Knowledge Development: Patterns and Outcomes

Kathy Behm, Library
Rhonda Comrie, School of Nursing 
Judy Crane, Philosophy (sabbatical) 
Charlotte Johnson,Library 
Ann Popkess, School of Nursing 
Chad Verbais, Informational Services 
Val Yancey, School of Nursing 
Belinda Carstens, Foreign Languages 
Carol Keene, formerly Philosophy Department, now community member 
Doris Davis, School of Nursing 
Christine Durbin, School of Nursing

 

Abstract

Given the current knowledge explosion and continuing realignment of disciplines, universities in the twenty-first century can no longer offer primarily content-driven courses. If there is evidence that SIUE graduates have failed to achieve the desired baccalaureate values and objectives, how should the university respond? This design proposal maintains that it is not the failure of any one element—curriculum design, faculty, or students—that results in poor outcomes. This proposal recommends two related approaches: continuing the development of learner-centered teaching strategies in all general education curriculum courses, and forming faculty-student mentoring workgroups, integrating Carper's four patterns of knowing: empiric, ethical, personal, and aesthetic knowing (1978) as an integral organizational structure to both approaches.

This proposal emphasizes the need to engage students in the classroom using learner-centered principles of education and to experience the benefit of a talented and diverse faculty by participating in a faculty-student mentoring workgroup. To continue the momentum already in place to move forward a learning-centered approach will require rigorous departmental and administrative emphasis on continuity of the essential curricular elements of informational fluency, critical thinking, and writing. Ongoing and in-depth faculty education regarding student-faculty engagement in the learning process will be necessary to develop and enhance faculty-student mentoring workgroups and classroom learner-centered teaching strategies. Administrative and departmental assessment of faculty development will need to be coordinated to ensure that the faculty development plan will retain topical significance and usefulness for all faculty.

This proposal describes a one-year pilot project of faculty-student mentoring workgroups that will require substantial commitment by both faculty and students. Faculty will be compensated for their intensive involvement and students will receive modest tuition waivers for their commitment. Interactions for the mentoring workgroups begin with a two-semester freshman seminar. Ongoing formative evaluation of the workgroup project will be conducted by participating faculty and students. Assessment of the mentoring workgroup approach to engage students will incorporate the baccalaureate objectives as measurable student outcomes. In addition, faculty and students in the mentoring workgroups will collaborate in establishing incremental outcomes. Last, each general education department will establish competency measures that will identify successful completion of required groundwork in that discipline.

 

Introduction

Given the current knowledge explosion and continuing realignment of disciplines, universities in the twenty-first century can no longer offer primarily content-driven courses. Instead, a university program of study ought to engage students in learning by helping them identify “patterns of knowing” that can be identified in all disciplines: empirics, ethics, personal knowing, and aesthetics. The outcomes of such a program of study will meet the SIUE values and baccalaureate outcomes of citizenship; excellence; integrity; wisdom; analytic, problem-solving, and decision-making skills; oral and written skills; foundations in Liberal Arts and Sciences; value of diversity; scientific literacy; ethics; and preparation in an academic or professional discipline. The General Education Program engages faculty, students, and professional teaching staff in the process of generating a capacity for self-reflection, self-assessment, and life-long learning in baccalaureate graduates. The proposed model will use the core SIUE values and outcomes to foster a solid foundation for intellectual development, an appreciation of the arts, and a well-informed, energized citizenry among SIUE baccalaureate students.

The SIUE Faculty Senate initiated the BRIDGE process in response to evidence that SIUE graduates failed to achieve the desired baccalaureate outcomes of the university, particularly through the general education curriculum (Eric Ruckh, personal communication, January 12, 2006). Furthermore, a PEW-funded literacy study claims that college students lack sufficient literacy to handle complex real-life tasks (Gregory Littman, personal communication, January 20, 2006). If SIUE graduates fail to meet the accepted University standards and baccalaureate objectives and are incapable of handling “complex real-life tasks,” the logical presumption is to “fix” the curriculum. Hence, the process to revise the SIUE general education curriculum unfolded. This design team believes that it is not the failure of any one element—curriculum design, faculty, or students—that results in poor outcomes.

Direction for the development of this proposal was also taken from a committee-member's report from a recent national meeting of the AAC&U (January, 2006). Universities across the country are struggling with the same issues of student learning that concern the SIUE community. This design team believes that a combination of learner-centered teaching strategies, knowledge pattern identification and use, and the creation of teaching faculty-student mentoring workgroups will lead to improved student outcomes.

 

The Proposal

This proposal recommends two related approaches: continuing the development of learner-centered teaching strategies in all general education curriculum courses, and forming faculty-student mentoring workgroups. We also propose integrating four patterns of knowing, as described by Carper (1978), as part of a learner-centered model and as an organizational structure for faculty-student mentoring workgroups. In this inquiry, we will explore how engagement in learning and use of patterns of knowing could comprise the foundation for the SIUE General Education undergraduate experience.

Faculty-Learner Engagement

Carini and Kuh (2003) noted that “the best predictor of learning and personal development for college students is the amount of time and energy they expend on educationally fruitful activities” (p., 392). Additionally, Pike and Kuh (2005) proposed a conceptual model that places academic and social engagement, along with the college environment, at the heart of gains that students make while enrolled in college. Chickering & Gamson (1987) define student engagement indicators as student-faculty contact, cooperation among students, active learning, prompt feedback, time on task, high expectations, and respect for diverse talents and ways of learning. It is through the employment of a learner-centered mentoring group that this proposal maintains that students will effectively become more engaged at SIUE by increasing student-faculty contact, promoting active learning and facilitating a student's diverse ways of knowing. In addition, through the use of Carper's Patterns of Knowing, students will be introduced to a framework that will facilitate assessing and organizing their knowledge. Faculty will also be challenged to incorporate learner-centered teaching strategies into their courses to enhance student engagement. Therefore, this proposal emphasizes the need to engage students in the classroom using learner-centered principles of education and to experience the benefit of a talented and diverse faculty by participating in a faculty-student mentoring workgroup. Further description of the learner-centered approach, Carper's Framework, and faculty-student mentoring workgroups follows.

Learner-Centered Approach to General Education Curriculum Courses

Implementing philosophical changes in learning approaches begins with the faculty who own the curriculum. The mission of the University needs to be our guiding purpose. Support for the faculty who will utilize a changed approach to teaching methods that communicate, expand, and integrate knowledge through undergraduate education (SIUE Mission Statement) begins with the faculty. However, no sustainable change will be achieved without the total and continuing support of the entire university community—students, faculty, and administration. Continuing the momentum already in place to move forward a learning-centered approach will require rigorous departmental and administrative emphasis on continuity of the essential curricular elements of informational fluency, critical thinking, and writing. Without curricular program emphasis on informational fluency, critical thinking, and writing, achievement of baccalaureate objectives and values will be lost with faculty attrition.

Ongoing and in-depth faculty education regarding student-faculty engagement in the learning process will be sustained by collaboration among interdisciplinary faculty to create a stimulating learning community, and by developing fluency in the patterns of knowing framework. Faculty education will be necessary to develop faculty-student mentoring workgroups (described below). Faculty educational sessions focusing on redesigning course syllabi and developing learner-centered teaching strategies will be conducted. Mini-workshops will be used to bring diverse faculty together to collaborate on teaching/learning styles and update informational literacy and writing assessment skills. New faculty orientation will include day-long experiences using a learner-centered approach. Administrative and departmental assessment of faculty development will be coordinated to ensure that the development plan retains topical significance and usefulness for all faculty.

Patterns of Knowing Framework

According to Carper (1978), basic knowledge in a discipline proceeds through pattern recognition and development in the areas of: 1) empirics, 2) ethics, 3) personal knowing, and 4) aesthetics.

Empiric knowing is based on the assumption that what is known is accessible through the physical senses, particularly seeing, touching, and hearing, and as a pattern of knowing draws on traditional quantitative approaches to knowledge acquisition. Empiric knowing is expressed as scientific competence—competent action grounded in scientific theories and knowledge. Ethical knowing involves making moment-to-moment judgments about what ought to be done, what is good, what is right, and what is responsible. Ethical knowing guides and directs conduct in life and work, helps one determine what is most important, where to place one's loyalty, and what priorities demand advocacy. Personal knowing concerns the inner experience of becoming a holistic, authentic self capable of unifying the plural dimensions in which that self lives in an honest and open manner. Full awareness of the self, the moment, and the context of interaction with others makes possible meaningful, shared human experience. Aesthetic knowing involves deep appreciation of the meaning of a situation and calls forth inner creative resources that transform experience into what is not yet real, bringing to reality something that would not otherwise be possible.

This proposed model assumes that if knowledge within any one pattern is not critically examined an integrated within the whole of knowing, uncritical acceptance, narrow interpretation, distortions, and partial utilization of knowledge occurs. When the patterns are used in isolation from one another, the potential for synthesis of the whole is lost. The formal expressions of knowledge are developed by using methods of inquiry that are grounded both in discursive scholarly methods and in practice specifically designed for each pattern. Patterns of knowing are also demonstrated in their non-discursive forms as synthesized learning and performance, which offers an ever-expanding base for building knowledge and skill throughout a lifetime.

Developing knowledge patterns is critical to all levels of education. Knowledge acquisition, comprehension, and application, together with the skills of integration, analysis and synthesis, essential for a well-prepared graduate, are threaded through the patterns of knowing. Learning these essential skills and abilities through the framework of patterns of knowing will achieve the desired SIUE baccalaureate education outcomes. Moreover, given that knowledge and course content are changing rapidly, a focus upon the patterns of knowing present in every discipline, regardless of content, provides for a sound general education model in the twenty-first century. Such a focus not only offers students a means of coping with the ever-increasing knowledge explosion, but lends itself to learning that emerges from student questions, practice, case studies, stories, in-depth analysis of systems, and interdisciplinary approaches. The patterns of knowing framework offers a template, an organizational system for student learning. In the context of diverse interdisciplinary faculty-student mentoring workgroups, faculty as expert learners, help students connect content areas within the general education curriculum using empirical, ethical, personal, and aesthetic patterns of knowing.

Philosophical changes in learning approaches must begin with the faculty who own the curriculum. Support for the faculty who will undergo changes in approaches to teaching methods begins with the university academic departments and the university administration. No real change will be achieved without the total and continuing support of the entire university community—students, faculty, and administration. Moving faculty to a learning centered approach will require rigorous departmental and administrative emphasis on continuity of the essential curricular elements of informational fluency and writing.

Faculty-Student Mentoring Workgroups

This proposal does not recommend changes in the present distribution approach of the general education program. Instead, it proposes the creation of learning environments that feature dynamic mentoring workgroups. The workgroups will use the skills of a diverse interdisciplinary group of faculty to challenge and support a small group of students throughout the university experience. Using group and individual work in weekly seminar meetings, faculty mentors will guide the students in learning critical thinking skills of analysis, problem-solving, and decision-making; valuing diversity; establishing ethical constructs; and preparing for their academic or professional discipline. Students, in collaboration with their faculty mentors, will enhance their informational fluency and writing skills, through which they will demonstrate competency and fluency in liberal arts and the sciences. Students will come away with a better knowledge of self in the process.

Beginning initially as a one-year pilot project, the mentoring workgroups project would be evaluated every three months, providing opportunities for implementing changes as deemed necessary by the faculty and students participating in the project. Ongoing formative evaluation by faculty participants will help guide the unfolding experience. In addition, after one year, the project will be evaluated by an evaluation committee of five faculty representing tenured, non-tenured faculty, and professional teaching staff from each of the general education programs with the Director of Assessment as an ex officio member.

The pilot project will recruit 30 entering freshman (non-transfer students), to volunteer as participants in the faculty-student mentoring workgroups. Students will be assigned to a two-semester freshman seminar and will be assigned to 2-3 faculty from diverse university departments, with at least one member from science, languages/history, arts, or social sciences. Students volunteering to participate in this project will agree to a two-year commitment and will have tuition waived for one course per semester. The student will be given an opportunity to renew their commitment to continue in the program after one year in conjunction with the evaluation committee's pilot project evaluations.

Transfer students could voluntarily enter into a similar faculty-student mentoring workgroup composed of 10-30 transfer students and requiring a commitment of two years. The initial two-semester course would be a transfer student seminar designed to prepare students for the remainder of the curriculum and provide opportunities for assessment of the patterns of knowing in the transferred course work. As the program grows, new faculty-student mentoring workgroups will be formed each semester in response to student and faculty commitment.

The freshman seminar would use small-group work and community service learning opportunities to foster life skill development and real world expectations in each mentoring workgroup. Students in the mentoring workgroups would be encouraged to enroll in a variety of general education courses that would satisfy the established curriculum distribution requirements. For mentoring workgroup students living on campus, the communal identification with their enhanced educational experience will be supported by mentoring student groups in their residence halls. As the student progresses through the four-year curriculum, faculty mentors will conduct seminars for their mentoring workgroups focusing on student/faculty identified issues that present opportunities for student experiential learning in the diverse global community. Mentoring workgroups will be empowered to use multiple service learning approaches to enhance the student's information fluency; writing skills; cultural, ethical, critical thinking, and decision-making skills. Faculty who had worked with the students in the faculty mentoring workgroup would serve as readers of their senior assignment. As a part of that senior assignment project, the students will be required to maintain a portfolio record reflecting the patterns of knowing during the entire experience.

Those faculty who volunteer to participate in the faculty-student mentoring workgroups will agree to a two-year commitment. In addition, faculty will receive phased-in funding awards for faculty development, course workload adjustments, favorably emphasizing tenure/promotion elements in their merit documents. Administrative and department chairs will consider the relationship of student progress toward baccalaureate outcomes and faculty performance in annual review documents as well as overall program review.

Outcomes Assessment

Presently, SIUE participates in a number of assessment initiatives ( http://www.siue.edu/assessment/plan.html ). In addition, SIUE has been collecting data from its students on engagement through the National Study of Student Engagement since 1990. These efforts have produced some of the data that will logically need to be evaluated to determine expected outcomes for the students of SIUE.

Assessment of the mentoring approach to enhancing student engagement will begin with incorporating the objectives for baccalaureate students into measurable outcomes for students. Incremental student outcomes will be collaboratively established between the individual student and the faculty mentors. Competency measures will be established by each general education department.

For example, the English Department will establish goals and objectives that all students must meet to establish sufficient competency in the general education groundwork of that discipline based on empirical, ethical, personal, and aesthetic patterns of knowing. Assessment of those outcomes will be made by a written demonstration when the student and faculty mentor determine the student is ready. This assessment approach may require that a student attend all required English classes, no required English classes, or more English classes than those required. This determination will be made in collaboration with the English Department, the faculty mentor, and the student.

Summary

Change is never easy, pleasant, or painless. Therefore, before curricular and course delivery methods of re-design begin, faculty must be convinced that their efforts and commitment will be formally recognized and rewarded. This proposal recommends gradual adoption of the proposed changes with careful assessment along the way. There may be some unforeseen administrative and logistic hurdles facing this proposal. However, the only real obstacle is the will to do it.

This proposal is based on the assumption that all students and all faculty want to succeed and that learning and success are relational activities. SIUE is well-situated to implement this integrative design in developing new approaches to learning because of its highly talented faculty, diverse student community, and commitment to proactive curricular innovation.

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References

Carini, R.M., Kuh, G. D. (2003). Tomorrow's teachers: Do they ‘engage' in the right things during college? Phi Delta Kappan. 84(5), 391-398.

Carini, R.M., Kuh, G.D., Klein, S.P. (2004). Student engagement and student learning: Testing the linkages. American Educational Research Association. San Diego, CA.

Carper, B. (1978). Fundamental Patterns of Knowing in Nursing. Advances in Nursing Science. 1(1). 13-23.

Chickering, A.W., Gamson, Z.F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE bulletin. 39(7). 3-7.

Pike, G.R., Kuh, G.D. (2005). First-and second-generation college students: A comparison of their engagement and intellectual development. The Journal of Higher Education. 76(3). 276-300.

 

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BRIDGE Proposal Overview - Self-Assessment

1. How does your proposal support the values of SIUE (citizenship, excellence, integrity, openness and wisdom)?

The design team used the baccalaureate values as end points for the entire curricular proposal. The SIUE graduate will attain the stated values through the faculty modeling and mentoring relationship described in the proposal. In addition, learner-centered teaching strategies will be enhanced and developed in the general education curriculum.

2. How does your proposal support the stated objectives of the baccalaureate degree? (oral/written communication skills, analytic/problem-solving skills, value of diversity, scientific literacy, ethics, foundation in the liberal arts and sciences, preparation in/for a discipline)?

The design team used the baccalaureate objectives as end points for the entire curricular proposal. As part of the continued learner-centered approach that is integral to our proposal, the baccalaureate objectives are also threaded throughout the general education curriculum design proposal.

3. Does the proposal support the diverse range of needs of SIUE's student body and the special needs of the various professional and academic programs at SIUE?

This proposal specifically describes faculty-student mentoring workgroups designed to meet the needs of traditional university students as well as transfer students. It describes seminar course work and faculty-mentoring workgroups that will aid and support developing connections between the general education curriculum and the targeted academic or professional discipline as well as specifically supports the student's senior assignment work.

4. Does the proposal respond to and address the ‘emerging concerns' of the faculty? For general education to be relevant, it must address integration, information, communication, application.

This proposal describes service learning as a part of the work a student will need to achieve the SIUE baccalaureate values and objectives. This proposal is framed in the context of Carper's Patterns of Knowing, which serves as an organizing framework for knowledge gained in coursework and experiential service learning. Last, the proposal emphasizes the essential skills of critical thinking, information fluency, and writing as integral to the general education curriculum design.

 

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