We work with students, educators, and administrators to bring new educational perspectives to classrooms
We wanted to put our ideas to the test, and wanted these discussions to take place in the kind of environments we're pushing for.
So we ran a number of focus groups attended by Washington University students majoring in engineering, education, biology, art & design, economics, English... all across the board.
The conversations we had were nothing short of inspiring: they validated the importance we attribute to variety in mental models, and reaffirmed our belief that bringing in people with drastically different backgrounds would allow for fresh perspectives regarding the direction of Coffeehouse Education.
Creating new classes
One of the most exciting parts of our process has been coming up with new classes, tailored to our mission statement. With the help of those students who attended our focus groups, we've developed our first two class-models that we believe can act as standalone courses, but can also easily be implemented as subsections to a wide variety of existing classes:
We're working toward changes in education, but we don't want to (entirely) scrap the current structures in place. We've been working on providing realistic and implementable updates to a number of Washington University courses in order to better reflect our school and Coffeehouse Education's mission statements.
We'd like to see discussion sections incorporated into classes like Introduction to Psychology where students could benefit from hearing a chemistry major, a history buff, and a B-schooler share how psychology applies to their interests. This kind of multi-disciplinary environment would expose students to subjects and thought processes they would never hear about in a system that herds and incloses them into majors, and it would teach important skills: communicating your expertise to someone who has no idea what you're talking about, thinking creatively by reaching outside of your academic department for new knowledge...
designing A new Program
Washington University isn't completely devoid of forward-thinking courses. We like to call the handful of educators teaching these kinds of classes rogue professors. They've inspired us to propose novel educational structures to make these kinds of environments accessible to more than just a niche of "out there" students: we've designed the Coffeehouse Program, capable of housing existing courses that embody our mission statement, and set up in such a way that any newly developed classes could easily become part of the program.
One of the goals of this endeavor is to better prepare students for professional life, which means emphasizing the teaching of soft skills instead of assuming we acquire them by virtue of being college students. Students who'd take a certain amount of these courses would be awarded a certification in these valuable skills, like creative thinking, leadership, or communication.