Symposium Looks to the Future of Cal Poly Pomona

Symposium Looks to the Future of Cal Poly Pomona
Marian Sherman writes down ideas during a breakout session to discuss a learning-centered university.
Symposium participants, including Philosophy professor Micheal Cholbi, engaged in a six-hour discussion, ranging from what is the new role of students in a learning-centered university to ways of building a learning-centered classroom.

In his book “Reflections on Quality,” author Phillip Crosby notes that “if anything is certain, it is that change is certain. The world we are planning for today will not exist in this form tomorrow.” Nowhere is that more true than in higher education, where the learning styles of students are remarkably different than that of previous generations. What that means for the future of Cal Poly Pomona was the focus of a unique symposium involving more than 100 faculty, staff and students on April 22.

“Cal Poly Pomona is widely recognized as an outstanding university,” said Gil Brum, professor of Biological Sciences. “Our faculty and staff have positioned our graduates to enter professional life with the skills to make an immediate impact. But in an ever-changing world, will our current practices be as effective in five or 10 years? That is our focus.”

The Faculty Learning Community hosted the symposium at AGRIscapes. Participants engaged in a six-hour discussion, ranging from what is the new role of students in a learning-centered university to ways of building a learning-centered classroom.

The symposium featured two breakout sessions — one for faculty, staff and students and another for only students. The student breakout group focused on:

  • What is the student's role in a learning-centered university?
  • What do students need to succeed in a learning-centered university?
  • How would you define a learning-centered university?
  • What are the most important things you learned today?       

Through that process, students identified some of the new responsibilities they would have in a learning-centered university, including a greater responsibility for their education (not just faculty); better use of the tools available (advising, leadership, internships); communication with faculty and administration about problems students face in the learning process; development of time management skills to accomplish many different tasks; taking initiative (dont isolate yourself in one program, organization, etc.); striving for personal growth (academic and non-academic, “people skills”); and integrating academic and personal skills.

Students also identified some of the things they would need to be successful in a learning-centered university:

  • Workshops on note-taking and time management       
  • Clear curriculum sheets that faculty and departments honor       
  • More tutoring and academic support       
  • More innovative teaching that motivates students       
  • Available classes in degree programs, following recommended academic plans and sequences       

The faculty, staff and student session focused on what are the core values of a learning-centered university, and what actions and behaviors of students, faculty and staff are necessary to achieve these core values. The group decided the following values are essential for a learning-centered university:

  • Safe learning environments       
  • Flexibility       
  • Continuous improvement       
  • Pride, integrity, excellence and leadership       
  • Motivation from all involved       
  • Achievement/challenge       
  • Easy transition       

Some of the actions required to achieve these core values include:

  • Students becoming actively involved in their education and the campus community       
  • Faculty setting high standards and being open to constructive criticism       
  • Staff becoming more active participants in the learning process       

So whats next? Many retreat participants requested follow-up discussions. The Faculty Learning Community will provide all retreat participants with a a summary of all of the ideas generated at the symposium. In addition the learning community will plan an event at Fall Conference 2005 that will allow all members of the campus community to join in the discussion.

The symposium was the result of a series of discussions initiated by the Faculty Learning Community with campus faculty, staff and students. Plans are in place for additional dialogues, including the practical application of outcomes from this retreat via the university leadership. Interested members of the campus community will be invited to participate throughout the coming months.