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The Center for the Enhancement of Learning, Teaching, and University Assessment

Community of Practice on Engaged Learning

Develop Your Own Engaged Learning Approach

As they move toward self-authorship, Miami Graduates are able to lead with integrity in an ambiguous and diverse world.

Combining good practices and a developmental framework, an Engaged University helps students move away from external formulas, through the crossroads, and to self-authorship by providing:

  • clearly stated, cumulative learning outcomes;
  • an intentionally sequenced set of learning experiences; and
  • ongoing reflection to achieve purposeful integration of learning.

By matching the level of challenge with student readiness, educators offer curricular and co-curricular experiences that support the transformation toward self-authorship.

In each stage of students’ development, students join faculty and staff as partners in discovering new knowledge to apply in professional and personal contexts. As they move toward self-authorship, Miami graduates are able to lead with integrity in an ambiguous and diverse world.

In this section of the website, we offer you lists that prompt you to use the ideas offered in this website to re-conceptualize and design new practices for your specific field/area. Thus, we invite you to turn from reflecting to generating new ideas.

The lists focus on the following questions:

What are the typical characteristics of students at each phase of their undergraduate experience?

Generic Learner Characteristics at Three Phases of Development

External Formulas: Knowledge viewed as certain; reliance on authorities (e.g., professors, textbooks, the media) as source of knowledge; externally defined value system and identity; act in relationships to acquire approval

Crossroads: Evolving awareness of multiple perspectives and uncertainty; evolving awareness of own values and identity and of limitations of dependent relationships

Self-authorship: Awareness of knowledge as contextual; development of internal belief system and sense of self; capacity to engage in authentic, interdependent relationships

Consider students in your educational context. What are some of their prevailing characteristics at each stage of development?

What challenges do students often face as they progress through their undergraduate experience?

Challenges at the Leading Edge of Development

External Formulas: Recognizing that multiple perspectives exist; realizing that authorities are not all-knowing; awareness of one's own role in identifying values; seeing the limitations of dependent relationships

Crossroads: Choosing among multiple perspectives based on internal beliefs and values; integrating internal beliefs and values into a sense of identity; including one's own needs in relationships

Self-authorship: Acting consistently based on one's internal belief system; refining one's sense of self as ability to reflect on one's shortcomings increases; negotiating the complexities of interdependent relationships

Consider students in your educational context. What are some of the key challenges for students at each stage of development?

What have others done and what can I do to help promote students' maturity when they are still relying on external formulas?

Helping Students Move Away From External Formulas

How Educators Engage with Students to Balance Challenge and Support in the Introductory Stage?

  • Cultivate a safe climate for honest exchange
  • Offer ongoing opportunities for students to write or communicate ideas
  • Build on students' experiences, and connect academic learning to their experiences
  • Provide multiple valid perspectives on topics addressed; ask students to determine which perspective(s) fit best with their own beliefs and values and why
  • Help students to understand, analyze and critique experts and authorities
  • Use dialogic evaluation/reflection, and raise additional questions for students to consider
  • Reflect on their own teaching process, and consider how they can more fully share authority and expertise with students

Examples of Learning Experiences in the Introductory Stage:

Miami Plan Experience: Students ask enduring questions about human society and the natural world in foundation courses. They begin to see that disciplinary experts differ in their ways and methods of understanding the world. Students begin to develop critical thinking skills such as stating an appropriate problem or thesis, using appropriate evidence to support an argument, and identifying multiple perspectives on an issue.

Courses in the Major: Introductory courses prompt students to understand disciplinary frameworks for exploring enduring questions and problems. In written work and through discussion, students learn to provide supporting examples or evidence that are plausible and based on research. They become able to explain the significance of a question or problem using disciplinary concepts.

Living Learning Community: In first-year living learning communities, students understand the dynamics of a diverse community and their responsibility to positively contribute to it. They begin to recognize distinctions between how they and others view their culture and begin to engage with those who hold different perspectives than they do.

Student Organization: By selecting which student organizations to join, students begin to actively explore their own values and beliefs. Once they select an organization, they understand its mission and values and explore how it connects with their personal goals. Students begin to recognize that different perspectives, personalities, and behaviors are valuable for group projects.

Consider the best practices in your specific field/area for students who are moving away from external formulas (i.e., who are in the introductory stage). In what ways do these practices currently provide an appropriate balance of challenge and support? In what ways can you refine these practices or create new ones

What have others done and what can I do to help promote students' maturity when they are beginning to question external formulas?

Helping Students Move through the Crossroads Stage

How Educators Engage with Students to Balance Challenge and Support in the Intermediate Stage:

  • Provide structured opportunities for students to make key decisions
  • Help students practice authentic scholarly and creative discovery tasks and methods
  • Offer ongoing opportunities for students to write or communicate; provide ongoing feedback
  • Help students define and act on their own ideas and values within the context of multiple perspectives
  • Help students understand the limitations and benefits of, and make connections among, different knowledge domains (disciplines, cultures, fields, professions)
  • Teach students to function productively in teams and to reflect on effective collaboration
  • Assist students in processing their problems and generating their own solutions

Examples of Learning Experiences in the Crossroads Stage:

Miami Plan Experience: Through a thematic sequence of courses, students explore multiple perspectives and engage in a sustained inquiry on a common theme. They deepen their abilities to use the discipline's methods of reasoning and sharpen their critical thinking skills by identifying nuances in problems and issues, addressing contradictory or conflicting perspectives or information, and developing more complex and multi-faceted conclusions.

Courses in the Major: In intermediate courses, students compare and contrast disciplinary concepts and methods, recognizing the assets and limitations of each. They take the initiative to engage in and work through the process of inquiry from forming a question or message to creating a plan of action to sharing and evaluating the results. When communicating ideas, they use appropriate and compelling tones, formats, vocabularies, techniques, and documentation styles.

Living Learning Community: In upper-class LLCs, students negotiate the needs of community members to create an inclusive community. Students intentionally seek out new perspectives and work to understand situations from others' points of view. They are able to voice their own views and face conflict without dominating others or being overpowered by others.

Student Organization: Students negotiate multiple perspectives to achieve a shared outcome. Students learn to articulate the team's as well as their own strengths and areas for improvement. They begin to detect ways that their actions differ from or do not fully align with their values.

Consider the best practices in your specific field/area for students who are moving through the crossroads (i.e., who are in the intermediate stage). In what ways do these practices currently provide an appropriate balance of challenge and support? In what ways can you refine these practices or create new ones to maximize the balance of challenge and support?

What have others done and what can I do to help promote students' maturity when they are becoming self-authored?

Helping Students Move into Self-Authorship

How Educators Engage with Students to Balance Challenge and Support in the Advanced Stage:

  • Empower students individually or in teams to plan, design, and implement their own discovery-oriented projects with ongoing feedback and critical self-reflection
  • Help students consistently base their decisions and constructions of knowledge upon their internal belief system
  • Help students integrate aspects of their identity and recognize the multifaceted identities of others
  • Cultivate climates akin to graduate seminars where students and faculty engage in respectful dialogue to explore differences of opinion
  • Ask students to assist educators in developing criteria by which to assess the effectiveness of their work
  • Provide opportunities for students to reflect on their undergraduate experience and apply lessons learned to career goals
  • Share the characteristics of their own internally defined belief system and identity

Examples of Learning Experiences at the Self-Authored Stage:

Miami Plan Experience: In the capstone, students evaluate and apply knowledge in a culminating, integrated research project. They work with and learn from other students from different disciplines and define problems of interest to themselves. They continue to develop their critical thinking skills by being able to commit for themselves in the face of conflicting and well-reasoned "truths." They understand that knowledge is contextual and begin to act on this basis.

Courses in the Major: In advanced courses, students create, evaluate, apply and share disciplinary knowledge publicly. They produce a significant, high-quality work that advances an original idea or takes an original approach. In this work, they use a set of criteria that fits with their own values and beliefs to gather, interpret, and evaluate data. They also understand the social and legal implications of their work.

Living Learning Community: Students construct community standards and hold themselves and peers accountable. They consciously shift perspectives and behaviors to understand others' worldviews and use multiple cultural worldviews to relate with their peers. They sustain and enact a commitment to creating an inclusive community in which all members feel valued and a sense of belonging.

Student Organization: Students create and enact a vision to enhance the organization and its future. Students intentionally partner with peers and educators to advance learning and effect positive change. They align their actions with their beliefs and values and draw connections between their leadership with the student organization and the leadership they intend to demonstrate in their personal and professional lives.

Consider the best practices in your specific field/area for students who are moving into self-authorship (i.e., who are in the advanced stage). In what ways do these practices currently provide an appropriate balance of challenge and support? In what ways can you refine these practices or create new ones to maximize the balance of challenge and support?

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