In our search for new and interesting teaching methods in U.S. schools, community colleges and universities, we came across the I-series course. University of Maryland's newly introduced I-series courses, which are designed to "make introductory courses extraordinary," are receiving a lot of recognition lately. According to a recent article on Chronicle.com:
The "I" refers to imagination, inspiration and innovation."
As their signature program of General Education, the university has designed each course to address a thought-provoking current event or issue and asks students to both consider that problem from the perspective of a particular area of study or research and to place the issue in a broader community, national or international context, and then to consider its impact in their own lives.
Here's what the University of Maryland's General Education website says about their new development:
"I-Series courses are lively and contemporary. They speak to important issues that spark the imagination, demand intellect, and inspire innovation. They challenge students to wrestle with big questions, and examine the ways that different disciplines address them."
Intended to be introductions into particular fields of study, the courses attempt to show students how experts in those disciplines employ terms, concepts and approaches. Recent courses have addressed global warming, social networking, and the pursuit of happiness. Student and faculty involvement is a crucial element of I-series courses. Due to the fact that these are large-enrollment courses, between 60 and 120 students, teachers are always looking for new ways to make every student feel engaged and included in the discussion.
In order to come up with the best possible teaching methods for the large number of students in each class, groupings of faculty members involved in the I-Series share ideas and strategies and collaborate on curriculum. These courses "invert the curricular pyramid" by asking students to talk about issues and questions that wouldn't normally be introduced until later in their educational course, with the idea of causing students to examine the impact of these current topics on their everyday lives.
The hope is to get young students thinking and learning about current and important issues and therefore developing interests and discussing problems on a variety of levels, and eventually in promoting change in order to make the world a better place to live in. We wish the University of Maryland, and any other schools experimenting in engaging students with these dynamic methods, the best of luck!
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