Committee calls for proposals
The committee that is guiding a $2.5 million presidential initiative to support team-teaching efforts and interdisciplinary courses and degree programs at the undergraduate level is prepared to receive proposals.
The Office of the Provost, in cooperation with the Multidisciplinary Learning and Team Teaching Steering Committee, invites proposals that involve instructors from two or more disciplinary areas in departments, schools or colleges, and for new degree programs that cross disciplines.
"One critical thing we're after is that the courses or programs don't just survive the funding cycle but build up to where they have their own lives," says committee chair Ben van der Pluijm, director of the Global Change Program, and professor of geology and of the environment. For that reason priority will be given to classes or programs that will serve large groups of students, he says.
One of President Mary Sue Coleman's four major initiatives for the University, the plan for funding the effort to cross traditional disciplinary boundaries was articulated in the Report of the Task Force on Multidisciplinary Learning and Team Teaching issued in the fall.
"We believe that the major problems of our time, from the environment to poverty, from human rights to terrorism, from religious movements to health care, cannot be studied effectively within any single discipline; all involve integrative thinking," the report states.
A dialogue among several disciplines is required to solve many of these problems, van der Pluijm adds.
"If you actually look around at today's society, we no longer fit in narrow single descriptions, he says. "Take, for example, my own field of the environment. It is not just about science. It's about sociology and politics as well. Our educational systems have to adjust to changes in that culture."
At the heart of the request for proposals for funding is the belief that for students to succeed in an increasingly global, integrated world, they must be able to:
• Learn problem solving across disciplines and launch inquiries into uncharted territories of knowledge and practice;
• Examine assumptions that inhere in a disciplinary perspective and integrate material outside of patterns they are taught;
• Locate issues within larger frameworks of thought, negotiate multiple perspectives, and develop habits of critical questioning and creative problem solving;
• Learn how to find their way through disconnected bodies of information and perspectives and create their own path to an education that coheres.
Funds are open to all levels of undergraduate courses. Of particular interest are innovative programs that bring the expertise of graduate and professional school faculty to undergraduate education.
During the next five years the University is expected to support at least three initiatives leading to new high-enrollment courses or course sequences, as well as three new cross-unit degree programs.
Proposals will be accepted Sept.1 and March 1 for activities that can start in the following fall and winter semester.
The Report of the Task Force on Multidisciplinary Learning and Team Teaching, which includes information and examples of the kind of projects the committee is considering, can be found at www.umich.edu/pres/committees/team_final_report.pdf.