Director’s Letter

CATEGORIES: Foundation Courses
Lesley Erin Bartlett (Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University)

Dear all,

Welcome to a new semester! Over the summer, the ISUComm Foundation Courses team made some changes. If you are teaching face-to-face, your Canvas shell looks different. The concept of invitation informed our revision process. If we think of the Canvas shell as an invitation to teaching and learning in our courses, what does it suggest about what it means to teach and learn in Foundation Courses?

When I think about the streamlined 150 and 250 Canvas shells as invitations, here’s what I hope they communicate to students:

  1. Your classmates and instructor are vital to your learning in Foundation Courses. Class discussion, collaborative drafting activities, peer review, and other in-class work are crucial elements of our courses, and all of this work requires the active engagement of students and the skilled guidance of the instructor.
  2. Class happens in the classroom. Canvas supports what happens in the classroom, but it doesn’t create, comprise, or replace it.

To instructors, I hope the shell-as-invitation communicates:

  1. I trust you. I trust you to make thoughtful choices about how best to help your students learn what we aim to teach them in the major assignments and throughout the course. I also trust you to seek support if you have questions or concerns.
  2. I value your expertise. You know better than anyone else how to calibrate the day-to-day work in your sections to meet your particular group of students where they are and get them where they need to be. Good teaching is attuned to context, and you are the expert in and of your class.

We made these changes based in large part on responses to the instructor and student surveys we conducted in the spring. I expect these changes to revivify the work that happens in classrooms and improve attendance across the program. I’ll be curious to hear whether and how the new shell supports your and your students’ work in face-to-face classes.

Finally, here’s an explicit invitation to all faculty members and graduate students who teach Foundation Courses: you are cordially invited to join the 150/250 AI and Writing Working Group. We will work together to discern how best to do the deeply human work of teaching writing with the advent of new technologies, as humans always have. More specifically, our group will focus on the pedagogical implications and opportunities associated with AI in ISUComm Foundation Courses. Bring your enthusiasm, imagination, and skepticism. We’re going to need all of it if we’re going to do this work well. Send me an email if you’re interested in the group.

I wish you all a wonderful first week of classes.

All best,