The Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) has identified several teaching and learning practices that benefit students from all backgrounds, including historically underserved students who often have not had access to high-impact learning experiences. UCF encourages faculty and student involvement in the following active learning practices.
First-Year Seminars and Experiences (AAC&U)
Many schools now build into the curriculum first-year seminars or other programs that bring small groups of students together with faculty or staff on a regular basis. The highest-quality first-year experiences place a strong emphasis on critical inquiry, frequent writing, information literacy, collaborative learning, and other skills that develop students’ intellectual and practical competencies. First-year seminars can also involve students with cutting-edge questions in scholarship and with faculty members’ own research.
UCF First-Year Experience
First Year Experience (FYE) combines orientation with extended first year transition programs including UCF’s official Welcome Week (Pegasus Palooza), LINK, and the Strategies for Success (SLS) course. It assists entering freshmen and transfer students with their transition to UCF by providing information about student services, campus life, academic support, academic advising, and registration.
UCF Common Reader
The Common Reading Program serves UCF’s First Time in College (FTIC) students. The intent of establishing a Common Reading Program is to engage FTIC students in a dialogue around a relevant topic while creating a sense of community among incoming students.
Common Intellectual Experiences (AAC&U)
The older idea of a “core” curriculum has evolved into a variety of modern forms, such as a set of required common courses or a vertically organized general education program that includes advanced integrative studies and/or required participation in a learning community. These programs often combine broad themes—e.g., technology and society, global interdependence—with a variety of curricular and cocurricular options for students.
The mission of UCF’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), What’s Next: Integrative Learning for Professional and Civic Preparation, is to prepare our graduates to successfully enter and participate in the next steps of their professional and civic lives. What’s Next seeks to help students plan for their futures post-graduation: to not only set goals but to identify the knowledge and skills necessary to reach those goals. The initiative encourages students to connect their classroom knowledge and skills to real-world contexts and, thereby, to develop the ability to transfer knowledge and skills from one context to another. Finally, this initiative promotes opportunities for students to reflect on their experiences, to communicate their knowledge and experiences, and to develop the ability to successfully advocate for themselves in their lives beyond the university.
UCF Unifying Theme
The unifying theme is an initiative that combines course work and co-curricular activities to help students experience connections across disciplines while building relationships within a scholarly community. A good unifying theme has the potential to enrich students’ awareness of current global interests and engage several dimensions of inquiry: scientific, social, historical, philosophical, and ethical. The readings, research, and learning projects help students prepare for their future professional and civic lives. This initiative is also connected to the common reader program (above) that enables creative conversations across campus and gives direction to other UCF programming.
The key goals for learning communities are to encourage integration of learning across courses and to involve students with “big questions” that matter beyond the classroom. Students take two or more linked courses as a group and work closely with one another and with their professors. Many learning communities explore a common topic and/or common readings through the lenses of different disciplines. Some deliberately link “liberal arts” and “professional courses”; others feature service learning.
UCF Living Learning Communities
A Living Learning Community is a group of students placed together on a floor or within a building based on a common major, common interest, or common program affiliation. A list of these communities is available from UCF Housing at https://www.housing.ucf.edu/choices/llc/.
Writing-Intensive Courses (AAC&U)
These courses emphasize writing at all levels of instruction and across the curriculum, including final-year projects. Students are encouraged to produce and revise various forms of writing for different audiences in different disciplines. The effectiveness of this repeated practice “across the curriculum” has led to parallel efforts in such areas as quantitative reasoning, oral communication, information literacy, and, on some campuses, ethical inquiry.
UCF Gordon Rule Courses
This rule requires all students to complete at least four writing-intensive courses (twelve credit hours).
UCF Writing Across the Curriculum
Writing Across the Curriculum is a program at UCF that assists faculty in creation and implementation of effective approaches to writing instruction in their discipline. The WAC program collaborates with faculty from all departments and disciplines to create customized projects that meet the needs of their departments and their students.
Collaborative Assignments and Projects (AAC&U)
Collaborative learning combines two key goals: learning to work and solve problems in the company of others, and sharpening one’s own understanding by listening seriously to the insights of others, especially those with different backgrounds and life experiences. Approaches range from study groups within a course, to team-based assignments and writing, to cooperative projects and research.
UCF Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning
The FCTL offers workshops, web materials, and consultations on incorporating and assessing collaborative learning in courses.
Undergraduate Research (AAC&U)
Many colleges and universities are now providing research experiences for students in all disciplines. Undergraduate research, however, has been most prominently used in science disciplines. With strong support from the National Science Foundation and the research community, scientists are reshaping their courses to connect key concepts and questions with students’ early and active involvement in systematic investigation and research. The goal is to involve students with actively contested questions, empirical observation, cutting-edge technologies, and the sense of excitement that comes from working to answer important questions.
UCF Office of Undergraduate Research
Faculty play an integral role in the undergraduate research experience; they are the essential links between students and their research projects. As mentors, they provide guidance and encouragement to undergraduate researchers while nurturing the development of independent research skills and increased senses of self-confidence. At UCF, faculty mentors from a wide variety of disciplines work with students across campus on diverse research projects.
Diversity/Global Learning (AAC&U)
Many colleges and universities now emphasize courses and programs that help students explore cultures, life experiences, and worldviews different from their own. These studies—which may address U.S. diversity, world cultures, or both—often explore “difficult differences” such as racial, ethnic, and gender inequality, or continuing struggles around the globe for human rights, freedom, and power. Frequently, intercultural studies are augmented by experiential learning in the community and/or by study abroad.
UCF Diversity Course Requirement
UCF recognizes that communities are comprised of, and enriched by, people of diverse backgrounds. The study of diversity is encouraged to promote an understanding of the needs of individuals, the University, and society. Thus, all students completing their first bachelor’s degree from UCF must complete at least one course that explores the diverse backgrounds and characteristics found among humans, including: race/ethnicity, gender, social class/caste, religion, age, sexual orientation, and level of physical ability.
UCF Office of Diversity and Inclusion
ODI was established in 1994 to support the University of Central Florida’s fourth strategic goal, “to become more inclusive and diverse.” We strive to make diversity and inclusion visible and critical elements that indelibly permeate the life and values of the UCF community. We offer education, training and support services, facilitation of cross-campus collaboration, and enterprise-wide leadership to the campus and our community to build an inclusive culture for all students, faculty and staff.
Service Learning, Community-Based Learning (AAC&U)
In these programs, field-based “experiential learning” with community partners is an instructional strategy—and often a required part of the course. The idea is to give students direct experience with issues they are studying in the curriculum and with ongoing efforts to analyze and solve problems in the community. A key element in these programs is the opportunity students have to both apply what they are learning in real-world settings and reflect in a classroom setting on their service experiences. These programs model the idea that giving something back to the community is an important college outcome, and that working with community partners is good preparation for citizenship, work, and life.
UCF Service Learning
Service-learning is part of the UCF initiative to provide a means for every student to enhance their academic program with experiential learning opportunities. As a teaching method, service-learning enables students to take academics out of the classroom and into the community in an effort to promote civic engagement. By working with community partners such as non-profit organizations, public schools, government agencies, campus groups, or businesses with specifically philanthropic missions, students develop skills and knowledge that will help them to become civically responsible members of the community.
Internships are another increasingly common form of experiential learning. The idea is to provide students with direct experience in a work setting—usually related to their career interests—and to give them the benefit of supervision and coaching from professionals in the field. If the internship is taken for course credit, students complete a project or paper that is approved by a faculty member.
UCF Office of Experiential Learning
Experiential Learning faculty instruct co-op and internship courses, support faculty in the creation and development of internship and service-learning courses, provide best practices workshops, facilitate incentive funding approval processes against criteria, promote applied learning to students and maintain statistics on applied learning across campus. All of these options require the development and maintenance of relationships with industrial and community partners.
Capstone Courses and Projects (AAC&U)
Whether they’re called “senior capstones” or some other name, these culminating experiences require students nearing the end of their college years to create a project of some sort that integrates and applies what they’ve learned. The project might be a research paper, a performance, a portfolio of “best work,” or an exhibit of artwork. Capstones are offered both in departmental programs and, increasingly, in general education as well.
Many UCF programs require cornerstone and/or capstone courses to fulfill degree requirements.
High-Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter, by George D. Kuh (AAC&U, 2008). https://provost.tufts.edu/celt/files/High-Impact-Ed-Practices1.pdf.