Part Four: Summer and 2016-2017 Academic Year

Implementing the New Plan

After the physics faculty unanimously approved the recommendations of the Paradigms 2.0 committee near the end of spring term in 2016, the hard work began of putting those recommendations into practice. Needing immediate attention was submitting the required forms and information to the registrar to obtain university approval for these changes. Also of immediate concern was preparing for a faculty vote early in the fall on associated modifications to the requirements for the physics major and minor. An on-going process, the upper-division curriculum committee meetings continued engaging the faculty in discussing and developing plans collaboratively. A new process, shadowing, enhanced the preparation of new faculty to teach interactively in the paradigms in physics courses. Faculty involved in implementing the new plan offered the following advice for others implementing similar curricular reforms.

Apply for university approval of changes as soon as feasible

  • if possible, encourage a committee member to volunteer to take charge of finding out about the institution’s approval process and to oversee submission of required forms
  • recognize this person’s effort appropriately
  • try to obtain institution approvals before students start to register for the revised courses
  • if approval is unlikely to occur before registration, restrict entry so that students must see an advisor before allowed to register for a revised course

Prepare for faculty vote on changes in requirements for the major and minor

  • discuss the proposed changes with each faculty member informally
  • prepare a document that clearly describes the proposed changes
    • provide a one page executive summary
    • list main questions for each category of changes to be decided
    • provide a table of contents listing information provided for each change
    • provide the details for each proposed change
  • refine the document with feedback from small committee members
  • discuss the document and proposed changes with head of the department
  • ask the head of the department to email the document to faculty
  • schedule a faculty meeting specifically for discussing and voting on the changes
  • facilitate a discussion of each category of proposed changes and vote on each separately

Continue to engage the faculty in collaboratively discussing and developing plans

  • schedule regular meetings of faculty teaching the upper division courses, such as every 3 weeks
  • engage faculty in generating questions about the curriculum they would like to discuss
  • ask one or more to facilitate a meeting focused on one of those questions
  • focus some meetings on brainstorming connections among the courses as a whole
  • focus some meetings on reflections about what happened in individual courses such as what went well, what were the challenges, and what changes might be made
  • focus some meetings around specific issues needing attention
  • welcome faculty teaching earlier or later courses to join the conversation

Prepare new faculty for teaching interactively in the reformed courses

  • assign new faculty to shadow faculty teaching courses to which they will be assigned
  • recognize extra effort required for the faculty member who is being shadowed
  • count shadowing as a teaching assignment
  • make sure shadower understands this is not a break from teaching
  • have department head specify expectations that shadower:
    • comes to and participates in every class session
    • comes to and participates in every meeting preparing for and/or debriefing class sessions
    • assumes responsibility for preparing for and facilitating some small group activities
    • assumes responsibility for preparing for and teaching some sessions
  • coach the shadower in ways to:
    • use interactive engagement strategies
    • welcome and work with student ideas likely to emerge during exploration of a topic
    • facilitate “wrap-up” discussions after activities exploring a topic
    • plan and teach a session

Redesign the existing courses

  • require students to see an advisor and get permission to enroll in new and redesigned courses to be sure students are aware of any implications of the approved changes
  • assign faculty deeply involved in generating the new plan to redesign and teach the revised courses or at least to mentor faculty teaching these courses
  • start with set of index cards listing main topics to be included in revised course
  • next focus on what want students to be able to do
  • explore resources documenting interactive engagement strategies and assignments used in prior versions of the courses
  • incorporate well-tested activities and homework assignments from prior versions of the courses wherever possible in the revised course
  • plan questions to ask to facilitate student discussions
  • keep ‘lecturing’ to a minimum but plan what to write on the board and what to ask and say in preparing for and debriefing activities and assignments
  • estimate timing for each topic during each session and keep tract of what happens when
  • write a reflection after each session with notes of actual timing and thoughts about what to keep and what to do differently next time

Coordinate the content of associated courses with redesigned courses

  • make sure the science content and technical skills developed in associated courses match what is needed and are in the appropriate order for the redesigned courses
  • make sure needed science and mathematics content in eliminated courses gets included in the new and redesigned courses

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