Dr. Joanne Stewart, professor of chemistry at Hope College, is one of only 21 college and university faculty nationwide named a Carnegie Scholar for 2005-06 by the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CASTL).
Through support from the program, she will develop a course at the college that will be intended to provide not only lessons for students to learn, but also insights for her to share with colleagues nationwide concerning how they learn. The Carnegie recognition even provides for opportunities to get together with the other scholars and compare notes.
Stewart is working on the project with Dr. Tricia Ferrett, who is a member of the faculty at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., and has also been named one of the 2005-06 Carnegie Scholars. Together they are developing a general education course focused on climate change. The course will be offered at both institutions, debuting at Hope in the spring of 2006.
Stewart and Ferrett have chosen the topic of climate change because it offers no simple answers and draws on a variety of disciplines - just the sort of real-life situation for which they'd like to help students prepare.
"Current problems in society are very complex and often involve a component of science and technology, and they require us to approach them from a variety of perspectives," Stewart said. "What we're trying to do is to help students be able to integrate knowledge from several different disciplines and combine that with their own set of values to be able to address complex problems."
The lessons will include the reality that the disciplines not only have different insights to contribute, but also process information in different ways.
"Different disciplines have rules about what counts as valid data and what interpretations are acceptable," Stewart said. "One of the things we want to test is whether or not being explicit about how the different disciplines come to know something will help students to be able to integrate these different perspectives."
Stewart and Ferrett are basing their approach on theories of student learning that see understanding as a progression that ultimately should involve the ability to commit to a perspective on complex issues based on a combination of knowledge and one's personal values. Their activity as Carnegie Scholars will prominently include sharing how well their course design helps their students reach that ability.
Stewart has been a member of the Hope faculty since 1988. She and Ferrett have been collaborating for about 10 years, beginning as participants in a National Science Foundation-funded consortium focused on developing modules for introductory college chemistry courses. Two years ago, Stewart spent a year-long sabbatical in the science studies program at the University of California, San Diego. More recently, she became director of integrative studies in the sciences for Hope's new Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) program, which focuses on developing opportunities for interdisciplinary research and teaching/learning for Hope faculty and students, including the development of new interdisciplinary minors in neuroscience and computational science and modeling.
CASTL was created by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in 1998 to establish and refine standards for the critical review of teaching and learning by faculty members in college and university classrooms. CASTL also helps to establish new settings and forms for the examination of teaching and learning so that faculty members can exchange information and build upon the work of their colleagues.
The 21 Carnegie Scholars chosen for the 2005-06 academic year will be working on projects that explore the integration of learning across courses, over time, and between campus and community life. The overall focus is on helping students make connections within their education and develop the habits of the mind that prepare them to make informed judgments in their personal, professional and civic lives. Carnegie is working on the particular dimension of learning with the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and with the Wabash Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts, a co-sponsor of the Carnegie Scholars Program.
The 2005-06 Carnegie Scholars will participate in three residencies at the Foundation's headquarters in Stanford, Calif., and present their work at professional conferences, attend workshops and institutes and work with Carnegie Scholars from previous years.
Founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1905 and chartered in 1906 by an act of Congress, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is an independent policy and research center with a primary mission "to do and perform all things necessary to encourage, uphold, and dignify the profession of the teacher and the cause of higher education." The improvement of teaching and learning is central to all of the work of the foundation.