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DCAL News & Announcements

The Gateway Initiative

The Provost's Office, in collaboration with the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning (DCAL) and Academic Computing, is excited to offer a new opportunity to support the redesign of certain courses.

Called the Gateway Initiative, this effort is aimed at enhancing learning and classroom pedagogy in 'gateway' courses, i. e. courses that are required for entry into the discipline and have large enrollments by necessity, but not by design.  In such classes, course content is very often delivered in a traditional lecture format.  Yet a growing body of research over the past decade (see link below), in particular from the fields of cognitive psychology and education, has shown that other pedagogical approaches, sometimes in combination with technological innovations, can be significantly more effective than the traditional lecture format, evidenced by improved learning outcomes, retention, and student satisfaction.

The goal of the Gateway Initiative is to enhance individualized learning and improved educational outcomes for students in A&S gateway courses by enabling faculty to redesign courses to resemble smaller, upper-division classes where students and faculty actively work together.  Strategies to enable more opportunities for active learning in large enrollment classes will vary depending on the targeted course and the goals for its redesign.  While some faculty may be interested in fundamentally shifting their teaching methods - like moving away from a lecture-based format to a flipped classroom - participation in this Initiative is not limited to proposals focused on such large changes.  Moreover, the Initiative is not designed to change the content of a course or alter the length of time students spend in the classroom. Some redesign elements may be common across courses, while the overall outcome will likely be unique to each redesigned course.  This Initiative is the beginning of a larger effort to invest resources and attention in learning, with a current focus on supporting faculty in course redesign by matching them with dedicated teams having expertise in project management, instructional design, analytics (to aid with assessment of the effectiveness of the redesign), and intellectual property issues (e. g. to aid with content acquisition).

The Gateway Initiative is funded for three years, and will focus on 12 large enrollment courses. Up to four courses will be chosen for redesign in the upcoming academic year; new RFPs will be announced in project years two and three. Proposals are encouraged from individuals or groups of faculty teaching a single course, some or all faculty involved teaching sections of the same course, or from departments. Proposals should be sent in pdf format to by noon on Friday, May 23, 2014.  Proposals should be a page in length, single spaced, and include the following:

1.  Course name, course number, most recent enrollment figures, median and mean grades, and the terms in which the course will be taught for the next two years.
2.  A brief statement of what you hope a redesign of this course will accomplish.
3.  An indication how elements of a successful redesign (via a formal assessment process, to be developed as part of the course redesign process) will be sustained and disseminated to others in your department.

Please also note that funds are available in the budget to support faculty time for planning and re-design purposes.  The appropriate Dean and the Provost will negotiate the amount and nature of the support.


Annual Active Learning Institute

The annual Active Learning Institute helps faculty members develop and refine their skills as learner-centered course designers and teachers. The ALI faculty designs this two-day workshop around the challenges identified by each year’s group of participants. These challenges may include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Articulating expected learning outcomes for your courses
  • Designing assessments and assignments that align well with those goals
  • Keeping students in heavily-enrolled courses actively engaged
  • Using technology to increase engagement and improve the use of class time
  • Helping students build learning communities
  • Convincing students that you are invested in their success
  • Designing courses that anticipate and include everyone

Every ALI focuses on designing courses that take full account of how people actually learn and we set aside plenty of time for participants to workshop each other’s new designs and strategies.

Participants in ALI  receive a stipend for full participation in the two-day institute. Anyone holding a faculty teaching appointment at Dartmouth at any rank (Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Tuck and DMS) is eligible to apply. 

The ALI faculty will read applications and select participants based on:

  • the overall quality of your statement of challenges
  • how well the statement fits with our team's areas of expertise
  • how the various statements complement each other and help us form a community of learning for the two-day institute

We strive for a group diverse in disciplines, schools and departments or programs.

Here is what your colleagues have said about previous ALIs:

“ALI is a phenomenal asset to this college. I not only learned valuable practical content, but I also find myself sharing these ideas with my colleagues in informal discussions. It's rare to have a two-day workshop have such a strong positive impact.”

“All in all, the Institute ranks among my most productive professional education experiences.”

“I do not think I could overstate how much the experience, authority, authenticity, intelligence, commitment, and enthusiasm of the facilitators and other participants defined my ALI experience. They helped me see how these techniques could be used and gave me the sense that it would be OK to try using them.”

“The ALI was a transformative experience for me. With no formal training in teaching methodology, the most useful component was overall, big picture, course design. ”

“Great program! I wish it had been available when I started teaching.”

Announcement of a New Position: The DCAL Faculty Fellow

Thanks to a generous new gift from the Judith and Allen Zern '65 Fund, we are pleased to announce the creation of a new position at DCAL: the DCAL Faculty Fellow. This position formalizes and expands what has been until now a volunteer effort fulfilled most recently by chemistry professor F. Jon Kull. In consultation with Associate dean of the Faculty for Science, David Kotz, we have selected Professor Kull to serve as the first DCAL faculty Fellow for a renewable term of two years. As the first DCAL Faculty Fellow he will take responsibility, along with the director and associate directors, for planning and carrying out the activities of DCAL's Teaching Science Seminar (TSS).

The Teaching Science Seminar meets monthly during term-time to pursue the following:

  • To cultivate an informed community of conversation amongst science teachers, librarians and educational technologists on the topic of innovations in science learning at Dartmouth and in higher education in general
  • To host distinguished visitors who have made important contributions to the teaching and learning of science, math and technology in higher education
  • To evaluate best practices in STEM education and promote innovations that promise to enhance teaching and learning in STEM disciplines at Dartmouth

The DCAL Faculty Fellow will receive an annual stipend as recognition of his services as a leader of the Teaching Science Seminar. He will also command a small fund for the purchase of books and experimental teaching aids.

National Science Foundation Grant awarded to Dartmouth

Dartmouth has been awarded $2.5 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to give Dartmouth graduate students opportunities to work with middle school teachers in the Upper Valley region of Vermont and New Hampshire. The program promotes science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) among middle school students.

The five-year award is part of NSF’s Graduate STEM Fellows in K-12 Education Program, also referred to as GK-12.

The GK-12 Team includes a current DCAL Associate Director for Future Faculty, Cindy Tobery PhD and Former DCAL Associate Director, Vicki May PhD.

Read the full release.

Books on Teaching and Learning

Have a look at the recommended books page on the DCAL website at Books recently added to our collection include Peter Filene's The Joy of Teaching, Eric Mazur's Peer Instruction: A User's Manual, and Academic Dishonesty: An Educator's Guide by Bernard. E. Whitley, Jr. and Patricia Keith-Spiegel. Also featured is a new edition of Teaching American Students: A Guide for International Faculty and Teaching Assistants in Colleges and Universities by Ellen Sarkisian of the Derek Bok Center of Harvard University.

Last Updated: 4/29/14