Paper No. 141-9
Presentation Time: 11:00 AM

THE HISTORY, CURRENT BEST PRACTICES, AND FUTURE TRAJECTORY OF THE INDEPENDENT STUDY (I.S.) PROGRAM AT THE COLLEGE OF WOOSTER


POLLOCK, Meagen, Department of Geology, College of Wooster, 944 College Mall, Scovel Hall, Wooster, OH 44691, mpollock@wooster.edu, WILSON, Mark A., Department of Geology, The College of Wooster, 944 College Mall, Wooster, OH 44691, JUDGE, Shelley A., Department of Geology, The College of Wooster, 944 College Mall, Scovel Hall, Wooster, OH 44691, and WILES, Gregory C., Geology, The College of Wooster, 944 College Mall, Scovel Hall, Wooster, OH 44691
The Independent Study (I.S.) program at The College of Wooster is widely recognized as an exemplary undergraduate research experience, but it began with a rocky start in 1947. President Lowry had difficulty convincing the faculty to accept I.S. because they worried it would be burdensome and quickly move beyond their research skills. The administration responded with a generous leaves program, which helped enhance faculty scholarship. For the first few decades of the program, almost all projects in geology were literature reviews. This changed in the 1980s, when the department required students and their faculty mentors to conduct original research. Most early projects were local because research funds were scarce, but with time and an increasing number of grants and alumni donations, the geology I.S. program diversified. Faculty began taking students on national and then international research expeditions. The key to success was finding ways to combine faculty and student research interests.

After 60+ years, I.S. has matured into a flagship program with campus-wide support, allowing us to develop best practices in undergraduate research. Through intentional curriculum mapping, students learn concepts and skills that increase in complexity and independence as they approach I.S. Our approach to mentoring provides guidance and support while holding students accountable, and emphasizes collaboration. Collaboration is the future of I.S.; in 2011-12, we implemented our first collaborative I.S. project: Team Utah. Students initially resisted the concept of collaboration, but the act of working toward a common goal was so effective that the department has fully adopted the team model. To aid in collaboration, we use technology (Dropbox, Zotero) and were featured for our technology use in the 2013 NMC Horizon Report. The report predicts that “openness” will be the number one driver of technology in higher education. Although Wooster recently adopted an open access policy, the geology department has been openly sharing our research experiences since 2009 through the departmental blog. The blog serves as a platform for communicating I.S. to a wide audience that includes our administration, alumni, and students.

This presentation reflects on the entirety of I.S.: history, current practices, and future.