FIPSE Great Books Project
Second-Year Report Narrative
Prof. Bruce Gans
Wilbur Wright College
This report concerns the progress made during the second year of a three-year FIPSE Great Books Project. We are able to report that we have done well in meeting our objectives for this period and have good grounds for confidence that next year at the project’s conclusion the grant’s primary goals will have been achieved.
Of these goals, the initial one of documenting the value of a Great Books Curriculum for minority and nontraditional students through a variety of assessment studies was accomplished as promised in the grant’s first year. During this second year of work, we succeeded in getting on track our next goal of establishing Great Books Curricula at partner institution community colleges throughout the United States that promise to raise the academic skill levels of their minority and nontraditional students, and to have in place the tools and strategies to effectively assess these programs on an ongoing basis.
As part of this effort, the five partner institutions have made important concrete strides this year to reach the related goal of insuring that these newly established Great Books Curricula will be fully integrated into the core curricula in such a way as to enjoy ongoing institutional support.
At this writing, we are also on the road to a last goal of disseminating Great Books pedagogy from this FIPSE project so as to have a wide and ongoing impact nationally beyond the life of the project through a consortium-created National Great Books web site. This venue would present its research and resources in order to educate, encourage, and serve similar institutions across the United States.
It will interest FIPSE to learn that during this second year of the grant there have been some notable successes in dissemination. These include a successful presentation at the annual FIPSE directors’ meeting, where staff statistician Professor Lidia Dobria of Wright College, project evaluator Professor Herman Sinaiko of the University of Chicago, and project director Bruce Gans disseminated the results of their first-year CAAP and Palmer-Gardner commissioned studies, which documented the academic gains in objective skill measurements made by minority and nontraditional students at Wright College, as well as improvements in reported intangible factors such as greater academic self-confidence, sense of achievement, satisfaction, and involvement with college work.
Moreover, through the efforts of Professor Gans and Professor Celeste Barber, the partner liaison at Santa Barbara Community College, this National Great Books Project received major write-ups in professional academic association newsletters published by the National Association of Scholars and the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics. These latter publications occurred a few days prior to the due date of this performance narrative, so the rewards of this recognition lay in the future.
Challenges and Responses
The activities for the second year of the grant can be divided into two parts. One was to follow up on the assessment work undertaken in the first year of the grant concerning the Wright College Great Books Curriculum. The second activity was for the five partner institutions which had agreed to establish Great Books Curricula to now start taking concrete steps to do so.
In the latter arena - the establishment of the five new Great Books Curricula - the greatest strength is clearly the dedication and conscientiousness of each of the partner liaisons. In all cases they have persevered with admirable determination and resourcefulness in an environment where they chose to serve their students, colleagues, and institutions as underappreciated pedagogical pioneers. They have done well in meeting the sometimes thankless and occasionally discouraging challenges of working with administrative bodies from whom they must obtain cooperation for a new program that involves new and additional administrative procedures. These same kinds of frustrations inevitably also attended having had to learn on the fly how to create a local Great Books Curriculum that resembled in many basics the model program at Wright College, while adapting it to the preferences and strengths of their own institution. The liaisons have also had to act as ambassadors, salesmen, and complaint departments among their faculty concerning the Great Books pedagogy itself, which has in the recent past been widely and shamefully made the object of irrational prejudice. The partner liaisons have also had to take on, in many cases for the first time, roles that may not come naturally to them such as that of publicist, administrator, assessment officer, budget planner, and supervisor. And they did this while serving in a community college setting which overburdens its faculty with classloads, paper grading loads, and routine committee work and meetings.
As will be seen below, in the reports submitted by the individual partner liaisons, the biggest challenge the project has faced seems to be coming from their fellow faculty members. In the cases of Oakton College and Harold Washington College, for example, a number of faculty who initially expressed enthusiasm for the project have subsequently withdrawn from participation for reasons ranging from deciding that the Great Books are politically incorrect or because their understanding of the amount of work required to teach a Great Books course struck them as too demanding. In Santa Barbara College, it appears that some of this resistance is beginning to be overcome, but participation is still basically centered in the English Department. At Arapahoe College, department heads are resistant to the introduction of all the Great Books the college’s faculty are interested in teaching.
The problems encountered at the partner institutions, it must be added, are all those which have previously been encountered and overcome at Wright College, the model for the partners’ endeavors. This means that there exists in the project director, Professor Bruce Gans, and his staff a resource which can be mobilized in an effort to remediate some of the obstacles the liaisons face in launching their programs successfully. Hence, the project director along with his staff will make the resolution of these problems a top priority. It should be observed here that to some degree, inexperience in the dynamics of setting up a network of new local community college academic programs was, in this first year of inaugurating the five new programs, a contributing factor to the existing challenges. Specifically, during the first year of the project, the value of regular meetings between the staffs of Wright and the other colleges’ personnel where physically feasible, such as in the cases of Oakton and Harold Washington, was greatly underestimated. Also underestimated was the value of regularly submitted progress reports - either by phone or by e-mail - by the other faculty liaisons at Arapahoe, Santa Barbara, and Henry Ford.
In the coming academic year, therefore, it is expected that the Wright staff will begin a regimen of monthly meetings with both Oakton and Washington to which those colleges’ administrators and faculty will be invited. Special extra consultations and meetings will also be arranged on an as-needed basis. Cosponsored events will be encouraged. Beyond this, it is expected that there will be two national meetings, one in the fall and one in the spring, in which faculty from the various participating campuses can gain the benefits of the community and shared concerns pointed out elsewhere in this report.
The Great Books Project as a whole encountered another major challenge which stemmed from a source that could not have been anticipated or avoided and which in its origins had no direct connection to the project. Over the past year, serious and prolonged labor conflicts affected three of the six colleges involved in the FIPSE project.
The most serious one was a three-week teachers’ strike, the first in twenty-six years at the City Colleges of Chicago, that affected Wright College and Harold Washington College. A second form of labor strife in the form of protracted and antagonistic contract negotiations, though it did not result in a strike, also affected a third partner project’s faculty, that of Oakton College.
Part of the problem caused by the strike in Chicago was that it began the very week that the Great Books FIPSE Project had scheduled a national meeting of partner liaison faculty and administrators that had been planned months earlier. The main purpose of the meeting was to make sure that every institution involved in the project understood the concrete steps they needed to take to establish viable Great Books Curricula, the deadlines they should be setting, the benchmarks against which their work was to be measured, and so on. The second purpose was to answer questions and concerns and to gain any insights and creative ideas the partner institutions’ personnel had to contribute.
It should also be noted that there is a powerful and essential by-product of such meetings, especially when attempting to coordinate and maximize the efforts of disparate faculty from around the country. Face-to-face meetings and interactions where enthusiasms and problems can be exchanged help to establish relationships, promote collaboration and networking, and endow the overall project with a human face and a sense of community in which each participant is a vital and valued member.
This factor cannot be underestimated when attempting to create and maintain a high level of commitment, motivation, and shared vision among widely separated institutions, five of which contain faculty who have never experienced such a program before or participated in one. Such meetings are also great time-savers, for at them any number of misconceptions can be erased before they are translated into work done incorrectly or not at all.
As a consequence of the strike, while Wright College Professor Bruce Gans chaired the national meeting, his colleagues who were scheduled to meet with the faculty from other partner institutions and share with them their own experiences with Great Books, were absent and picketing. The problems posed to the Wright program by the strike were not conceptual, because the staff has been teaching Great Books in the classroom for years. Rather, the problem came from a physical and psychological break from the program that the strike produced. Involvement in normal activities and new Great Books initiatives ceased not only during the strike but for some previously deeply involved faculty for most of the rest of the academic year. One example would be that six faculty from Wright and Harold Washington were scheduled to present their own classroom designs in a panel entitled Innovative Great Books Pedagogy, whose purpose was to inspire and provide models for the other five partner institutions while providing the presenters with a sense of recognition and accomplishment they had earned. The panel never was presented.
A more serious difficulty was caused by the absence of the Harold Washington liaison, Professor John Hader, who was also picketing. His absence meant that Harold Washington College did not have the opportunity to review what the project called for and participate in a discussion with his fellow liaisons where concerns could have been addressed and creative contributions made. And, of course, the information he did not exchange and receive could not be passed along to his faculty who are involved in creating a Harold Washington Great Books Curriculum.
Unfortunately, the aftermath of the strike also had deleterious effects. For in the immediate aftermath, Harold Washington faculty were inevitably preoccupied with attempting to salvage the regular academic semester, and not with catching up with what they missed at the meeting.
Moreover, as is typical with strikes, its aftermath produced a returning workforce that was physically exhausted, demoralized, and alienated and angry at the institution that in the workers’ view provoked the walkout and in the process demonstrated hostility toward the teachers and indifference toward their professional contributions. This was the case with Wright College and Harold Washington College. Thus, what had been up until then a highly enthusiastic faculty at Harold Washington College became immediately after the strike, according to Professor Hader, one that was one much less so. As a result of conflictual contract negotiations at Oakton, though these did not result in a strike, Professor Marian Staats reported a similar loss of enthusiasm.
Nor, unfortunately, did the labor conflict and its negative consequences end a few weeks after the labor settlement. The Central Administration of the City Colleges of Chicago, by refusing to rehire emeritus adjunct professors who had honored the picket line, was seen by system faculty as having violated the "no reprisals" clause in the settlement contract, and in response the faculty at Wright and Harold Washington Colleges generally withdrew from all voluntary extra classroom activity. For most of the spring semester, therefore, widespread and active participation in Great Books Curricula activities was down.
This boycott is now over, however, and according to Harold Washington faculty liaison John Hader and Oakton liaison Marian Staats, it is hoped and expected that with the advent of the fall semester, faculty involvement will slowly build at Harold Washington and Oakton Colleges to the status quo ante.
Another source of challenges encountered was administrative in nature. Specifically, Arapahoe College and Santa Barbara College underwent struggles with their registrars concerning the tagging of Great Books classes in course schedules and in permanent records. This tagging is a necessity for enabling students to identify and sign up for Great Books courses and to track student records for purposes of assessment studies and certification of program completion on transcripts. The problem was due to this being a new procedure which required extra steps to be taken by the registrar’s office and in the composition of course schedules. While these things were finally accomplished, the problem of automatically having a Great Books Curriculum completion certification placed on student transcripts has nowhere been solved, and students must ask for a hand stamp when requesting copies of transcripts.
Having discussed the challenges, let us now turn to what was accomplished in the face of them. We shall start with a report on the second year’s assessment activities at Wright College.
As we have noted in the past year’s report, the CAAP studies of the Wright College Great Books Curriculum revealed significant gains by minority and nontraditional students who took at least four Great Books courses.
Having thereby established the value of the pedagogy at Wright, the concern next became to increase the likelihood of replicating these gains at the five partner institutions that were starting the process of establishing their own Great Books Curricula. To do this, FIPSE Program Officer Dr. Bette Dow asked that the Wright College Great Books Curriculum, in the second year of the project, go beyond its reliance on a common core reading list as a primary means of eliciting academic gains among minority and nontraditional students. The project would attempt to evolve strategies and methods that would make the curriculum more effective by encouraging it to evolve pedagogically; these strategies would also serve as a model for the five partner institutions, thus reducing the inevitable range of variables encountered when a common core of readings is implemented at five different institutions.
Hence the Wright College faculty embarked upon a series of meetings with a facilitator to evolve a formal series of academic goals and some means to collaborate in meeting them and assessing the progress therein. While pursuing this, the Wright College Great Books Curriculum faculty also attempted to follow up on the issues uncovered during assessment activities by the consultant-evaluators James Palmer and Diane Gardner of Illinois State University. These issues mainly concerned the occasional ignorance or confusion on the part of students in the Great Books Curriculum about its scope and existence. (Assessment studies established that Wright students gained significantly in academic skills whether or not they were thoroughly conversant about the program, but self-evidently, the greater the students’ knowledge about the program, the greater their opportunity to pursue and profit from it.) One short-term solution will be the printing and mass distribution of brochures explaining the Great Books Curricula, which instructors will be asked to review with students on the first day of classes.
An important ancillary goal of the second year’s assessment activities was to provide two models for the five partner institutions. One, of course, would be the academic goals and norms the Wright College faculty evolved. But the other was a model of ongoing, voluntary, and institutionalized self-assessment itself. Hence a video record was made of one such meeting, which will ultimately be placed on the national web site that will house the FIPSE project’s work.
To communicate an overview of what was accomplished in the self-assessment process, it is worth quoting at length the facilitator, Professor Gardner, who, along with Professor Palmer, conducted the self-reporting assessment work during the FIPSE grant’s first year.
Professor Gardner wrote:
If curricula are understood to be organized sets of learning experiences with aligned teaching, learning, and assessment processes, then the designation of the readings was only a beginning towards forming a curriculum with coherence from both faculty and student perspectives. The work described . . . is the work of one academic year with Great Books faculty [to]:
. . . Great Books faculty at Wright College have completed the following tasks towards building curricular coherence, identifying key learning outcomes, and characterizing Great Books pedagogy so that the curriculum is both sustainable and transferable. In other words, with a curricular model, a set of intended learning outcomes shared across Great Books courses, and a preferred pedagogy can keep the curriculum alive even if faculty leave the institution. These curricular developments and refinements also allow the Great Books program to share its successes with other programs in the FIPSE grant. The following outcomes were achieved this year:
What Remains to Be Done. Of the intended outcomes for the year, the first two have been completed, the third is emerging, and the fourth remains to be explored. In another semester of work, the group could complete its curriculum and assessment work for this phase of the project by the following:
Organizing a Heuristic for the Great Books Curriculum. This year, the Wright faculty worked in facilitated meetings to develop a curriculum model with three interdependent levels. The model is not intended to be a linear learning model, but rather a means of expressing a recursive view of learning that starts with the reader understanding herself better through understanding the text, and developing improved analytical thinking and cultural literacy skills through reading, writing about, and discussing Great Books in courses. The Great Books program at Wright has both curricular and extracurricular dimensions, and the model expresses this aspect of the program’s design. The student not only learns through the text but expands the influence of the Great Books on her life by means of classroom discussions, Wright Great Books Symposia (and the journal of student work), and participation in the college community and beyond. Work on refining these ideas, including their expression, will continue as the Great Books faculty work together. The model will be used to publicize Great Books classes, make intended learning outcomes public, and refine the assessment plan. This model can serve as a framework for developing and using rubrics that make intended learning outcomes public for students. Finally, faculty will do more wordsmithing on the model to make it worthy of the Great Books.
The three levels identified by Professor Gardner may be described as follows.
Level One: Understanding and Interacting with Text. On its most basic level this means gaining an accurate and thorough understanding of the assigned text. Because of the greater complexity of the ideas, vocabulary, and historical context of Great Books texts, to achieve this understanding, Great Books faculty will be engaged in more formal and coordinated efforts to work with students to nurture critical thinking skills, vocabulary-building, basic research, and argumentative writing techniques. In other words, to achieve a basic understanding of Great Books texts will necessarily involve faculty and students in more intense skill development.
Level Two: Allowing the Great Books to Change You. The Great Books texts invariably present students with moral, ethical, psychological, and metaphysical questions with which they were previously unfamiliar. In addition, Great Books texts routinely challenge students’ basic assumptions about themselves and the world. By sharing best practices, discussing various ways of teaching the materials, encouraging discussions of them, assigning meaningful and open-ended writing assignments, and regularly sharing the results with each other, faculty at Wright will be using the Great Books texts to enable minority and nontraditional students to experience - in many cases for the first time in their lives -conscious intellectual and ethical growth through books, something that normally translates into not only a richer inner life but greater appreciation for and longer involvement in college studies. A vital element in this process, of course, is developing the capacity to abstract the universal content from a Great Books text and be able to apply it to one’s present society and life. This is one of the most valuable skills a college education can produce, and one which it often fails to do.
Level Three: Using Great Books in Community. This final stage would involve students having integrated Great Books into their lives in a variety of ways, such as reading such texts beyond college, becoming involved in arts and humanities events and performances as they had not done in the past, refining their own values in light of the material encountered in Great Books classes, and so on.
In light of the above, an action plan has been formulated with the help of Great Books project consultant Don Barshis:
Great Books Curricula at Partner Institutions
Oakton Community College
It is now appropriate to review the progress made by the five partner institutions, which this year began evolving their own Great Books Curricula. Project liaison Marian Staats reports that Oakton Community College rolled out its first Great Books courses in the spring of 2005. The total number was four courses, involving four faculty. By the fall semester, Oakton expects to offer seven Great Books courses taught by an additional four faculty members. Moreover, Professor Staats has engaged Professor Helen Ward Page to help as co-liaison for the program. The initial courses being offered and the faculty offering them are:
Professor Staats also reports that a series of Great Books Curricula meetings has taken place at Oakton during the past academic year: At the first meeting, Professors Albano and Ward Page, "both of whom have trained in the Great Books methodology, held a workshop for faculty interested in teaching in the program. The six faculty who attended this training session were given instruction on effective practices for leading discussion in the Great Books format through participatory analysis of . . . Ernest Hemingway’s story "‘A Day’s Wait.’"
At a subsequent meeting, Professor Staats "circulated an overview of the program, as well as advertising copy to get feedback from participants, and we brainstormed ideas toward developing an identity for Oakton’s local Great Books web site. We discussed possibilities for assessing the program and faculty experiences in the program thus far, and Helen Ward Page showed an excellent clip from a video of her Great Books Shakespeare course to demonstrate the pedagogy in action." Unfortunately, faculty attendance was sparse and inadequate, so the Oakton liaison has "discussed the possibility of bringing the videotape to a larger gathering of faculty during the fall semester in order to highlight the benefits to both students and faculty of exposure to this program and format."
Professor Staats also reports that
one of the major challenges in instituting a Great Books program at Oakton will be generating a substantial number of [additional] participating faculty. Several faculty who initially expressed interest in the program, for instance, have declined further participation because of the time involved in reworking their courses and teaching practices to accommodate new texts and methods. There is also generally not tremendous enthusiasm here for a curriculum either unknown or perceived by many as elitist, exclusionary, and oppressive. However, since the second faculty meeting, I have also circulated our revised program overview to Holly Graff, chair of Philosophy/Humanities, and she has shared it with both full-time and adjunct faculty in her department, several of whom have expressed interest in teaching Great Books courses in future semesters. I also plan to visit the department meetings during fall orientation week in order to further publicize the program.
Identification of Great Books Courses. Professor Staats reports that Oakton already has "a system in place to mark Great Books courses in the schedule, advertise the program, and track the students who take Great Books courses so that we will be able to both assess the program and offer students a certificate of completion. Because we do not yet have a large number of courses, we will likely offer students a certificate after the completion of three courses instead of four."
Assessment. Professor Staats has met with Trudy Bers, Oakton’s executive director of institutional research, curriculum, and strategic planning, about assessing the Great Books program. She has also discussed the possibilities for assessment with participating faculty. Right now they have two primary modes of assessment. As in Wright’s program, one planned assessment technique will be to examine the GPAs of students who have taken three or more Great Books courses to determine whether student grades improve after their participation in the program. Oakton also plans to use the Palmer-Gardner survey designed for the FIPSE project. It is expected that the assessment plans will evolve with future close collaboration with Wright College and as the program serves a growing number of students.
Dissemination. Professor Staats has worked with College Relations on developing ad copy for the program, which will appear in two places in Oakton’s fall schedule, near English and Philosophy/Humanities. Professor Staats has also established a resource library for faculty interested in developing Great Books courses. As for the local Oakton web site to give corporate identity to the program, Professor Staats reports that "we have a lovely banner for the web site, and I have consulted with College Relations on developing an identity for Oakton’s participation in the program. Because we began the program without a core Great Books faculty and will need to attract more people to the program, we’re aiming for a flexible program identity that will accommodate faculty teaching from both traditional ‘new critical’ perspectives and more contemporary theoretical idioms that would read Great Books texts 'against the grain.' We expect to have a web site developed in time for the fall semester."
Santa Barbara City College
Professor Celeste Barber, faculty liaison for the Santa Barbara City College Great Books Curriculum (GBC), reports that her college
has just completed its second year offering select GBC courses. Since its inception, the program is offered through the English Department, and currently all GBC offerings are limited to sophomore literature courses and select sections of English 111 (Critical Thinking and Composition). One political science course is currently under consideration for approval to GBC: Political Science 132 (Political Thinking). This spring semester, [the college] offered nine sections of English 111 for GBC credit, including one online course and three sophomore literature courses (British Literature, Sacred Texts, and Shakespeare). Next fall, we expand our English 111 offerings to twelve: two instructors will be teaching GBC for the first time. We will also offer four GBC sophomore literature courses: British Literature, World Literature, Sacred Texts, and Shakespeare. Additionally, three of the four instructors teaching English 111 in summer session teach GBC.
Throughout the 2005-06 academic year we will contact other departments, chiefly within the Humanities, to solicit their participation. We hope to meet with faculty from History, Political Science, Philosophy, Anthropology, Theatre Arts, Music, and Art.
Dissemination. Currently, GBC is advertised through flyers that are distributed to GBC faculty, the various counseling departments (i.e., Academic Counseling, EOPS, DSPS, and Athletics), and placed in prominent areas in the English building and the Admissions offices. [The Great Books Curriculum has] also been publicized in the school newspaper, The Channels. Upon satisfactory completion of four GBC courses, students are eligible for a department award: already, we have one graduate. (A remarkable achievement for a fledgling program with limited offerings.) In addition to GBC courses, Santa Barbara City College also hosts various lectures and workshops every semester through the Great Books Curriculum. Since spring 2003, we have presented one GBC lecture every semester. We restrict our speakers to professors from the Southern California area’s four-year institutions in order to work more closely and collegially with them, certainly a benefit for our students who transfer to these schools. Our lectures are attended by students, instructors, administrators, and members of the community. Under the GBC umbrella, we have offered teacher workshops in Shakespeare from a local scholar affiliated with UC, Santa Barbara.
Meetings with Faculty and Administrators. The Great Books Curriculum at Santa Barbara has met four times in the past academic year - twice each semester. Professor Barber describes them as follows:
The first is an open house of sorts. For two hours over two days, I am available in the department conference room to take questions and provide information on the Great Books Curriculum to both faculty and students. Refreshments are provided as an inducement to walk in.
I also hold one faculty meeting each semester. (I refrain from going above one because our faculty is already overwhelmed with various mandatory meetings campuswide. Instead, I correspond as needed through e-mail, and I am always available to meet one-on-one with faculty.) At the meetings, I go over our GBC goals for the semester and remind them of their commitments - usually filing syllabi and other paperwork with me -as well as upcoming GBC events.
Concerns and Challenges. Professor Barber reports:
Attendance is not good, and I hope for improvement this next academic year. Perhaps one-third of GBC faculty attends the semester meetings: three to four instructors. Currently, I can offer FLEX credit for attendance (teacher in-service hours), but no monetary compensation. Frankly, I believe that teachers should be paid to attend professional meetings, and that would certainly improve attendance. It is difficult, also, to arrange a 1 to 1½ hour time slot to accommodate everyone; but even at that, most do not attend.
However, every participating instructor is enthusiastic about the program, GBC validating what many are already doing. (It should be noted that GBC might aid in safeguarding our sophomore literature courses during the California budget crisis. It is expected that as students learn more about the benefits of GBC classes, they will select them to fulfill their General Ed. Elective requirements, boosting enrollments in the Humanities.)
For the 2004 - 05 academic year, I will continue to hold one faculty meeting every semester as well as the open house for faculty and students.
GBC Course Identification. Currently, GBC courses are identified in English Department literature only; i.e., course capsule descriptions. Also, they are identified on the GBC flyers that list all eligible courses on the reverse side.
Earlier this semester, we submitted GBC course descriptions to the college’s Curriculum Advisory Committee (CAC) for approval. Select English sophomore literature courses and English 111 courses were approved by CAC and were designated with "GB" added to the course number: "English 111GB." However, this designation will not appear in the course schedules for 2005-06.
Great Books Curriculum Web Site. This semester I met with the campus web designer, John Morrison. John has completed work on the web site framework: http://instructors.sbcc.edu/greatbooks/. In fall semester 2005, I will meet with John to work on content and to discuss maintenance. Our goal next year is to provide students, faculty, and staff with information about the Great Books Curriculum on the web site: a description of the program; listing of faculty and courses; upcoming events. Our web designer is concerned about having this web site accessible through the Internet: the possibility of contamination (viruses, etc.). This is certainly an issue that we will work to resolve over the next year.
Assessment. We have begun exploring assessment. Cost is a serious consideration for our school; therefore, we are attempting to make use of the college’s existing assessment placement exams. I have already contacted the instructor in charge of assessment, Professor Gail Tennen, and this approach looks feasible. Our dean, Jack Ullom, is also involved in this, especially regarding funding. I have not yet explored the assessment testing of self-reporting for both faculty and students. At this point, our program is too young to produce reliable responses (as would be expected for statistical assessment testing); however, I would appreciate assistance in setting up a model test to be administered in about two years’ time.
Arapahoe Community College
Professor Lucy Graca, the partner liaison from Arapahoe Community College (ACC), seems to have had the greatest success in attracting the most widely interdisciplinary faculty to her Great Books Curriculum. She reports her greatest challenge as being
between August 2004 and January 2005, [when] negotiations surrounding the Partner’s Memorandum of Agreement stalled for a variety of reasons, so the grant monies to support ACC’s program were unavailable. Thus, all activity requiring funds had to be postponed until after January 17, 2005, when the PMOA was signed. Further, the delay in securing funding meant that the faculty liaison was unable to take release time to work on the program for either fall 2004 or spring 2005 semesters, making the fulfillment of the grant requirements extremely difficult. On the other hand, components of the program that are faculty-driven and that do not require funding have advanced quite well.
Faculty and Curriculum. Professor Graca reports that "the following faculty are committed to teaching sections of the courses listed using the Great Books Curriculum model provided by Wright College."
Professor Graca hopes that by the end of fall semester 2006, Arapahoe College will be able to award several Great Books achievement certificates to students who have taken twelve credit-hours and received a B or better in these sections.
Assessment. Professor Graca reports:
Students in Great Books sections during fall 2004’s "pilot" program are being hand-tracked by the faculty liaison. Students in the spring 2005 sections are being tracked both by the registrar’s office and hand-tracked by the faculty liaison. Students in the fall 2005 and spring 2006 sections will be tracked entirely by the registrar’s office . . . All Great Books sections have been or will be given a "GB" section number in the fall 2005 and spring 2006 course schedule, with information about the certificate included. The 2005-06 college catalog will contain information about the Great Books Program and achievement certificate.
Dissemination. Professor Graca reports:
Meetings. The ACC faculty’s crushing load (15 credit-hours a semester, with classes in session between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. six days per week, and each faculty member serving on at least two college committees) makes [Great Books Curricula] meetings extremely difficult to schedule. For nearly all "meeting functions" of the college, we tend to use e-mail distribution lists as much as possible. Thus, the Great Books faculty met only twice this year: once at the end of the fall semester and once at the end of the spring semester. However, the e-mail distribution list ran white-hot all year.
The vast majority of discussion was about the presence or absence of funding for the program, as might be expected. However, second to that was discussion of curriculum development. Problems tended to center around the means for incorporating readings into courses like Psych. 101 in which the course text contains few or no primary source readings. Mostly these problems were practical (i.e., how to make enough copies of readings for students in the classes, how many and how long the readings should be), but in one course, the professor became so engaged in teaching Aristotle’s "On the Soul" that he never managed to get past it to cover James and Freud as he’d planned. In Composition II, Prof. Wolf had devised an exercise to get students digging around in the Syntopicon and the Great Books series at the library, and to think critically about Adler’s criteria for inclusion. However, the exercise proved too complex for the students and had to be simplified into several discrete steps. She consulted with other faculty on this problem. Another problem arose around the question of copyright, when one of the less experienced library techs refused to allow a senior Great Books faculty member to copy portions of one of the readings. This was resolved by appealing to a senior librarian. Finally, as new faculty joined us, we discovered that we had no good way to mentor them because of the extreme overload being borne by the faculty liaison. In the end, as a stopgap measure, the faculty liaison began assigning new faculty to another, more experienced, Great Books faculty member in their own disciplines for mentoring. This system seems to work pretty well.
Our two meetings were spent on purely practical matters: who was teaching what and when; what to include in the publicity materials; what faculty wanted to include on the web site; approval or disapproval of the "B or Better" criterion; settling on a theme; and ideas for incorporating the "Pursuit of Happiness" theme in courses where it was not intuitively obvious (humanities and history had the most trouble).
Web Site. We are in the earliest phase of developing the web site at the moment. We expect to have it completed and on the college web site by the end of summer. It is too early in the process to be able to say anything intelligent about it.
Assessment. Professor Graca reports that her program has
captured baseline data in the form of College Placement Test Reading Comprehension scores for all students enrolled in English Comp. II classes during the fall 2004 semester. [The Arapahoe Great Books Curriculum] plans to arrange for several cohorts of students to take the same test at the end of the spring 2006 semester, and compare the scores of students who have taken 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4 Great Books courses. To that data we will add a self-assessment from students in Great Books sections and a faculty assessment of the program. In accordance with the requirements, all conclusions will be based upon measurable values. The college institutional researcher is consulting with us on the assessment plan, and the available results will be included in the college’s accreditation report to North Central, coincidentally also due in spring 2006.
Harold Washington College
The partner liaison at Harold Washington College (HWC), Professor John Hader, reports that the following "Great Books courses [are] to be offered in the fall of 2005 at Harold Washington College"
Professor Hader reports:
Dissemination. John Wozniak, HWC president; Cecilia Lopez, HWC vice president, academic affairs; and, most especially, Anna Blum, dean of instruction, have been instrumental in helping this program to take flight and to prosper. Along with the Great Books office space, we now have been assigned a display case outside the library, just in front of the bank of elevators, in a very high-traffic location, totally dedicated to identifying and marketing our Great Books faculty and program. We are also generating a full-color brochure that will be distributed during the fall 2005 registration in August, further heralding the project.
Assessment. The administration has also designated all Great Books courses with the letter "Y." This will enable us to track students so that they can be given certificates of completion of four Great Books courses. We can also track students for purposes of assessment. The administration may even provide clerical help to accomplish this via work-study employees. We are still discussing this. For fall and spring, we will be using self-reporting to assess faculty and student learning and satisfaction. The results will be reported to you and samples will be put on the web site. We are also looking forward to administering the CAAP test. The administration is behind this too.
Web Site. A webmaster has been retained to develop a local Great Books web site. He will have it up and running by the close of spring 2006. Professor Hader is presently "collecting artifacts now to be uploaded on our site, including sample student papers and support material for the texts and authors offered in the curriculum."
Meetings. To counteract the effects of the strike and boycott of the past year, Professor Hader will be meeting with his Great Books colleagues monthly in the fall and over the summer in June, July, and August.
Special Strength of Program. According to Professor Hader, over the past year "the greatest accomplishment was creating a community of creative and dynamic teachers who are really, really dedicated to the curriculum and to making sure that it continues well past the life of the grant."
Special Challenge. Professor Hader reports that a major "difficulty has been selling the curriculum to department chairs so that we can widen the scope of the curriculum. Most of the support has come from English and the Humanities. However, with the support of the administration I believe that more of the disciplines will get on board."
Henry Ford Community College
Professor Daher, the project liaison for Henry Ford Community College (HFCC), reports on "the foundation that has been established for a sustainable Great Books program [at the college] distinguished by student, administrative, and faculty support."
Great Books Classes. Professor Daher reports that the following courses will be offered in fall 2005 as Great Books courses:
Assessment. Professor Daher reports that "active administrative support for the establishment of the Great Books Certificate Program has been ongoing from (1) the vice president and dean of liberal arts, (2) the director of the Center for Teaching Excellence and Innovation, and (3) the registrar." Moreover, a system has been established that allows any faculty member (including adjuncts) from any discipline to participate in the Great Books Project within the context of existing courses.
Note: An additional structural change in program design has been . . . implemented in order to make the study of Great Books more accessible to the general student population. The Great Books Seminar, although offered as a required sophomore-level course in the honors program, has been offered on an open enrollment basis. Consequently, one third of the students enrolled in the three sections of the course being taught in the winter semester 2005 are from outside the honors program.
Special Challenge. Professor Daher reports that "within the next year two college vice presidents at HFCC will retire, including the dean of liberal arts, Ed Chielens, who has provided extensive support to the Great Books Program. [Also] by 2007, the president of HFCC will retire. This means that what we do at HFCC (with well-established administrative support) in the remaining part of the winter semester of 2005 to solidify what we have accomplished and to systematize further development in the Great Books Project is important."
The National Great Books Project anticipates the following as its list of final year priorities: