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Faculty Will Explore Ways to Apply Cognitive Science Principles in the Classroom

Published: January 25, 2016

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Four projects, led by 16 faculty members from four ACM colleges, were awarded FaCE grants in the program’s fall 2015 funding cycle. All of the projects aim to facilitate understanding of cognitive science principles on ACM campuses and help faculty incorporate those principles into their teaching methods and courses.

The grants, totaling $44,000, went to interdisciplinary groups of professors from Coe, Lake Forest, Ripon, and St. Olaf Colleges. As the projects unfold, the leaders’ efforts will benefit larger numbers of faculty at each college by sharing course modules and curricula, leading faculty development workshops, and organizing faculty working groups, presentations, and meetings.

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Funding for innovative, collaborative projects by faculty at ACM colleges.

Pre-proposal deadline:

February 19

Through faculty working groups at Lake Forest and an incubator at St. Olaf, two of the projects will use cognitive science as an avenue to encourage faculty engagement with interdisciplinary teaching and research. The faculty leading the projects at Ripon and Coe seek to develop new curricula based on cognitive science principles for courses that all of their students take — the liberal arts problem seminar (LAPS) and the First Year Seminar (FYS) program, respectively.

"There was clearly a lot of interest among faculty across the consortium in this funding cycle," said Brian Williams, ACM Vice President and Director of Faculty Development and Grant Programs. "That made for a very competitive selection process, with only four projects funded out of a strong field of 11 pre-proposals submitted."

The grant funds come from the Faculty Career Enhancement (FaCE) Program, which is supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and designed to foster collaborative projects among faculty and staff at ACM colleges.

FaCE grants are awarded in fall and spring funding cycles each academic year. To help prompt project ideas and facilitate networking among faculty, the program organizes an annual fall conference on a theme of interest across the consortium. The conference in October 2015 on this year's theme of Cognitive Science and the Liberal Arts drew three dozen faculty members, many of whom submitted pre-proposals during the just-completed funding cycle.

"As it turned out, the four projects selected to receive funding in this cycle were related to the 2015-16 FaCE theme of cognitive science, so the conference was successful in stimulating ideas for faculty projects," Williams noted. "Still, the steering committee wants to ensure that all ACM faculty are aware that it welcomes proposals on any topic, as long as the projects are innovative and engage faculty across disciplines or campuses."

See the spring 2016 FaCE Call for Pre-Proposals for complete details about applying for a grant. The deadline for submissions is February 19, 2016.

Projects funded in the FaCE fall 2015 cycle

Project leaders from Coe College: Katie Rogers (sociology), Theresa Donofrio (communications studies), and Steve Singleton (chemistry)
Grant amount: $10,000
Drawing on teaching approaches based on cognitive science principles, project leaders will develop modules for an interdisciplinary, team-taught section of Coe's First Year Seminar and make the completed modules available to other faculty to use in their courses.

Project leaders from Lake Forest College: Ann M. Roberts (art history) and Susan M. Long (psychology)
Grant amount: $6,000
The project leaders will lead an interdisciplinary working group of colleagues from six other departments on campus to study, discuss, and pilot cognitive science techniques in their classrooms over the next year. The project will culminate in a faculty development workshop particularly aimed at new and junior faculty.

Project leaders from Ripon College: Kristine Kovack-Lesh (psychology), Travis Nygard (art), Joshua Filler (philosophy), Steve Martin (communication), and Mark Kainz (biology)
Grant amount: $15,012
Cognitive science research suggests students have difficulty using skills developed within a discipline to address problems in a different context ("transfer"). Studies also show that transfer is improved when students explicitly link learning expectations across courses (metacognition) and intentionally apply skills to open-ended problems (meaningful learning). The project leaders will build their expertise in using cognitive science-based strategies to improve transfer, metacognition, and meaningful learning, and then help faculty colleagues develop seminars for the college’s Core Curriculum that effectively increase students' skill-transfer.

Project leaders from St. Olaf College: Jeremy Loebach (psychology), Jessica Petok (psychology), Christopher Chapp (political science), David Castro (music), Louis Epstein (music), and Jason Marsh (philosophy)
Grant amount: $13,020
The project leaders will establish an incubator at St. Olaf focusing on the research methods of cognitive science which will facilitate a series of meetings in summer 2016 for faculty to discuss readings, write and revise course proposals, and create resources to support future interdisciplinary work around cognitive science. Follow-up meetings and presentations in academic year 2016-17 will support participating faculty as they reflect on and disseminate their work.


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