Research has shown that students learn better when they are actively engaged in the material than they do when they are taught by lecture (see, for example, Crouch & Mazur, 2001: http://ajp.aapt.org/resource/1/ajpias/v69/i9/p970_s1). But trying to incorporate active learning strategies can be challenging because neither faculty nor students have had much experience with teaching and learning in new ways. Furthermore, making sweeping changes in the manner that teaching and learning happens at established universities is extremely difficult.
So, when the University of Minnesota decided to build a new campus in Rochester, Chancellor Stephen Lehmkuhle took the opportunity to build a university that focused on learning, rather than memorizing (see http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/tomorrows-college/lectures/inventing-new-college.html ). According to Lehmkuhle, the goal of education is not the pursuit of knowledge in distinct disciplines; rather, it is the acquisition of skills needed to succeed in a world where knowledge is constantly changing. Research indicates that the key to learning is motivation. The University of Minnesota Rochester is built around the idea that students are motivated to learn when they can make connections.
So......at UMR, there are no lectures. There
is no "front of the room" where one authority disseminates knowledge, according
to the vice chancellor, Claudia Neuhauser. There are no departments. Faculty of all disciplines work
together in the Center for Learning Innovation. Courses in biology, ethics and
writing (for example) are connected. Tenure and promotion require faculty to do
research on student learning. Can you imagine that?
At UMR, there is no football team. But
there *is* a competitive ballroom dancing team.
If I could start my education over again, I'd apply to UMR!