The April ProVisions session focused on the topic of Signature Pedagogies and The College of Saint Rose.  The presenters included Dr. David Sczerbacki, president, Dr. Margaret Kirwin, provost, and Steve Black, Librarian.

Dr. Sczerbacki began the presentations by discussing what he terms is Saint Rose’s “pedagogical pluralism,” where there is a deep commitment to academic freedom that recognizes that there is no one best way, rather that there are multiple contingencies at work, always remembering that different people learn differently.  Dr. Sczerbacki was sure to point out that for any pedagogy to be a signature pedagogy, it must pass the test.  In other words, we must have “proof points” where we can demonstrate where and how our pedagogies make a difference.  Here is the useful handout that Dr. Sczerbacki provided, which looks at both the components of successful high-impact practices and essential learning outcomes:

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Steve Black followed Dr. Sczerbacki, defining signature pedagogy as a distinctive model of teaching and learning that focuses on what students are able to do.  He focused on Lendol Calder’s “Uncoverage: Toward a Signature Pedagogy for the History Survey,” from the Journal of American History, and presented the following insights that he gained from the article:

  • Desired result is for students to do, think, and value what practitioners in the discipline do, think, and value. The resulting values, knowledge, and manner of thinking form a disciplinary world view.
  • Emphasis on covering material in introductory courses is grounded on a false “attic theory” of cognition, which assumes that we need to furnish the mind with a collection of facts in order to think critically. But “facts are not like furniture at all; they are more like dry ice, disappearing at room temperature” (p.1361).  Facts disembodied from a problem will fade away.
  • Better to become perplexed by a problem, then use facts to achieve a solution.
  • Uncoverage–instead of emphasizing facts, uncover what the discipline is. Why bother studying it, what problems do practitioners grapple with, what is the discipline all about?

Steve sees Saint Rose’s unusually broad range of liberal education requirements as a possible signature pedagogy of Saint Rose, where these courses have the strength of introducing students to a wide array of disciplinary ways of seeing the world.  He also provided some examples of what he sees as Saint Rose’s strengths and weaknesses in relation to signature pedagogies, noting possible opportunities for success:


Strengths:Highly qualified and dedicated professionals within the disciplinesSmall class sizes

Strong support systems (service learning, learning center, library)

Successful problem-based learning

Weaknesses:Reliance on adjuncts(?)Inherent limitations of one semester courses taught primarily to freshmen

Difficult to maintain constructive dialogue across disciplines

Opportunities:Engender conversation about the degree to which our lib ed offerings should focus on “uncoverage,” how to achieve that, what supports are needed, and how to maximize students’ ability to make connections among disciplinary approaches to problems. Threats:How much can students learn about the workings of a discipline in one course?In the courses our students take, how often does coverage take precedence over uncoverage?

Why should faculty be concerned about coverage vs. uncoverage beyond their disciplinary boundaries?


Last but not least, Dr. Kirwin focused on service learning as a signature pedagogy and argued that if the signature pedagogy does not involve active learning, we must rethink it as a signature.  Dr. Kirwin sees Saint Rose’s mission statement as a hint towards a mission-centric signature, a goal for Saint Rose Service Learning:

“The College delivers distinctive and comprehensive liberal arts and professional programs that inspire our graduates to be productive adults, critical thinkers, and motivated caring citizens.  Our engagement with the urban environment expands the setting for educational opportunities and encourages the Saint Rose community’s energetic involvement and effective leadership in society.”

In her presentation, Dr. Kirwin explained emphasized that the connection to learning standards is what distinguishes service learning from community service, where the activity also requires that students make decisions, act under conditions of unavoidable uncertainty, and socializes them to the conditions of practice.

Take a look at Kirwin’s PowerPoint presentation: Kriwin – April ProVisions.

To listen to Tuesday’s session about Signature Pedagogies and Saint Rose, click here!!


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