Picking Up Where We Are in North Dakota

A recent history of robust grassroots statewide work on general education helped the North Dakota Faculty Collaboratives project build on experience. The organization driving these recent efforts, the North Dakota General Education Council (NDGEC), provided a natural and well-developed network through which the effort could advance. Because the NDGEC consistently brings together faculty from state, private, and tribal institutions to discuss issues related to general education, and often incorporates the work of national initiatives like LEAP, DQP, and VALUE, the North Dakota faculty fellows picked up where we were by seeking new ways to excite and engage faculty.

A Faculty Community of Practice

The result of our surveys and conversations led us to two primary findings: faculty in North Dakota value opportunities to meet face-to-face to build relationships across institutions, and they want to see the value of national initiatives in their daily work. While faculty see value in an online resource hub, they suggested we could maximize its use if it existed primarily in support of something that purposefully convenes faculty.

Based on these findings, we have laid the foundation for a faculty community of practice that will run over an academic year and focus on one of the North Dakota learning outcomes developed through the work of the NDGEC (written communication, oral communication, quantitative literacy, creative and critical thinking, and breadth of knowledge). We have recruited faculty from across the state and in a variety of disciplines to be part of the 2017–18 North Dakota Faculty Collaboratives Community of Practice.

Our primary goals for the Community of Practice are to

  • introduce and connect faculty to the DQP, VALUE rubrics, and other tools in a meaningful way;
  • guide and assist faculty in applying these tools to a project in their own courses; and
  • provide the opportunity for members of the community of practice to connect with one another and with other faculty in the state over shared interest in these outcomes and initiatives.

To meet these goals, our faculty fellows have initially provided members of the community of practice with readings and examples pertaining to a variety of tools and initiatives, and they encouraged dialogue through online discussion. The faculty will meet face-to-face at the NDGEC’s fall summit for an opportunity to build relationships and continue discussions and idea-sharing that began online. Following the summit, participants will have time to explore how they might use the tools to create or enhance a project in their own course that targets oral and/or written communication (with guidance from the faculty fellows as needed). Finally, participants will present their assignment ideas in a poster session at the NDGEC’s spring summit.

Connecting Faculty

We will also develop an online resource hub for North Dakota. The hub will assist members of the communities of practice as they familiarize themselves with national initiatives and explore tools like the DQP. Additionally, it will provide a way for us to share participants’ assignment ideas and other artifacts that are created through this process. We would also like to use the hub for communication to announce events in the state related to higher education and best practices in an effort to make more faculty aware of these opportunities. Over time this plan will help us meet our fundamental goals of connecting faculty to each other, to information, and to tools that will help them more successfully incorporate outcome-based learning and effective pedagogical strategies in their courses. The hope is that our state’s history of collaboration on issues related to general education stretch ahead into the future, with the work inspired by the Faculty Collaboratives project a key piece in building further momentum for grassroots change.

Katie Woehl, Associate Professor of Psychology, Valley City State University; and  Ryan Zerr, Director of Essential Studies and Professor of Mathematics, University of North Dakota

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