Welcome back to a new academic year at Wentworth! As all of you know from my announcement at the Wentworth Community Meeting, starting in Fall 2015 a half-day per week will be set aside for EIPBL – Externally-collaborative, Interdisciplinary, Project-Based Learning. (There has to be better terminology and a better acronym. I’m open to all suggestions.) The Academic Leadership Team has been working on the general implementation of EIPBL into our curricula and the specific implementation of the half-day per week approach at all of its offsite meetings since July. The two faculty workshops in Spring and Fall were designed to generate interest in working in interdisciplinary teams and in using projects in our pedagogies. The next faculty workshop will be held on Tuesday, 19 November from 3:30 to 5:00 pm and will focus on external collaborations. All of this is aimed at achieving the Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal in our new strategic plan: By 2032, to be the university of choice for industry-collaborative, interdisciplinary project-based learning.
One of the approaches being using by the Academic Leadership Team (ALT) is Edward de Bono’s “six thinking hats” (http://www.debonogroup.com/six_thinking_hats.php). The general concept is to separate thinking into six clear functions and roles. Each of the six hats is a different color – white, yellow, black, red, green and blue – designating information, optimism, judgment, intuition, creativity and the thinking process itself, respectively. We are trying to be as comprehensive as possible to allow the implementation to occur smoothly. At the ALT’s most recent meeting, we reviewed all of the ideas that were generated over the summer and began to identify the critical steps that are needed to be completed for each of the six hat functions. The department chairs will review the results with everyone at the next departmental meetings. I hope to visit each department before Thanksgiving to make sure that all of our lines of communication are open and that everyone has a chance to discuss this major change in how we teach and learn with our students.
There have already been some major changes made by some departments to get a head start on using EIPBL. Last Spring, 132 first-year students and 6 faculty taught the Introduction to Engineering course in an interdisciplinary format. It will be expanded to 216 students and 10 faculty in Spring 2014. Also in Spring 2014, students and faculty from six programs – architecture, interior design, industrial design, construction management, mechanical engineering and civil engineering – will work together on a project based on rehabilitating one of the historic buildings at the Medfield State Hospital site that has been closed and shuttered since 2003. These two projects are in addition to many other interdisciplinary projects that have been initiated in the last several years. In many ways, we can look at them as pilot projects for the more general changes that will be implemented in Fall 2015.
The ALT is also working on two other initiatives that should result in major improvements to the academic operations of the Institute.
Three teams are working on improvements to academic advising. One team is developing a robust advising manual that will bring all of the information required into a single document that faculty can easily use when advising students. The second and third teams are investigating how best to communicate best practices to students and to faculty to optimize the advising process. The ALT views advising as much more than scheduling classes. Good advising will help students develop both professionally and personally as fully as possible.
The ALT’s third project is working as a group to improve the faculty evaluation process. The annual evaluations and the faculty planning worksheets are important components in continually improving the Institute, student learning, and ourselves.
2013-2014 should be another exciting year at Wentworth Institute of Technology. I’m looking forward to it and I sincerely hope all of you are, too!