This file was prepared for electronic distribution by the inforM staff. Questions or comments should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. CHAPTER TWO UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO PERSONALIZED LEARNING BY MARCIA WESTKOTT AND GAY VICTORIA The University of Colorado takes an approach to "The Courage to Question" that is more descriptive than evaluative. Rather than ask, "What are our goals for student learning, and how well are we achieving them?" the program asks a more basic question: "From the standpoint of student learning, what do we actually do?" The report includes a history of the program's experience with assessment; an explanation of their descriptive focus and results of the process; and current and ongoing implications of the project. The report also places the project within the context of recent reports on reform in higher education. HISTORY OF ASSESSMENT IN THE WOMEN'S STUDIES PROGRAM The University of Colorado is located in Boulder, Colorado, with an enrollment of 25,571 students. Its student body is primarily white (87.5 percent), middle class, and native to Colorado. Women constitute 46 percent of the student population. Sixty-one percent of the undergraduate students at CU-Boulder receive some type of financial aid. CU-Boulder employs 1,094 full-time faculty members and is considered the leading comprehensive re- search university in the Rocky Mountain region and among the top public universities in the country in gaining federal research support. The campus has several active women's organizations and clubs, although it has no women's center. The major campus program identified with women is the Women's Studies Program. The Women's Studies Program was founded in the early 1970s by a group of faculty members, students, and community members. By the fall of 1974, a full time director had been appointed. The curriculum reflected a national pattern. which the program has since maintained: interdisciplinary core courses with a women's studies rubric and courses offered by departments and cross-listed with women's studies. In 1979, the Women's Studies Program was subsumed with eleven other programs under the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, which was maintained as an umbrella unit until Student demand for courses reflects both the expanding scholarship and the social concerns that scholarship addresses 1985 when the center was abolished. Since 1985, women's studies has grown considerably as an independent program, increasing the number of majors from twenty-five in 1984 to seventy in fall of 1991 and employing four full-time and one part-time faculty members. The growth of the Women's Studies Program during its eighteen-year history is the result of both national trends and local circumstances. First, the dramatic expansion of feminist scholarship has generated a surge of intellectual excitement in women's studies nationally and internationally. Student demand for courses reflects both the expanding scholarship and the social concerns that the scholarship addresses. Concomitantly, as the new scholarship on women generated academic attention within the traditional disciplines, more departments sought to hire faculty members whose scholarly or creative work focused on women or gender. Thus, while the 1974 proposal to establish the Women's Studies Program identified fifteen faculty members across campus who were interested in teaching women's studies in their departments, a 1991 survey identified forty-two core and affiliated full-time faculty members who have actually taught these courses during the past three semesters. Local circumstances also have promoted the growth of women's studies at the University of Colorado. A core faculty known for its outstanding teaching has developed an excellent reputation among students. Students drawn to women's studies courses are among the most articulate and capable on campus. "Affiliated" faculty members (that is, those who are listed in other departments and whose courses are cross-listed with women's studies) have given generously of their support and influence at crucial moments in the program's history. While administrative support has been uneven from office to office, over the years a general acceptance of and support for women's studies prevails (for example, approval to conduct national searches for directors at three separate times). And finally, the Boulder community--with its numerous feminist organizations--is a setting that supports women's studies activities. In 1988, with the hiring of the present director, the program moved from a basement location to its present site in Cottage Number One, the original women's dormitory. In addition to the director's position, the program received four full-time, tenure-line faculty positions. In academic year 1991-92, a full-time senior instructor and a one-third time instructor--as well as seven part-time instructors--round out the core teaching faculty. Today, the Women's Studies Program does more than meet its original aim of offering courses on the new scholarship on women. Since 1983, it has provided a major area of academic concentration for 190 undergraduates who have been awarded the major under the American Studies designation the program also has granted a certificate to approximately 100 students. In addition to providing an integrated curriculum in women's studies for its major and certificate students, the program also seeks to foster an intellectual feminist community on campus through its numerous programs and activities, to support the work of faculty members who are engaging in feminist scholarship in their disciplines, to contribute to feminist discourse through scholarly and creative work, and to promote enlightened and responsible leadership for women in the community. When the Women's Studies Program at the University of Colorado was invited in 1989 to participate in the assessment project, "The Courage to Question," we initially regarded it as an opportunity to refine and expand assessment procedures that we had already developed. Our campus, like other institutions of higher education in Colorado, had been mandated by the state to assess student learning in all academic units beginning in 1987-88. Following the advice of those in the Office of Academic Affairs who were coordinating the effort, we developed a rather standard procedure. The faculty identified the knowledge and skills goals that we thought our students should attain and devised an instrument for measuring them. In the first year, the women's studies faculty selected one knowledge goal and two skills goals to assess. Because the required survey of feminist theory served at that time as a type of capstone course for majors, we decided to embed the assessment of these goals in a requirement for the course. The knowledge goal we selected was knowledge of major paradigms of feminist thought. The skills goals we selected were: (1) the ability to write a focused and coherent analytical essay that is based upon and sustained by evidence; and (2) the ability to analyze arguments and interpretation for internal consistency and underlying assumptions. The final examination in the course was to be assessed for these student learning goals. After the instructor graded the examination for the purpose of the course, three faculty members-- including an outside evaluator from another institution--evaluated the student exams according to the assessment goals. The outcome of the assessment project was not especially illuminating. In fact, it did not tell us much beyond what the course instructor had discovered in the process of grading the exams for the class: overall, the students did relatively well in meeting these goals. This experience, however, led us to question the approach we had taken to assessment, which eventually led us to redefine our project for "The Courage to Question." We were dissatisfied with the process we had developed for several reasons. First, the state mandate created an atmosphere that encouraged compliance rather than enthusiasm. Our selection of knowledge and skills goals as well as the methods of assessment emerged from a desire for efficiency. We regarded assessment as one more bureaucratic requirement for evaluation that impinged on our time. Like most faculty members in women's studies programs, we were already overworked. We resented yet another requirement for self-evaluation that interfered with our real work: teaching and research. Thus, we formally complied with the mandate by following campus guidelines and embedding the assessment in course requirements. As a result, our goals and the process of assessing them looked very much like standard academic fare: one could not tell much difference between the women's studies assessment plan and those of traditional arts and sciences disciplines. We were resigned to the process; we did not "own" it, and we didn't learn much about ourselves as teachers and learners. Participation in the NWSA/FIPSE project gave us an opportunity to re-examine our attitudes toward assessment. First, the situation was dramatically different. We chose to participate in the project. The attitude of the national assessment team (as advisors to us) was flexible, helpful, and respectful of the educational experience of women's studies students and faculty. We were encouraged to take a more comprehensive look at assessment, its purposes, and its possibilities for self-reflection. Through biannual meetings we were given the opportunity to engage in dialogue with faculty members from other women's studies programs as a means of clarifying our individual cam pus approaches as well as raising the larger question of assessing women's studies. The setting for our process was supportive and intellectually exciting. The audience for our reports was not a state bureaucrat but other women's studies programs and educators interested in assessment. In this setting, we began to question other aspects of our previous approach to assessment. We realized that we had selected particular goals not simply because they might be important but also because they were convenient--that is, relatively easy to evaluate given our resources. Moreover, we realized that even when these understandably pragmatic motives were not operating so explicitly, our program goals reflected certain intentions by particular individuals at a specific time. We saw that our program could identify a variety of combinations of goals, depending on who was asked and when. Given this shifting context of goal identification, we decided to push back the question from intention to the context itself and look at what we were actually doing in our women's studies courses. With help from our students, we started looking for answers. In April and May of 1990, we held a series of potluck dinners with women's studies majors and certificate students, faculty members, and the staff advisor. We asked the students, "What actually happens for you as a learner in women's studies courses and as a women's studies major/certificate student?" and "What do you learn and how do you learn it?" The discussions were lively, intense, thoughtful, and fun. In an interesting way they reproduced the best of our classroom experiences: a student suggesting an idea; another picking up on it, confirming it, elaborating on it, taking a different slant; still another disagreeing with part of it, clarifying both the agreement and disagreement; another student mediating the disagreement, searching for some paradox that might illuminate the discussion. The faculty members and staff advisor took notes on these discussions and met to interpret them. We concluded that while students may have taken different slants on this theme, they were telling us that women's studies was an exciting learning experience because they as learners were personally, actively engaged in their learning experience. STUDENT LEARNING AND HIGHER EDUCATION REFORM Our students were, in effect, telling us that their education in women's studies produced the learning experience that higher education reformers have been advocating for the last several years. Reports on undergraduate education have stressed the importance of students' involvement in their learning process. Although the specific goals varied from report to report or among institutions, the condition best suited to achieve those goals--active student learning--was clearly the current educational ideal. In 1984, the Study Group on Excellence in Higher Education sponsored by the National Institute of Education (NIE) sounded the new emphasis for improving undergraduate education. There is now a good deal of research evidence to suggest that the more time and effort students invest in the learning process and the more in- tensely they engage in their own education, the greater will be their growth and achievement, their satisfaction with their educational experiences, and their persistence in college, and the more likely they are to continue their learning. -1 The NIE report specified involvement to include devoting energy to studying working at jobs on campus (rather than at off campus jobs), participating in student organizations, and interacting frequently with faculty members and other students. In his 1985 study, Alexander Astin confirmed the importance of the last item: frequent student-faculty interaction was the most influential factor affecting students' satisfaction with their undergraduate experience.2 Subsequent reports issuing from organizations such as the Association of American Colleges (AAC), the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE), and the Education Commission of the States reiterated the importance of improving active student involvement and faculty engagement in teaching and learning. These reports, while underscoring the ideal, identified impediments to its realization. Involvement in learning requires time, and both students and faculty members find themselves pressured by competing demands. Cutbacks in federal funding require more students to work off campus and to work more hours. A Carnegie Commission study found students were much more engaged by their social life and jobs outside of class than they were by academic or intellectual interests. -3 Faculty members also feel the pressure or the lure of competing demands. A Carnegie survey of five thousand faculty members found that at research universities, the reward system encourages research over teaching. -4 Prestige within a discipline nationally also is associated with the degree to which a faculty member engages in published research. -5 Although faculty members and administrators frequently affirm the principle that teaching and research need not necessarily be at odds with one another, the higher education reports reflect a growing uneasiness with this nostrum; they suggest or directly state that in practice the time demands of research impinge upon faculty involvement with teaching. The consequence of these tugs on student and faculty time, interests, rewards, and mutual perceptions--tugs that interfere with active involvement in teaching and learning--is the creation of what the authors of the AAC report on general education called the "two cultures in academia": On many campuses, students view faculty with the ambivalence of respect and resentment, admiration and disappointment. Depending on the institution and the department, relations between students and faculty can range from harmony and colleagueship through mutual avoidance to antagonism and undeclared conflict. On such campuses, the rhetoric about an "intellectual community" is belied by the reality of these two separate cultures. -6 The report suggests that the two cultures in academia foster an attitude of detachment on both sides. Students don't make demands on faculty members in exchange for faculty members not making demands on students. Students put in the time they think is necessary to get the grades they want and then turn to more exciting interests. Faculty members put in the time they think is necessary to teach, hold office hours and attend meetings, and then, if time permits, turn to the real work of research. Neither side makes too many demands, yet each harbors complaints. Students contend that faculty members are aloof and condescending; faculty members complain that students can't write or think or analyze. Each manages to find one or a few exceptions to what they take to be the pattern of the other's disinterest or incompetence. This, of course, is an exaggeration. Obviously, there are faculty members and students who are actively engaged in intellectually exciting teaching and learning experiences. But the concerns that these various reports raise converge in a portrait of a university culture that fosters isolation, resignation, and discontent on the part of students and faculty. The consequences are experienced not simply in the separation of students and faculty (and, indeed, among students and among faculty members) but in the curriculum as well. In A New Vitality in General Education, AAC's task group on general education cites the problem with the disorganized general education curriculum and attributes it to the faculty's focus on their specialized research within their discipline. "We have specialized to such a degree that we have lost interest in and the capacity for integrating knowledge." -7 In The Challenge of Connecting Learning, another AAC task force finds coherence lacking even "within arts and sciences majors." The authors call for "connected knowing"; that is, making links among courses and ideas within the major but also encouraging students to connect personally with the material they were learning. -8 The reports, thus, describe a problem that did not appear in our students' accounts of their women's studies learning experience. While some components described in the reports were acknowledged--for example, competing tugs on students and faculty time demands and interests--they did not emerge as central themes. To the contrary, students reported that faculty members were generally accessible and responsive to their questions and concerns and that faculty-student activities bridged the two cultures. They reported that through taking women's studies courses, they were challenged to carry the knowledge gained in their classes into their social life and into their work experience, giving them a language and a critical framework for evaluating their experience. They described their classes as demanding and supportive experiences that fostered connected learning. As one student stated, "We have wonderful teachers who care about us, are telling us something real and tangible. They validate our existence as women, and they are great role models, something women don't have much of." TEACHING AND LEARNING IN WOMEN'S STUDIES CLASSES Our students were responding to their women's studies classes in a way that confirmed recent studies on feminist pedagogy. Grounded in feminist scholarship and theories of knowledge that have challenged academic disciplines feminists have questioned traditional teaching practices. As Culley and Portuges note, "changing what we teach means changing how we teach." -9 Traditional practices take an approach to teaching that presumes that objective knowledge is possible, "mastery" of universal truths is desirable, the teacher is the uncontested expert, and students learn through competing with one another. In contrast, feminist pedagogy assumes an approach that views knowledge as contingent, open, and interconnected and learning as more effective in a setting that is non-hierarchical, student-centered, and collaborative. Most of the writing on feminist pedagogy has documented the non- traditional practices that feminist teachers use in the classroom. We were interested in learning more about feminist pedagogy from the perspective of our students. What in particular were our students responding to when they described their learning experiences so positively? Was it the teaching techniques? the material? some combination? How did they interpret their active engagement in the classroom? To try to answer these questions, we turned to studying women's studies classes more systematically. At the potluck dinners, the students indicated several dimensions to their active connection within their classes. We subsequently grouped these dimensions under three categories: course content, course structure, and classroom dynamics. While at times these categories may overlap and influence one another, basically they refer to the subject matter of the course (what students read, discuss, think about, research~; the structure of the course (format, requirements); and classroom dynamics or pedagogy (teaching style, student participation, faculty-student interaction). Our research was built on these informal student impressions and the categories we derived from them. Specifically, we were interested in answering two questions: ( 1 ) were all three of these categories equally important in fostering active learning or was one component more important than the others? and (2) was the active learning experience that our students identified with their women's studies courses unique or could it be found in other classes ? We decided to answer these questions from the perspective of illuminative evaluation, an approach used in educational research to evaluate innovative educational programs where traditional approaches have proven inadequate. -10 Evaluation traditionally has been inextricably linked with testing--testing to provide quantitative data from which statistical inferences can be drawn. However, test-oriented evaluation presents a number of problems when conducting an evaluation of an educational innovation. It is often difficult to articulate and specify complex goals, to account for idiosyncratic influences, even to formulate precise research questions--all issues which this project presented. Illuminative evaluation offers an alternative "social anthropology" paradigm. Whereas traditional evaluation procedures tend to operate in isolation, illuminative evaluation attempts to incorporate the wider context in which educational programs operate. The goal of illuminative research is to "unravel [the complex scene encountered]...[and to] isolate its significant features." -11 Illuminative evaluation is, in fact, a general research strategy rather than a standard methodological package. The tactics used to conduct the research are chosen to fit the particular subject at hand. After making initial observations, the researcher identifies certain phenomena, events, or opinions as topics for more intensive inquiry: "As the investigation unfolds...problem areas become progressively clarified and redefined."-12 This "progressive focusing" permits unique and previously unidentified phenomena to be examined. The illumination approach seemed best suited to the rather open-ended nature of our questioning. In the initial discussions our students identified the importance of their own active engagement, and we derived the categories that might foster that experience. We then used these categories to inform a series of classroom observations and to analyze course syllabi. We used the information that we gathered from these sources to create a questionnaire (see end of file). Because we wanted to compare learning experiences in women's studies classes with those in classes in other departments, we initially conducted observations in three different courses one women's studies course, "Women and Religion," and two non-women's studies courses (an English course "Advanced Shakespeare," and an American Studies course entitled "American Autobiographies"). We selected these courses through a process of purposive sampling that allowed us to control for class level, class size, academic discipline, and instructor evaluations. Because we wanted students who had sufficient time as undergraduates to enable them to reflect upon their educational experiences, we limited the comparison classes to upper-division courses. Because class size significantly affects classroom atmosphere and student engagement, we selected classes with roughly the same number of students. "Women and Religion" had thirty-two students, "Advanced Shakespeare" had twenty-five students, and "American Autobiographies," had twenty-one students. Academic discipline was another area of consideration. Because content to a large extent affects style of teaching, we selected courses from the humanities and social sciences, academic disciplines considered most similar to women's studies. Since the teaching ability of women's studies instructors is rated consistently high in faculty course evaluations, teaching excellence of the instructor also was a criterion for selection of comparison classes. Gender was a factor that could not be controlled because of limitations inherent in our study. Women's studies classes are exclusively taught by female faculty members and most often the majority (if not all) of the students are female. This was true for the "Women and Religion" class: it was taught by a female, and all of the students were female. The "Advanced Shakespeare" class was taught by a female and comprised twelve female and thirteen male students. The "American Autobiographies" class was taught by a male and had thirteen women and eight men. The gender profile is an important difference, one which we recognize has significant implications, given our eventual findings. All three professors teaching these three courses agreed with consider- able interest to participate in the project. On the first day of observation, Re- search Assistant Gay Victoria introduced herself to the students and gave them a brief description of the project and the reasons for wanting to make the observations. She subsequently observed three seventy-five-minute class periods in each of the three classes during the periods of November 15-16 and November 26-December 4, 1990. She audio taped all of the classes with the consent of the instructor and the students. The class observations were directed by the three components, which students and faculty members had identified as contributing to active learning in women's studies classes--content, structure, and dynamics. Content was, of course, an obvious area of difference between the women's studies and non-women's studies classes. Although both the "Advanced Shakespeare" class and the class on "American Autobiographies" presented multi- cultural approaches to the course material (incorporating discussions regarding race and class as well as gender whenever appropriate), neither of them had women as their primary focus. In contrast, the content of the "Women and Religion" class was focused solely on women. All three courses contained many structural similarities: all appeared to incorporate similar types of course requirements (critical thinking and writing skills were stressed in all three classes); all were generally conducted in a discussion rather than lecture format; and all formally structured some aspects of the class to be determined by students. Interestingly enough, the women's studies class was conducted in a seating arrangement which was more or less traditional: for example, rows of seated students, with the instructor in front. The other two classes, in contrast, were conducted in a less traditional circle arrangement. Dynamics presented a number of interesting observations. The pedagogy most often associated with feminist approaches--such as student-centered or dialogic teaching--was not unique to the women's studies class. All three instructors involved students in discussion and responsibility for directing the class. While all three classes had active participation rates, the average response rates for the "Advanced Shakespeare" course (83.3 percent of the students spoke) and the "American Autobiographies" course (70.3 percent) were somewhat higher than the average participation rate in the "Women and Religion" course (46.6 percent). This was an interesting finding, given students' reporting on their active learning in women's studies classes. One way to interpret the difference was to speculate that the slightly larger class size affected the participation rate. Another explanation was that this class was an anomaly and that students were, in fact, not actively involved. Yet another interpretation suggested that active learning is not the same as, or confined to, student responses to professors' questions. Students may be actively involved without necessarily verbalizing their responses in class. When we looked at how students engaged the material, we discovered something that supported the latter interpretation. The students in the "Women and Religion" course related classroom material to their own lives, a process that did not take place in the other two classes. For example, during a discussion of the relationship between war and ritual and war as ritual, a student of the "Women and Religion" class observed: Over Thanksgiving, my dad and I got into a lot of conversations about the war...He tried to justify it to me...you know, thinking that we should go to war.... I asked him a question, "Well, how do you think things would be different if there was a matriarchy instead of patriarchy?" The way he saw matriarchy is--and this is where the shock was--that, all of the sudden, men would follow one woman's orders. Like there would be the one woman on the top and then it would be exactly like it is right now. Class members empathized with this student but also discussed the reasons why someone might automatically think of that model of matriarchy, given popular examples of women heads of state. Students in the "American Autobiographies" and the "Advanced Shakespeare" class did not engage in this type of dynamic. Admittedly, the subject matter of these two classes may have offered fewer opportunities to make personal connections with the course material than "Women and Religion" did. However, even when opportunities did present themselves in these other classes, students (male or female) did not make the connections--for whatever reason. It was unclear at this point why this dynamic was present only in the women's studies class. One possible explanation could have been the fact that the professor in this class actually "modeled" the integration of the personal with the intellectual by using examples from her own religious upbringing and those of family members to illustrate various points about the influence of religion. Yet "modeling" did occur during observations of one of the other classes. The female professor in "Advanced Shakespeare" made at least two attempts to encourage students to connect the themes of war in Henry V (the play under discussion) to the Gulf War (which had escalated at the time). She herself volunteered that she had a difficult time reading the play without thinking about contemporary parallels. Each time she encouraged students to reflect on a connection (without directing them how to reflect), the students quickly returned to a discussion of the text itself. Thus, although the professor herself modeled making contemporary connections to the material, the class resisted. There may be many reasons for this resistance: for example, students (with friends or loved ones at risk) may have felt too closely affected by the Gulf War to discuss it. Nevertheless, only the students in the women's studies class volunteered connections between the material, themselves, and their present contexts. The observations of the three classes suggested some interesting initial answers to our questions. Pedagogy alone did not foster a personal connection to the material. Indeed, those techniques most often associated with feminist pedagogy--that is, student-centered learning, discussion emphasis, a democratization of responsibility--occurred more frequently in the two classes which were not the women's studies course. However, although these pedagogical techniques fostered active student learning in the classroom, student engagement was not "personal" in the way that it was for women's studies students. This distinction required our clarifying the difference between "active" engagement and "personal" engagement. It also required our exploring more fully what "personal" connection meant in the classroom. Surely the students actively involved in "Advanced Shakespeare" and "American Autobiographies" were learning in a way that could hardly be called "impersonal." They obviously were intellectually excited by the mate- rial and the class discussions. They were not detached; they were "turned on" by learning. This description was true also of the women's studies students. Yet for them, something additional was happening. They were connecting the content of the material with their lives, and they were connecting themselves with the content of the material. We thus concluded that content was more important to fostering personalized learning than pedagogy alone. It was not enough that a professor modeled a personal connection to the material or that she fostered student involvement through discussion. The students in the women's studies class were also actively involved because the material touched them deeply. They read about the history of women in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and they wanted to know historically what it was like for women to be excluded from certain religious practices. They read theological tracts and reflected on their own spirituality. They read about women's involvement in contemporary religious cults and spoke with concern about women they knew who were involved in these organizations. Content itself, it would seem, sparked the personal connection. We decided to test our speculation about the centrality of content through observing additional classes. We selected five courses for this second phase of the project: two women's studies courses ("Feminist Theory" and "Fathers and Daughters"); two English classes ("American Women Writers" and "Readings in American Poetry"); and a course from the Religious Studies Department on "Sufism." The same criteria used in the first phase of the project (upper division, teaching excellence, size, and academic discipline) were used in selecting classes for the second phase. The second phase, however, included an additional consideration not included in the first. Because we speculated that content was one aspect of women's studies courses that uniquely informed student engagement in learning (through personalizing knowledge), we included "American Women Writers," a course with a content focus on women but not offered through the Women's Studies Program. Although some students from other departments were enrolled in the course, most were English majors. Therefore, this course enabled us to compare the responses of women's studies students to those of non-women's studies students in a course focusing exclusively on women. Three of the classes were taught by female faculty members ("American Women Writers," "Feminist Theory," and "Fathers and Daughters") and two by male faculty members ("Readings in American Poetry" and "Sufism"). The students in the two women's studies classes were once again either exclusively or predominantly female (the "Feminist Theory" class had two male students). The three non-women's studies classes had a mixture of male and female students. All five classes were upper-division classes with anywhere from seventeen to twenty-six students. Three separate observations consisting of one class period (either fifty or seventy-five minutes) were carried out in each of these five classes during the period from March 5 to April 10, 1991, using the same procedure as in the first phases. With regard to structure (requirements, skills, classroom format), all five classes in phase two had similar course requirements and were conducted either through discussion or a combination discussion/lecture format. All five of the classes placed a great deal of emphasis on critical thinking and writing skills. All were conducted in a circular seating arrangement. In terms of pedagogy or dynamics, all but one of the five classes formally incorporated students into various aspects of designing and/or running of the class. The class that was most traditionally structured (designed and led by the faculty) was a women's studies course, "Feminist Theory." Again, the two English classes--"American Women Writers" and "Readings in American Poetry"--were the most highly student-centered, delegating much of the responsibility for designing questions and leading class discussion to the students. This pattern did not surprise us. Influenced by one of its faculty members, the English Department has been known on campus for innovation in fostering student-centered learning. -13 The most interesting findings concerned the personalization of knowing. Again, students reproduced the earlier pattern of personalizing learning in their women's studies classes. And, again, for the most part, students resisted personalizing learning in the three courses that were not women's studies. However, two exceptions to the earlier pattern proved to be especially illuminating. The first anomaly was a lengthy and intense personalized discussion in one class period of the religious studies class, "Sufism." The professor had just returned student papers and, to the class as a whole, made a personal response to material in one of the student'.s papers, a response validating a point the student made. Several other students--first a male, then a fe- male--followed by also connecting personally to the point the professor made. The discussion continued to weave in and out of academic and personal reflections on love and piety. The second exception involved the lack of modeling of, or formal requirement for, engaging in personalized learning during our observation of the "Feminist Theory" course. Although it is possible that the professor modeled personalized learning in other class sessions, it did not occur during our observations. Yet, even in this class which was also the most traditionally structured, students made personal connections to the material. This finding was especially interesting when compared to our observations of student engagement in the English Department's "American Women Writers" class. Despite modeling on the part of the female instructor, in this class the students resisted connecting the material to their personal lives. In contrast, despite the absence of the professor's modeling in the women's studies "Feminist Theory" class, students repeatedly made connections between their lives and the material under discussion. It seemed as though these junior- and senior-level students, most of whom were women's studies majors, had developed an approach to their women's studies courses in which they expected personal connections to be made, even when such connections were not formally encouraged. These findings suggested further comparisons. The professor in the religious studies class was especially skillful in eliciting students' personal responses. Not only did he model it himself but he did so in a way that was directed to specific issues that encouraged particular students to respond. He appeared to know his students well and directed his questioning to them personally. For example, through his questioning of a student musician, the student was led to reflect on a parallel between his experience of playing the violin and stages of spiritual growth. In the session we observed, however, students in the religious studies class did not volunteer personal connections on their own. Unlike the women's studies students, they did not initiate personalized learning but waited until the professor gave them permission to do so or explicitly requested it. As we reflected on these differences, we were struck by what appeared to be a unique atmosphere among students in the women's studies courses. Many of these students--especially majors--knew one another; they met for events and activities outside of the classroom, and they had taken other classes together. This core (sometimes consisting of only three or four students ) created an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect. There also were the ones who took a leadership role in initiating discussions about their personal responses to the material. They helped to create, in effect, a student culture. It was this student culture that appeared to function whether or not men were present (there were two men in the "Feminist Theory" class) and whether or not students received formal faculty encouragement for personalized learning. Our gradual unravelling of our questions, therefore, led us to the conclusion that the women's studies students themselves played a major role in creating their classroom experience. The patterns we discovered in class observations were confirmed by our initial analysis of the questionnaires administered to the students in all five classes. Given our observations of the salience of the personalized connection to the course content, we were especially interested in student responses to the questions addressing this issue: * How often does course content relate to you personally? * How often in the classroom does it feel acceptable to relate course mater al to your personal life? * How often do you feel "encouraged" by the instructor to relate course material to your personal life? * How often in the classroom do you verbally express a personal connection to course content ? * How often does course content actually affect you or your life in some significant way? Applying a simple t-test, we found that students in the women's studies classes scored significantly higher than students in the other classes on all of these questions. Moreover, we found that students in the English Department course "American Women Writers" scored significantly higher than students in the other non-women's studies classes but lower than students in the women's studies classes. This appeared to confirm our supposition that both content and student culture contributed to the personal connection, but we are looking forward to conducting a more elaborate statistical analysis of the questionnaire before drawing conclusions from these data. Nevertheless, the students' written responses to the open-ended questions certainly confirmed the patterns of the initial class observations and the answers to the questions on personal connection to the material. When asked how the course content affected their lives, students in the English Ind religious studies classes responded generally by referring to what they learned, "It gave me a new perspective on American literature and life." "It gave me a broader perspective on literature." "It has helped me to understand a religion and culture different from my own." Very few students from these classes stated that the course helped them to think differently about or reevaluate their lives (the majority of these comments came from women students in "American Women Writers"). And one male student responded angrily to the question itself, "Although courses in religious studies (including this one) touch me deeply, I have little or no interest in sharing my 'personal life' (in regards to religion) with my classmates. Spirituality and academia do not go together very well. The mind often cannot relate to the heart. I don't really want to talk about it here." In contrast, the responses from many of the students in the women's studies class indicated an ease with and desire for making a personal connection to the material, "This course will stay with me for the rest of the summer." "I apply everything I learn in women's studies classes to my life." "My women's studies courses have strengthened me." "I tend to read theories and think about how they apply to my life." "This class pushes me to self- examination and reevaluation and opens new avenues of thought." A political science major who had taken numerous women's studies classes noted, "Without women's studies classes half of my sanity would be missing in my educational experience. I think my education was extremely enhanced through taking women's studies classes." The comments on the questionnaires helped us to clarify more fully the difference that we had noted earlier between students' active and personal engagement in their classes. When the students in the non-women's studies classes were intellectually involved with the material, they were excited by the ideas and enjoyed the learning process itself. We noticed this same pro- cess with the women's studies students, but they also expressed another dimension that could best be described as ethical. The women's studies students were concerned with drawing the implications of their learning for Our students become excited by this material not only because it is intellectually innovative and compelling but especially because it explains their own experiences guiding their own actions in the world. They wanted to learn about the world: its history; its political, economic, and social structures; its cultural forms; its irrationalities and its positive possibilities. They also wanted to learn about themselves in relationship to the world in order to help them make judgments about making choices and interacting with others. The ethical concerns that our students bring to their women's studies classes reflect the conditions that bring them to these classes in the first place--an experience of the world in which the traditional expectations for women and men are challenged. They want to understand the traditions and the challenges, not in order to discover some new "politically correct" mode of behavior, but to explore the possibilities for change and to revalue parts of their own past. CONCLUSION Our two major discoveries--the importance of course content in promoting activity, personalized learning and the culture of women's studies that assumes personal/intellectual connections--raise for us many additional issues and questions. The influence of content (over either course structure or teaching dynamics) in creating a personally and intellectually exciting learning experience cannot be overemphasized. It suggests the powerful influence of simply exposing students to works on women's history and literature, to analyses of the economic, social~ and political structures influencing women's lives, to feminist theory, to the psychology of women, to women's art and music and theater. Our students' positive responses to the content of women's studies remind us of our own personal and intellectual excitement in "discovering" the works that eventually came to define women's studies as a new field. It also suggests the importance of the efforts of the past ten years to create curricular reform. The current backlash against that reform reflects the power that the new scholarship wields. Women's studies is a new perspective that challenges traditional structures and beliefs. Our students become excited by this material not only because it is intellectually innovative and compelling but especially because it explains their own experiences. These are the "aha" moments when students understand their personal lives in the context of wider, overlapping, and interlocking fields. We suspect that the culture of personalized learning created by women's studies students is grounded in this compelling connection. In the absence of a dominant cultural discourse that would validate their lives, and in the context of prevailing cultural forms that undermine them, our students often seek out their first women's studies classes as avenues to self-understanding. The desire for the intellectual is deeply rooted in the personal. When they do encounter the material that helps them to make sense of their lives--and those issues and problems that were hitherto "nameless"--they establish an expectation that women's studies course content will pertain to women's lives in general and to their lives in particular. We suspect that the student culture of personalized learning emerges from this shared expectation for the intellectual to explain the personal. It appears, also, that the expectation is reinforced not only by course content and faculty support and modeling but also by students' mutually supportive interaction. We would like to learn more about this student culture. Ideally, we would like to follow a cohort of student majors longitudinally from their first introductory women's studies course through graduation. We would want to learn why of all the students enrolled in "Introduction to Women's Studies"--some choose to become majors. We would want to follow their initial encounter with the material--and with the struggle with it that Lee Knefelkamp identifies as the tension between support and challenged. By observing middle-range classes, we would want to learn how individual expectations for personalized learning develop into a student culture that fosters it. Are there certain student-teacher interactions that support it? Are there other components to this student culture? other activities that promote it? What is the influence of an all-female class in promoting a culture of personalized learning? We would also want to know more about the culture it- elf. Are certain voices and perspectives privileged? Are some groups silenced or intimidated? Are there assumptions about what constitutes a personal connection that are culturally limiting? Is there a tension between what Belenky et al. have called connected knowing and separate (for example, analytical) knowing? What happens when students encounter material that is difficult or "inconvenient" to know? These are the questions that we are starting to ask in phase three, which extends our work from "The Courage to Question." We have begun to study "Introduction to Women's Studies," using classroom observation, student journals, questionnaires, and interviews. Meanwhile, we still are required by the state to conduct a yearly assessment of student learning. Our experience with "The Courage to Question" has led us to abandon our previous approach and to adopt a portfolio method. Our approach rejects a method whereby faculty members alone measure student learning and proceeds from the assumption of an equal partnership between students and faculty in assessing student learning. Our portfolio process is embedded in a new capstone course for majors and certificates. A major requirement for the course is a ten-page paper, a reconstructive narrative of the student's journey as a women's studies major. To help prepare to write the narrative, students are asked to pull together materials from their women's studies courses (in the future, newly declared majors will be asked to keep a portfolio of these materials). As another building block, students are asked to write short memoirs of their individual courses, addressing questions such as, "Why did I take this course? What did I learn? How? Was I challenged? How? Was I supported? How? How would I change the class? What questions did I have going into the class? Were they answered? Were any left unanswered?" Building from these class memoirs and portfolio items, the students write narratives that make sense of their learning experience as women's studies majors and certificates. By sifting through memories, papers, exams, and personal journals, students must remember themselves as they were before they became women's studies majors and reconstruct their development. In doing so, students are required to recognize the interplay between personal connections and intellectual experience. The second capstone course requirement involves students' extending their narratives to a project, the "next step." The definition of the project is flexible. It might be an artistic expression that interprets their learning experience, an analytical paper that pursues an unanswered question, an investigation of an intended career, a short story. When students present their narratives and "next step" projects, they may invite other faculty members and students to the class. Through her presentation and dialogue with those present, each student will be encouraged to reflect on her learning (both product and process) and to link her learning experience to her future plans. The assessment report will draw from these presentations, narratives, and portfolios. Authored by a subcommittee of faculty and student participants, the report will be submitted as the Women's Studies Program's yearly assessment of student learning. Creating an assessment method that is more informative and useful to students and faculty members is only one of the benefits of our participation in "The Courage to Question." The process itself has encouraged us to reflect more fully on our classroom experiences. It has helped us with redefining our requirements for the major (to include new courses on critical thinking and a capstone course~. We also have revitalized connections with faculty outside of women's studies. Other faculty members who participated in the project have expressed an interest in our focus on personalized learning. We, on the other hand, have learned from them useful techniques to foster student-centered learning. Our participation also has introduced us to new scholarship on assessment, student learning, and curricular reform, enabling us to assume some leadership in recent campus efforts to revitalize undergraduate education. Although our approach to "The Courage to Question" looks more like research than assessment, we are pleased that we have taken this direction. It has allowed us to gain some perspective on classroom learning in women's studies that will enable us to clarify our goals both individually and collectively. Our discovery of the personalization of knowledge is not exactly new. Women's studies from the beginning has made the connection between the personal and the intellectual. What is new for us is to begin to consider what t:his connection means specifically for teaching and learning. 1. Involvement in Learning: Realizing the Potential of Amencan Higher Education (Washington, D.C.: National Institutes of Education, 1984), 17. 2. A. W. Astin. Achieving Educational Exceuence: A Critical Assessment of Priorities and Practices in Higher Education (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1985). 3. Campus Life: In Search of Community (Princeton: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1990). 4. The Condition of the Professoriate: Attitudes and Trends (Princeton: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1989). 5. E. L. Boyer, College: The Undergraduate Expenence in America (New York: Harper and Row 1987). 6. A New Vitality in General Education (Washington, D.C .: Association of American Colleges, 1988) 42. 7. A New Vitality, 23. 8. The Challenge of Connecting Learning, Liberal Learning and the Arts and Sciences Major. Vol. 1 (Washington, D.C.: Association of American Colleges, 1991). 9. M. Culley and C. Portuges, eds., Gendered Subjects: The Dynamics of Feminist Teaching (Boston Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1985), 2. 10. M. Parlett and G. Dearden, eds., Introduction to Illuminative Evaluation: Studies in Higher Education (Cardiff-by-Sea, Calif: Pacific Sounding Press, 1977); M. Parlett and D. Hamilton "Evaluation as Illumination: A New Approach to the Study of Innovative Programs," in Beyond the Numbers Game, D. Hamilton. et al., eds., (London: Macmillan, 1978), 6-22; J. P. Shapiro and B. Reed, "Illuminative Evaluation Meeting the Special Needs of Feminist Projects," in Humanity and Society (November 1984) 432-41; M. A. Trow, "Methodological Problems in the Evaluation of Innovation," in M. C. Wittrock and E. E. Wiley. eds., The Evaluation of Instruction (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970), 289-305. 11. M. Parlett and D. Hamilton. "Evaluation as Illumination: A New Approach to the Study of Innovative Programs," in D. Hamilton et al, eds., Beyond the Numbers Game (London: Macmillan, 1978) 6-22, 17. 12. Ibid, 18. 13. Martin Bickman, "Active Learning in the University: An Inquiry into Inquiry," in Mary Ann Shea, ed., On Teaching, Vol. I (Boulder: The University of Colorado Faculty Teaching Excellence Program, 1987): 31 66. I 4. L. Lee Knefelkamp, Developmental Instruction: Fostering Intellectual and Personal Growth of Students (Doctoral dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1974). 15. M. F. Belenky, B. M. Clinchy, N. R. Goldberger, and J. M. Tarule, Women's Ways of Knowing (New York: Basic Books, 1986). STUDENT QUESTIONNAIRE UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO Provide three responses to each question below: A. answer in regard to courses from your major area of study B. answer in regard to courses from outside your major area of study C. answer in regard to this course 1 . On the average, how often do you miss class sessions ? Never Rarely Occasionally Frequently Always A. 1 2 3 4 5 B. 1 2 3 4 5 C. 1 2 3 4 5 2. What is the usual reason for missing class? 3. How many fellow students do you usually know by name? None A Few About Half Most All A. 1 2 3 4 5 B. 1 2 3 4 5 C. 1 2 3 4 5 4. How often do you meet with fellow students outside of class? Always Never Rarely Occasionally Frequently A. 1 2 3 4 5 B. 1 2 3 4 5 C. 1 2 3 4 5 5. What is the usual purpose of meeting with students outside of class? A. B. C. 6. How many fellow students would you say you have friendships with? None A Few About Half Most All A. 1 2 3 4 5 B. 1 2 3 4 5 C. 1 2 3 4 5 7. How often do you think about or "mull over" course or course related material out-side of class (other than for class preparation or for class assignments)? Never Rarely Occasionally Frequently Always A. 1 2 3 4 5 B. 1 2 3 4 5 C. 1 2 3 4 5 8. How often do you discuss aspects of the course material with someone outside of class? Never Rarely Occasionally Frequently Always A. 1 2 3 4 5 B. 1 2 3 4 5 C. 1 2 3 4 5 9. With whom do you generally have these discussions? (e.g., friends, mother, roommate. etc.)? A. B. C. 10. How often does course content motivate you to do additional reading? Never Rarely Occasionally Frequently Always A. 1 2 3 4 5 B. 1 2 3 4 5 C. 1 2 3 4 5 11. How often do you find yourself getting "interested" in the course material? Never Rarely Occasionally Frequently Always A. 1 2 3 4 5 B. 1 2 3 4 5 C. 1 2 3 4 5 12. How often do you find yourself getting "absorbed" in the course material. Never Rarely Occasionally Frequently Always A. 1 2 3 4 5 B. 1 2 3 4 5 C. 1 2 3 4 5 13. How often does course content relate to you personally? Never Rarely Occasionally Frequently Always A. 1 2 3 4 5 B. 1 2 3 4 5 C. 1 2 3 4 5 14. How often in the classroom does it feel acceptable to relate course material to your personal life? Never Rarely Occasionally Frequently Always A. 1 2 3 4 5 B. 1 2 3 4 5 C. 1 2 3 4 5 15. How often do yoU feel "encouraged" by the instructor to relate course material to yourpersanal life? Never Rarely Occasionally Frequently Always A. 1 2 3 4 5 B. 1 2 3 4 5 C. 1 2 3 4 5 16. How often in the classroom do you verbally express a personal connection to course content? Never Rarely Occasionally Frequently Always A. 1 2 3 4 5 B. 1 2 3 4 5 C. 1 2 3 4 5 17. How often does course content actually affect you or your life in some significant way? Never Rarely Occasionally Frequently Always A. 1 2 3 4 5 B. 1 2 3 4 5 C. 1 2 3 4 5 18. Describe how course content has affected you or your life? A. B. C. 19. In the space below or on the back, write any additional comments you might have regarding any of the question(s) in this questionnaire. 20. Age: 21. sex: Female/Male 22. Which one of the following race groups do you identify with and feel you belong to? 1. American Indian 2. Black (or Afro American) 3. Hispanic (or Mexican American/Chicano, etc.) 4. Asian (or Oriental) 5. Anglo (or Caucasian) 23. How much education was completed by your parent who went to school longer? 1. junior high 2. high school vocational/technical 4. college (4 year degree) 5. graduatc school (doctor, lawyer, Ph.D., etc.) 24. In which social class would you say that your family is located? 1. lower class 2. working class 3. middle class 4. upper middle class 5. upper class 25. Your current student classification: 1. Freshman 2. Sophomore 3. Junior 4. Senior 5. Unclassified 26. Your academic major: Second major/certificate: 27. If you would be willing to participate in further discussion regarding your learning experiences at the University of Colorado, please list your name, current address, and permanent address below.