Facilitating Campus Leadership for
Integrative Liberal Learning
One of the key goals of Clark's Liberal Education and Effective Practice (LEEP) initiative is to help
students be more reflective, intentional, and self-directed about their learning. Aligned with
AAC&U's commitment to integrative learning, we believe an important outcome of a Clark
undergraduate education involves students learning to draw connections at four levels: (1)
within coursework in their major, (2) between their Program of Liberal Studies courses and
their major courses, (3) among their curricular and cocurricular activities, and (4) across
disciplines and contexts (often beyond the campus gates).
As we have spent the last half decade designing college environments that help students
integrate their learning, we also have been designing environments that instill in Clark
undergraduates the increasing capacity to make such connections on their own. The aim of this
developmental framework is to ensure that by graduation Clark undergraduates demonstrate
the ability to engage in integrative learning for themselves across multiple levels.
While our aims have not changed much over the past five years, the nature of our work has. In
asking that students learn differently, we have come to realize that faculty, staff, and
administrators will not be able to facilitate this change without learning to be more intentional
and integrative themselves. New kinds of!professional!learning need to take place, and new!
structures and tools are required to guide this process.
In this case study, we share aspects of Clark's efforts to undertake the most significant
curricular reform effort our university has ever initiated. This work has transitioned from the
use of standard faculty governance and ad hoc committee structures to the more intentional
and sustained use of learning communities (Brown 1984). In charting out this course, we have
drawn significantly from the learning and developmental science literature. While it is well
known in the literature that learning communities are powerful sites for professional
development (Del Prete 2013; Lave and Wenger 1991), we have come to see the need for a
strategy for scaling the work and a core set of resources that are necessary to drive and sustain
authentic change. The primary lesson we have learned is that without significant attention to
thinking freshly about mechanisms of campus leadership for this work, and without significant
attention to professional development in support of campus leaders learning to be more
intentional and integrative themselves, these important initiatives will fail.
In 2008, Clark's faculty decided to undertake a major review of its undergraduate curriculum,
something that had not undergone substantial review for several decades. A faculty task force
on undergraduate education was formed to rethink what it means to be liberally educated in
the twenty-first century. The task force recommended a set of five university-wide learning
outcomes. Four of these outcomes were adapted from the AAC&U's LEAP Essential Outcomes.
A fifth learning outcome focused on what we call "capacities of effective practice," including
creativity, self-directedness, resilience, adaptive expertise, and the ability to collaborate.
In addition to shared learning outcomes, the Undergraduate Task Force proposed a new model
of learning that draws upon Clark's distinguished history in the learning and developmental
sciences. The Undergraduate Task Force report proposed shifting the relationship between
general and specialized education. Instead of taking breadth and depth as two relatively
separate aspects of the undergraduate experience (and something separate from cocurricular
activities), the aim was to see academic progress over time as a single arc of development. This
holistic view of student learning identifies three phases. A first orientation phase marks entry
to college; a second phase invites growth!and!exploration; and a third phase, enactment, calls
on students to show their progress by enacting and demonstrating what they know (see Budwig
 for a fuller description of this work). The task force's work was presented to the faculty
assembly and by 2009, the five learning outcomes were adopted by a vote in the Faculty
Assembly. With a nod to the acronym for AAC&U's signature initiative LEAP, we call Clark's
framework LEEP—Liberal Education and Effective Practice.
Our early work on implementing the LEEP Curricular Framework drew upon existing structures
and faculty governance channels, such as our Undergraduate Academic Board and Center for
Excellence in Teaching and Learning, but this work did not fully live up to the goals articulated
by the Undergraduate Task Force. These efforts were primarily organized at the level of
individual courses, and were hardly integrated into larger structural units beyond individual
faculty, which led to minimal curricular or institutional-level change. To implement this
curricular framework beyond the individual course level, we realized faculty learning
communities, as well as tools and templates to guide these communities, needed to be
The$Effective$Practice$Faculty$Fellowship. Recognizing the need to create a shared vision for
weaving integrative learning and effective practice into the undergraduate curriculum, we
sought a process that would be transparent, inclusive, iterative, and sustainable. This led us to
form the Effective Practice Faculty Fellowship, a group of approximately a dozen volunteers
who came from various disciplines. The fellowship faculty met regularly as a learning
community and planned a semester-long salon series open to all faculty that took place once a
month. The goal of the salons was to generate ideas from a large group of faculty on campus
who worked in breakout groups over lunch around a series of topics, such as building a
collective faculty vision for LEEP, developing shared goals, and shaping curricular strategies for
integrative learning and effective practice.
As the effective practice work moved forward, faculty deepened their knowledge of curricular
work beyond their major and gained a noticeable sense of community. Nevertheless, faculty
outside the fellowship had a more difficult time thinking about models that offered bold
solutions for integrating Clark's curricular elements beyond a set of classes or the major.
There were three takeaways from the Effective Practice Faculty Fellowship efforts. First, we
came to recognize the power of learning communities for breaking down university silos.
Second, we realized that in order for students to learn differently and in an integrative fashion,
faculty, staff, and administrators need to be organized and have professional development to
do the same. Third, we received a suggestion from the faculty Undergraduate Academic Board
that encouraged leadership to begin work in the major, given that these curricular units were
where faculty felt most comfortable. While counterintuitive at first, this turned out to be a
The$Exemplar$Learning$Communities$Project.$This project was designed to foster
professional development, bringing together faculty representing several distinct majors, with
each exemplar group including five to ten faculty, staff, and one academic administrative leader
responsible for the LEEP Curricular Framework efforts. Through iterative cycles of working with
membership from different majors on campus and staff from cocurricular units, each exemplar
group works as a learning community to support the efforts of individual departments and
programs. The goal of the Exemplar Learning Communities Project is to develop department
plans for implementing two of the five LEEP learning outcomes, including consideration of the
developmental pathways of (1) expected student behaviors at each of the three developmental
phases—orientation, growth and exploration, and enactment; (2) the foundational learning and
high-impact experiences provided to help students meet these expectations; and (3) plans for
assessment of the selected outcomes.
Over the past eighteen months, two iterations of exemplar learning communities have taken
place with a third community—focused on our First Year Intensive seminar courses—having
started in fall 2014. The first community worked with four different majors (biology, economics,
music, and screen studies), while the second group includes four other majors (computer
science, cultural studies and communication, English, and management). Clark's new LEEP
Center—a support structure on campus integrating all academic support services and providing
students with LEEP advising—also has participated in the learning communities to help foster
discussion of linkages between the majors and the academic support services and cocurricular
activities available on campus.
While currently the first two learning communities have focused on the major, and this work
will continue iteratively, our newly formed third learning community brings together faculty
and staff involved with the first-year experience to consider ways first-year programming can
assist students not only transition into college, but also help them link their first-year
experiences to other curricular elements. To help ensure learning is transferred between work
going on in the major and the first-year programming, cross-membership between the second
and third learning communities was set up. Each learning community spends a semester or
more working together formally, though an aim is made to recognize the need for ongoing
reflection and iterative cycles of improvement back at the department level for this work.
A second important goal of the exemplar learning communities has been to develop a set of
professional tools and public resources that help guide learning that goes beyond simply
participating with other peers in the learning community. Building off learning and
developmental research (Budwig 2013, Windschitl et al. 2012), we believed that these tools
could have a particularly important role to play in our LEEP initiative in that they not only might
build individual capacity, but also could be a great resource in making departmental thinking
visible—public and available (to self and others)—facilitating organic change in ways that
support institutionally agreed upon goals.
At Clark we came to realize how challenging it was for departments to think intentionally and
specifically about the separate learning outcomes and how they each linked up with expected
student behaviors and high-impact experiences. It also was difficult for departments to focus
their work on developing pathways of expected student behaviors across time. This led to the
creation of a learning!outcomes!template, which helps departments systematically inquire and
reflect on these issues. Another important tool has become the poster!template, a device that
assists departments in sharing work on their learning outcomes template with other curricular
units in a public way. The poster template allows units to share information about the
department, two of the learning outcome templates that describe developmental pathways,
and gives insight into department plans for next steps. What is critical is that these tools guide
inquiry—both at the level of the individual unit, as well as facilitating cross departmental
conversations. These tools do not prescribe. The templates allow units to create unique plans
The tools and artifacts are deeply connected to the work of the learning communities. The
templates are provided to augment the work, with each learning community not only utilizing
these tools, and seeing the results of others' use of them, but also contributing to their further
development. A Moodle site houses the work of each of the learning communities, organized
longitudinally. A section of the Moodle site also holds the most recent poster drafts of each
department so each department can work on their own plans but also draw upon the work of
others. Members of each individual community provide peer feedback both formally and
informally in the context of the learning community meetings. A resource section also holds the
latest version of the common templates. We have found that the pace of work of the learning
community speeds up with each iteration, largely due to the improvements in the templates
and resources supporting their use. In winter 2015 these tools will be available to faculty and
staff at Clark as part of a new webpage that describes this work.
The benefit of these learning communities then lies not only in developing professional
leadership for intentional integrative learning, but also in strengthening this leadership through
the process of rich documentation. The posters provide a mechanism to share the work of
learning community members with departments that have yet to participate. This past spring,
Clark's Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning hosted an afternoon session that allowed
departments to share posters with faculty and staff. These sessions both inspire future work
and also show the diversity of ways departments across campus are implementing integrative
learning and effective practice, countering any concern that a one-size-fits-all model is
While there is general consensus on campus that integrative learning and effective practice are
critical to liberal learning, implementing the ambitious goals of Clark's LEEP initiative has been
more complex than we originally thought. Clark's Undergraduate Task Force Report created a
general buzz of excitement. Much of the reform efforts were designed to ensure that all
students experienced the best of what undergraduates found transformative. Instead of
developing completely new curricular elements and experiences, much of the proposed
curricular change involved more intentionally organizing student learning. One of the key
findings of our work related to implementing the LEEP framework is that faculty!and!staff!also!
need!to!become!more!intentional!and!integrative!in!their!efforts. Helping students coordinate
pathways that integrate their learning across curricular and cocurricular experiences, and
allowing students to take on increasing agency and intentionality for their integrative learning,
require faculty and staff to do the same.
Learning communities have been central to the professional development work we have
described. They provide an open and supportive environment that facilitates professional
development. Faculty and staff feel comfortable in professional learning environments
designed to allow members to co-create integrative learning pathways for students. But we
have found that learning communities do not simply develop organically. They need strong
support and nurturing. Significant design goes into their formation, and continuous leadership
that scaffolds learning is imperative. In such contexts, tools and artifacts become powerful
resources that foster enhanced professional development. We have found two features that
have improved the success of learning communities: first, the individual learning communities
need to be networked or linked together over time in planned and sequenced ways; second,
learning communities depend on tools and artifacts that serve as important scaffolds that
encourage disciplined and collaborative inquiry.
One challenge for our community has been a tension in this work between totally organic work
on the part of faculty and staff and significant leadership from the academic administration—
individuals who typically carry broader institutional vision and time commitment to the LEEP
implementation initiative. We have landed in a spot that is neither top down nor bottom up.
Drawing from literature in the developmental and learning sciences, we have coined a
term, guided!emergence, to characterize this approach (see Budwig 2013; Budwig and Elsass
2013). Guided emergence sees the role of campus leadership as one that designs environments
and provides and assists with the creation of tools and artifacts that allow individuals and
broader learning communities unique opportunities for authentic engagement and the chance
to flourish. We believe guided emergence provides a conceptual tool for rethinking the role of
faculty and academic leadership in facilitating new forms of campus leadership for the
integrative liberal learning we know is central to the educational outcomes we desire for our
Brown, Ann L. 1984. "The Advancement of Learning." Educational!Researcher 23 (8): 4–12.
Budwig, Nancy. 2013. "The Learning Sciences and Liberal Education." Change!45 (3): 40–48.
Budwig, Nancy, and Priscilla Elsass, P. 2013. "Guided Emergence: A Process for Weaving
Learning Outcomes into the Undergraduate Academic Experience." Paper presented at
the AAC&U Network for Academic Renewal Conference on General Education and
Assessment, Boston, MA, February 2013.
Del Prete, Thomas. 2013.Teacher!Rounds:!A!Guide!to!Collaborative!Learning!in!and!from!
Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Lave, Jean, and Etienne Wenger. 1991.Situated!Learning:!Legitimate!Peripheral!
Participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Windschitl, Mark, Jessica Thompson, Melissa Braaten, and David Stroupe. 2012. "Proposing a
Core Set of Instructional Practices and Tools for Teachers of Science." Science!
Education 96 (5), 878–903.
Nancy!Budwig is the associate provost, dean of research, and a professor of
psychology; Sarah!Michaels is professor of education and the director of the cultural studies
and communication program; Lisa!Kasmer is an associate professor of English—all of Clark