Education: Innovative Pedagogy, Living and Learning

Click here to view the report in Box, and comment on the report below.


schnam wrote

An SLS metal 3d printer if fairly expensive, but I think there's a ton that could be done with it — NASA if printing rocket engines and Sybridge is making surgery equipment.

Tue, 10/10/2023 - 12:40 PM Permalink

hahnj wrote

There are a lot of great suggestions on education. However, I did not see one important, yet very practical, point: we need to get our student:faculty ratio down to levels comparable to what our peer institutions have. As long as we have student:faculty ratios that are 2-3 times those of our peers (i.e., and that is the case in my department and probably a few others), it is hard to get anyone exciting about trying innovative educational approaches as the focus is simply on trying to provide the best education with the limited resources that we have.

Tue, 10/10/2023 - 12:55 PM Permalink

silvez2 wrote

I agree with this. It is incredibly difficult to be locked into certain classes because I am often not able to take multiple courses as they only have one time slot. This happens ALL THE TIME. I think if we had a better ratio then we might be able to have different professors teaching classes like Data Structures (and make it more similar to what a course like Calc 1 looks like schedule wise).

Thu, 11/02/2023 - 4:26 PM Permalink

murram8 wrote

I agree. Across the board, fewer students to each faculty member is a pedagogical win. And speaking as someone who teaches communication intensive and HASS Inquiry courses,  I would add that a good student to faculty ratio is crucial to being able to give students substantive individualized feedback on written and other communication-intensive work they produce.

Sat, 11/04/2023 - 12:52 PM Permalink

fitzga2 wrote

I'm in agreement with the above comments about ratios.

I think this also connects with our graduate education efforts as well. Currently, at least in HASS, most gradate students TA but need to TA for multiple courses simultaneously. A 19 enrollment comm intensive class will receive a 0.5 TA. This makes it harder to integrate TAs, especially if they are unable to attend every class, and have them take on a more active role where they can develop their pedagogy and identity as an educator.

Sun, 11/05/2023 - 12:30 AM Permalink

knowlg wrote

Some of my thoughts.

  1. For Theme Fluidity:  I don't see much reference to Co Curricular strengths, weaknesses and Ideas to achieve.  A curriculum outside the classroom that is developed and driving "The Rensselaer Education" Being in The Student Living and LEarning department there could be a curriculum that is used for all 1st and 2nd year students since required to live on campus.
  2. Theme 5:  I would add Collaborative as a value that our students have versus Competitive.
Tue, 10/10/2023 - 1:18 PM Permalink

platts2 wrote

From an undergraduate-teaching perspective, students would benefit from being able to talk freely on-campus with non-faculty/staff professionals/entrepreneurs of diverse backgrounds, who could be invited to visit for a couple of weeks.  Many successful & career-fulfilled people in Industry would appreciate such an opportunity to 'give back' inspirationally to the next generation by sharing of their expertise/experience.

Tue, 10/10/2023 - 1:40 PM Permalink

huntj5 wrote

If we're going to build a new building, just in my humble opinion, I too think we should try to make it look "beautiful" like described in the report posted above. I'm a bit concerned though about the building cited, as UCONN's Werth Tower looks quite plane and boring like a flat brick wall. It feels much more like an office building than a new innovative college space, especially at a school like RPI. If something with that form of exterior was built on campus, I feel it would take away from the beauty of campus. Again, this is just my opinion, and these things are highly subjective, but we have some gorgeous buildings like Green, Quad, Troy building, VCC, etc. I feel like we should really try to match the ornate red brick style our campus was built with, and if possible, build a building with an exterior inspired by baroque architecture, but with a sleek modern interior. I (and other's I've spoken with too) just feel like building something with the exterior of Werth Tower would really take away from our campus's character and would do a disservice to the beauty of RPI. (Again, this is just my opinion, and I'm only talking about the external appearance, not the interior). 

I also think we really should try to turn more spots around campus into modern study spaces. It would not only give students countless places to sit down and study/work on a whim, but would go a long way in helping campus feel more alive, as students would be incentivized to spend more time around all parts of campus, and not just a select few areas such as the union or their dorm. As a student here, I can personally say there are many buildings that I want to minimize my time in as much as possible, due to the poor quality of interior. When I say "make study spaces", I'm talking about turning open spaces in existing buildings, or little nooks in certain buildings into nice looking study spaces.

Thu, 10/12/2023 - 7:57 PM Permalink

johnsk28 wrote

I feel it cannot be emphasized enough the importance of research and its impact on recruitment and education.  When in conversation with students and faculty at RPI, the common theme that makes them excited is research.  Students come to RPI specifically to get involved in top-tier research questions and to work with cutting-edge facilities.  That said, the current list of bureaucratic and administrative hurdles laid at the feet of research-focused faculty and the disinvestment in shared scientific equipment on campus seems to send the message that research is a "nice to have" but not a priority.  In fact, RPI has, from the outside, been mis-identified as a PUI to the casual observer due to the increased difficulties related to running research programs and facilitating higher graduate student numbers.  My argument is that research is THE thing we should be critically making efforts to support at RPI.  All other areas of difficulty involving recruitment, R1 standing, faculty retention, student satisfaction, etc. hinge on how well we answer the call to arms that research requires right now.  

Wed, 10/25/2023 - 9:43 PM Permalink

murram8 wrote

Since this is a place for blue sky thinking, I don't agree that anything needs to trump anything else in terms of priorities. Of course, yes, research support. But matters like recruitment, faculty retention, student satisfaction are all totally intertwined. They hinge on being able to effectively teach our students, which means having manageable teaching loads; supporting teaching track faculty in their development of pedagogical innovation; having a good student:faculty ratio that allows all faculty to focus on imparting a top-tier education to their students; etc.

Sun, 11/05/2023 - 1:19 PM Permalink

cookk4 wrote

Despite the aspirational goal stating "a Rensselaer education prepares students for their world, their
aspirations, and their future," the report fails to address the most liked and commented idea bank entry where current nuclear engineering students requested to have the most hands-on, real-world-applicable course in the program to be reinstated. The course is MANE:4440 Critical Reactor Laboratory. Taught at RPI's Walthousen Reactor Critical Facility (RCF), the course provides nuclear engineering students with the most practical experience for careers in the nuclear sector.  The course, referred to as "crit lab" by the students, is a wonderful example of the principle that "learning is active in nature such that doing contributes to a deeper internalization of learning – not passive lecture/testing, but the opportunity to see learning in its full dimension and context," cited in the report. However, crit lab has not been taught for the last several years because the RCF has been administratively restricted from conducting these activities. Neglecting to address the students' request and offer this course is in direct opposition to the entire report. 

The report discusses wanting to facilitate "a community conversation that answers the following questions: What is the unique differentiator of a Rensselaer education? How does that manifest? How does each learning activity/requirement/engagement contribute to the differentiator such that the sum of the journey is greater than the parts?" The nuclear engineering students attempted to start this conversation through the Idea Bank about an important course and facility at RPI but we have not even been acknowledged.  

The RCF falls under Theme 3: Intentional Learning Spaces. The report says, "many of our existing spaces are poorly utilized and/or not well-known by students." I agree that the RCF is poorly utilized; however, there is immense student interest in the RCF that continues to be denied. Just this week, an undergraduate student from another institution contacted me to ask about coming to RPI to pursue a graduate degree. Upon looking at the different research opportunities advertised by the nuclear program, the student is interested in performing experiments at the RCF. Regrettably, I have to inform them that this is not a possibility at the current time. Lifting the administrative ban on the RCF could be a "quick win" in this area and adding crit lab back to the course catalog is a perfect example of a "low-hanging" initiative.

Additionally, nuclear engineering students have been told that one of the reasons for the demise of the RCF is there have been no faculty members who have taken "intellectual ownership" of the facility. However, this report states "often a single faculty/staff member is not really the right person to help maintain the space, maintain student momentum- but on the other hand the job may not require a full-time position. We need to think about what kind of new dedicated staff position needs to be defined to support these spaces." The students have been running the RCF and are willing to continue to do so despite the report stating one of the challenges is "to re-energize students to have a participatory mindset (post-Covid student engagement/energy/urge to do anything “extra” seems low)"!! While at the RCF, we already participate in "students taking an active role in learning with each other, mentoring others, being active deliverers of knowledge and discovery," but are not recognized for our efforts. In fact, we've been told that because we are not bringing in enough research dollars, the facility is not worth maintaining despite extremely low operating costs.

Furthermore, the report states "quick-wins" for Empowering the Education Ecosystem include an effort to "explicitly include students / faculty / staff in decision making on the administrative level, to bring cross-group learning opportunities. Also, explicitly include staff and students in faculty level decision making, helping with course and departmental decisions." It is almost laughable how hard the students have tried to make this happen with the RCF and time and time again, we have been ignored.

In the final note, the working group states, "it is the act of the conversation itself that inspires community, ownership and commitment to implementation." So what does the act of neglecting/avoiding the conversation do? Discourage and deflate the students from wanting to speak up at all. You can only imagine how nuclear engineering students are feeling because they have been trying to invoke positive change for years, have repeatedly been ignored when attempts were made to discuss the RCF, and continue to maintain the facility despite threats of being shutdown.

Overall, the report sounds so nice! But there are already students actively trying to implement the ideas that are presented here. These students have been rejected, so when should we expect the efforts of this report to come to fruition?

Thu, 11/02/2023 - 2:32 PM Permalink

kincha wrote

I would like to see greater attention to the greater goals of higher education when we talk about our plans for teaching and learning. It seems to me that one of our educational missions should be to prepare people to deal with the social and environmental crises that will unfold in their lifetimes. How does an RPI education empower learners to tackle the climate crisis and build a more sustainable and peaceful world? If it doesn't... we need to change course and make this a priority. 

Thu, 11/02/2023 - 3:40 PM Permalink

silvez2 wrote

I think that there are a lot of good topics talked about here. Another thing that I haven't seen mentioned is the hours of buildings. Flat out, it is crazy that the library or the union isn't open 24 hours. What if my roommate and I have extremely different sleep schedules and I have to stay up until 3 working on a project and they are asleep at 10pm? Both of us are being perfectly reasonable, I am expected to be able to finish my work and my roommate is definitely expected to be able to sleep at a reasonable hour. We need more places on campus that are available to us. I also think that certain rooms in the Union (ie. the games room) could just be left open. If anything happens, it will be discovered quickly and there are cameras everywhere. I don't understand why it feels as though we are stuck in our dorm room any time past 12am. 

Thu, 11/02/2023 - 4:29 PM Permalink
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