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[edit] Brock University Fostering Creative Learning

Creative learning is integrated in Brock University’s unique and multi-dimensional approach to academic learning, as it focuses on strengthening and combining students’ academic and extra-curricular interests. The collaborative, co-op and Smart Finish programs at Brock allow students to apply what they have learned through creative problem solving and program development. Similarly, cross-listed courses integrates faculties and provides students with rich course content that, in turn, facilitates multi-perspective, creative problem-solving. In addition, seminars incorporated in the course curriculum provide students the avenue to engage in deeper critical thinking and involvement in learning by means of group discussions, presentations and other activities that all embody the creative learning and thinking process. In fact, the university has committed to fundraising $75 million to improve three specific areas that support this approach through their “Bold New Brock” initiative, launched in 2009.

[edit] "Bold New Brock" Campaign

Brock University’s “Bold New Brock” marketing campaign is aimed at both promoting the unique learning environment that the institution provides as well as fundraising $75 million to further improve that environment.[1] [2] The tagline “Both Sides of the Brain” represents the way that the university approaches learning: by committing to strengthening the brain areas responsible for rationality as well as the ones associated with creativity. This method leads to well-rounded, multi-faceted students who are encouraged to participate in the community, which explains the purpose of incorporating two pictures into the campaign profiles.[1] Profiles are comprised of one half of a student or faculty member’s face paired with an image that represents an interest of theirs on the other side.[1] In fact, the campaign made its public debut on the back cover of the 2009 edition of Maclean’s Guide to Canadian Universities by showcasing one of the profiles.[2]
Back Cover of 2009 Maclean's Issue
Back Cover of 2009 Maclean's Issue

[edit] Using Both Sides of the Brain in Learning

Contrary to popular belief, studies have shown that humans use both sides of the brain when performing a task.[3] For many years, the idea was the opposite: the left hemisphere was regarded as the more logical side and the right hemisphere was considered the emotional and creative side.[3] Based off of this, only two types of intelligences existed: logical/mathematical and verbal.[4] Though each side of the brain does contribute more to specific aspects of a behavior, and someone’s brain can be more efficient at one aspect compared to another, learning is now not regarded as being localized to either side.[5]
Teaching methods that focus on the two traditional intelligences only benefit a portion of students, considering the brain has a number of abilities other than mathematical and verbal. Therefore, for a student’s abilities to fully flourish, multiple forms of intelligence need to be promoted and fostered.[4] Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory acknowledges these multiple forms, which can be applied to learning and teaching methods.

[edit] Fostering Creativity by Encouraging Multiple Intelligences

Multiple Intelligences (MI) Theory states that there are eight intelligences that people possess different levels of, which are: visual/spatial, verbal/linguistic, musical/rhythmic, logical/mathematical, bodily/kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalistic.[6] Thus, students are naturally equipped with different intellectual strengths. MI Theory contends that if teaching methods permit these certain types of intelligences to thrive, the interaction between different people’s ways of viewing a situation will allow multiple and creative solutions to a problem to arise.[6]
Further, through fostering MI, students learn to appreciate and gain personal meaning from their studies, which would have a variety of positive effects – including increased attention and effort, as well as a stronger academic community.[6] There are a various number of schools who have already adopted MI Theory into their teaching methods, including the Key School of Annapolis, Maryland. Student testimonials attest to how the guided approach gives students the freedom to produce creative results on their own. Similarly, in Southeast Asia, the Schichida Method has produced exceptional kindergarten students. A grade ten Biology class in Turkey who experimentally compared the traditional teaching method to the MI approach showed a statistically significant effect for the MI approach on the academic success of those students.[7]

[edit] Unique Learning Environment

The commitment to a “Bold New Brock” involves encouraging multiple intelligences to promote creative and innovative students. To do so, the campaign has committed to three priorities. Firstly, the student learning experience will be enhanced through more financial assistance for students, an improved Mentorship Plus program and Matheson Learning Commons.[8] Secondly, Brock possesses smaller, more interactive classroom settings that encourage experiential learning. However, since the campaign began in 2008, awareness of Brock in general has risen from 35% to 88% by 2010.[9] Thus, to maintain the more intimate setting for students but still prepare for the university’s increasing growth, the campaign has committed to expanding the campus.[8] Finally, additional support will be given to the knowledgeable professors of Brock, who set an example by participating in research aimed to benefit the community.[1] [8] In 2011, Minister of State Gary Goodyear acknowledged Brock’s initiative and its potential to affect Canada’s economy by awarding funds to a total of 20 Brock researchers.[10] According to Brock’s Associate Director of Marketing Dean Lorenz, students realize the potential to create themselves as well-rounded through the climate that the university offers, and the “Bold New Brock” campaign will only work to strengthen these benefits.[9]

[edit] Course Content and Variety

Since its establishment, Brock University has presented itself as a small university that aims towards innovation. With an emphasis on experiential learning, Brock provides it students opportunities to apply their skills and knowledge through various avenues while granting them the flexibility to choose a degree option that best suits their careers needs[11]. These experiences encourage active learning in the students and motivates them to take initiative in their educations. Brock offers a wide variety of courses in various faculties that are unique to themselves and provides students with the opportunity to explore various fields as it offers cross-listed courses that further integrate faculties.

[edit] Degree & Program Variety

Brock University is structured in such a way that students are able to choose from a wide varity of courses withing their major, this further reinforces the uniqueness of their programs as no two students have the same learning experience. For example the Sociology departs at Brock offers courses in animal ethics, criminology, poverty as well as theory based courses that focus on Marxist and Neoliberal perspectives[12]. The diversity within subjects makes it easy for students to choose a stream that best suits their interest and help to narrow their focus to provide a more distinct career path. These courses provide students with a diverse critical lens that fosters multi-faceted thinking, something that cannot be acquired through one area of study. Brock University offers an appealing approach in regards to degree options. Students, depending on their career path can decide to purse a degree in the length of three years,a four Year BA with a major, and a four years Honors BA. These choices offer students with more freedom when determining which route to take in order to reach their career goals and aspirations [11].

[edit] Oenology & Viticulture

Brock, as it is located in the wine region of Niagara has a viticulture program. Students can choose to explore a Bachelor of Science degree in Oenology. A certificate in grape and wine technology are also available to those students who have a science degree and would like to gain the training necessary to enter the grape and wine industry[13] . Students of any major are welcomed to take introductory courses and can eventually pursue a minor in Oenology and Viticulture if they find it of interest to them[13]. These unique experiences and program options are just some of the many fascinating aspects that set Brock aside from other universities. Having courses like these available introduces students to opportunities such as wine making that they would not have been exposed to at other Universities. Graduates of the Oenology and Viticulture program continue to to make headlines in the wine world, as they are often the receipts of awards

[edit] Cross-listed Courses

Another remarkable aspect of the courses at Brock are the various cross listed courses. As mentioned earlier cross listed courses provide students with numerous perspectives on viewing a single topic. Cross-listed courses function in a way to further provide students with multiple perspectives. For example a study showed that Political Science classes did not reduce barriers between Caucasians and minorities students, however, when courses were cross-listed it increased students understandings of their peers [14]. From these findings it can be concluded that integrating facilities through cross-listed courses has more beneficial results and will provide students with a more critical perspective . Cross listed courses serve to integrate multiple perspectives by effectively addressing the shortfalls of a single field. Although cross-listed courses do not necessary differ in structure, the topic of study is relevant to more than one major so students are exposed to other views not only from their peers but through course material and assigned readings.

[edit] Active Learning

Active learning removes the traditional roles of teaching and force student to take an more hand on approach to their education. Brock, like other universities has placed great emphasis on students enrolled in the honors programs. These students receive numerous opportunities for active learning as they are at the center of their education. Unfortunately, there are no equivalent available to address these same needs in non-honors students. However, to tackle this shortfall Brock has designed a course in the psychology department with that purpose. This course titled “Psychology in Everyday Life” encourages students to think critically about all the skills that they have acquired throughout their four years attending Brock. In using these skills as a foundation student will learn how to effectively express themselves, and articulate their skills. These skills will be essential for success in job market, and Brock believes this will provide its students with a leg up on the competition especially into days growing competitive markets. The formats of this course provides students with a better understanding of course material. A recent study highlighted that students’ performances were enhanced on testing materials covered with active learning methods in comparison to traditional lecture formats”[15].

[edit] The Brock Experience

Learning experiences at Brock vary tremendously even within program and faculties, as mentioned above no two student receive the same learning experience as Brock makes available numerous pathways and streams and is extremely sensitive to the needs of the students and their interest. In many of the faculties you find courses that are pertaining to minority such as Aboriginals, Blacks and Women[12]. In a study assessing the impacts of diversity suggested that enrollment in diversity courses increases students' positive interactions with diverse peers and accentuates the importance students place on engaging in social action[16]. Students enrolled in these courses develop a greater understanding of the situations individuals in marginalized populations are faced with, this will in turn foster ethical and marginal awareness. There is a growing demand for persons with these skill sets and knowledge base as Canada's diverse population continues to grow. Having knowledge in regards to the diverse populations is an assets to employers whom are working with marginalized populations. Diversity is key as it is believed to foster more creative learning and diverse groups generate better problem solving mechanisms as it decreases an individuals change to participate in group think and increase their ability to creatively solve problems and generate new ideas[17].Students at Brock are provided with a various opportunities that will enhance the quality of their education as well as their resume. Each student it granted the opportunity to make their degree unique from others pursing a degree in similar fields.

[edit] Real-World Application

Brock University has a variety of real-world application programs that allow students to learn creatively by taking the skills and knowledge that they have learned in the classroom and applying it in a work setting.

[edit] Collaborative Programs

Brock University offers several different collaborative programs where the University has partnered with a local college. These collaborative programs allow students to learn the theoretical knowledge from the University in a degree, as well as the applied skills from the college with a diploma over four years instead of six [18] This allows students to get a base of theoretical knowledge through the university as well as practical experience from field placements through the college [18] Research has found that collaborative programs allow students to get a variety of perspectives and experiences in their University career from the different professors and schools [19] This is through learning at different schools, having professors that you do not know, and being exposed to different information than you would get through the University alone. This allows students to creatively use both sides of their brain, using the analytical and theoretical side as well as the create side in planning events and problem solving within the placement. The variety learning opportunities gives students theoretical and real world experiences, applying theory into practice, and having valuable interactions with experts in the field. [20] This also increases the effectiveness of the education programs by giving students a range of opportunities to learn from. [20] Brock University has collaborative programs in many different departments and faculties which allows for many different students to benefit from them. Within the faculty of social sciences there are collaborative programs in the programs of psychology, child and youth studies, labour studies, communication studies, political science, film studies, economic studies, popular culture, media and communication, business communication, and women’s studies majors.[18] The collaborative programs within the psychology department include:

  • Behavioral Science Technology: this program is for students who want to work with individuals who need to or want to change their behaviors.[18]
  • Policing and Criminal Justice: this program is for students who want to go into the policing field.[18]
  • Social Service Worker: this program allows students to work in the field of social services in Ontario as well as being able to be a licenced social service worker in Ontario after they complete the program.[18]
  • Social Service Worker (formally Human Services Counseling): this is for students that want to have a career is the social services and front-line counselling, after wards students in this program are also able to be licenced as a social service worker through the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers once they have completed the program.[18]
  • Yukon College: this is an exchange program for students in year 2 of University in which students travel to Yukon College in Whitehorse to learn with members of aboriginal communities and other unique cultures.[18]


[edit] Co-op Programs

The Psychology department at Brock University also offers Co-op programs as a part of their Honours and 4 Year BA with Major programs.[21] The co-op program combines academic and work terms over a five-year period, giving students the theoretical knowledge from the University and real-world experiences through the work placements in the Niagara Region .[21] Research has found that the integration of the College or University with community businesses gives students the opportunity to obtain applied experience, enhances their perspectives and learning, and will increase their job opportunities after graduation. [22] [23]These partnerships also allow for improvements in the quality of education that students are getting by offering opportunities to learn from experts in their field of study, [22] [24] [25]as well as increasing their professional development.[26] These programs have also been shown to improve student’s interpersonal skills, communication abilities, and personal maturity. [26]

[edit] Other Programs

Brock University hosts other events that assist students throughout their University experience and to get additional real-world application experience.

[edit] Smart Start

Smart Start at Brock University is held during the summer and allows new first year students and their families to come into the University prior to classes starting, getting a head start on their academic life. This includes things such as getting a tour of the campus, finding where their classes will be, getting their student card before school starts, as well as a variety of workshops to give the students an idea of what University will be like and how to succeed. [27][28] Brock Universities Stay Smart program is an extension of the smart start program. Team members from the Smart Start program during the previous summer are located in the school and are available to answer any questions that students may have during their years at Brock University.[29]

[edit] Smart Finish

In addition, Brock University has also recently started a Smart Finish program for third- and fourth-year students. This program is a one-day conference that helps to take the stress and worry out of life after graduation. [30][31] This also includes speakers that provide information on career exploration, resume and interview strategies, speed networking, further education, and OSAP repayment.[32]

[edit] Addition of Seminar to Courses

Seminars are held weekly and is part of the unique and valuable pedagogic experience Brock University has to offer. In addition to the the wide diversity of course options available, Brock provides its students the opportunity to reflect and discuss course materials in more detail among their peers and teaching assistants. [33] Each seminar group is led by an assigned teaching assistant and generally comprised of fifteen to twenty students.The low teacher to student ratio of the seminar structure encourage class engagement and increase student’s participation and involvement in the learning experience.[34] Students are also given opportunities to lead group discussions independently, which fosters critical thinking and hone transferable skills such as media literacy and effective research and verbal communication skills (public speaking).[35] Similarly, presentations requiring collaborative work are also often employed in seminar settings as it facilitates exchange of ideas creating avenues to develop new insights, creativity in conflict resolutions and is found to result to higher academic performance. [36]

A study by Jaarsma,Dolmans,Muijtjens,Boerboom,van Beukelen & Scherpbier (2009) looked at the interaction of students and instructors in seminar settings and found that student participants reported numerous positively perceived interaction in seminar settings regarding the learning effect, the teacher’s role, social communication skills, real-world application and preparation and self-sufficiency[37].

  • Learning effect:the small to moderate size of seminar groups creates a positive environmental that allows discussion and clarification of content and materials in more depth and provides opportunities for exploratory questioning, exchange of ideas and critical assessment contributing to improved information recall and retention which are all found to be vital to the learning experience.
  • The teacher’s role: instructors and/or teaching assistant provide guidance in the direction of discussion and assist in eliciting critical thinking and application in group discussions as well as providing necessary clarification or verification of suppositions and arguments.
  • Social communication skills: Group interactions and discussions provide avenues for self-expression and opportunities to improve verbal communication skills and presentation in academic settings.
  • Real-world application: Interaction and discussion among peers prompts more opportunities to hear and exchange practical real-world examples and application on the topic of interest.
  • Preparation and Self-sufficiency: The dialectic structure of group discussions in seminar encourages students to be better prepared, engage in course material with greater depth to have the capacity to ask questions, contribute to discussion and clarify thoughts.

While seminars provide excellent supplementary aid in the integrative learning process [38]. insufficient funding and inadequate government support has led Brock University to revise it annual teaching funds and make budget cuts including the prospective complete removal of the seminar system along with reduction of the diverse courses that sets Brock apart from other post secondary institutions.[39]. In 2011, the department of Psychology has received instructions from the Dean of Social Science to enforce budget cuts in the department’s teaching policy for 2012-2013. Michael Ashton, former Chair of the Psychology Department has expressed dissatisfaction regarding the imposed budget cuts and asserts that it is the seminar system that is most affected. He asserts that, “…in other courses throughout the University, seminars are being abandoned altogether, which means that students no longer gain as much experience in presenting and discussing ideas."[40]

The seminar system is a crucial part of the integrative learning experience [41] at Brock and students will likely benefit extensively if efficient strategic planning and improved budgeting policies can prevent its complete eradication.

[edit] Notes and References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Brock’s Brand. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.brocku.ca/marketing-communications/brocks-brand.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Semansky, M. (2009, April 13). Marketing Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.targetmarketing.ca/news/brock-appeals-both-sides-students-brains.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Lindell, A. K., & Kidd, E. (2011). Why right-brain teaching is half-witted: A critique of the misapplication of neuroscience to education. Mind, Brain, and Education, 5, 121-127.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Ghraibeh, A. M. A. (2012). Brain based learning and its relation with multiple intelligences. International Journal of Psychological Studies, 4, 103-113.
  5. Schmidt, M. F. (2008). Using both sides of your brain: The case for rapid interhemispheric switching. PLoS Biology, 6, 2089-2093.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Barrington, E. (2004). Teaching to student diversity in higher education: How Multiple Intelligence Theory can help. Teaching in Higher Education, 9, 421-434.
  7. Koksal, M. S., & Yel, M. (2007). The effect of Multiple Intelligences Theory (MIT)-based instruction on attitudes toward the course, academic success, and permanence of teaching on the topic of “respiratory systems”. Educational Sciences: Theory and Practice, 7, 231-239.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Bold new Brock. (n.d.). The campaign for a bold new Brock. Retrieved from http://edit.brocku.ca/bold-new-brock.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Mayer, Tiffany. (2012, July 19). Using both sides of the brain works for Brock. The Brock News. Retrieved from http://www.brocku.ca/brock-news/?p=17529.
  10. Research innovation at Brock. (2011, June 17). Government of Canada celebrates research innovation at Brock University. Retrieved from http://www.brocku.ca/news/16475.
  11. 11.0 11.1 www.brocku.ca.
  12. 12.0 12.1 http://www.brocku.ca/social-sciences/undergraduate-programs/sociology.
  13. 13.0 13.1 http://www.brocku.ca/ccovi/oenology-viticulture-program.
  14. Holland, L. (2006). Teaching and learning diversity classes: The significance of classroom climate and teacher creditbility . Journal of Political Science Education,, 2, 187-203. doi: 10.1080/15512160600669122
  15. Yoder, J., & Hochevar, C. (2005). Encouraging active learning can improve students’ performance on examinations. 32(2), 91-95.
  16. Laird, N., Engberg, M. E., & Hurtado , S. (2005). Modeling accentuation effects: Enrolling in a diversity course and the importance of social action engagement. The Journal of Higher Education, 76(4), 448-476. doi: 10.1353/jhe.2005.0028
  17. Page, S. (2007). The difference: How the power of diversity creates better groups, firms, schools, and societies. Princeton University Press.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 18.5 18.6 18.7 Brock University Social Sciences Department. (n.d.). Collaborative programs. Retrieved from https://www.brocku.ca/social-sciences/collaborative-programs
  19. Hestenes, L., et al. (2009). Team teaching in an early childhood interdisciplinary program: A decade of lessons learned. Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education. 30, 172-183. doi: 10.1080/10901020902886594
  20. 20.0 20.1 Brophy, T. (2011). School-University partnerships in music education: A status report. Arts Education Policy Review, 112, 149-153. doi: 10.1080/10632913.2011.566092
  21. 21.0 21.1 Brock University Registrar's Office. (n.d.). 2012-2013 Undergraduate Calendar. Retrieved from http://www.brocku.ca/webcal/2012/undergrad/psyc.html
  22. 22.0 22.1 Buys, N., & Bursnall, S. (2007). Establishing university-community partnerships: Processes and benefits. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 29(1), 73-86. doi: 10.1080/13600800601175797
  23. Gearon, C. J. (2012). The factory floor as classroom. U.S. News Digital Weekly, 4(31), 13.
  24. Kessels, J., & Kwakman, K. (2007). Interface: Establishing knowledge networks between higher vocational education and businesses. High Educ, 54, 689-703. doi: 10.1007/s10734-006-9018-4
  25. Lewis, M. V., & Stone III, J. R. (2011). Should your school offer: apprenticeship training?. Techniques. Connecting Education & Careers, 86(3), 16-21.
  26. 26.0 26.1 Young, R., Wright, F., & Stein, M. (2006). Putting it all together: Meaningful outcomes of workplace experiences for marketing students. Proceedings of the Marketing Management Association, 131-137.
  27. Mayer, T. (2012). A smart start to University life. Retrieved from http://www.brocku.ca/brock-news/?p=17133
  28. Brock University Registrar. (n.d.). Welcome to smart start. Retrieved from http://www.brocku.ca/registrar/smart-start
  29. Brock University Office of the Registrar. (n.d.). Stay smart. Retrieved from http://www.brocku.ca/registrar/smart-start/stay-smart
  30. Brock University Career Services. (n.d.). Smart finish: A conference for graduating students. Retrieved from http://www.brocku.ca/career-services/students-alumni/smart-finish
  31. Samantha. (n.d.). Smart finish gives students a career edge. Retrieved from http://www.brocku.ca/brock-news/?p=14915
  32. Brock University Alumni. (n.d.). Students finish smart with inaugural smart finish. Retrieved from http://www.brocku.ca/brock-news/?p=15552
  33. Brock University. (n.d.). Student experience at brock. Retrieved from http://www.brocku.ca/social-sciences/undergraduate-programs/psychology/student-experience.
  34. Blatchford,P.,Basset,P. & Brown,P. (2011).
  35. Webb, N. M. (2009). The teacher's role in promoting collaborative dialogue in the classroom. British Journal Of Educational Psychology, 79(1), 1-28.Examining the effect of class size on classroom engagement and teacher–pupil interaction: Differences in relation to pupil prior attainment and primary vs. secondary schools. Learning and Instruction. 21: 715–30. doi:10.1016/j.learninstruc.2011.04.001.
  36. Chin-Min, H. (2012). The Effectiveness of Cooperative Learning. Journal Of Engineering Education, 101(1), 119-137.
  37. Jaarsma, A. C., Dolmans, D. M., Muijtjens, A. M., Boerboom, T. B., van Beukelen, P., & Scherpbier, A. A. (2009). Students’ and teachers’ perceived and actual verbal interactions in seminar groups. Medical Education, 43(4), 368-376.
  38. Beckmann, N., Wood, R. E., Minbashian, A., & Tabernero, C. (2012). Small group learning: Do group members' implicit theories of ability make a difference?. Learning & Individual Differences, 22(5), 624-631. doi:10.1016/j.lindif.2012.06.007
  39. Dickson,R (2009). Retrieved from http://www.brockpress.com/news/brock-s-budget-cuts-update-1.2307175
  40. Medland, B. (2011, September 20). Potential budget cuts for the department of psychology.Retrieved from http://www.brockpress.com/news/internal-news/potential-budget-cuts-for-the-department-of-psychology-1.2600035
  41. Plymounth University (n.d)http://www.learningdevelopment.plymouth.ac.uk/LDstudyguides%5Cpdf%5C3LecturesandSeminars.pdf
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