Professor John W. Mitchell is UW-Madison's representative to a National Science Foundation-formed coalition of seven engineering education schools. The group, called the Foundation Coalition, has a goal of stimulating "bold, innovative, and comprehensive models for reform of undergraduate engineering education."
"The main thrust is to develop a responsive curriculum," said Mitchell. "We need to assess the curriculum and make it more effective for constituents' needs. We need to link and integrate all parts of the curriculum, and get as many faculty as possible involved in making these changes."
Since joining the group last October, the Madison committee led by Mitchell has held workshops on learning communities and faculty development. In April, it hosted a workshop for faculty from other coalition schools interested in learning more about the techniques, tools and plans of assessment and evaluation.
The cluster concept for the first semester curriculum that was developed by this committee will be introduced in the fall 1999 semester. In this concept, incoming freshmen enroll in a cluster of three or four courses. The discussion sessions for those courses are "learning communities" of 20 to 24 students, all of whom are taking the same course cluster. Students will get to know each other socially as well as academically, which should facilitate their interaction and learning from each other. The approach will be scaled up from the initial group of about 100 students to include all the freshman class by 2001. Additionally, a UW-Madison inter-departmental team from the different engineering departments is developing a curriculum to more effectively link courses.
The other members of the Foundation Coalition are Arizona State
University, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Texas A&M University,
Texas A&M-Kingsville, the University of Alabama, and the University of
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SPRING 1999 Contents