2008 Teaching and Learning Symposium

2:30-4:30 p.m., May 6, 2008
HUB Ballroom

Session Description



Creating a Student Council: A Curricular Experiment in Enhancing Self-Authorship

Diane Gillespie and Sandra Penney - UW Bothell, Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

(1) Marcia Baxter Magolda has argued that college education should prepare students for self-authorship, "the internal capacity to define one's belief sytems, identity, and relationships." From this capacity to self-author, she has argued, students are able to achieve complex learning outcomes, which involves examining situations from muliple critical perspectives. Without a strong sense of one's own authoring capability, students rely on external authority. She advocates learning experiences that develop self-authoring. A teacher and student, we explored whether participation in a course designed to start a new council for our 500+ student program might facilitate students' ability to self-author, given the open-endedness and complexity of such a task.

(2) The IAS program at Bothell has never had a student council. The course was created so that students could respond to and co-create the syllabus. Once they had crafted their syllabus, they broke into groups and designed their own pilot projects around issues of concern to them, which they then carried out with little intervention from the instructors. Penney's group undertook an analysis of the program's course descriptions, analyzing all of them from winter quarter. The group then compared them to the program's learning objectives and those advocated by Liberal Education and America's Promise. The group is now in the process of making specific recommendations to the IAS faculty about how to redesign couse descriptions so that they are more useful to students. An article by Baxter Magolda helped the group formulate what they had learned in terms of the development of self authorship.

(3) The challenge for Penney was to trust her capacities to do the research and to explore her values as a student devoted to her learning. She wanted to be an advocate for all students who care about learning in the program. The challenge for Gillespie was to encourage the group without intervening or directing, especially when the group encountered the very complexity they needed to experience to learn self authorship.

(4) Both Gillespie and Penney learned to recognize the habitual ways teachers and students try to simplify the complexity that then prevents students from exercising their skills. We also found ways of communicating through the complexity by identifying and valuing the expected learning outcomes, including the ability to work across situations and through multiple critical perspectives.




Index of Symposium Presenters