Three science faculty members began to build a curriculum based on the foundation laid in SITS 2004. This curriculum was taught to two science faculty members who had never participated in SITS. The intent of the SITS 2005 curriculum was to challenge experienced teachers to thoughtfully examine their philosophy and practice of teaching.
One of the first projects of the summer paired the participants and required each pair to research an assigned non-science topic about which they knew almost nothing. After less than two hours of research and discussion, one member of each pair had to teach the logic of the topic to the other participants.
The intent of this was to demonstrate the tendency of content experts to substitute a presentation of factual content for actually teaching explanatory ideas. After this powerful illustration, a clear logic was unfolded over the next few weeks that faculty could use to make objective decisions about redesigning a particular course (their target course). This approach encouraged participants to view their subject as a way of thinking with its own inherent logic. The logic of a subject is expressed in terms of its concepts and even more so in its principles. Participants clarified the conceptual structure of their discipline and of their course. They went on to isolate the fundamental explanatory tools (principles) for their target course and ultimately to link these explanations into a coherent web. The summer concluded with each participant teaching a particular topic from his target course using a principle-driven approach. Each teaching demonstration was recorded and saved to a DVD for later review by the presenter.
A sample comment from a SITS 2005 participant shows our experienced faculty are not resting on their laurels: "I gained an appreciation of the need to make my teaching logically compelling. To this end, I feel that I am becoming really comfortable thinking in terms of principles and concepts. I think the 'light came on' for me when I wrote my target course lecture. Finding principles, initially, was like 'trying to find a needle in a haystack.' When I came up with a couple of principles while writing the lecture, I was so excited, because these principles made everything else that followed so clear." Additional comments from all of the participants make it clear that there is great enthusiasm for what SITS has catalyzed in the teaching of each person.
Without the generous support of our donors this valuable work would not be possible. Please pray and give that we may continue this stimulating and necessary work. Our goal for SITS 2006 is to support seven faculty for a minimum of eight weeks each.