At the fall 2005 Academic Affairs Retreat, there was a discussion that took place regarding the UNF strategic goal "increasing potential Transformational Learning Opportunities (TLOs) for our students." During that discussion, eight categories of experiences were identified which capture the many activities our faculty and staff provide to enrich the undergraduate learning experience. Eight committees were then formed to outline the goals and activities inherent in these TLO experiences. The eight committee reports are provided below.
A Directed Independent Study (DIS) provides opportunities for individual students to work closely with faculty as they pursue a shared scholarly or creative interest. A DIS allows students to earn University credit for activities and experiences outside the conventional curriculum, but does not provide a substitute for the conventional curriculum. These opportunities may be initiated by either the student or the faculty member, and the precise content and form of the independent study “course” often reflects collaboration between the two. To be a transformational learning opportunity, a DIS should aim to transform the student in the following ways: (1) develop and/or nurture the ability for independent study; (2) increase self-motivation, curiosity, sense of self-sufficiency and self-direction in planning and carrying out the student’s education; and (3) nurture academic excellence through academic independence. Although the most salient characteristic of a DIS is a student’s self-directed pursuit of academic excellence, DIS may include elements of other Transformational Learning Opportunities such as travel, original research, or service learning.
Field Experience is a structured program designed to enhance the quality and breadth of learning by giving students educationally-related work and learning experience that integrates theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skill development in a work setting, and contributes to the development of personal and professional maturity and ethics. Field Experience provides an enriched educational experience for students with established learning goals and objectives, ongoing supervision, and assessment and evaluation of their experience. Ongoing supervision is provided by an onsite work supervisor and a faculty member or coordinator from the University. The whole work term is a process of observation, naturalistic inquiry, hands-on experience, and continual learning which is reinforced through recognition and feedback.
International Transformational Learning Opportunities (ITLOs) may take varied forms. However, they share certain critical characteristics. These traits include taking place abroad, and being explicitly oriented toward learning. Thus, examples of ITLOs include, but are not limited to, classroom study abroad at a foreign-located institute, college or university for a period ranging from one month to one year; field-based study abroad with a UNF faculty member; internship or practicum abroad; or research involving international travel. Examples of non-ITLOs are on-campus international activities and vacations abroad. Learning must be intentional, which implies that ITLOs are structured with respect to learning objectives and the various activities that lead to students achieving them. Significant interaction with host country culture and people appears to be an essential contributor to the transformative nature of an ITLO.
The committee agreed that the overall purpose of transformational leadership learning is expressed very well in the mission statement of the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS) Student Leadership Programs. It states that student leadership programs must “provide students with opportunities to develop and enhance a personal philosophy of leadership that includes understanding of self, others, and community, and acceptance of responsibilities inherent in community membership.” These opportunities should lead to learning outcomes expressed by the UNF Institute of Leadership, namely: intellectual growth, critical thinking, effective communication, healthy regard for self and others, defined personal philosophy of leadership, social and ethical responsibility, respect and appreciation for diversity, and a global perspective.
A Learning Community exists when students and teachers work closely, cooperatively, and actively to engage with a field of study that is understood by the students to be relevant beyond the academic exercise. A learning community often encourages students go beyond studying a topic to a more engaged and empowered position as investigator or evaluator, so that they recognize the relevance of the research to other areas of their life, be they other courses or their non-academic life. Learning communities are often formed in linked courses with two or more teachers working together on a common theme or topic (so that the teachers work together and are able to model an academic partnership), or in a single class that challenges students to assist each other in achieving a common academic and personal investigation, while the teacher acts as facilitator. A learning community occurs when students are inspired to become actively engaged in study not as individual students, but as a group, so that the social dynamics facilitate the transfer of the experience outside the boundaries of the class. Student-Faculty interaction that spurs innovative thinking may also constitute a learning community. A learning community becomes a transformational learning opportunity when the students connect the skills, knowledge and values explored in the learning community outside of the discipline or the classroom setting.
Service-Learning is an experiential teaching method that combines community service with course instruction using critical, reflective thinking to enhance academic rigor and learning outcomes. Service-Learning focuses on giving students credit for learning that is demonstrated through reflection on service, not credit for service hours performed. Service-Learning initiatives at UNF engage students in a reciprocal relationship with the community. In this relationship organized service addresses community identified or recognized needs while each student develops his or her academic skills as well as his or her interest in and sense of responsibility towards the community. The “S” and the “L” are capitalized to recognize their shared and equal weight while the hyphen signifies that serving and learning are connected and reciprocal.
A UNF Undergraduate Research Transformational Learning Opportunity (TLO) experience, through deeper study and exploration beyond the classroom, has the potential to expand the body of knowledge in a discipline and provide for the personal development of the student.
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