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Proposals Accepted for 2011-12

A Framework for Sustainability Academics at VCU

The purpose of the proposed FLC is to develop a framework for developing classes in varied disciplines that incorporate the principles of systems-based sustainability in both content and method. Since systems-based sustainability relies upon systems thinking, these classes would prepare students to face the challenges of creating a sustainable future by deepening their critical thinking skills. The framework that would emerge from the FLC would guide faculty in any discipline to revise an existing class or create a new class that would accomplish these goals using materials that would be developed in an incremental process, not part of the FLC, itself, but parallel to it. As discussed below, a grant application is being written to obtain Environmental Protection Agency Environmental Education funding to help with this parallel process.

An FLC clearly provides the most viable approach to developing this framework. The interdisciplinarity and collaborative development that is central to the FLC process is perfect for working through the challenges of understanding sustainability as a problem of systematic connections among existing disciplines. Thus, the FLC would allow faculty from different disciplines across the university to explore connections among the systems that are most often studied in isolation. This approach is only available through an integrative process such as that provided by an FLC


  • Clifford Fox, Environmental Studies
  • Deirdre Condit, Wilder School
  • John Powers, History
  • Stephen Fong, Chemical Engineering
  • Christina Lindholm, Arts
  • Randy Barker, School of Business
  • Faye Prichard, Director of Reseach Writing
  • David Hardford,

e-Portfolios at VCU?

Kathleen Blake Yancey, a national expert in technology in education, claimed that e-Portfolios are transforming the “landscape of higher education” because they “radically alter how students learn, how faculty teach, and how institutions assess the value of their education” (“E-Portfolios at 2.0—Surveying the Field; Peer Review, Winter, 2009. AACU.) This FLC comprised of faculty across departments and disciplines, will explore the theory and practices of using e-Portfolios to enhance student learning and assess the efficacy of the curriculum.  Concurrent with this inquiry, we will also attend to the ways in which e-Portfolios “alter” how faculty teach. 

An early point of focus of the FLC will be an review of the tension, both practical and theoretical, between using e-Portfolios as an assessment tool to satisfy expectations for accountability and using e-Portfolios as a learning tool that fosters learners who are intentional, reflective, and meta-cognitively aware.  Related to this tension, this FLC will review e-Portfolio products – what products and programs can ease the tension? But equally important point of inquiry for this FLC will be exploring and developing an understanding of the “culture of e-Portfolio assessment” at campuses such as Portland State, Alverno, Truman State, Western Washington, and others.  By “e-Portfolio culture” we mean campuses that have integrated portfolios into the every day practices of teaching and learning and not simply imposed them as an “add-on” or afterthought task or treated them as a warehouse of student papers.


  • Scott Oates, Director of Assessment
  • Kris Byrd, Focused Inquiry
  • David Spivey, Education
  • Kimberly Zicafoose, Focused Inquiry
  • Shajuana Payne, University College
  • LaRon Scott, Education
  • Allison Gregory, Nursing


This FLC is a cross-disciplinary group of faculty dedicated to delivering core curriculum courses through the College of Humanities and Sciences general education curriculum that share a common theme—the sesquicentennial of the Civil War—and common aspirations to help students and faculty take advantage of the unique location of Richmond, Virginia (and the cultural institutions within) to reflect up on the events, cultural forces, and social milieu before, during, and (long ) after the Civil War.

Since January 2011, a group of eight of faculty from three units in the College have been delivering a cluster of courses at the general education (tier two) and upper-division (tier three) level relating to the theme of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War. (These courses include multiple sections of core courses—History 201, English 215, and all sections of Women’s Studies 201—as well as a few upper-division courses in English and History.) Faculty teaching these courses work collaboratively, albeit informally, as a group to discuss and identify the points of continuity and exchange between and among the courses


  • Catherine Ingrassia, English
  • Liz Canfield, Gender, Sexuality and Womens Studies
  • Brian Daugherity, History
  • Emilie Raymond, History
  • John Kneebone, History
  • Ryan Smith, History
  • Jane Lucas, Focused Inquiry
  • Kathy Bassard, English

Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL)

This Faculty Learning Community will focus on the development of Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) for professional schools.  POGIL is a classroom and laboratory technique that seeks to simultaneously teach content and key process skills such as the ability to think analytically and work effectively as part of a collaborative team.   A POGIL classroom or lab consists of any number of students working in small groups on specially designed guided inquiry materials. These materials supply students with data or information followed by leading questions designed to guide them toward formulation of their own valid conclusions—essentially a recapitulation of the scientific method. The instructor serves as facilitator, observing and periodically addressing individual and classroom-wide needs.  POGIL is based on research indicating that a) teaching by telling does not work for most students, b) students who are part of an interactive community are more likely to be successful, and c) knowledge is personal; students enjoy themselves more and develop greater ownership over the material when they are given an opportunity to construct their own understanding.  The POGIL Project, funded by the National Science Foundations, has demonstrated that a discovery-based team environment energizes students and provides instructors with instant and constant feedback about what their students understand and misunderstand. Students quickly pick up the message that logical thinking and teamwork are prized above simply getting “the correct answer.” This emphasizes that learning is not a solitary task of memorizing information, but an interactive process of refining one’s understanding and developing one’s skills.

To date, POGIL has focused exclusively on undergraduate and high school education.  The basic principles of POGIL are integral to adult learning and specific to the needs of students in professional schools to be able to use inductive and deductive reasoning; apply critical skills related to critical analysis; and function within teams.


  • Isaac Wood, Associate Dean, School of Medicine
  • Michael Weaver, Medicine
  • Joan Pellegrini, Dental Hygiene
  • Teresa Knott, Tomkins McCaw Library
  • Shannon Jones, Tomkins McCaw Library
  • Meredyth Bryk, Dentistry
  • B. Ellen Byrne, Dentistry
  • Cheryl Bodamer, Medicine


Facebook, the most recognized social networking service and website, was launched in February 2004. It is estimated that there are more than 600 million active users as of January of this year (Business Insider, January 5, 2011). Recently, several public figures have supported the concept of patients communicating with physicians using electronic formats, including social media, as a way of improving care and reducing cost. As of January 23, 2011, 906 hospitals in the USA use social networking tools including 448 YouTube channels, 719 Facebook pages, 674 Twitter accounts, 439 LinkedIn accounts, 693 Four Square and 106 blogs. Within the Commonwealth of Virginia, 15 hospitals are using some sort of social network tool (http://ebennett.org accessed on April 24, 2011). On April 21, 2011, Healthcare IT News published the case of a physician who lost her privileges to practice in her hospital and was fined $500 by the State of Rhode Island Department of Health Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline, for “inadvertently violated confidentiality” after using her Facebook account, although no names or medical record identifiers had been used.

We propose to form a Learning Community to address some of the issues related to the use of social media in healthcare, in particular in Medicine. In a very simplistic manner, we divide these forms of communication into 3 groups: social networking (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), media-sharing sites (Flickr, YouTube, etc.) and others (wikis, blogs, podcasts, etc.). Although all forms of communication are important, we want to concentrate our studies on social networking tools. The fast growth of these tools has not been matched by a similar growth on policies or suggestions on how to use the tools in a professional manner; it is our intention to study the issues related to social media and professionalism in health care. It must be clearly established from the start that we are not a committee or task force dedicated to write policy and our purpose is the academic, multi-disciplinary study of a relatively new phenomenon.


  • Carlos Arancibia, Anesthesiology
  • Christopher Guerry, Anesthesiology
  • Nora Azzazy, Anesthesiology
  • Mark Nelson, Anesthesiology
  • Jeff South, Mass Communications
  • Susie Goolsby, Dentistry

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