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Communication Across the Curriculum


									                         Communication Across the Curriculum
                                            Art Hill
                                   Department of Food Science
                                       University of Guelph
                                  Guelph, ON, Canada, N1G 2W1

            “Study more to understand that you know little”. Michel de Montaigne..

          This paper reflects on the process we are following in the Department of Food Science
at Guelph to develop a curriculum that is outcome focused and positioned for continuous
improvement. Particular attention is given to the experiential learning cycle as the fundamental
approach to teaching and continuous improvement of all aspects of the undergraduate program.
Learning objectives and activities are then assigned to specific courses. Our approach to improve
the curriculum is based on several principles and limitations: (1) an effective curriculum is
dynamic, so we need an outcome driven process for its continuous evaluation and guided
evolution; (2) skill sets such as numeracy, literacy and communication are acquired through a
process of continual practice and reflection throughout the curriculum. (3) we, the faculty, are
more often than not the product of education programs that emphasized hard skills, but provided
little training in soft skills and affective qualities; and (4) teaching techniques and course content
need to be adapted to capture the interest of post modern students (Generations X and Next) who
are intensely relational and visual. (5) program learning objectives and curriculum design must
be practical and framed on a foundational teaching philosophy that can be readily communicated
to and embraced by the faculty. The basic process which is iterative and ongoing is to: (1 )
prepare outcome focused learning objectives with reference to the published learning objectives
of the university of Guelph; this process forced us to think in the broad context of liberal
education and consider affective as well as knowledge, understanding and skill based learning
outcomes; (2) strategically distribute learning objectives throughout the curriculum and match
them with a diversity of teaching and evaluation techniques; and (3) measure outcomes for
individual students both within courses and across the curriculum, and further monitor
curriculum effectiveness via regular surveys of senior students, graduates, employers and faculty.


        This paper reflects on the process we are following in the Department of Food Science at
Guelph to develop a curriculum that is outcome focused and positioned for continuous
improvement. That process has been largely driven by a “communication across the curriculum”
strategy and is informed by experiential learning, as the foundational teaching philosophy.
Hopefully, these ruminations of a dairy scientist will benefit other educators. The paper is
organized under three main headings, namely, Teaching Philosophy, Towards a More
Dynamic and Outcome Focused Curriculum, Measuring Success, and Continuous

        Note, that learning and teaching are two sides of the same coin, so any reference in this
paper to learning is also a reference to experiential teaching. The important distinction is that the
teacher and the student necessarily see the coin from their own side, unless the teacher and the
student are the same person.

Teaching Philosophy

       The basic elements of the foundational teaching philosophy that is taking shape at Guelph
are described under five headings, namely, experiential teaching, the techniques, the student, the
message, and the instructor.

Experiential Teaching

        The teaching literature is populated by ‘active’ words; learning, we’re told, should be
active, dynamic, co-operative, student centered, collaborative, interactive and experiential. In my
view the foundational principle that ties this bundle of active words and techniques together is
experiential learning (EL). EL is typically associated with active learning activities such as,
laboratory projects, group projects, field trips and courses, and co-op work terms. However, I
would like to suggest that all learning activities, including those that are less ‘active’ such as
written assignments, class discussions, case studies, problems solving, and lectures can all be
designed to apply the EL concept. In other words EL can be understood as an approach to
learning, not only a set of learning techniques.
        As the term implies, experiential learning (EL) requires two things, namely, a learner and
an event or a situation in which the learner is directly involved. That event could be a lecture,
class discussion, laboratory experiment, writing assignment, failed exam or science
communication project. What converts the event into an EL activity is the application of the EL
cycle of learning, where the learner reflects on the experience, thinks through its implications,
and uses newly derived concepts in future situations (Kolb and Fry, 1975). On the broadest
scale, the experiential learner is like an inventor who through a spiral process of testing,
reflection, redesign and testing, makes incremental and sometimes quantum improvements until
s/he gets it right. This process is the mechanism of continuous improvement in all enterprises,
including the enterprise of food science education and training. The practice of EL encourages
thinking persons to subject the theoretical to practice and practical persons to reflect on
experience. The result of EL is experiential knowledge that combines the elements of data,

understanding, theory and practice and balances the active with the reflective and the practical
with the theoretical.
         Hartel (1995) discussed the application of the cycle of learning as formatted in the 4MatR
System, Excel, Inc. Barrington, IL) in the context of food science education. I strongly
recommend that instructors study the 4Mat system because it effectively integrates what happens
in the classroom with what happens on the street and illustrates the critical learning transitions
that convert mental concepts and data to fuller understanding and real world applications.
However, I also want to emphasize the foundational significance of the EL cycle (Figure 1).
         Many faculty spontaneously apply this principle in their own professional development,
but fail to ensure that the learning cycle is completed by students during learning activities.
Anything less than a complete learning cycle is only a data dump. So, EL is fundamental to all
levels of learning. Consider for example, the classic Bloom’s Taxonomy which arranges learning
objectives in order of increasing complexity, namely, knowledge, comprehension, application,
analysis, synthesis, and evaluation (see Hartel, 1995 for a discussion of Bloom’s Taxonomy in
the context of Food Science education); whether the learning objective is to remember facts and
information, fully understand and apply a single concept, or master and evaluate a complex
analytical technique, there must necessarily be the application of the learning cycle. A helpful
analogy comes from the practice of writing. This paper has an introduction that puts the paper in
context and defines its purpose and scope, a body and a conclusion; similarly each paragraph also
has an introduction (or a transition) which links it to previous paragraphs, a body and a
conclusion. On a still smaller scale, the same pattern is illustrated in most sentences within the
         In other words, I understand Bloom’s learning levels as similar in kind but different in
degree of complexity, so even at the lowest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy, the learning experience
must require students to reflect on the acquired information, put the information in context, at
least to the extent of relating it to prior knowledge, and take some action, even if it’s only a
mental note that this information will be important for tomorrow’s lecture. I could probably be
accused of splitting hairs here, but I disagree with the notion that knowledge, that is, level one of
Bloom’s taxonomy, is equivalent to receiving and storing data. Knowing is a function of the
mind and personal; storing data is a function of computers and impersonal. Since, we are
teaching students, not computers, it seems reasonable to expect that all learning activity,
including the lowest level of knowledge acquisition must require students to act, value, think and
decide (Kolb and Fry, 1975). Of course, more complex learning objectives, that is, higher levels
in Blooms hierarchy, require more complex learning activities.
         So, the first take home point is that instructors must facilitate learning in such a way that
each learning activity results in acquisition of experiential knowledge by the student. The second
take home point is that faculty should apply EL to the development, delivery and continuous
improvement of teaching materials and activities at all levels from short class room exercises to
course and curricular design (Figure 2). Application during development means that new
teaching activities are carefully evaluated before they get to class; ask a colleague to comment or
try it out with a few graduate students. Application during delivery, means that you are prepared
to change direction, even during a class, if what you’re doing is not working. Application to
course and curricular design means that the faculty as a group evaluate individual courses and
learning outcomes in the context of the entire curriculum and make frequent revisions. In short,
continuous application of the EL principle means that course content and teaching strategies
ought to change with new information, new students and new teaching technologies. An extreme
example is set by Alastair Summerlee, one of Guelph’s 3M Teaching Award winners. Professor
Summerlee ditches his notes at the end of each course, so he is forced to develop fresh materials
for the next offering.

The Student

         Student centered teaching became popular during the 1980s with associated emphases on
personality types and learning styles (Jensen, 1987; Hartel’s 1995). This focus motivated many
faculty, including this author, to create more interactive learning environments and new courses
that emphasize communication and other ‘soft skills’. During the past 10 years the so called
generation Xers have created their own demands for new teaching styles. The oldest Xers are
now in the work force and the youngest are in college. Fowler (2003) discusses the challenges
that modernist teachers face in a postmodern classroom.
         Fowler points out that Xers: (1) value personal development and relationships; they
expect all their interactions to be personal, even professional ones; (2) expect teachers to value
their work and provide personal and specific guidance; (3) are more job and less vocation
oriented in the sense that work does not have intrinsic value; rather it’s a means to what they
really want to buy and do; (4) believe that learning and working should be fun; (5) view school
as a market place where they choose the most entertaining professors, negotiate assignments, and
haggle for marks; and (6) are intensely visual; they expect course contents to be delivered in
multiple formats using the latest technologies.
         In my words, Fowlers admonitions for faculty to effectively teach postmodern students
are: (1) adopt relational (social) and interactive techniques: build a personal rapport and adopt a
coaching/parenting style, especially with new students; (2) approach teaching with the attitude
of a learner and don’t be afraid to admit ignorance on a specific topic; (3) don’t be afraid of
technology; and (4) make students responsible for their own learning.
         With respect to the latter point Fowler advises “Don’t allow students to get off the hook
when they claim not to know. Apply aggressive questioning in the classroom; hold their feet to
the fire........The one thing they will hate more than being called on is feeling incompetent”. I
agree, and on a larger scale, I think Xers need to become more self aware and more responsible
for their own life long learning and career development. Xers and the generation behind them
are comfortable with information, but not with abstract concepts. They’re accustomed to
receiving large amounts of information in small sound bites that are out of context and
unordered. We see this in journalism where even editorials appear as short bits that seem to be
relevant for hours or days rather than months or years; Today’s news makes no sense in the
context of yesterday’s news, but the journalist doesn’t notice or care. In response to this, we
need to challenge our students with clear curricular and course by course learning objectives,
provide mechanisms to continuously monitor progress towards those goals, and hold students
accountable to those goals. Hence the focus on outcome based curricula.

The Message

        Curriculum content will be discussed in a subsequent section; here I want to comment on
student centered learning outcomes. Returning to the theme of EL, the ‘experiential’ of EL
implies that students are changed by the learning experience. That is the first step towards
creation of student centered learning outcomes. If the process of education is to be learner
centered then the course content or the message to be conveyed must be learner centered. In other
words, it must be understood with respect to who the participant is and how the participant
should be changed by the learning experience; so the emphasis is on becoming. For example the
objective of our introductory food science course which is largely a service course to non-food
science students is "to help participants become educated consumers who understand the
principles of food processing and preservation, are able to understand a food ingredient label, can
critically evaluate the latest food fad or the latest food scare, and know where to find answers to
food related questions." Once again, this is consistent with the need for students to own their
education. Learner centered does not mean catering to the student; it means, helping the student
set and meet personal goals for learning outcomes; e.g., “when I graduate I want to be a better
communicator and an effective food quality control manager”.
         A side note is that while this focus on becoming is a step in the right direction, it is in my
view an inadequate outcome; to cite an old refrain, the casualty of the modern focus on science
and technology was the loss of liberal arts education. A university education should make me a
better person, better informed, wiser and better prepared for life not just a career. One of my
favorite pet peeves is doctoral candidates who are unable to translate the acronym ‘Ph.D.’. The
millennial university focuses on the technical but not the philosophical, on method but not
meaning; our students are taught to ask how, but not why. While the current emphasis on success
skills in undergraduate programs is important and good, it still focuses mainly on development of
technical skills; we don’t really get down to discussing meaning and until we do, university will
continue to fail to capture the imaginations of students and they are justified in treating education
and work as means to the things they really want

The Methods

        Lewis Caroll (1832 - 1898) wrote “One of the hardest things in the world is to convey
meaning accurately from one mind to another.” So, assuming the teacher knows what meaning is
to be conveyed, the next question is how to convey it. Although many faculty pay attention to
teaching methods, I suspect that many undergraduate programs are not deliberate about the use of
diverse teaching strategies and their distribution throughout the curriculum. As described in the
next section, our curriculum at Guelph is becoming more deliberate in that regard. Here, I will
make a few general comments about interactive learning which I think is key to effective
teaching and is becoming more important with increasing class sizes and more use of teaching
        First, the availability of techniques is not a problem; to be overwhelmed by wonderful
interactive teaching ideas, just type co-operative, interactive or collaborative learning into your
Web Browser search engine. I have my own favorite participative lecture techniques and once
faculty are convinced that interactive is the way to go, they are quite adept at adopting
participative techniques that work for them.
        Second, while teaching theorists discuss the distinctions between collaborative versus co-
operative versus interactive learning, it is becoming clear that the key principle of this genre of
teaching techniques is relationship, first, with the instructor and second with fellow students
(Cooper, 1995a and b). This may be especially true of postmodern students considering their
propensity for relationships and desire for coaches rather than instructors. Based on several
primary sources, Cooper concludes that student-student and student-teacher interactions are the
best predictors of achievement of the goals of both liberal arts education and world of work
training. The frequency and quality of teacher-student interactions, including communication by
email, were also key indicators for successful teaching in high tech learning environments.
        Anecdotally, I would confirm this observation based on our experience with food science
distance courses. Much thoughtful communication takes place, perhaps more than in most
classrooms, through emails and on-line discussions. On-line distance courses also facilitate
helpful interactions among students of diverse backgrounds. For example, mature students
already in the work force bring much experience to the online discussions. Also, some students
who are quiet in the class room are more talkative via email and online discussions.
        Third, there is a danger that the techniques become ends in themselves. The most
important interaction of interactive learning is always engagement of the student with the
material associated with the primary learning objective. If that does not happen, the exercise has
failed, no matter how wonderful the group dynamics may have been.
        Fourth, not all students learn best in a highly interactive environment. There are still
many more reflective learners who need less stimulus to engage with the material. So, don’t
throw out the lecture, but do make the lecture more participative and combine it with other
techniques that appeal to diverse types of learners. That does not mean that you have to or should
present the material in several formats. It’s good for students to come out of their own comfort
zones and access material in different ways. That’s what happens in the work place; their future
employers will not present their job descriptions as a power point presentation and then follow
up with a video email attachment. If you presented the material in power point notes, do not feel
obligated to also write the lecture in prose. It’s more than ok to expect students to create their
own notes, either from the lecture or from supplementary materials. But, unlike students of
previous generations, Xers have to be told to take notes; they come to class assuming that the
material will be available in multiple formats for them to download to their PDAs

The Instructor

         Last but not least, it seems appropriate to say something about the role of the instructor.
The current instructors, especially in the sciences, were taught in an environment that
emphasized science as the principal if not the only valid form of inquiry and critical thinking
(which usually meant straight line ‘left brain’ versus creative ‘right brain’ thinking); excepting
the scientific seminar, little attention was given to communication and other soft skills.
Regarding aesthetic or moral maturity, other than a list of learning objectives and an admonition
about academic misconduct in the undergraduate calendar, these topics never came up during my
years of undergraduate and graduate training. All of this is changing, but without being too self
critical, I think, we the faculty could still profitably reflect more on our own development with
respect to soft skills and affective qualities. Perhaps such reflection would increase our
motivation to build these learning objectives into our courses.
         I also want to emphasize again that an essential quality of learning centered teaching is
that it’s relational. Among other things, that means that in addition to student learning styles,
faculty need to pay attention to their own teaching and learning styles. There are times when it’s
important to step out of your comfort zone and times to recognize what you do best and just be
yourself. In either case, the key is to ensure that content delivery is accompanied by relational
contact. With respect to curricular design, this means that teaching techniques need to be
strategically distributed with reference to both teaching styles of individual faculty and course
Towards a More Dynamic and Outcome Focused Curriculum

        During the past 15 years, the food science undergraduate degree program at Guelph
evolved to include more training in success skills, a broader knowledge base in keeping with the
expansion of the discipline, more interactive teaching techniques, and greater use of teaching
technologies, including several web based courses. However, many of these changes were
implemented by individual faculty on a course by course basis and the program lacked the
direction and flexibility required for continuous improvement. The current approach is more
deliberate about definition and assessment of learning objectives and strategic distribution of
learning objectives along with a diversity of teaching and evaluation techniques throughout the
curriculum. This can be visualized in three dimensions as illustrated in Figure 3. These concepts
are not rocket science, but motivation to implement them may require ‘mental surgery’. The
following are some comments based on our experience thus far.

Terms of Reference

        Learning objectives are framed with reference to the ten University of Guelph learning
objectives as spelled out in the Undergraduate Calendar (University of Guelph, 2005). This
frame of reference forces us to think in the broad context of liberal education in addition to
content that is more specific to food science. These learning objectives are grouped in learning
realms as follows.
        Knowledge and understanding: sense of historical development, global understanding,
understanding forms of inquiry, and depth and breadth of understanding.
        Skills: literacy and communication, numeracy, and psychomotor and technical.
        Affective learning goals: moral maturity, aesthetic maturity, independence of thought, and
love of learning.
        Within this framework, learning objectives are being constructed on a course by course
and year by year basis with reference to Gronland’s (2000) well known work on instructional
objectives. I use the present tense to signal that the process is ongoing. Curricular learning
objectives as they currently stand are in Table 1 and further discussion on the process of
measurement of learning outcomes and continuous program improvement is in a subsequent
section on program assessment. Course by course learning objectives can be obtained from the
        Note that we have little influence on the content and teaching techniques used in the core
and restricted elective courses of the science program. In response to that, we are working to
ensure that the food science curriculum is positioned to build on the science core and are
introducing our own across the curriculum programs in literacy, communication, numeracy and
to a lesser extent development of affective qualities.

Knowledge and Understanding

       Learning objectives in this realm are guided mainly by employer, graduate and faculty
feedback (see the subsequent section on assessment). Logically placed introductory,
intermediate, and senior courses are included with reference to the IFT Education Standards

(Hartel, 2001). Capstone courses include a restricted elective set of four food commodity courses
and a required project course in product development.
         In addition, we made several prescriptions about what food science at Guelph is not. For
example, there are important merits to a vertically integrated program which focuses on the
science of production and processing of a particular commodity; however, at Guelph, food
science includes only minimal coverage of production agriculture within commodity courses.
Management training is another competing interest for many students, but we elected not to
reduce the food science core to make room for a business minor within the standard curriculum.
Similarly, there are no special measures to encourage minors in consumer studies or nutrition,
although we do cooperate with the Department of Nutritional Sciences to offer a minor in
Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals.
         Then, there is the long standing debate on the appropriate balance between processing
technology and basic science. The current revision of the curriculum (Guelph, 2003) maintains a
total of four commodity courses as restricted electives; on the other hand, to encourage
preparation for graduate school and or careers in research, research problem course credit hours
are increased, again as restricted electives, from one course equivalent (36 credit hours) to two
course equivalents. Other restricted electives and flexible assignments in other courses, such as
communication assignments, allow students to emphasize particular topics and skills
development. The result is sufficient flexibility for students to emphasize technology or research
or to develop other interests such as scientific writing or risk management.

Success Skills

        Learning theorists classify skills in different ways. For example, literacy and numeracy
are often grouped with knowledge and understanding under the heading of cognitive objectives.
For our purposes, we grouped, literacy and communication, numeracy, and psychomotor
(technical) skills under the general heading of success skills. What these learning objectives have
in common is that learning outcomes are performance or product based, student initial
competency levels are extremely variable, and that, more than for cognitive outcomes,
development of skills only happens by doing. We are, therefore, particularly deliberate about
improvements with respect to strategic distribution and measurement of skills development
throughout the curriculum.

        Literacy and communication. There are three essential principles of communication:
know your audience, have something to say to that audience, and find the best way to say it.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that our graduates are generally good writers and oral
communicators. However, competency varies widely among students, so it seems prudent to
adopt a more strategic approach. The improved curriculum includes the following to enhance
communication training: (1) a 36 credit hour communication course in Semester 4. This course
includes a writing assessment and students who score poorly are advised to seek remedial help. It
also introduces students to the communication styles required throughout subsequent core
courses and in their Vocational Portfolio. (2) a required electronic Vocational Portfolio, to
permit students to obtain credit for critiques of their in course assignments and meaningful
extracurricular experience. Students will begin the portfolio during the first communication
course in semester four and add to it during their 3rd and 4th years. (3) diverse communication
formats distributed among all required courses. The variety alleviates the tedium associated with
numerous formal lab reports. For example, the results of a literature assignment or a laboratory
exercise could be reported as a scientific report, a technical report, an executive summary, a short
oral presentation to a pretend management group, a news release etc. (4) an 18 credit hour
communication course to be taken in the final semester. This course includes presentation and
evaluation of the Communication Portfolio, re-evaluation of students to assess their
communication skill development, and new topics such as crisis management. (5) an optional 18
credit hour communication course for students who want to pursue advanced projects with an
emphasis on communicating science to a non-scientific audience.

        Numeracy. We are still working on what will become a required Numeracy Guide that
will be introduced to second year students and used throughout the remainder of the program. As
described for literacy skills, we are becoming more deliberate about distribution of numeracy
learning objectives throughout the curriculum.

        Technical Skills. Technical learning objectives are positioned in a logical progression
throughout core courses with increasing levels of depth and complexity. For example, fifth and
sixth semester courses in food microbiology and food chemistry consolidate basic lab skills from
the general science course in years 1 and 2 and prepare students for more advanced and/or
independent lab exercises in fourth year courses in food analysis, product development and

Affective Qualities

        Someone said, “school seeks to get you ready for examinations. Life gives the finals”. I
don’t see it too often in the teaching literature, but perhaps the best one word summary of
affective learning goals is wisdom, the ability to skillfully apply knowledge to life situations.
        Moral Maturity. Until now, we addressed this area indirectly via position papers,
debates and online discussions on controversial issues such as genetically modified foods. A
new communication course gets more direct with introductory material on moral theory, applied
ethics, and scientific integrity. It also includes discussion and case based exercises to help
students define their own world views and so to increase both self awareness and understanding
of different world views. This is still new ground for us, but the hope is that this approach will
provide a forum for students to discuss some of the important ‘why questions’ and to develop a
sense of respect for all people that reaches beyond the technical prescriptions of professional
codes of ethics. Traditional approaches to training in moral maturity, such as the text by Macrina
(2000) entitled Scientific Integrity, provide useful training in applied ethics, but in my view fail
to engage students at the level of their core values. I believe it will take more than codes of
business ethics or similar codes of practice to ensure professional and business integrity or to
reduce the incidence of academic misconduct among our students; “80% of high achieving,
college bound students have cheated.....and more than 50% do not consider cheating a serious
transgression” (Keohane, 1999). Ethical choices are ultimately based on core values, so affective
training should provide a forum for students to identify and assess their own core values.

       Aesthetic Maturity.. Students are encouraged to take arts and social science electives. A
required communication portfolio will also provide opportunity for students to report and receive

recognition for some extracurricular activities, such as development of creative materials to
introduce grade school students to food science or participation in the drama club.

        Independence of Thought. This is facilitated by case studies and independent research
and product development projects throughout the curriculum. Notably: (1) a newly designed 72
credit hour Food Chemistry Laboratory requires students to design experiments to demonstrate
food chemistry principles; (2) four independent study courses provide opportunity for
independent design and execution of special projects; (3) fourth year commodity courses and
especially our capstone product development course require much independent and group work
and application of knowledge, technical skills and success skills; and (4) a fourth year
communication course includes training on decision making.

Measuring Success
       Learning assessment as prescribed here more or less follows the Kirkpatrick Model for
Summative Evaluation (Kirkpatrick, 1994). This model defines four levels of assessment,
namely, student’s reaction, learning results, behavior in the work place and business results. For
our purposes the levels are defined as:
    • Level one. Students’ reactions to the program: likes, dislikes, best learning experiences,
       relevance etc.
    • Level two. Learning results: achievement of learning objectives as assessed during and
       soon after the program.
    • Level three. Behavior in the work place and generally. In what ways and to what benefit
       are graduates applying the knowledge and skills learned at Guelph?
    • Level four. Business results: in what ways has food science education helped employer
       organizations fulfill their missions or meet their objectives.

        Four assessment tools are used. Student reactions (Level one) are obtained via group exit
interviews and post graduate email surveys. Learning results (Level 2) are mainly assessed via
individual student assessment. Behavior in the work place and business results (Levels three and
four) are assessed by post graduate email surveys and employer interviews. These assessment
tools are described below.

1.   Individual Student Assessment.

        Course by course and cross curricular learning outcomes are assessed for individual
students. Within course outcomes are measured by examinations, laboratory reports, technical
reports, group projects, oral presentations etc. Course by course evaluation is the principal
assessment basis for individual achievement of LO in the knowledge domain. In other words,
achievement of course requirements is evidence that students also meet curricular learning
objectives in the knowledge domain. Having said that, the port folios will provide opportunity
for students to demonstrate achievement of learning objectives in all domains, including

     Vocational portfolios are the principal assessment tools of cross curricular learning
outcomes for individual students. Students prepare portfolios in the fourth semester and update

them for resubmission in the eight semester. The online editing platform for the portfolios is
keeptoolkit (Carnegie Foundation, 2005). Contents of the portfolio are guided by the bases fro
competence skills (Evers, 1998). Students use the portfolio to reflect on and illustrate learning
achievements in all domains, but particularly in the success skills and affective domains.

2.      Annual Group Exit Interview

        The student email survey is followed by an informal discussion with the graduating class
during the last semester of the final year of study. A senior faculty member (normally the
undergraduate coordinator) leads the discussion and collates the comments. The discussion is
initiated and primed at the discretion of the facilitator with questions such as:
     • Describe your most important learning experiences at Guelph?
     • Describe your most enjoyable learning experiences at Guelph?
     • What would you drop from the food science curriculum?
     • What would you add to the food science curriculum?
     • Comment on other aspects of your Guelph experience: Awards? Food Science club?
        Academic support?

3.     Tri-Annual On-line Survey of Recent Graduates

        An email survey of recent graduates (Appendix 1) is conducted by a senior faculty
member, usually the Undergraduate Coordinator, with assistance from a faculty member in
Teaching Support services. Recent graduates (within the past two years) and senior students are
contacted by email and asked to make critical comments about the program. Student
identifications are stripped from the email headers, so all comments are completely anonymous.
With some help from TSS we may be able to conduct the interview on line.

4.     Tri-Annual Employer Survey and Focus Group

       Ten employers who have hired at least one graduate from our program during the
previous three years are invited to participate in an informal focus group facilitated by a faculty
member external to the department and attended by the undergraduate coordinator and the
department Chair. The process description and some focus questions are in Appendix 2.

Continuous Program Improvement

       The following two processes are used to monitor course content, reflect on learning
assessment results, and suggest and implement individual course and curricular improvements.

1.     Tri-Annual Faculty Survey of Course Content, Teaching Strategies and Learning

Faculty are given descriptions of teaching strategies and learning objectives and asked to

answer the following questions for each learning objective. A separate survey is completed for
each course that the faculty member teaches or is responsible for.

           a) Does this course contribute to this learning objective? If yes, answer questions b)
              and c).
           b) What teaching strategy(ies) or learning opportunities, including assignments are
              used to meet the learning objective?
           c) How is the skill level measured and evaluated?

This information is used to construct a table that for each course provides the course description,
learning objectives grouped by learning realms, and principal teaching strategies. The result is a
snap shot of existing content, teaching strategies and targeted learning outcomes. Through a
process of gap analysis and further faculty feed back including the retreat described below, the
table is edited to define and redistribute revised content, improved learning objectives and
revised teaching strategies.

2.     Tri-Annual Faculty Teaching Retreat

The results of all the surveys described above are presented and discussed at a tri-annual half day
faculty retreat where faculty reflect on their course content and teaching approaches in the
contexts of survey results and suggest micro and macro improvements to individual courses and
the program. Those suggested changes are then translated into revised learning objectives,
teaching strategies and evaluation techniques and applied in the subsequent academic years. In
addition, regular undergraduate committee meetings and undergraduate updates at regular faculty
meetings address curricular issues as they arise.

        If our learning objectives are achieved, the ‘super’ food science graduate has a sense of
vocation and seeks a career path to fill it, understands and applies all basic sciences to all aspects
of food from gate to plate, and demonstrates a broad range of success skills and positive affective
qualities. With that vision in mind, we face the realities of diminished teaching and other
resources, and rapidly changing technology and societal factors. A partial response to this is an
iterative outcome based process to continuously monitor and improve teaching programs.
Effective integration of course content and teaching strategies throughout the curriculum will
improve learning outcomes in all realms with minimal extra resources.

Many students, faculty and staff contributed to the developments described in this article. Special
thanks are due to Sarah MacDonald, Doug Goff, Don Mercer, Sue Hall, Fred Evers and Peter

“I have learned many things from my teachers; I have learned many things from my friends; I
have learned even more from my students.” Leo Tolstoy


Ashbaugh et al. 2003. Curriculum specific writing assignments improve writing skills. The
Teaching Professor, June/July 2003, p. 2.

Cooper, J. 1995a. Cooperative learning “versus” collaborative learning: should we care?
Cooperative Learning and College Teaching. 6(1):1-2.

Cooper, J. 1995b. Ten reasons college administrators should support cooperative learning.
Cooperative Learning and College Teaching. 6(1):8-9.

Evers. F.T. 1998. The bases of competence : skills for lifelong learning and employability.
Jossey-Bass San. : Francisco.

Grunlund, N. E. 2000. How to Write and Use Instructional Objectives. 6th Edition. Prentice-Hall
Inc. Upper Saddle River, NJ.

Hartel, R. 2001. IFT Revises its education standards, Food Technology 55(10):53).

Fowler, G.W. 2003. Postmodernism: This Changes Everything! Journal of Student Centered
Learning 1(2):87.

Guelph, 2003. Food Science Programs,

IFT Committee on Education. 1992. IFT undergraduate curriculum minimum standards in Food
Science. Food Technology 37(10):156-157.

Jensen, 1987. Learning styles: Application of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator in Higher
Education. Judith Provost and Scot Anchors, Ed. Consulting Psychologists Press. Pal Alto, CA.

Keohane, N. 1999. The fundamental values of academic integrity, The Center for Academic
Integrity, Duke University. Cited in Reflections and Directions, Teaching and Learning at the
University of Guelph, Fall 2001, Vol 3(1):1.

Kirkpatrick, D. 1994. Evaluating training programs : the four levels. Berrett-Koehler, San

Kolb, D. A. and Fry R. 1975. Towards an applied theory of experiential learning: theories of
group process. C.L. Cooper Ed., John Wiley, London.

Macrina, F.L. 2000. Scientific integrity: an introductory text with cases. ASM Press,
Washington, DC.

University of Guelph, 2005. Undergraduate Calendar, online, accessed May 25,, 2005.

Table 1. Food science program teaching objectives, outcomes and suggested teaching techniques, grouped by Ministry of Education
and Training (MET) ‘realms’. The general learning objectives (LO) are those as listed on page 2 of the Undergraduate calendar,
University of Guelph. Note that the future tense is used to imply that implementation of these LO is a work in progress. However,
much of what is described here is in place, especially in senior courses, and further progress is being made as we implement the
revised curriculum. LO identified for years 1 and 2 are more difficult to implement because we do not have direct input to courses at
that level.

           LO                  Specific Learning Outcomes By Year                                Teaching techniques                                     Courses

     LO # 3 Sense of   1 & 2. First level understanding of the history of        Selected readings supported by short answer questions   Strategically distribute LO s and
     Historical        science. Development (significant people and major        in assignments and exams.                               assignments among the BSC core.
     Development       discoveries, events, theorems) of the primary sciences
                       throughout Western and other histories.

                       3 & 4. Intermediate level understanding of the            Include requirements for historical perspectives in     All core and restricted elective food
 K                     evolution in western and other societies of food          background to some lab reports. Assignments which       courses. Substantial reading assignment
                       processing and preservation technology, the sciences of   require substantial reading beyond the web and          early in FOOD*2150.
 N                     food chemistry and microbiology, food laws and            standard food texts.
                       regulations, and nutritional science.
     LO # 4 Global     1 & 2. Introductory understanding of the practice and     Ditto for LO # 3 (above). Strategically distribute      Ditto for LO # 3 (above). Specific LO(s)
 W   Understanding     impact of science in Western and other cultures in        learning experiences among the core courses. Several    could be set up as themes running
                       historical and social (religious, political) contexts.    learning objectives may be addressed by one learning    through several courses.
 L                                                                               experience (eg.,3, 4, and 7 are closely related).

                       3 & 4. Introductory understanding of international        Add relevant background whereever appropriate in        Limited extent in all courses. MSU
                       food law and politics. Basic knowledge of global food     instructional media. Assignments that encourage         International Food Law (travel course) is
                       production, processing and marketing systems.             reading beyond the standard food literature.            excellent but costly.
     LO # 7            1 & 2. Deductive & inductive reasoning. Scientific        Ditto for LO # 3 & 4 (above).                           Strategically distribute LO s and
 G   Understanding     paradigms. Nature of scientific inquiry in contrast to                                                            assignments among the core courses.
     Forms of          other forms of inquiry                                                                                            Recommend PHIL*2180 Philosophy of
 E   Inquiry                                                                                                                             Science as an elective.

                       3 & 4. Understand multidisciplinary aspects of food       Position written assignments, projects and lab          All courses, especially processing and
                       science. Apply basic sciences to problems in food         assignments in real world contexts. Create              commodity courses, research problems
                       science and technology. Understand food                   opportunities for multidisciplinary research projects   series, and communication courses.
                       technology(ies) in political and social contexts.
                       Introductory understanding of risk analysis.

    LO # 8 Depth      1 & 2. BSC core science and math. Intro biochem,          Lectures and labs designed to consolidate knowledge        General science courses. Introductory
    and Breadth of   stats, microbio, phys chem, nutrition. Intro food          and understanding as well as develop specific              food and nutrition courses.
    Understanding    processing and preservation, food engineering.             technical skills. See section on skill below.

                     3 & 4. Intermediate understanding of food chem, phys,      Existing courses cover the essential aspects of food       All food science courses.
                     micro, processing, food safety, QC & product               science and technology multiple times from different
                     development. Intro nutrition, risk analysis, quality       perspectives using a variety of teaching techniques.
                     management, and production & processing of at least        Content is logically distributed throughout the
                     two commodity groups                                       curriculum.

    LO # 1           1 & 2. Post secondary level ability to read, write and     Short writing and oral assignments during the first two    Integrate into existing core courses. .
    Literacy         communicate orally as described in the Undergraduate       semesters. Required remedial training via Student
                     Calendar for LO#1.                                         Resource Centre if necessary.
                     3 & 4. Competent in technical communication: tech          Design labs and projects to facilitate reports in a        All core food courses. Specific
K                    report, exec summary, oral scientific paper, news          variety of formats (eg., provide instruction on            communication learning objectives will
                     release, scientific abstract, discussion leading and       technical reports in food chem lab and require some        be assigned to specific courses. Second
I                    meeting management.                                        lab reports in this format).                               and fourth year communication courses
                                                                                                                                           and communication portfolio
    LO # 2           1 & 2. Intermediate level understanding of the nature      Intro Statistics should include a larger section on info   Existing core math and stats courses.
L   Numeracy         and principles of mathematical forms of inquiry.           management with practical examples from consumer           Food Engineering Principles.
                     Ability to think in quantitative terms. Scale and          and industrial data. A Numeracy Companion will be
S                    magnitude. Intro information management. Intro             introduced in year 2 and used as a source of examples
                     experimental design. Intro algebra, calculus and           and core principles throughout the curriculum.

                     3 & 4. Specific numeracy skills selected with reference    Labs, projects, problem sets strategically placed          All core food science courses. In
                     to ability to solve numerical problems in food science     through out the curriculum with reference to specific      particular, processing courses ,
                     and technology and to skills learned in core math and      learning outcomes and the Numeracy Companion.              engineering and sensory evaluation
                     stats courses. For e.g., food related numerical problems
                     which require application of calculus and a prescribed
                     set of statistical procedures.

    LO # (Not          1 & 2. First level ability to employ empirical            Problem solving labs. Performance based evaluation        Year one and two lab courses.
    specified)         techniques to answer scientific questions. Intro level    (e.g., accuracy and precision of analytical results;
    Technical Skills   lab skills.                                               conclusions based on self directed experiments).

                       3 & 4. Intermediate level ability to employ empirical     Independent case studies and lab projects. Sequenced      All food science courses, especially, lab
                       techniques to answer scientific questions.                development of specific food lab skills.                  courses.

    LO # 5 Moral       1 & 2. Understand and value scientific integrity.         Faculty role models inside and outside of the class       All courses, especially Communication
    Maturity           Awareness of principal issues in food ethics and          room. Discuss ethical issues relevant to course content   in Food Science I.
                       politics. Value personal responsibility in community
                       and work environments.
                       3 & 4.. Be familiar with technical, social & political    Basic instruction in moral theory. Case studies in        All food science courses. Specific
F                      factors associated with principal issues in food ethics   scientific integrity and food ethics. Consider ethical    instruction and case studies on moral
                       and politics (eg. biotech, food security); Understand     and political factors in product development projects.    theory and reasoning in Communication
F                      and respect alternate world views. Basic understanding                                                              in Food Science II.
                       of moral theories and the structure of moral arguments.
    LO # 6 Aesthetic   1 & 2. Appreciate the arts including the aesthetic        Instructor attitudes and perspectives brought to class    Encourage students to choose electives
C   Maturity           aspects of science. A habit of mind which appreciates     discussions. Side quotes and notes in written             from fine arts, and humanities in addition
                       and is able to assess non-economic value.                 materials. Encourage extra curricular activities.         to social sciences like business and
T                                                                                Communication portfolio.                                  economics.

                       3 & 4. Appreciation of cultural and artistic aspects of   Ditto for years 1 & 2 above. Encourage the Food           Ditto for years 1 & 2 above. Product
                       food preparation and presentation. Intro to process of    Science club to include some cultural events along        Development and Food Packaging
                       designing labels and food ads                             with food tech events.
    LO # 7 Love of     1 & 2. Life long habit (attitude) of learning. Genuine    Instructors maintain a learner attitude. Discussions,     All courses. Communication and research
E   Learning           desire to pursue knowledge and wisdom and to              case studies & projects which encourage independent       courses in particular.
                       discover truth.                                           learning (personal discovery of knowledge through
                                                                                 literature, empirical research, and critical thinking).

                       3 & 4. Appreciate cutting edge issues in food science.    Ditto for years 1 & 2 above. Create opportunities for     All courses. Encourage students to take
                       Inspire at least 10% of graduates to pursue graduate      senior students to work with graduate students and        optional communication and research
                       studies in food science.                                  research associates on short term projects.               problems courses.

    LO # 9             1 & 2. Questioning, but respectful mental habits. First   Demonstration by instructors of respectful challenges     Identify several debate/discussion topics
    Independence of    level ability to present both sides of an argument.       to received opinions. Reference in lectures and           and include in science/math courses.
    Thought                                                                      tutorials to challenges to past and current scientific    Communication in Food Science I. .
                                                                                 paradigms such as Newtonian physics.

3 & 4. Ability to develop informed but independent         As above for years 1 & 2. Case studies of the            All food science courses. Communication
intellectual and moral opinions on controversial           evolution of knowledge on a particular food science      and research problem courses, in
subjects. Ability to ask the right kinds of questions to   topic. Lab assignments and written assignments which     particular, exercise students’ ability to
expose multiple perspectives of a topic. Demonstrate       require recommendations on controversial topics (e.g.,   think independently.
independent learning (personal discovery of                safety of raw milk cheese or a maximum residue limit
knowledge through literature, empirical research, and      for ergot in rye flour). Case study illustrating
critical thinking).                                        evaluation of diverse sources of information.

                                Concrete experience

                  Testing implications
                  of concepts in new               Observati ons and
                  situatio ns                      reflections

                                Formation of abstract
                                concepts and generalizations

Figure 1. Kolb and Fry (1975) experiential learning model.


                  Test new techniques.                          Evaluate,
                   Develop processes,
                                                                Observe &
                     structures and          Environment

                                            Develop strategy,
                                         techniques & processes.
                                         Identify resource needs.

Figure 2. Application of Kolb and Fry’s (1975) experiential learning model to development of
teaching excellence in a learner centered environment


                                            and Skills

      Teaching &
Figure 3. The food science curriculum in three dimensions. The boxes represent individual
courses with particular mixes of teaching and evaluation techniques, and of cognitive, success
skills, and affective content.


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