Project Summary: Writing I, Writing II, British Literature I, World Literature I

Please use the Project Summary Template introduced in Session 2: Project Scoping and post your updates here.

Project Summary: “Why Do I Have to Take This Course?”

Project Leads: Kisha G. Tracy, Associate Professor, English Studies, Fitchburg State University

Overview

In my General Education courses, which comprise the vast majority of what I teach, I include time and focus on reading about and discussing the significance of why students are taking these courses. We explore connections, reasons for developing certain skills (such as writing or information literacy), the applications to other courses in the program as well as their professional and personal lives. In particular, my Writing I, Writing II, and British Literature I, and World Literature I are courses in which I take this approach. It has been a success with especially first-generation students and others who have not yet experienced the “why” of a liberal arts education.

In 2019, Fitchburg State University redesigned its General Education Program (previously Liberal Arts and Sciences Program) and began its implementation in Fall 2021. Through the process of revision, we identified that one of the main issues with the program was in its communication to students - why they are taking General Education courses and what significance they have, individually and as a program as a whole. We have started several initiatives to address this issue - a campaign directed specifically at students, discussions among faculty teaching courses for specific outcomes, visual components to raise the profile of the program, etc.

An OER resource - tentatively titled “Why Do I Have to Take This Course?” - that addresses these topics will be useful for my students to systematically study this general topic and to understand how the General Education program works as a whole. Within our General Education Program, the new First Year Experience course (which all students with the exception of certain transfer students are required to take) is designated to address two of our learning outcomes in particular: Reading and Information Literacy. In particular, we train faculty in the evidence-based metacognitive approach to strengthening reading skills called Reading Apprenticeship, and we focus on basic and critical aspects of information literacy: finding useful sources of information, engaging in a successful search process, evaluating sources of information, and the ethical use of information while maintaining academic integrity. This OER resource would use those as the starting points to explore the significance of General Education and then expand into the remaining thirteen learning outcomes that students will encounter during their time at Fitchburg State. Sections will include evidence from research, individual examples of student success and reflections, links to further readings, and exercises instructors can choose to assign their students.

Motivators

During the implementation of the program, we have been doing training workshops with various groups of student leaders, including the Peer Mentors who are attached to the FYE sections. In those trainings, we have used with success an activity in which students think about and map how all of the learning outcomes that comprise the General Education Program can have significance to one main theme (for example, the experience of COVID). This resource will utilize this approach, organizing around a connective theme. We will use a DEI-focused theme, such as, for example, contemporary anti-racism or gender events/initiatives. The goal would be in the future to add themes as addendums as they become (more) significant to our students depending upon current events.

Course and Audience

I plan to use this OER textbook in my courses (Writing I, Writing II, British Literature I, World Literature I)), but this is a resource that will be and could be used by any course on campus that has a General Education designation. Further, as all institutions have some sort of general education requirements, it will be written with the idea of being easily adaptable to other programs and themes.

Significant Learning Outcomes

  • Students will be able to recognize and articulate the value of taking courses in the General Education curriculum.

Course Materials Needed

Using Existing OER?

No, I will be creating all content except for links to web material.

Structure

  1. Chapter Structure: If you are creating a textbook, how will the textbook be structured? (e.g. 3 parts to every chapter, student-facing text plus instructor handbook etc.).
  2. Adapting/ Remixing: Will you be drawing on existing OER? In what ways?
  3. Supplementary Materials: What (if any) accompanying elements (e.g. instructor resources, presentations, quizzes, maps, data sets) will be produced or collected? If you are creating these, how would these be structured?
  4. Inclusion, Equity, Diversity: What voices and representations will you want to use to help convey specific information in your OER? How will you embed the diverse perspectives?

Licensing

Explain what license the OER will carry and why. You may want to link to external resources where readers can go for more information on the CC BY license, such as the Creative Commons website, or the Rebus Community Licensing Policy.

Anticipated Timeline

Summer 2022: Workshop ideas with FYE instructors at summer professional development

Summer 2022: Outline sections of book

Fall 2022: Work with FYE Coordinator and FYE instructors to gather materials and draft book

Spring 2023: Receive feedback from FYE instructors concerning draft

Early Summer 2023: Final edits

Measures of Success

  • How will you know if you’ve met your goal?
  • What constitutes success, and how will you measure it?
  • Consider indicators along the production process like number of participants, diversity of perspectives (geographic, cultural, social, etc.), feedback opportunities, number of adoptions etc.
  • Also think about student success beyond traditional metrics of grades and focus on deeper learning measures. Do students feel joyful and empowered in the course?
  • These don’t have to be comprehensive, but help to clarify what success means to your project, beyond just writing a text.