Internal funding helps build students' critical thinking skills
University of Louisville faculty and staff are getting financial assistance to help students become better critical thinkers.
Ideas to Action (i2a), UofL's quality enhancement program, has given more than $48,000 in Supporting Undergraduate iNovation (SUN) grant funding to 12 projects since December 2009. Each grant is for up to $5,000. Proposals for the next round will be due in the fall.
I2a is UofL's response to a request by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools - Commission on Colleges, which accredits universities, for its member institutions to improve student learning. This campus-wide initiative is focused on sharpening undergraduate students' critical thinking skills, starting in the general education program and continuing through major courses. Students eventually will be required to demonstrate their critical-thinking skills in a culminating undergraduate experience.
SUN grants support the development and implementation of i2a-related projects by individuals or small teams of faculty and staff.
The grants, said Patty Payette, i2a executive director, allow faculty and staff to "receive support to help them step back from their work and consider how they can better reach the goals that are most important to them and the students they work with." The goal is for funded projects to show permanent, sustained integration of i2a concepts into a department or program.
Brian Buford, LGBT Services director, was one of several staff members to receive a grant this year.
"The SUN grant gave us resources we couldn't afford ourselves, which means that we can focus our energy on the work we proposed and know that we've got what we need to make it a success," he said.
"We're using most of the grant to pay for students who will work on the project, and without those additional hands we wouldn't have been able to move forward," Buford said. "The other great resource was the i2a Institute we attended recently that taught us how to bring critical thinking concepts to our work here in the LGBT office. It was a wonderful experience to see how the (Paul Elder) critical thinking framework supports our work - and to see how we connect to other efforts on campus."
Buford and LGBT Services received a grant in May for "Safe Zone Training: Advanced Skill Building for Allies." Other projects funded since December range from preparing future teachers to incorporate critical thinking development in their classrooms to helping UofL students who are struggling academically to use critical thinking to prepare a plan to succeed.
Health and sport sciences faculty member Paula Kommor received grants for two projects. The funding, among other things, has helped build collaboration among departments offering a new interdisciplinary wellness minor, she said.
"This past year we saw a good variety of faculty and staff projects that complement, support and enhance i2a outcomes," Payette said. "We were pleased to see an increase in the number of proposals from staff and from units and departments that are new to i2a."
"The common denominator (among recipients) is that all of these professionals have a passion and commitment to improving student learning, no matter the program or area they work in," she said.
The next call for proposals for 2011 SUN grant funding will be in August with a mid-October submission deadline. I2a will schedule information sessions in August and September to explain SUN grant program changes. UofL faculty and staff can contact Cathy Bays for more information at 852-5105 or by e-mail.
2009-2010 recipient projects are:
- Critical Friends: Building a Professional Learning Community, Stefanie Livers, College of Education and Human Development
- Warning Intervention Program, Janet Spence and Nora Scobie, Undergraduate Advising
- Raising Critical Thinkers from College to Preschool Classroom: Making Critical Thinking fit into the Picture of Early Childhood & Elementary Teacher Education, Sophia Han and E. Todd Brown, College of Education and Human Development
- Incorporating Critical Thinking into the Required Business Writing Course, Joanna Wolfe and Steven Smith, College of Arts and Sciences
- Interdisciplinary Wellness Coaching Minor Development Committee, Paula Kommor, College of Education and Human Development.
- Relating the Paul-Elder Critical Thinking Model to Software Engineering Projects at UofL, Rammohan Ragade and Dar-Jen Chang, JB Speed School of Engineering
- Culminating Experience in Spanish, Regina Roebuck, College of Arts and Sciences
- Disability Resource Center - Critical Thinking, Note Taking, and Diversity Training Program: A New Service Learning Opportunity, Robert Blake and Katherine Rucker, Disability Resource Center
- Safe Zone Training: Advanced Skill Building for Allies, Brian Buford, LGBT Services
- Creating Comprehensive Departmental Learning Outcomes with Critical Thinking as a Frame, Pam Curtis, Civic Engagement, Leadership & Service
- Fit into College: Cultivating 'Fitness Intern's' Critical Thinking Skills, Kristi King, Paula Kommor and Karen Newton, College of Education and Human Development
- Bachelor of Social Work Program Curriculum Development, Noell Rowan, Lynetta Mathis, Geri Morgan and Katie Radmacher, Kent School of Social Work