Happy New Year, everyone!
EPIC Learning means that our students are experiencing a pedagogical approach that uses external collaboration (E), is project-based (P), is interdisciplinary in nature (I) and is an integral and explicit part of our curricula (C). If we imagine all of our curricula and courses as being in a big box, each of the EPI components is part of the curricula and courses that we currently offer to our students. Many, but not all, of the courses have external collaborators. The same is true of projects. Some have interdisciplinary approaches. Some of our courses have two of the three, and some have all three.
One of way of picturing this is showing the curricula and courses as contained in a large rectangle. Each of the individual components of EPIC Learning is depicted as a circle within the larger rectangle. Sometimes two of the three components overlap, here shaded in green. In some cases all three of the components overlap, as shown in red.
We currently offer many different types of courses, which appear as individual points within the Curricula rectangle. Some of the courses have none of the EPIC components and lie outside of the circles. Some courses have one of the components and lie within one of the circles, but are not in the areas where the circles overlap. Some courses have two of the components and appear in the overlap areas, but not in the central area where all three circles overlap. Some of our courses have all three components and appear in the area where all three circles do overlap. Those are the courses and projects that are truly EPIC!
As we move our curricula more towards EPIC Learning, we need to bring in more of the individual components. We would like to move into the green areas and then towards the red area. We don’t have to do it all at once! We can add each of the pieces as we go along.
As an example, let’s assume that we have a course that is currently being taught using “classical lecturing.” In our diagrams, it’s one of the points that lie outside all of the circles. But since we know the EPIC Learning approach results in increased student learning, we want to move the pedagogy we are using in the course towards EPIC. A first step might be to talk to a Wentworth colleague from a different department and invite her or him to give a guest lecture on a topic that falls within the learning goals of the course. (I’ll use examples here from the class that I’m teaching with Ron Bernier entitled “Awesome: Regarding the Sublime in Art and Science” just because I’m so familiar with our class. There are many of you who have done not only similar things, but things that are even better than we’ve managed!) In my example, invited guest lecturers included Amanda Hattaway to talk about the sublime nature of mathematics and James O’Brien to talk about the philosophy of science. Diagrammatically, the course moved from outside all of the circles to inside the Interdisciplinary circle, as shown here. That’s a good step in the right direction.
Having seen positive reactions from the students about this change, we decide to include a final project as a part of the course. The students are assigned teams and are asked to put together a multimedia presentation (Power Point is not allowed!) demonstrating their understanding of the sublime. The final projects can and have included music, painting, infographics, videos, and anything else the students think is the best way to demonstrate the sublime. (The students came up with things we didn’t even think of, like hardware to visualize music using speakers and water trays, and 3-D scanning and printing of mushrooms.) In our diagram, the course has now moved into the area where the interdisciplinary and project-based circles overlap.
Continuing to improve the course, we decide to expand our thinking and include external collaboration. One of us, Ron, has met a person at a conference who is both an Episcopal priest and an evolutionary biologist, and is working at Harvard. He’s invited to give a guest lecture on how he incorporates both of these into his life and work. We also invited the author of the book that discussed the similarities of Hubble astrophotos and American landscape art to visit Wentworth. It was this book that was the inspiration for us putting the course together in the first place. The course now has all of the components and has moved into the EPIC central overlap area.
It didn’t happen all at once. It happened in steps, as we can see when we put all three diagrams together showing the individual moves.
There are many different paths that we could have taken to end up with an EPIC Learning course. It only depends on how you want to put your course together. We could have put the projects in first, in which case we would have moved from outside the circles to within the Project-Based circle. We could have invited outside guest speakers first, and then we would have moved to within the Externally Collaborative circle as the first step.
Each part of EPIC doesn’t have to be done individually, though. By inviting the Episcopal priest/biologist from Harvard first, we could have moved from outside all of the circles to inside the overlap area of the Externally Collaborative and Interdisciplinary circles in one step instead of two. If we had planned ahead, and put all of the pieces together at once before we even started teaching the class, we could have changed it from a non-EPIC course to a totally EPIC course in one step.
Many of our courses at Wentworth already include projects. It’s part of what Wentworth is all about. We use experiential learning to generate Career Success. In many cases, to make courses EPIC we need to add interdisciplinary and external collaborations to what we already have in order to move towards the central overlap area. As many of you have learned, working with outside collaborators isn’t as difficult as it might seem. Many employers of our co-op students and alumni are willing to work with us if we only ask.
As we continue to improve our courses and work collaboratively, the size of the overlap areas will increase. We have the advantage that we’re not starting from a situation where there is no overlap at all. We already have courses that fit into all of the areas of these diagrams. As we continue to implement more EPIC Learning courses, and the central overlap area increases in size, we will also be moving closer towards achieving our Strategic Vision: “By 2032, be the university of choice for Externally-collaborative, Project-based, Interdisciplinary Curricula for Learning (EPIC Learning).”