-related information at Faculty Assembly meetings.
- Initiate discussions within units and within convening groups as to how CEC is being implemented and whether its current implementation is in fact leading to desired learning outcomes
- Collaborate with key offices to formulate clear and consistent messages about what it means to be an experiential learner at Ramapo College, with an emphasis on Admissions, Orientation and other First Year Experience Programs.
- Collaborate with the Director of the First Year Seminar to clarify the role of CEC in the FYE curriculum as well as to ensure that students have a conceptual understanding of why CEC is integral to a Ramapo education.
- Explore ways that students can more actively engage with CEC as well as share their experiences, through club/organization presidents meetings, SGA meetings and other relevant student group meetings
- Create a database/website/e-portfolio of the resources available to help implement CEC. These resources include, but are not limited to:
- Teaching Learning Technology Roundtable
- The Office of Student Development
- George T. Potter Library
- Cahill Center for Experiential Learning and Career Services
- Office of Residence Life
- Educational Opportunity Fund Program
- Center for Academic Success
- Instructional Design Center
- Berrie Center for Performing and Visual Arts
- Meadowlands Environmental Center
- Work with the Institutional Research Office to understand the results from our NSSE data and develop suggestions for the campus based on that data.
- Host a consultant who can speak on High-impact Practices and what we can learn from the national and our own NSSE data. It is recommended that George Kuh, Chancellor Professor and Director of Indiana University Center for Post-Secondary Research, be invited; if he is unavailable, then someone with similar expertise should be invited (e.g., Jillian Kinzie, Associate Director of Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research & NSSE Institute).
- Work with the Director of the Faculty Resource Center to design workshops and learning communities that address high-impact learning practices and tie them into the CEC.
- Create video vignettes where students discuss the benefits of CEC for them (i.e., “The good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly”)
- Develop a workshop offered by Greater Expectations on high-impact practices from a student affairs and academic affairs perspective.
- Sponsor a showcase for offerings from Library, Cahill, Student Development, etc.
- Explore the potential for a future lecture series on 21st Century Learning Initiatives.
Considerations for Design Team and Community Exploration:
- Provide opportunities to seek out ways that two or more classes can explicitly partner to make this component more deep and meaningful.
- Consider allowing students to “bank” CEC hours across classes to allow more substantive activities (e.g., meaningful service learning, student-faculty research)
- Begin thinking beyond the five-hour-per-course requirement, and consider it as a possible cumulative experience (e.g. 20 hours per semester or 160 hour experience over four years).
- Formalize ways that students can reflect on this component and come to see it as integrative and interdisciplinary (e.g. e-portfolios, culminating experiences).
- Link this experience to General Education, Major and integrate between the two.
- Consider other successful models for delivery of experiential learning (e.g., Winthrop University, Buena Vista University).
- Engage the college in a strengths-based conversation using models such as Appreciative Inquiry (see Appendix 2)
- Consider alternative ways to make students accountable for how they utilized the CEC (e.g., debit card system, e-portfolios)
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Barriers to Accomplishment
- Significant change in our administration.
- Faculty resistance to perceived top-down decision making
- Budget crisis
- Change fatigue in general and in particular topics relating to course re-design
- Overworked faculty and staff
- Student’s general confusion about CEC and how it relates to a liberal arts education
- Faculty’s confusion about the their role in CEC (e.g., can students’ CEC work be graded)
- According to NSSE data, our students are risk-averse
Opportunities for Support
- Capitalizing on the 40th anniversary of Ramapo College of New Jersey
- Using the momentum created by the faculty spring 2009 in-service that communicated the Faculty’s commitment to a liberal arts education
- The team has identified the key leaders on our campus that will readily buy-in, support our work and comprise the design team. Fortunately, we have leaders from every key constituency on campus
- Students are actively seeking opportunities to do research with faculty—there is a growing awareness that such research is required for graduate school applications
- Strong technological infrastructure
- Employers and community partners welcome increased involvement
- The experiential component is already institutionalized (i.e., we are not suggesting a “change” per se rather a time to reflect and to strengthen what we do best)
- We already offer many high-impact practices
TEAM ACTIONS AND TIMELINE:
Action: Meet with Steve Perry, Chair of Greater Expectations Committee
Purpose/Details: To ensure that our team leadership understands and supports the proposal.
When: By July 30, 2009
Action: Present Action Plan to Provost Barnett
Purpose/Details: Inform and gain support.
When: By July 4, 2009
Action: Request that Provost Barnett convene a Design Team of key stakeholder as identified by team to implement proposal.
Purpose/Details: To agree upon Design Team’s charge, and to provide a working group to implement the action plan.
When: By August 13, 2009
Action: Present proposal to President Mercer. Ask that his office supports deeming AY2010 “Back to Our Values, Forward to 21st Century Learning” and that the programming suggested herein be tied to 40th anniversary programs and celebrations.
Purpose/Details: Focus the community on a common purpose as well as highlight the importance of this initiative.
When: By July 30th 2009
Action: Invite consultant to campus
Purpose/Details: To educate about high-impact learning and NSSE (scheduled perhaps for date of State of the College address)
When: By August 13, 2009
Action: Develop a list of resources to provide the Design Team.
Purpose/Details: To provide context for their work.
When: By August 13, 2009
Action: Work with Faculty Resource Center to have learning communities and workshops during Fall 2009 term
Purpose/Details: To provide educational opportunities for faculty.
When: By August 13, 2009
RECOMMENDED TIMELINE FOR DESIGN TEAM (KEY DATES):
Action: Present vision to individual groups identified.
When: September/October 2009
Action: Consult with Institutional Research re: NSSE data
When: September 2009
Action: Develop a calendar of discussions and presentations to engage the community (see Process and Recommendations).
When: October 2009
Action: Develop resources for the community including video vignettes of students, e-portfolio and other suggestions in recommendations section).
When: December 2009
Action: Produce report of major themes and process outcomes that creates a cycle of learning.
When: June 2010
Action: Create a cycle of innovation for CEC
When: June 2010
Evidence of Success:
- All stakeholders will be able to identify the ways in which CEC can be harnessed as a high-impact practice.
- There will be more purposeful linking of Academic Affairs and Student Affairs.
- Students will be able to articulate the value of CEC and how it relates to their liberal arts education.
- There is a general understanding of the value of high-impact practices across campus.
- Future NSSE data will show that Ramapo students are more engaged learners.
Appendix One: Conceptual Framework of the Action Plan
Appendix Two: Summary of Appreciative Inquire
Appreciative Inquiry is about the co-evolutionary search for the best in people, their organizations, and the relevant world around them. In its broadest focus, it involves systematic discovery of what gives “life” to a living system when it is most alive, most effective, and most constructively capable in economic, ecological, and human terms. AI involves, in a central way, the art and practice of asking questions that strengthen a system’s capacity to apprehend, anticipate, and heighten positive potential. It centrally involves the mobilization of inquiry through the crafting of the “unconditional positive question” often-involving hundreds or sometimes thousands of people.
from A Positive Revolution in Change: Appreciative Inquiry by David L. Cooperrider and Diana Whitney.
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