Foundational Skills Innovation Spotlight: Lawrence Technological University

In this series, we highlight exceptional responses we’ve seen on the part of higher education institutions to the many challenges endemic to America’s foundational skills crisis. This month we profiled Lawrence Technological University in Michigan, where administrators fully committed to ensuring that faculty develop their instruction of foundational skills, and then consistently teach and measure student learning outcomes in these areas.

Key Player: Maria Vaz, PhD, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost

During her tenure with the university, she has overseen many positive changes. Among these are the development of the 24-credit Core Curriculum, which covers math, analytical thinking, writing, literature, and science using problem-based, project-oriented, and collaborative learning. However, it’s her commitment to faculty development that we will focus on here today.

The Challenge: Creating a sense of ownership for teaching foundational skills across all faculty. 

Foundational skills like critical thinking were recognized as an integral component of earning a degree from Lawrence Tech, but there were no mechanisms in place to ensure faculty were consistently teaching and assessing these skills across the curriculum.

The Innovation: Faculty-wide, annual training to improve and align teaching performance. 

Every faculty member at Lawrence Tech now attends 2-3 training days on problem-based learning, experiential learning, effective writing, and critical thinking in order to be able to integrate such instruction into the Core Curriculum successfully. Shared rubrics on writing, problem solving, and teaming are used across the core curriculum to evaluate student skills development. Each department has an annual learning outcomes review to discuss results of the findings and close the loop, ensuring next actions continually sharpen approaches to instruction and assessment.