This is a post about the value and purpose of our “Huddle” program. But I’m going to start with a long preface that follows up on Chris’ YouTube video from Tuesday.
Eisenhower once said that plans are useless, but planning is everything.
Think about his words as you write your syllabus; the thought that goes into writing it matters more than the document itself.
We designed FYS to help prepare students for the ambiguity and complexity of the Knowledge Society. Students wrestle with problems for which there are no clear solutions. We have them follow an inquiry cycle because it gives them a framework to handle this uncertainty and it helps them learn resilience and confidence in the face of unknowing.
FYS is not about answers, but questions. It’s not about solutions, but structures to build knowledge. It’s not about predictable outcomes, but learning how to be flexible and adaptive.
If we gave them a syllabus that detailed week by week their readings, assignments, assessments, and discussion topics, we’d be doing the exact opposite of our intent.
In writing the syllabus, you know how the course could unfold. You have a vision of how you’ll achieve and assess the learning outcomes.
But carefully crafted plans have a way of going awry, and we should be ready to abandon them in favor of “ground truth.” The benefit of all that planning is that we know what the options are and how we can adjust. They provide structure to our judgment as educators.
I tell my students not to read too far ahead, or see it as a contract. It’ll change, and it’ll change because we’ll go where the material takes us, not what the plans dictate for us.
Here’s another contradiction for you: we want you to adhere to the learning objectives and overall structure of the FYS program but we want you to be creative.
Yes, it works. Here’s how.
Think of our course structure (the roadmap) as a boundary. It offers a recommended framework so that our students share a common experience.
The learning objectives serve as the other boundary. They outline for you the University’s expectations for using inquiry, fostering cognitive diversity and critical thinking, and writing to communicate.
A “common experience” does not mean rigid standardization. You have the flexibility to adjust the timelines, tailor writing assignments and prompts, introduce new readings, and apply a different teaching and learning models as appropriate.
More on this in future weeks. For now let me get to the subject of huddles.
We can’t give you all this flexibility and empowerment and not offer some supporting structure.
Huddles are informal gatherings of faculty designed to build a sense of collegiality and give you a forum to share ideas, insights, or just talk each other through problems. (If you find something that works particularly well, please share it with me! We are always looking for ways to improve the course.) Huddles are about knowledge sharing.
These are not one-time events. Last year some groups of faculty met weekly while others gathered only when they sensed the need. They are not mandatory but highly encouraged.
Most huddles are simple events; there are no agendas, presentations, or leaders. In other words, we’re not adding a layer of bureaucracy on to your busy day or asking you to “report” on how your class is going.
Huddles are not hard to organize or conduct. Just email each other to work out a date and time, gather, and talk.
Recent huddle topics included:
• Pedagogical best practices for inquiry
• New books/essays that improve our scholarship
• Issues, i.e.: “How are your guiding questions shaping up?”
These huddles need not focus exclusively on FYS. Discuss what most interests you!
I’ve attached our the FYS schedule below. I’m not going to organize each “huddle” – there are too many moving parts. I would recommend that you email the people who teach in the same general time slot to gauge interest.
Let me know if I can help, or if you’d like me to attend. (Or perhaps Chris, or Lenn?)
There’s plenty of space in the CCE to conduct your huddles. FYS owns a common room and several meeting rooms (CCE-315). But if you’d prefer, you can reserve a room in the ABL or Learning Commons.