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Expanding minds in an expanding universe.

 

The goals of the First Year Experience Big History program are to foster critical and creative thinking; recognition of the personal, communal, and political implications of the Big History story; and the ability to evaluate and articulate understanding of one’s place in the unfolding universe. The immense 14-billion-year framework of this course sequence communicates the natural and cultural history of our universe and emphasizes global interconnectivity. Embedded writing and research modules cultivate skills for future learning, and engaged learning practices promote a deepening of acquired knowledge and ability. These program goals have been designed by Dominican faculty in accordance with the LEAP Essential Learning Outcomes of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), the leading national association concerned with the quality, vitality, and public standing of undergraduate liberal education.

 

    First Year Experience Big History and AAC&U’s Essential Learning Outcomes

    AAC&U provides a new framework to guide students' cumulative progress through college in its Essential Learning Outcomes. First Year Experience Big History was created in accordance with these guidelines: it is foundational; teaches competencies; and provides context and a framework for examining one’s position in the world. The first three Essential Learning Outcomes—knowledge of human cultures and the physical and natural world, intellectual and practical skills, and personal and social responsibility—are addressed directly in this program. Our second-year colloquium programming also addresses these goals, along with the fourth Essential Learning Outcome, integrative and applied learning.

    This guided transition between the First Year Experience Big History and Second Year Experience Colloquium provides students with a realistic way to focus their knowledge into a current topic of interest. Topics have included imperiled watersheds, social justice, the future of modern healthcare, and changes to communication in the Information Age. This second-year programming is integrative: it builds a learning community by enrolling one group of students in two thematically linked courses. These courses are offered concurrently, are writing- and research-intensive, and draw on Big History to move from the global to the regional or the specific. Experiential learning components, such as service-learning and community-based research, are embedded and help students engage with “real world” problems.


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