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Classroom innovation: a Concordia priority

New fund supports faculty in exploring new approaches
February 11, 2014
By Tom Peacock

Curriculum Innovation Fund The Curriculum Innovation Fund provides resources to aid in new program development or to transform existing programs. | Photo by Concordia University

Thinking outside the box. That is the purpose of the new Curriculum Innovation Fund: to encourage faculty members to find new ways of improving their courses and teaching methods.

A joint initiative of the Office of the Provost and the School of Graduate Studies, the Curriculum Innovation Fund upholds the commitment of the university's Academic Plan to provide students with dynamic programs and engaging learning experiences.

This next-generation learning initiative promotes program quality and innovation, while building support for student success.

Catherine Bolton Catherine Bolton: “This fund is devoted to figuring out how we can make the teaching and learning experience of our students better.” | Photo by Concordia University

Catherine Bolton, Concordia’s vice-provost of Teaching and Learning, hopes that many faculty members will take advantage of this fund and submit proposals in time for the next deadline on Monday, March 17.

She explains the initiative’s raison d’être.

Why was Concordia’s Curriculum Innovation Fund created?

Catherine Bolton: The goal is to support our faculty members in looking at how they can make the teaching and learning experience of their students better — how they can get students more engaged while pushing the boundaries a little bit.

We need to take into account all the ways students are connected to the world. How do we take their abilities and integrate them into the classroom? We need to use all the ways that they're used to finding information and learning.

We want to make Concordia a place where students want to come and learn. We recognize that the post-secondary landscape is in a process of great change right now. We want to respond and even be in advance of it, so we can position our students to be ahead of the curve. As educators we do this in the classroom, and through our programs.

So, in essence, the fund provides additional funding for Concordia faculty members who want to reinvent what they’re offering students?

CB: Exactly. We know very well that faculty members are undertaking this sort of innovation in their classrooms already. But they're doing it quietly, and they're doing it on their own, maybe with some support from their department. So this initiative is designed to give them additional support.

Maybe faculty have a project that needs some more teaching assistance because they're really transforming the way that they're teaching. Or maybe they need a research assistant to collect information about a teaching experience that someone at another university is offering and they’d like to try.

We want people to approach this in a thoughtful and researched manner. We have to be respectful of the students in the classroom. If a professor wants to experiment with something, we want to help them to do some preliminary research on it so they’ll know if it's a valid experience to give to their students.

Is one of the fund’s goals to promote a broader culture of innovation at Concordia?

CB: Definitely. When you start talking and hearing about what other people are doing, you start to think, “Maybe I could have done that in my class. That's a great idea!”

We don't have enough areas where we can talk about teaching. I want to start developing a conversation, and also developing a critical mass of people that are doing innovative things. Then, if someone comes to me and says, “I have this great idea, but I'm not quite sure how to go about it,” I can say, “Go and talk to so-and-so, because they put in a curriculum innovation grant, they got one, and they're doing this amazing thing in their classroom.” And maybe that will help you with your idea.

The Curriculum Innovation Fund was initially launched last fall. How did it go?

The soft launch allowed us to give funding to those who were ready to go, and get them started. I was expecting three or four applicants, and we got 15! I was very pleased with the level of interest.

However, the soft launch also showed us that we had to tweak things a little bit in terms of encouraging people to think about innovation and taking a risk to experiment with their course or program.

The fund has two tracks: course transformation and program transformation. Successful applicants receive a maximum of $10,000 from the total envelope of $175,000. The application deadline is Monday, March 17, 2014.

Learn more about the Curriculum Innovation Fund.

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