The Faculty Challenge in Arts and Humanities
The University of Sheffield is leading the sector in the development of wide reaching plans for interdisciplinary learning. These include the development, in every faculty, of an intensive interdisciplinary challenge for all Level One students. In our Faculty, a team of staff, led by Professor Miranda Fricker (Department of Philosophy), is working to develop a week-long Challenge. This innovative event will bring all of our Level One students together to work in small groups to develop responses to key societal challenges.
Your Role in Shaping the Challenge
The logistical planning of the Challenge is now getting under way, and at the end of this semester the task of the Working Party – namely, to produce a detailed proposal for the structure and content of the 5-day challenge – will be complete. But we are not there yet!
Most fundamentally we are committed to consult widely with colleagues in the Faculty to ensure that this initiative is invigorated by authentic themes that are relevant to students and faculty in all departments. Several departments have taken up the offer to discuss the Challenge with Miranda at departmental meetings. This has been hugely helpful in shaping the plans so far.
All colleagues in the Faculty, academic and administrative, will shortly be receiving a summary of the proposal and the list of themes and sub-questions for further consultation. All perspectives will be welcomed as we seek to finalise a proposal which will inspire our Level One intake for 2014-15. So please do give us your input in response to the forthcoming email.
An integral part of the planning for the Challenge is consultation with students. The institutional team of Student Ambassadors for Learning and Teaching has conducted surveys and focus groups with current students. Outcomes from this research have helped to shape the project. The University also drew upon lessons learnt from other successful projects, including the Sheffield Colloquium and established large-scale challenge-events.
Delivery of the Challenge
The event, to be held in February 2015 (Week 15 of the Autumn semester), will engage our first year students in exploring a question drawn from one of four themes: Power and Social Change; Cultural Value; Digital Age and the Human Animal. Working in their interdisciplinary groups our students will be helped to identify and address a real-world problem under one of these themes. During the course of the week, they will debate and critically explore their theme. Students will learn techniques in inquiry-based learning and group work as they research and refine their ideas.
Student groups will be supported by trained postgraduate facilitators, academic theme leaders, alumni and employer partners. The groups will be organised across disciplines and will be expected to produce a record of their work to be posted on a shared webpage, perhaps including a 3-minute video. The best posts, as decided by staff and students, will be awarded prizes and possibly further development.
The University is committed to the success of the Challenge, and is making a significant investment in the use of external facilities appropriate to the scale of the activity. Present plans are to hold the Arts and Humanities Grand Challenge in Ponds Forge, which provides a central off-campus venue with good conference facilities.
If you have any questions or suggestions about any aspects of the plans-in-progress, please email Miranda Fricker.