2019-2020, Issue 1 - Fall
Core Faculty Newsletter
2019-2020, Issue 1 - Fall
This academic year marks the start of the unified College of Arts & Sciences core curriculum – the culmination of a significant, multi-year effort. You are receiving this inaugural Core Faculty Newsletter because you are one of the 433 Baylor faculty teaching an impressive 938 sections for a total seat enrollment of 25,989 in the unified core curriculum this Fall 2019 semester.
This newsletter, issued three times a year, highlights resources, opportunities, and news from across Baylor’s campus that speak to the vision of the A&S core curriculum but also promote faculty development and general education more broadly. Many of you have designed or re-designed courses for this core curriculum, and will continue to improve upon these courses in the future. I encourage you to take advantage of the information on core curriculum Pedagogy, Virtues, Diversity, Common Readers, as well as opportunities for further engagement provided in each Core Faculty Newsletter.
But first, join me in recognizing our colleague Dr. Elizabeth Dell, Senior Lecturer in English, who has the honor of serving as our inaugural “Faculty Spotlight”. Each Core Faculty Newsletter will begin with a Faculty Spotlight in which we celebrate the talent of one among us and their commitment to teaching in the core curriculum.
For more information on the Arts & Sciences core curriculum, including a complete list of courses, definitions for all core virtues, as well as a Baylor password protected faculty teaching resources page visit www.baylor.edu/ascore.
Lauren Poor, Ph.D.
Director of the Core, College of Arts & Sciences
The Teaching Corner: Pedagogy and the Core
A Digest of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning for A&S Core Faculty
- Dr. Christopher Richmann, ATL Assistant Director
For all the variety in higher education instruction—subjects, disciplines, ways of organizing and assessing learning—nearly all college instructors agree that “critical thinking” skill is a desired outcome for students. The problem is, instructors are often unsure whether or how they might foster critical thinking in their students. One thing is certain: critical thinking is too important to be left to “intellectual osmosis,” writes van Gelder. Humans are not naturally critical thinkers, but rather pattern-seekers and story-tellers who usually latch on to the first explanation that is intuitively attractive. But with key insights from cognitive science, instructors can more intentionally and effectively build critical thinking skills in their students.
- First, critical thinking is hard and takes a long time to master. It is not only complex in that it is made up of many fundamental skills, but these skills “must be combined in the right way” for critical thinking to happen. (Think of the combination of skills entailed in hitting a baseball. The stance of feet, shifting of weight, eye contact on the ball, hand position on the bat, motion of the arms: all these skills are hardly helpful if they are not done in the right order and combination.) No single lesson, assignment, or course can fully “teach” critical thinking. Rather, learning experiences can contribute to the process of developing critical thinking.
- Second, critical thinking is a skill that requires practice. Like all skills, you get better at it by doing it, not by learning about it. This means, first, that students should have many opportunities throughout a class to flex their critical thinking muscles. More strategically, this requires instructors to design learning activities that gradually increase in difficulty (think of the progression from t-ball, to coach-pitch, to player-pitch) and provide timely and accurate feedback.
- Third, critical thinking does not automatically transfer to new situations. Students may display excellent critical thinking in, say, a history essay, and then fail to critically analyze data in a sociology class. Instructors must “teach for transfer,” meaning providing students opportunities to practice (and get feedback on) transferring critical thinking skills in new situations. This requires helping students articulate the abstract ideas involved in a specific critical thinking application, and then apply those ideas to a new specific situation. If the exercise remains too narrowly contextualized, students struggle with transfer.
- Fourth, critical thinking improves when students get comfortable with the “grammar” of critical thinking, especially logic. Can students distinguish evidence from conclusions? Presuppositions from arguments? Can they spot and name common fallacies? The shared language and conceptual framework provide common ground between teachers and students that makes instructor feedback easier and more productive.
- Fifth, critical thinking is easier when it is visually represented. An “argument map” can untangle the complex task of critiquing or constructing arguments. For instance, maps can use a hierarchy to show the relationships between evidence and assertion. Or, they can visually indicate the difference between types of supporting evidence (e.g., color coding for statistics, anecdotes, authorities, etc.). Through an argument map, students can reference, in a single visual, the entirety of an argument along with all its constituent elements and their relationships.
- Sixth, critical thinking is impeded by biases and blind spots. Even those who are skilled at logic can demonstrate poor critical thinking, because we all have a tendency toward “belief preservation,” that is, “us[ing] evidence to preserve our opinions rather than guide them.” We look for and over-value evidence that supports our preconceptions. We also unintentionally ignore or downplay evidence that challenges our preconceptions, and we tend to think narrowly within the confines of inherited categories. At the least, instructors can make students aware of and actively monitor these tendencies. Instructors should also challenge students to intentionally seek out evidence that contradicts beliefs.
Source: Tim van Gelder, “Teaching Critical Thinking: Some Lessons from Cognitive Science,” College Teaching 53, no. 1 (Winter, 2005): 41-46.
Virtues and the Core
The Baylor College of Arts & Sciences’ unified core curriculum seeks to “men and women acquire the knowledge, skills, and virtues needed to uncover and recognize truth, to deepen their faith, to live virtuously, to strengthen their communities, and to affect the world in transformative ways." To that end, the core curriculum aims to "inspire moral, intellectual, and spiritual virtues."
Doing so, however, requires careful reflection upon the relationship between teaching and character formation. In “Good Teaching: Character Formation and Vocational Discernment” in Vocation Across the Academy, Mark Schwehn, current senior researcher and former provost of Valparaiso from 2009-2014, explains: “[T]o carry out their own callings, educators need to ask themselves what kind of character they seek to form in their students. Character formation, since it informs all the other activities of academic life (especially teaching, scholarship, and academic citizenship), is fundamental to the academic vocation.”
Offered each May since 2001 by the Institute for Faith and Learning, Communio: A Retreat for Baylor Educators, seeks to meet this important faculty development need. The five-day retreat features guest lectures and guided discussions by noted Christian thinkers, common meals and worship, and other activities that encourage collegiality among faculty members as they explore together ways teaching can further Baylor’s Christian mission.
Last May, nineteen College of Arts and Sciences faculty attended the retreat as part of an effort to help them re-envision their courses in light of the new virtue requirement in the common core. One participant, assistant professor of history, Daniel Watkins described his Communio experience as follows:
"Communio changed the way that I approached teaching and gave me a better sense of what it means to teach for character formation than I ever had before. The guest speakers, Candice Vogler and David Smith, shared their common vision that teaching should be about transformation and not just instruction. Through discussions and activities, everyone at the retreat received new ideas on how to approach students, how to convey information effectively, and how to speak to students’ heads and hearts. Laity Lodge provided the ideal setting for our exploration of teaching and its purposes; it was serene, beautiful, and inspiring. I can’t recommend Communio enough. I’m a much better teacher, I think, now than before, and I feel more equipped to participate in our shared vision of sending compassionate, “others-centered” leaders into the world."
Communio will be held May 18-22, 2020, and Arts and Sciences faculty are warmly invited to attend. If you are interested in participating, please contact either Darin Davis at Darin_Davis@baylor.edu or Lori Kanitz at Lori_Kanitz@baylor.edu. More information about the retreat can be found at https://www.baylor.edu/ifl/index.php?id=934988.
Diversity and the Core
In Spring 2019, a number of Arts & Sciences faculty members, who are teaching courses in the Common Core, were invited to participate in a three-day Intergroup Dialogue workshop. The workshop was held on the Baylor campus and facilitated by Dr. Deidre Johnston (Hope College) and Dr. Lorna Hernandez-Jarvis (Whitford University). Participants learned methods designed to facilitate authentic communication and understanding across differences, rather than evaluating, judging, or assigning specific values and identities to each other. Among numerous exercises, A&S colleagues prepared and shared sample lessons for their students based upon the Intergroup Dialogue model. The workshop also prepared participants to help train other colleagues in Intergroup Dialogue methods.
The members of the workshop have remained in close contact. They convened for two meetings in the summer, and will meet later this fall to share the ways they are incorporating Intergroup Dialogue models into classroom teaching. If you would like to contact one of the participants of the workshop, please email Kimberly_Kellison@Baylor.edu or Liz_Palacios@Baylor.edu for a list of colleagues.
In keeping with the importance of working to understand one another’s various views and perspectives, we would like to remind you and your students of the fall lineup for the President’s Conversation on Civil Discourse:
Oct. 16: Faculty Led Roundtables with Student Leaders, 3:30-5:00 pm, Barfield Drawing Room
Oct. 28: Dr. Tim Muehlhoff and Rick Langer, 10 am, Barfield Drawing Room
Nov. 15: Dr. Robert George and Dr. Cornel West, 1:30-3:30 pm, Waco Hall
For faculty resources you may also go to the Diversity & Inclusion webpage.
This fall, the collaborative efforts of Baylor’s Department of Religion, the George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Tyndale House Publishers, and Baylor University Press culminate in a landmark annotated study Bible that features nearly seventy Baylor-affiliated scholars. Intended for Baylor’s own student population, Baptists at other universities, and Christians at large, the Baylor Annotated Study Bible serves as a resource to equip readers to understand the word of God in all its fullness. Students in REL 1310 and in thirteen sections of BIC’s World Cultures are using the Bible as a textbook this semester. It is the Press’ hope to place the Baylor Annotated Study Bible in the hands of every incoming freshman to use throughout his or her time at Baylor and beyond. Christian study does not end at graduation, and we anticipate that this Bible will support each reader in living in continuous engagement with the Holy Scriptures.
“It has been a pleasure, honor, and labor of love for me to work with Baylor University Press, Tyndale House Publishers, co-editor W. H. Bellinger Jr., and friends and colleagues near and far in producing the Baylor Annotated Study Bible. My sincere, steadfast hope is that this collaborative effort will enable people—not least Baylor students and supporters—to read the Bible with greater understanding and insight. What is more, I trust that habitual use of this Bible will foster a deeper appreciation for and greater commitment to sacred Scripture.”
—Todd D. Still, Charles J. and Eleanor McLerran DeLancey Dean and William M. Hinson Professor of Christian Scriptures, George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University
“The scope and significance of the Baylor Annotated Study Bible is immense—students will find within its pages a treasure trove of useful tools and aids for reading and understanding the Scriptures.”
—David Aycock, Interim Director, Baylor University Press
This fall the Common Core Readers Initiative begins the initial phase of the common readers for ENG 2310: American Literary Cultures and HIS 1300: United States in Global Perspective. Content for the readers will be hosted on Canvas this fall and spring, and co-editors Julie deGraffenried and Stephen Sloan (history) and Elizabeth Dell and Joe Fulton (English) will solicit feedback from their departments over the course of the fall semester. The readers will appear in print form for the 2020–2021 academic year.
If you have an interest in developing a textbook or reader, please contact Baylor University Press Interim Director David Aycock at David_Aycock@baylor.edu.
Opportunities for Engagement
- October 16, 2019 - President’s Conversation on Civil Discourse: Faculty-Led Roundtables with Student Leaders, 3:30-5:00pm, Barfield Drawing Room
- October 28, 2019 - President’s Conversation on Civil Discourse: Dr. Tim Muehlhoff and Rick Langer, 10:00am, Barfield Drawing Room.
- November 15, 2019 - President’s Conversation on Civil Discourse: Dr. Robert George and Dr. Cornel West, 1:30-3:30pm, Waco Hall.
- November 25, 2019 - Core Course Submission Fall Submission deadline for consideration by the CCAC.
- February 3, 2020 - Core Course Submissions Final Deadline for consideration in the 2020-2021 catalog.
- May 18-22, 2020 - If interested in Communio, contact either Darin Davis at Darin_Davis@baylor.edu or Lori Kanitz at Lori_Kanitz@baylor.edu. More information about the retreat can be found at https://www.baylor.edu/ifl/index.php?id=934988.
- Developing a textbook or reader. If interested, please contact Baylor University Press Interim Director David Aycock at David_Aycock@baylor.edu.
- Proposals for Cultural Events Experiences (CEE’s) 2019-2020 academic year are reviewed and accepted on a rolling basis. More Information