APTF: Consultation with Engineering and Applied Science Faculty Board Scheduled for 16 March 2011

Academic Planning Task Force (APTF) Notice, posted on 9 March 2011:

Senate Academic Planning Task Force
Engineering and Applied Science Faculty Board
March 16, 2011, ~3:30 to 5:00 p.m.

340 Richardson

In developing a framework for the Academic Plan, we have spent considerable time discussing the University’s primary academic mission of teaching and research. We have looked at the student learning experience and see it as supported by four pillars, as articulated on our website: http://www.queensu.ca/saptf/

I. Fundamental Academic Literacy

We use this term to embrace a variety of skills: general communication, writing, reading with discipline-specific comprehension, inquiry, investigation, problem- solving, and critical thinking. We feel that focusing resources on academic literacy should be a priority, since these skills determine the capacity of our students to learn and to prepare for global citizenship.

II. Disciplinarity and Interdisciplinarity

Disciplinarity refers to expertise in a discipline including the capacities to obtain, analyze, and employ specialized knowledge.

We use interdisciplinarity to describe the experience of investigating “big ideas” or problems that rely on contributions from several disciplines and that are taught or mentored in a collaborative manner. We suggest that all our undergraduate students should have significant interdisciplinary experiences at Queen’s.

III. Global Citizenship

As a research-intensive university with strong undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools, Queen’s has a responsibility to provide educational and research programs that contribute to educating students for life in a global society. When we invoke the term “global citizenship,” we think of students who have benefited from a liberal education and who are aware both of their rights as individuals and of their collective responsibilities. A Queen’s education should impart to students an understanding of their implication in a culturally, economically, and politically ever- changing world and empower them to participate in it in an informed and responsible manner.

IV. Community and Student Wellness
One of our greatest academic resources is our exceptional student community. The strength and vitality of this community provide a critical boost for the work of both student and professor. Key components of this are:

  • student health, safety, and mental well-being
  • a symbiosis of academic and extra-curricular involvement
  • a globally-aware, inclusive, and diverse campus

Our view is that the fundamentals of Pillar 1 (reading, writing, inquiry, critical thinking) are of critical importance in the learning process and should be a high priority in first and second years. Even though they would be taught in discipline-specific contexts, their inclusion in first-year curricula would be at the cost of covering other new materials. Our hope is that any such shortfall would be more than made up once the students had mastered these learning skills.

Topics for Discussion
We would like to know whether a first-year experience with a strong focus on academic literacy (requiring that students have time to write and investigate) would allow enough material to be covered in first year to satisfy the upper-year instructors.

We are mindful of the creative tension that can result from the need to give our students a specialist focus, and at the same time provide them with the critical interdisciplinary and global experiences of Pillars II and III. We would like to know the views of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science on these matters.

Are there other ways that Queen’s could restructure the delivery of teaching that would enhance student learning outcomes?

In Where Next? Principal Woolf suggests that Queen’s may have to do “less with less.” What, in your view, could Queen’s do less of?

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