For the past several years, I’ve worked with several of our Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) faculty at ACU to host our annual STEM for Girls day. We started with … Continue reading
As we think about our students as heroes on a journey, we’ll be considering the three stories that they’ll be exploring: the story of self, the story of others, and … Continue reading
Patricia Hampl says, “Maybe being oneself is an acquired taste.”[ii] That’s a good way to think about the search for self that occurs in the process of learning. After all, we aren’t approaching information from a vacuum. We approach it within the context of who we are as a person. All of our past experiences, our beliefs, the things we’ve been taught by our families and important communities, these will shape the perspective that we bring to our learning. And our learning may shake up those perspectives, may threaten the things we thought we knew about ourselves, who we are, and our place in this world. And that can be a scary thing.
Once a hero is aware of a problem and the need for change, she encounters fear. This fear arises from the unknown element; we resist moving into something different, even when we know it needs to happen. To make it easier for learners to be willing to broach the unknown, teachers need to help them find the call to adventure that occurs in the Hero’s Journey.
As we approach the creation of a course or program, we need to think about them as building blocks for knowledge and skill for our heroes. In The Empire Strikes Back, when Yoda was teaching Luke Skywalker how to be a Jedi, he knew what the endgame was, and what skills and knowledge Luke needed to be able to defeat the dark side. As mentors and guides, teachers are like Yoda, preparing our heroes to approach the unknown, move through fear and uncertainty, lingering between the known and unknown without panicking, and move into mastery.
What if we could create a space that provided faculty members with a place to come together and work on interdisciplinary projects; a space designed specifically to encourage collaboration and creativity?
One way to develop a culture of creativity, collaboration, and problem solving is to embrace the idea of vulnerability. Leaders must acknowledge that they don’t know everything and be willing to work together with the members of their community to identify and solve problems. Vulnerability allows folks to come together to solve a problem. This collaborative approach is very different from the top down leadership that may be typical in higher education these days, but there are models of leadership that can take advantage of the multiple areas of expertise within the higher education institution.