August 10-13 CTL/Inquiry ARC Wildacres Retreat
This August, nine UNC Asheville faculty attended a three-day retreat at Wildacres Retreat Center outside of Little Switzerland, NC. This event was part of a joint Inquiry ARC and CTL initiative to implement ongoing work to incorporate intentional critical thinking pedagogy and programming across the LAC.
Angel Kaur came as a representative of the First Year Experience Advisory Committee, and focused on developing course materials and professional development for LA 178 instructors. She will be working with Regine Criser and other FYEAC committee members to implement curricular support and spring programming for interested LA 178 instructors. Judy Beck and Cathy Whitlock focused on teaching use of evidence in science and social science perspective classes as well as labs. They will be coordinating with Lyndi Hewitt to lead campus programs that will help to implement and support best practices for teaching critical thinking in the sciences and social sciences, as well as fostering future SoTL projects for participants. James Perkins, Kirk Boyle and Eric Roubinek focused on how to best support HUM 324 faculty to align the teaching of critical thinking skills with the teaching of content. Some of this work will be incorporated into the existing weekly meetings, while other elements will unfold as part of the humanities reader revision project. Future plans include expanding these critical thinking approaches into other humanities courses to scaffold student critical thinking learning throughout their humanities experiences. Dee James, Melissa Himelein and Lorena Russell served as facilitators and consultants, and Melissa, Lorena and Angel also found time to work on the Inquiry ARC Impact Report.
Although the success of this initiative will largely be measured by future outcomes, the retreat itself was clearly a worthwhile investment for all involved. Wildacres is a remote and beautiful setting designed explicitly for retreat experiences. The three days not only ended with concrete and specific action plans for sustaining our culture of critical thinking, but proved to be a restorative, energizing way to start a semester. We made time for contemplation and star-gazing. Participating faculty noted how the sustained focus and lack of distractions offered us the intellectual scope and depth to tackle some of the big questions regarding our curriculum and other needs across campus. We enjoyed productive interdisciplinary conversations. Social time proved to be as powerful as our work sessions in fostering a strong sense of community and collegiality. Spending three days on an isolated mountaintop with work colleagues a week before the semester opens may sound like a recipe for disaster, but with this group, at this place and at this time, a retreat at Wildacres proved to be a winning formula.