Increasing Student Engagement with Negotiated Curriculum at Florida Gulf Coast University

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Brenda Thomas, Director of the University Colloquium Program at Florida Gulf Coast University joined the podcast to talk about negotiating course curriculum with our students, and the incredible engagement power of getting that student buy-in up-front.

So negotiate curriculum. The ideabehind it is to give students agency to give them autonomy in the classroom. You're listening to enrolment growth,university from helics education, the best professional development podcastfor higher education leaders looking to grow in Romant at their college oruniversity, whether you're looking for fresh and Roman growth techniques andstrategies or tools and resources. You've come to the right place. Let'sget into the show, welcome back to Enroman GrowthUniversity, a proud member of the connect Edu podcast network, I'm EricWolson with heelics education and we're here today with Brenda Thomas Directorof the University Colloquium Program at Florida, Gulf Coast University. Brendawelcome to the show. Thank you good to be here really excited to talk with youtoday about negotiating course curriculum with our students. Before wedig in, can you get the listeners a...

...little bit better understanding of bothFlorida Gulf coast and your role there yeah? So I am the director of theUniversity Colloquium Program at Florida. Gulf coast, university,university coloquium is an innerdisciplineary introduction tosustainability. That is a graduation requirement, so every baccalariastudent that passes through GCU is required to take this introduction tosustainability. That's something that', that's pretty unique in academia andsomething that was put into place when the university opened its doors in onethousand nine hundred and ninety seven. So it has been baked right into our DNAfrom the very beginning, love it Brenda to kick us off today. Can you just giveus a high level overview on your negotiated curriculum experiment withyour students and the original goals behind it? Yeah so negotiatedcurriculum. The idea behind it is to...

...give students agency to give themautonomy in the classroom, so you were giving them ownership of whatevercomponent of the curriculum. It is that you can allow them to negotiatethemselves. My goal in doing so was to create buyin to increase theirengagement. COLLOUIUM is it's an graduation raquirement and, as such,students come into it with some level of resistance anyway, in the way that Iresisted, you know economics and in Socia, when I was doing a bachelor'sdegree. So this is a way to overcome that, in addition, because most becauseit's an interdust interdisciplinary course most of the students who aresitting in the classroom are not environmental studies majors and formost students when they think sustainability, they thinkenvironmental sustainabilitie. So they...

...don't see themselves incourse so anyway,that I can increase engagement to break down that resistance and the barrierthat they come into the class with the better off I'm going to be so. I think,when I first heard about this, and maybe others listening right now- maybecurious about how do you maintain academic governance as a professor,while making sure you still get the student by in upfront regarding therelevancy of the course content for them yeah? So it's not a freeforalthey're, not just picking and choosing. You know randomly out of midair the waythat I set the course up. I introduce the concept to them on day. One andthey're a little bit sceptical about how this is going to Lo wost of them.You know they have never seen anything like this in a classroom before they'reaccustomed to walking in on the first day and the syllabust is set and theschedule is set, and this is what we're...

...going to do. So. What I do is give themover the first four or five weeks, the background information that I feel likethey need to understand, sustainability, what it is, what it isn't, the historyof the environmental movement and how that has morphed into what we now thinkof, as sustainability broadly defined and and to include people andprosperity as well as planet. So once I've given them that backgroundinformation, then we have a planning day and the way that I've framed itwith my students was okay. Here are the things that I think are important andtha the things that your textbook covers and the things that I have someability to speak intelligently too, but that doesn't mean you have to staywithin these constraints. If you rely on me to pick course content, it'syou're going to get an environmental...

...focus because that's my background becompy, but I want them to think about again. It's an innerdisciplinary course.I want them to think about their interests, their majors, their careers,their disciplines and find the things that are related to sustainability toapply to them. So they are given some constraints, but within thoseconstraints they have, they have a great deal of freedom. So the firstsemester that I did this, which was fall of this past academic year, thestudents they selected, what they wanted. The broad topics, as well assome specific questions within each topic, and then they came up with aschedule for the last. However, many what ten weeks or so of the semester,they came up with the schedule of how they wanted to m when they wanted toaddress those things. In all honesty, the topics that they picked were notany different than the topics that I would have picked. The difference wasthey didn't know that...

...they didn't need to know that all theyneeded to know was that they had the ability to pick those topics when I didit in the spring. However, the makeup of the class, the chemistry of theclass, was completely different. It was by far one of the most engaged classesI've ever had and they pick things that were all over the place that related tosustainability, but things that I had no not enough background that I couldspeak intelligently to and so ould warn them. If you pick outside of the thingsthat I have a decent knowledge about, you guys are going to have to help mefiguring out what to do with thus, and they didn't hesitate. They took me in adirection in several directions that I never would have done on my own. I lovethe constraints that you set up, even when you framed it. That way. Did younotice that your spring term required a...

...heaver lift on your end, since thecurriculum was slightly out of your wheelhouse yeah, there was definitely abit of a heavier well. Okay. So doing this requires somewhat of a heavierlift. Anyway, I tend to be a control freak and I am Typea- and I typicallyhave my my course up in my learning management system and everything isplanned out from the very beginning. So it's a little bit terrifying to only beable to plan like the first four or five weeks of the semester and thenjust to wait and let them plan out the rest of it. The second semester, thespring semester, yeah. There was definitely more of a learning curve forme because I was I was having to cover things and plan for things that Ididn't necessarily have a foundation of information for. Well, unfortunately,the COVID nineteen pandemic. The coronavirus pandemic, really threw awrench into things in that some of the topics that I was really excited about,covering with them because they were...

...going to be teaching me. Essentially,we had to shift gears and those topics were still covered, but in a verydifferent way than what they would have been if we had been sitting in theclassroom. So yes, spring is a really tough litmiss. When you think back tolastball what kinds of student engagement improvement, did you see asa result of this approach? So this is a research project. It's a Soda Project,a scholarship of teaching and learning, and I collected data on student engagement,both semesters. I conducted a survey on the first day of class after ourplanning day and then the last day of class and it's the agentic engagementscale. It's a validated survey, that's in the literature and it assessesstudent engagement, ind, specifically agentic engagement, so engagementrelated to student, autonomy and...

...student agency, and I haven't crunchednumbers. Yet I haven't analyzed that data, but, looking at it superficially,engagement, definitely improved the feedback that I got in our end ofSemester, survey that the university initiates every at the end of everysemester that anecdotal evidence from students was very, very positive andexactly the kinds of things that I had hoped for this. This made me moreengaged. I wanted to learn about the topics it made me want to come to classbecause we were learning things that I chose. Some of them talked aboutimproving their skills in working with peers and peers that were outside oftheir majors. So I was really really pleased with the preliminary feedbackthat I've gotten and that students really did feel like it was improvingtheir engagement in the material. It's such exciting early results in atremendous initiative that you're...

...leading there. Finally, any next stepsadvice for potentially other type of faculty, like yourself, excited aboutthe possibility of increasing student engagement in their classroom, slightlynervous about the lift required to do so. Where should they start first, youknow it doesn't have to be the entire curriculum. It can be smaller steps,and I think some courses probably lend themselves better to those. So you knowan introduction to sustainability. Sustainability is such a broad topicthat can be covered and there's so many different perspectives that you canbring into the course. So this seemed like the perfect course to incorporatethis kind of a pedagog. You know a mathematics class or something.Obviously, you don't want students to be able to to negotiate whether they'redoing those kinds of things, but I think there ar still other ways thatyou can include negotiation. I taught a...

...tree rings in the environment class inthe spring, a dender chronology. We were doing treevring analysis and therewas a lot of that curriculum that I didn't feel that students couldnegotiate, but it gave them other things that they could negotiate withme. So we were analyzing processing and analyzing tree Corse, and so I was ableto give them some flexibility ind. What their final lab report related to thosetreecorps was. Do you want it to take this format or that format do you wantto? We were talking about doing some actual tree coring, so collectingcourese of their own, rather than just using course that I had alreadyprocessed. Do you want to do that this way? Or do you want to do it that way?With my spring clloqium section, one of the things that I added in the springwas that they negotiated their writing assignment. So it's a writing intense.Of course they have to do some essay,...

...and so I gave them the ability tonegotiate what that looked like. Let's talk about it here, the CLITERIA. Thisis the purpose for this assessment. This is what I wan this assessment toaccomplish. Now. What do you think that assessment could look like should looklike that still helps me to move you toward these student learning outcomes,so it doesn't have to be the entire curriculum. I think there are lots ofways that you can incorporate negotiation in small ways that still itcreates relationship with your students. It shows them that you respect them,that you believe that they are able to contribute to your own learning, and Ithink that can be done in small ways as well as allowing them to to negotiatean entire Brenda. It's such great stuff thanks somuch for your time and your brain today, what's the best place for listeners toconnect with you if they have any follow up questions, so the easiest wayto get ahold of me is my university...

...email and that's B, Thomas th omas atfgcu Dot Edou, that's the most reliable way to get a hold of me awesome thanksagainst so much for joining us today. Brenda you are welcome, thanks for theopportunity attracting today's new post, traditional learners means adopting newenromant strategies. Keelics educations data driven enterprise, wide approachto enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universitiesthrive in this new education, landscape and Helex has just published the secondedition of their enrollment growth playbook, with fifty percent brand newcontent on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enromant growthchallenges download it today for free at Heloks, Educationcom playbook you've been listening to enromentgrowth university from helicks education to ensure that you never missan episode subscribe to the show in...

Itunes or your favorite podcast player.Thank you so much for listening until next time.

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