2012 Wintersession Project

The BOW Three College Collaboration sponsored a 2-week wintersession program on the topic of Pedagogy and Learning for students from Babson, Olin, and Wellesley. Twelve students took part, three from each college, including one student coordinator from each school. The participants were selected on the basis of a short application in which they indicated their reasons for wanting to work with colleagues from the other schools. The program was supported by all three colleges, with Babson providing housing and transport, Olin food and classroom space, Wellesley stipends for the student coordinators.

Faculty from across the colleges met with the students at lunch each day, either to lead discussions or to act as resources for the student projects. Among the topics of discussion and research were: the goals of education; the value of textbook-based learning in a modern society where information is freely available; adaptive expertise; education in the BRIC economies (Brazil, Russia, India and China); the value of survey courses; and how we measure intelligence.

After initial explorations the students formed two working groups; one group focused on traditional research methods and processes, and the second group used the UOCD (User Oriented Collaborative Design) process, characteristic of many Olin classes, to examine the culture and academic approaches at the three schools.

In their own words, “We all came with a wide variety of interests, and different methods for approaching problem solving, but in the end we were able to come together and learn from one another, as well as brainstorming ways to improve the overall academic and social experiences for students at each of the three schools, while increasing collaboration and cross-campus opportunities. “ They developed several ideas for increasing communication among campuses and particularly for increasing participation in curricular and co-curricular activities. More important than their actual suggestions was the process of learning to work together in teams with very diverse attitudes and approaches. They documented the process and are ready to share their insights with other members of the communities.

The students presented some of their ideas to a group of faculty who participated in a day-long workshop on curriculum and pedagogy on January 14th. Over 60 faculty members came to the event, hosted by Babson and supported with funding from both Olin and Wellesley. In advance of the workshop, faculty members responded to a questionnaire about difficult concepts in their disciplines and how they know that they are effective in teaching. Their answer were incorporated into the keynote address by Kathy Takayama, director of the Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning at Brown University. Following her talk, faculty broke into small groups for open-ended discussions about teaching and what we might learn from one another across institutions. A second set of small group discussions focused on specific topics: Introductory science courses; The Arts; Mathematics; and Grand Challenges/Millennial Challenges and the curriculum. These discussions were all documented and have already led to several ideas for courses, research collaborations, grant proposals, and Three-College programming.