Teaching Innovations

Dr. Cliff Stratton, Assistant Director RCI Program

In Fall 2015, the Roots of Contemporary Issues (RCI) Program entered its fourth full year as the centerpiece of undergraduate general education at Washington State University.

Under the direction of Professor Jesse Spohnholz, faculty and graduate teaching assistants in the program have created significant momentum toward improving the critical thinking, writing, and research skills of WSU students from every major and discipline represented on campus.

For more on the scope and aims of the program, visit rci.history.wsu.edu.

During the 2015-16 academic year, the RCI program hit its stride on several fronts, including developing a close working partnership with the WSU Center for Assessment, Teaching, and Learning directed by Kimberly Green.

The program has, in collaboration with Corey Johnson of WSU libraries, built a robust assessment program to gauge how well students are progressing toward meeting first-year learning goals.

Hint: It’s going well, but also has revealed important objects of improvement that will inform the work of faculty in the coming years.

In recent months, the RCI assessment program has become the talk of administrators in the Office of Undergraduate Education, the University Common Core Requirements, and the College of Arts and Sciences.

It has become a model for University-wide programs to measure undergraduate preparedness for course work in their respective majors and for graduation.

Having developed it over the last four years into a successful teaching model, members of the RCI program have now taken to extending the model and message beyond WSU.

Director Spohnholz, Assistant Director Clif Stratton, and faculty member Katy Fry presented the collective work of the program at the American Association of Colleges and Universities’ conference on general education reform in 2015.

The program received high praise for its ambitious and innovative methods and its results.

The Organization of American Historians recently featured the RCI program on its teaching and learning Process blog.

Members of the RCI faculty will serve on a panel devoted to teaching world history at the World History Association’s 2016 annual meeting in Ghent, Belgium, in July.

Finally, over the next year, five members of the RCI faculty will gear up to write and release a Roots of Contemporary Issues book series with Oxford University Press that promises to bring the program, department, and university further national exposure.