Immersive Retreat Provides Boost for First Year Seminar Faculty

Sometimes you just need to get away from it all to focus on something new, and that’s exactly 18 Appalachian State faculty members did at the Wildacres retreat center in Little Switzerland, NC. It was only 30 miles from the university, but it felt like another world. The distance created an immersive opportunity to infuse their First Year Seminar (FYS) class with the principles of Universal Design for Learning.

The retreat introduced faculty, who came from a variety of disciplines, to the TILT (Transparency in Learning and Teaching) framework developed by Dr. Mary-Ann Winkelmes of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. A focus of TILT is that every assignment should have a clear PURPOSE, TASK and CRITERIA for success.

Each participant (re)designed one assignment from their FYS class based on TILT principles and later worked with others to ensure the redesigned assignment met the success goals.

Funded by Appalachian’s College STAR Program and the First Year Seminar and General Education Programs, the retreat was led by Dr. Tracy Smith, Professor and Assistant Chair of Curriculum and Instruction; Lillian Nave Goudas, Director of AppSTAR; Martha McCaughey, Faculty Coordinator of First Year Seminar; and Kelly McBride, Associate Professor of Libraries and library liaison to the FYS program. McBride presented on “Information Seeking Behavior of Today’s College Students” and demonstrated how to design an assignment that would encourage students to use library modules and heighten their information literacy.

The two and a half days also included a session on Executive Functioning Challenges so faculty members could learn to recognize EFC and become aware of the campus and College Star resources available to students.

FYS introduces first year Appalachian students (freshmen and transfers) to rigorous academic study at the University level through interdisciplinary engagement with a broad topic or question. Experienced faculty engage FYS students in a shared process of inquiry in small seminar-style classes.

Goudas said that after the seminar experience participating faculty members were eager to apply what they had learned to their fall class and were confident that their students would respond positively changes they made.