Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education


Date of this Version



Essays on Teaching Excellence: Toward the Best in the Academy (2007-2008) 19(3)

A publication of the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education


Copyright 2008, Krause and Lageaux. Used by permission


Campuses across the country continue to establish first-year seminars that promise students integrative and transformative learning experiences necessary for the twenty-first century. This trend inevitably challenges faculty members to teach in ways that transcend or subvert both their disciplinary expertise and their familiar, comfortable ways of teaching. These challenges become especially visible in the design and evaluation of assignments. At Columbia College Chicago, for example, where the majority of students aspire to careers in the arts, media, and communication, teachers have been negotiating the place of writing in a required firstyear seminar in liberal learning. These negotiations play out differently within other institutional cultures, but almost inevitably engage common pedagogical questions: what kinds of writing should be required to demonstrate authentic student engagement with and understanding of important concepts? How central or marginal should writing assignments be to a particular multidisciplinary course? What other kinds of evidence of student learning should be elicited and counted? These negotiations not only raise questions about how students learn, but also about how faculty learn: If I do not consider myself a writing teacher, then how do I meaningfully integrate and assess writing? If I do feel most comfortable teaching through writing, then how do I meaningfully move beyond writing?