Curriculum Transformation Project incubates bold ideas
Part of VPUE’s Leveling the Learning Landscape initiative, a new pilot project offers schools and departments support for making undergraduate curriculum more equitable and accessible.
Stanford faculty and academic departments have a new opportunity to access guidance and funding to put their transformative curricular ideas into action.
The Curriculum Transformation Project, led by the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) and aligned with the university’s IDEAL efforts, is designed to help instruction teams achieve their goals for inclusive, accessible, and equitable introductory pathways for students across majors.
The project is one of the latest collaborations between the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education (VPUE), of which CTL is a part, and Stanford’s three undergraduate schools. It’s one of several efforts underway within VPUE’s broader Leveling the Learning Landscape (L3) initiative – a multi-year strategic effort to equalize educational access and opportunity for all Stanford undergraduates through curricular innovation and institutional reform.
At the heart of the L3 initiatives is ensuring that undergraduates get the support they need in their first two years to be able to major in anything they choose, regardless of what they were exposed to before coming to Stanford. The L3 initiatives are supported by a five-year anonymous gift supporting several areas within VPUE, the Vice Provost for Student Affairs office, and the Schools, with the goal of transforming the curricular experience of first-generation and/or low-income students at Stanford.
According to Cassandra Volpe Horii, associate vice provost for education and director of CTL, the goal of the Curriculum Transformation Project is to enable departments to scaffold increasingly inclusive teaching and learning environments in their classrooms and across introductory sequences of courses, while equipping students with the skills and resources to be successful.
“Listening to input from faculty and academic staff across schools and departments, it became clear that this opportunity needed to have a minimal barrier to entry for instruction teams and that academic programs really want to understand students’ experiences through both quantitative and qualitative data to inform their next steps,” Horii said. “CTL is so excited to partner with instruction teams across the university and support the implementation of their greatest inclusive teaching and learning goals, in ways that also make it feasible for our extremely busy colleagues to carry out the changes they envision.”
Instructional teams will be invited to take part in a Curriculum Transformation Institute in June to incubate and develop innovative projects. Substantial seed grant support – ranging from $25,000 for small-scale and exploratory projects to up to $250,000 for large-scale efforts – will enable grant awardees to launch their creative ideas as soon as this fall.
It starts with an idea
The first step to participating is to gather a team of faculty, academic staff, and others with project-related instructional roles around an idea, and then secure the department chair’s support.
Ideas for transforming curriculum could involve developing instructional materials that provide diagnostics, structured learning opportunities, or assessments that support a range of students; initiating peer-to-peer learning to address different levels of student preparation; creating a supportive community that fosters student belonging; developing new courses that address core skills required for success within a major; or mining data from course evaluations, survey results and enrollment to inform strategic changes. But Horii emphasizes that these are just a few examples to spark thinking across disciplines about addressing challenges in courses and curricula at the introductory undergraduate level.
“We don’t want to preclude other possibilities or limit your imagination,” she says.
Applying is easy
Instruction teams are asked to fill out a short application, which is not a typical grant proposal but rather a statement of intention about what they want to achieve. Teams don’t need to have all of the details of their project worked out in advance, as they’ll have access to additional data, consultation, and time to develop their ideas. Some teams may wish to propose a year of in-depth inquiry and design leading to a larger project the following year. Applications are due Monday, May 22.
Three-day institute nurtures ideas
All project participants – called Curriculum Transformation Fellows – will join the three-day Curriculum Transformation Institute (CTI) June 13-15 to help them incubate their ideas, formulate goals, connect with the other teams, and write their proposals. Teams will receive guidance on initiating practical projects and increasing their chances of securing seed funding. They’ll have access to experts in inclusive teaching, support for course and curriculum design, effective practices across disciplines, and resources for data and assessment. They’ll also hear from students about their experiences with introductory courses. The seed grant awards will be announced by the end of June.
Project Co-Chair Mary Beth Mudgett, senior associate dean for the natural sciences and professor of biology, says the institute is a tremendous opportunity for faculty and academic staff to advance IDEAL pedagogy goals and access the resources to implement their ideas.
“Participation in the Curriculum Transformation Institute is a key step for teams teaching introductory curriculum to make their courses and major inviting and accessible to all undergraduates,” she says.