Transforming FSTY 1310 into a Living Learning Community: Alex Barron and Chris Flynn

Transforming FSTY 1310 into a Living Learning Community

Chris Flynn, Associate Professor HUMX

Alex Barron, Assistant Professor, SOE

Background

Freshman Studies 1310, or “Introduction to the Liberal Arts,” is where we teach first years what it means to be students at a liberal arts college like ours. It is also one of the primary courses where we show them how the work of a college student differs from what they did in high school. Our goal in revising our section of FSTY 1310 is to clarify the transition from high school to college for our students and to build community. We seek to connect students to one another, to St. Edward’s, and to Austin through its vibrant film and literary scenes.

Innovation

We are reimagining our Freshman Studies course, Global Film & Literature, as a Living Learning Community (LLC) for the Fall 2014 semester. We will have 53 students living together in Hunt Hall, where they will have the opportunity to collaborate on work for the course, attend special lectures and presentations, and experience this foundational class in a way that connects student life to classroom work. This will be the largest LLC at St. Edward’s, and will require significant planning and collaboration with staff across the university. Ultimately the redesign will change the relationship between the classroom lectures and the outside activities. The course will take place in the lecture hall, in the residence halls, across campus, and around Austin.

If we are successful, this should improve retention as well the quality of the work students do in the classes they take after their first semester. Since the class is a large lecture, something most of our students will never have encountered, and it requires advanced note-taking skills and independent study, we hope that conducting the class as an LLC will provide support and help students develop a cohort of study partners, as well as help students see connections between academics, student life, and Austin’s cultural offerings. In addition, redesigning the class as an LLC gives us the opportunity to connect with students outside the classroom, something that can be difficult in the large lecture format.

Status of Project

Creating a successful Living Learning Community requires collaboration. To date we have met multiple times with the head of the LLC program, the Residence Life Hall Director in charge of Hunt, the RAs responsible for our students, and the APSS counselors attached to the LLC. Together we have brainstormed events we would like to create on campus (i.e. a screening with an alum who is a filmmaker) and field trips we would like to take students on (i.e. the Texas Book Festival). We have also clarified roles of team members, set up regular meetings for the fall, and sketched out our calendar of special events.

Remaining Work

We need to finalize the fall calendar and the budgeting. We also need to bring the writing teachers and FSTY interns into the conversation. Finally we need to reach out to enrolled students to get them excited about what we’ll do in the LLC in the fall.

One of our major tasks will be setting up the requirements for work on the documentary film that about a quarter of our students will be involved in. We need to design a work flow, work on schedules, clarify technical proficiencies that will need to be developed, and design how Professor Flynn works with the students on this aspect of the course.

Assessment Plans

Our objectives for the course are to get students reading literature and critiquing film on a consistently solid level. Students in this LLC should be able to:

  • enter critical conversations about the texts and films we introduce them to and  make connections between texts and films
  • extend their critical reading and viewing skills beyond this particular course
  • participate in events beyond campus, such as the Texas Book Festival, Austin Film Festival, SXSW, and the many public readings given in Austin

The first two objectives will be measured through the students’ work on papers and tests throughout the semester. The last one will be assessed through a combination of attendance taken at these events and reflections produced by students afterwards.

The documentary will be one of the ways in which we disseminate the results of the class. It isn’t set up as an assessment tool, but should offer a clear example of what we did in the class.

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