Provost’s task force on undergrad education to continue work this fall


The task force examining undergraduate education at the University of Michigan will continue this fall to gather feedback from the campus community and develop a list of core values, a focused set of grand challenges, and a proposal for initial pilot projects.

Provost Martin Philbert launched the “Task Force on a Michigan Undergraduate Education in The Third Century” in February to study how the university can shape instruction for the future.

The university charged the task force to address several questions, including:

• What makes a U-M undergraduate education distinctive?

• To what extent do university members share a set of core principles and goals for undergraduate education across U-M’s schools and colleges?

• What is the university’s role in preparing an informed and educated citizenry?

Since its launch, the task force has surveyed current innovations in undergraduate education occurring at U-M, noting academic experiences where students were intrinsically motivated to learn as opposed to motivated primarily by grades.

The task force also has studied other institutions and reports, met with various focus groups of campus community members, designed and implemented surveys for faculty, students and staff to solicit their feedback, and submitted a progress report to the provost.

“We asked students what they saw as the most meaningful or energizing or influential educational experience they’ve had,” said Anne Curzan, associate dean for the humanities, LSA, and a faculty co-chair of the task force.

“Part of that is trying to understand to what extent those are happening in classrooms, and how and to what extent those are happening outside of classrooms. We also asked students what has gotten in the way or has been frustrating for you in meeting your goals.”

Curzan said the task force is working with the community feedback gathered last winter to draft a set of shared values and principles for undergraduate education across the schools and colleges. The task force will seek feedback about these values this fall to make sure the ideas are representative of the campus community.

“The task force has been very interested and committed to thinking about undergraduate education in relation to student well-being, to public good or public mission, to exploration and discovery, to diversity, equity and inclusivity and to reflection and critical awareness,” Curzan said.

Among the feedback the task force has received, students expressed the importance of hearing from diverse viewpoints and noted the “value of learning how to learn and learning how to make a difference in the world,” Curzan said.

Student groups and leaders also expressed how the pressure to maintain a high grade-point average affects their educational experience, said Mark Moldwin, associate chair of the Department of Climate and Spaces Sciences and Engineering, College of Engineering, and task force faculty co-chair.

“They often make decisions to avoid risks because of fear of impacting GPA, which is sort of opposite of what we want students to do,” Moldwin said. “We want them to explore and do things out of their comfort zone.”

Along with thinking about grading systems and transcripts, Curzan said the task force also has considered the importance of faculty relationships with students, since having a strong mentoring relationship with a faculty member seems to correlate with long-term student success.

“We think that’s exciting,” Curzan said. “We really are interested in thinking about what it would and could mean to do that at scale for Michigan.”

Moving forward this fall, the task force will continue to solicit feedback from university members and refine the set of core shared principles and values underlying undergraduate education at U-M.

It will also identify near-term pilot projects and formulate a list of “grand challenges” for undergraduate education around which future working groups could be organized, Curzan said.



  1. Ben Van Der Pluijm
    on September 24, 2018 at 12:30 pm

    Did you look at the goals at ?

    As a result of their studies and experiences at the University of Michigan, by the time of graduation students will be able to demonstrate:
    -General knowledge of diverse philosophies and human cultures, the arts and humanities, and the physical and natural world.
    -Mastery of a specific body of knowledge and mode of inquiry.
    -Engagement in the generation of new knowledge in a specific field of inquiry.
    -Effective oral and written communication, teamwork, and problem-solving skills.
    -Capacity to work effectively across diverse philosophies, cultures, and challenges in a global society.
    -Skills for effective citizenship and leadership, and for assuming personal and social responsibilities in a diverse and global society.
    -Ability to set personal learning goals, to critically self-monitor learning styles, and to make adjustments based on progress and achievement.
    -Commitment to pursue lifelong learning and critical inquiry through postgraduate studies and participation in informal educational settings.
    -Ability to address issues of societal concern and human needs through civic engagement.

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