Purdue Road Map for Transformative Undergraduate Education

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Our Next Giant Leap:
Road Map for Transformative Undergraduate Education


As of 2019, Purdue is experiencing unprecedented success in undergraduate education. We matriculated the largest ever incoming class last fall, and the past year’s graduating class reached record high 4- and 6-year graduation rates. 1 Modern new classrooms opened in the Wilmeth Active Learning Center and another 50 classrooms across campus have been remodeled, leveraging the hundreds of course redesigns supported by IMPACT. Other new spaces and educational programming are found in the Honors College and the Bechtel Innovation Design Center, with the STEM Teaching Lab Facility to open in fall 2020. These achievements stem from the talent and hard work of our students, faculty, and staff, and are truly worthy of celebration. A Boilermaker has every reason to be optimistic about the future of undergraduate education at Purdue. Yet as President Daniels cautioned in his annual letter in January 2019 2, we cannot ignore the changing realities around us that Purdue will need to anticipate and address. For example:

  • The arrival of Gen Z, a new and more diverse generation of students, with different priorities, expectations, and prior educational experiences.
  • The need to assist faculty as they redesign their courses to engage students with active learning models and emerging instructional technologies (such as adaptive learning, virtual reality, etc.).
  • Fewer high school graduates, especially in the Midwest, coupled with more options for them to consider such as apprentice programs, online institutions, or no college at all.
  • Continued pressure from stakeholders about college costs, time to degree, and whether students are prepared for the world of work after college.

Building on our success, it is incumbent upon us to anticipate the future. What should Purdue’s undergraduate program look like in 2030, and what should we do now to ensure that our undergraduate students continue to experience a high-quality education? The Road Map for Transformative Undergraduate Education is aimed at establishing a framework for considering these questions and others crucial to address as we look to the future of our undergraduate program.

Creating this road map for the future of undergraduate education at Purdue has been, and continues to be, a collaborative process. It began as a conversation with members of the Teaching Academy and Associate Deans for Undergraduate Education in December 2017. The conversation expanded to nine “listening sessions” over the course of the spring 2018 semester with faculty, staff, and students from across campus. 3 In fall 2018, the Teaching Academy sponsored four panel discussions with 150 th Anniversary Professors to discuss some of the questions that emerged from the listening sessions:

What are the most important outcomes of a Purdue undergraduate degree?

Faculty and staff have already considered this question, and constructed a shared understanding of what all Purdue undergraduate students are expected to learn. The University Senate established three learning outcomes embedded within each discipline: Communication, Ways of Thinking, and Interpersonal Skills and Cultural Knowledge. 4 The Leadership and Professional Development Initiative, supported through Student Life, used those same embedded outcomes, added one additional outcome (Intrapersonal Awareness & Development), and established competencies supporting each. 5 As we develop a plan for the future, how will our learning outcomes evolve to reflect new elements of a Purdue education?

What student experiences will lead to those outcomes?

Once we establish the expected outcomes of a Purdue education, how do we help students develop the academic and professional knowledge and capabilities required to meet those expectations? One theme expressed during the listening sessions is that a quality education should include a blend of academic preparation and professional skill development, and that each should be developed through curricular and co-curricular learning experiences – and integrating these whenever appropriate. How can we leverage the value of our residential campus to ensure that our students find high quality learning opportunities, both in and outside the classroom?

What programs and structures are necessary to foster a culture of great teaching and learning at an R1 institution?

High quality student learning experiences are facilitated by excellent teaching. Purdue is among the national leaders in universities that still heavily rely on tenure-track faculty in our teaching. To support Purdue faculty and staff in their efforts to continuously improve as teachers, our university must foster a culture and climate that recognizes and rewards great teaching. How can we elevate the prominence of teaching and learning at a research-intensive university? How can we best prepare our faculty and staff to be highly effective teachers?

Road Map for the Future of Undergraduate Education

Several ongoing initiatives fit well within this framework and were mentioned by participants in the listening sessions as priorities for continued action or as examples to build on. We also heard calls for new initiatives or areas of emphasis that will be part of our roadmap for providing a truly transformative education, which is one of the Purdue Moves. 6 This document does not include specific mechanisms or structures to put in place; those will be the subject of future collaborative efforts. Instead, it suggests some preliminary ideas and outlines five components of a vision for a university that is truly an exemplar of teaching and learning excellence.

Understand, Support, and Value Great Teaching

Creating a promotion pathway and adding a Murphy award for Continuing Term Lecturers, establishing the 150 th Anniversary Professors, 7 and including mentoring in the promotion and tenure process are ways that Purdue is already working towards this goal.

Looking forward, we will ask the Teaching Academy to tackle the question of what do we mean by excellent teaching, and to suggest desired outcomes.  We will provide the necessary training, rewards, support structures, and measures of accountability to ensure that all students benefit from excellent teaching across their entire Purdue experience. Some additional ideas: consider how to make teaching a more important factor in promotion and tenure decisions; provide training and support for teachers who want to incorporate their research into their undergraduate teaching/curriculum; provide professional development programming for all new faculty and instructors to help enable their success in the classroom.

Create a Hub for Teaching and Learning Innovation, Translation, and Scale-Up

One aspect of the Transformative Education Purdue Move is transforming teaching and learning so that classes are taught in ways that research shows best facilitate student learning. The IMPACT program has been leading the way, supporting over 300 instructors in transforming nearly 600 courses across all Purdue schools and colleges. 8 Instructional Innovation grants, co-funded by ITaP and the Provost’s Office have supported the creation and testing of new teaching technologies.

Many faculty are finding exciting, innovative ways to teach their courses, and are conducting research on effective pedagogies. IMPACT has shown us that we have successful mechanisms to disseminate and scale-up tested innovations. Going forward, we will create a hub to more intentionally innovate, incubate, and scale-up teaching innovations. Initiatives may include funding innovation grants for instructors to incubate ideas and opportunities to prototype the classroom of the future, and a stage gate-type process to assist instructors with developing their ideas further and assist the university in scaling the idea to the broader campus. This teaching innovation hub will have a research lens, streamlining the process for conducting classroom research, and through collaboration with the Executive Vice President for Research and Partnerships, strengthen connections to external funding sources for scholarship on teaching and learning. One tool in development to help streamline this effort is a common IRB for faculty who would like to integrate their research with their course curriculum.

Facilitate Meaningful, Flexible, and Cross-Disciplinary Curricula

Purdue University is already a leader in curricular innovations such as the Degree in 3, Cornerstone Integrated Liberal Arts, and the College of Science’s Learning Beyond the Classroom certificate. The faculty in Construction Management Technology redesigned their entire curriculum into team-taught courses that deliberately integrate concepts in ways that mirror real-world application. We have developed a growing collection of multidisciplinary educational offerings that span the campus, such as the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Certificate, the Systems Collaboratory, 9 and the Integrative Data Science Initiative.

To respond to the demand for students who have broad, multidisciplinary backgrounds, we will need to expand our offerings of academic programs that span departments, colleges, and disciplines. This may require an administrative entity, such as a university college, to house, encourage, develop, and support these and future multidisciplinary offerings. Such an entity could convene and lead the conversations to arrive at campus solutions for emerging issues such as micro-credentials, how to meet students’ needs for a flexible curriculum, and ensuring that students can develop their writing, coding, or other skills that cut across disciplines.  The curriculum of the future will likely allow students to pursue more flexible degrees, new forms of credentials, and a more tailored program of study.

Leverage Characteristics of a Residential Campus to Increase Engagement

Another aspect of the Transformative Education Purdue Move is Living and Learning, and again, Purdue is already making strides in this area. The Leadership and Professional Development Initiative helps students connect their in-class and out-of-class experiences, document their leadership competencies, and visually showcase their achievements. The Honors College is a true residential college that seeks to bridge the gap between curricular and co-curricular learning. We continue to add learning communities in the residence halls, such as the new Data Mine, and Student Life provides projects for engineering undergraduates in their capstone courses.

Listening session participants asked what does it means to be a residential campus, now that so much learning happens online. Going forward, faculty and staff will need to be intentional in their efforts to engage in authentic student interactions outside the classroom and to be fully integrated in the residential campus. We will create effective environments that support student learning, considering both the physical spaces and cultural elements of campus. We will tie together our rich set of high impact practices (including Study Abroad, Undergraduate Research, Learning Communities, Service-Learning Workplace Experience, Honors Courses, and Capstones, etc.) and contemplate requiring at least one of these transformational learning experiences as a graduation requirement. Additionally, we will develop an initiative around student wellness, helping students build a network of resources they can call on when needed. In short, we will educate the whole student, ensuring that they are equipped with both the professional and life skills necessary to be engaged citizens who value continuous learning.

Maximize the Potential of All Students

If we are able to bring this vision to life, then Purdue students will truly continue to experience an extraordinary education. However, this education must be for all Purdue students. We believe that student success is a shared responsibility between students and institutions, but student achievement data show some groups of students have historically experienced struggles at Purdue, including first generation students, students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, underrepresented minority students, rural students, and students with disabilities, among others.

Through our research partners in the University Innovation Alliance, the work of the Boiler Success Team, and the leadership of the Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion, we will continue to investigate the factors that have kept us from helping all students reach their goals, and do what we can to eliminate barriers to student success. Retention and graduation rates are important, but do not tell the whole story, so we will learn more about important student milestones on the way to graduation, such as experiences in critical gateway courses, student sense of belonging, or the extent to which students are prepared for their chosen careers. Our shared responsibility for student success means expecting hard work and commitment from our students, but in turn adopting inclusive and equitable policies and practices so that all students are fully supported in their drive to reach their maximum potential as Boilermakers.

How will we know if we have succeeded?

We can establish goals for student learning and development, a shared understanding of what it means to provide a high-quality academic experience, and programs and structures that promote great teaching. But the only way to know if we have succeeded in meeting the goals outlined above is to also establish common metrics for communication and assessment, so we can have a consistent approach to data collection and dissemination, and to continuous improvement. Traditional measures of academic success such as GPA, retention and graduation rates, and post-graduation outcomes will continue to be important, but listening session members encouraged us to consider other outcomes as well, such as engagement and well-being.

This initiative is a top priority of the Office of the Provost, but this is not the “Provost’s Initiative.” Instead it is the Purdue Road Map for Transformative Undergraduate Education, because the work that will bring this vision to life will take place all across Purdue’s campus, not just in the Provost’s Office. Reaching our goals for Purdue’s undergraduate program in 2030 will require a sustained commitment to the work we all do to support the teaching and learning - and ultimately the success of - all Purdue students.

Additional Information

  1. See Retention and Graduation Rate dashboard on Purdue’s Data Digest
  2. President Daniels’ 2019 Open Letter
  3. Purdue Teaching and Learning Listening Session Summaries
  4. Undergraduate Curriculum Council Expected Outcomes:
    Complete description of all foundational and embedded learning outcomes and associated rubrics
  5. LPDI leadership and professional development competencies, and links to college-based leadership development frameworks
  6. Transformative Education
  7. 150 th Anniversary Professors
  8. IMPACT Program
  9. Systems Collaboratory
  10. Purdue Promise

  • Purdue Road Map for Transformative Undergraduate Education

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