Re-imagining teaching and learning in the College of Liberal Arts

Doni teaching students first week of class
Doni Aldine teaching a course on global and cultural awareness in the Department of Journalism & Media Communication. Photo by Greg Luft.

A great number of faculty used the normal downtime of summer to reimagine and rebuild their classes to accommodate the variety of modalities available to students this fall (face-to-face, hybrid, online). Here is a sampling of what faculty and/or programs did to meet today’s needs. 

Department of English

“Teaching face-to-face has posed many interesting dilemmas thus far. I have come to realize that lecturing in a mask requires knowledge of and practice with breathing techniques. I also must catch myself from invading students’ six-feet bubbles while still trying to engage with their work and discuss their ideas and difficulties. I am rethinking what in-person workshops will look like because of spatial constraints, too. Lastly, I have found that my residential students are particularly driven to succeed given our turbulent context, and they have expressed a primary goal of making it all 13 weeks in class this semester.” – Ryan Campbell

Ryan Campbell
Ryan Campbell, Instructor
Kiley Miller
Kiley Miller, Instructor

I end my weekly survey with “How are you?” and students respond on a 7-point scale with the option to elaborate. I didn’t realize the impact of this simple question in the Spring until I got my course surveys, where so many students said I was the only one to ask them how they were doing, as a person. It was such an easy way to open lines of communication and create community when we were so frazzled and in limbo, and it struck me that it was meaningful enough to report on the overall course survey. I kept this question for the fall and it’s already the most varied response, reinforcing how important it is for us to check in on students’ well-being and offering a powerful reminder of what each student is up against in such a tumultuous time. If they don’t feel like functional humans, it’s really hard to care for them as vibrant learners. ” – Kiley Miller

Department of History

“I’m teaching an undergrad class, HIST 341, Empire, Race, Revolution: America, 1700-1815. I figured that students who sign up for face-to-face (F2F) classes will want to talk to one another and engage in lively conversations much MORE than they’ll want to hear from me, so that’s what we’re doing.  

I have 17 students in the class, which is good for class discussions, I thought I’d use our time early on in the semester to do some team-building and get them discussing big ideas about American democracy and pluralism in this class that focuses on the American Revolution.  

I’ve given only one lecture so far after three weeks; we discussed a provocative article by a Harvard historian about how to teach the “real (unvarnished, non-mythologized) history” of the American Revolution without completely demoralizing students. We also devoted an entire week to The 1619 Project, and debated its argument that we need to reorient U.S. History around 1619 rather than 1776, as well as the many spirited critiques of the project and its goals. I’m breaking them into small groups to work together reading through 18th Century primary sources—recently, they read and analyzed four ballads composed to encourage enlistment or to celebrate the British victory over France in the Seven Years’ War.  

I am devoting a week to public health and disease-fighting in the 18th Century, writing a new lecture to share with the students what I’ve learned over the summer, and to get them ready to read another primary source on the importance of military camp hygiene, nutrition, and health–something that may interest students living in dorms or fraternities in particular! 

For the first time in my career, I get the feeling that my students see thinking about the 18th Century for 75 minutes at a time is a pleasant escape from their modern worries.” – Ann Little

Ann Little
Ann Little, Professor

Music Therapy Program

Andrew Knight
Andrew Knight, Associate Professor

“Like many forms of therapy or other medical care, the students and faculty in the music therapy program have had to adjust their format.  

Typically, the students meet with a music therapist who supervises them once a week to plan a session, and then co-lead or facilitate a music therapy session that might be at a school, skilled nursing facility, in our clinic, or other community location. Music Therapy Practicum (MU 486A) was adjusted to schedule and place music therapy students with people of various ages and abilities/diagnoses to use a telehealth studio we set up in one of our clinical spaces in the University Center for the Arts. 

We have done our best to make sure the audio/music we are sending out to clients is high quality with microphones and sound mixing, and help them set up speakers and video wherever they are. We have had to shorten sessions a bit to adjust for cleaning the clinic and proper air exchange between sessions. 

We hope that 1) the clients get the services that will help them achieve their goals and objectives, 2) our students are able to reconceptualize the different ways they can use music to help other people, and 3) we help our students feel more adept using technology and using telehealth in the future, perhaps as ways to grow their own businesses by being able to offer telehealth in rural areas of the country, for example. 

The important part of music therapy is creating a connection with your clients, and technology still does inhibit that. We are going to have to work harder at that connection, and hope that when we can get back to working with people with autism, dementia, and other populations that do well with inperson music therapy but may struggle with connecting with us over telehealth, they will still have made those connections with the music that we improvised or wrote together, or songs that they remember from their youth, and we can still make progress on their treatment plans.” – Andrew Knight  

International Studies Program

“Before COVID-19 hit, the faculty who teach INST 200: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Globalization wanted to create consistency across sections and modalities (face-to face, hybrid or online). In addition, they wanted to add other components to the course, such as career and professional development content, diversity and inclusion issues, low-stake assignments instead of higher stake exams, and common course-level student learning outcomes. 

To incorporate issues of diversity, the faculty created a module on race, diversity, and inclusion to equip students to navigate our multicultural world effectively and respectfully. Part of this effort included pulling together instructor resources with readings, media resources, lectures, assignments, and toolkits. 

Prior to this semester, the course assessments included weekly reading quizzes and a final exam. Now, they have online content-focused unit quizzes and a two-part essay assignment. So far, students are having better grades in the unit quizzes. Low-stake assignments increase students’ performance, and more frequent assessments with timely feedback provides students with guidance on their learning process and inform instructors if students are mastering the objectives.” Carmen Lopez Ramirez 

Carmen Lopez Ramirez
Carmen Lopez Ramirez, Senior Instructor