The initiation of the ACU 20/20: Envisioning the Future of Education grant gives professors the chance to submit ideas to compete for a $6,000 grant to fund classroom innovation.
Provost Dr. Robert Rhodes said the grant serves to provide a level of support or funding to help bring their idea or new approach to life.
“We prize innovation and one of the best ways is to let people with good ideas get support for those good ideas,” Rhodes said. “If you think about all types of innovative or startup companies that help fund new ideas, this is that kind of approach. We’ve got a lot of people that would like to do something or don’t have the time to implement the idea or the funding; this is our chance to try to help the time or funding issue to get ideas off the ground.”
The idea to implement the grant came when Rhodes presented some examples of the innovative work professors were doing to the ACU Board of Trustees and realized there were limited funds to continue to carry them out.
“It was very evident that we do a lot of good and unique things, but it was also evident, too, that if we want to do more of that we need to provide some way of support,” Rhodes said. “It was clear that one of the things that we could help with as an institution is remove some of those barriers. It’s one of those rare opportunities to let really creative people have an opportunity to present good ideas.”
Dr. Jennifer Shewmaker, executive director of the Adams Center for Teaching and Learning, has been working with Dr. Kyle Dickson, director of the Learning Studio, to create the program that will provide faculty with reassigned time to focus on developing their projects, buy materials, attend trainings and other things to impact learning across campus.
“I was talking with a group of people who work in areas that support faculty, including the Learning Studio and Educational Technology, about the changes that are occurring in Higher Education,” she said. “We were talking about how there are a lot of changes in this field, and some of those changes nationally are being pushed downward from administrators who have never taught in the classroom. I began to wonder, what would happen if you asked faculty to come up with new ways of thinking about teaching and learning? What if the classroom was revolutionized by those who are in it every day? What if faculty were encouraged and supported in dreaming big when it comes to the ways they can help their students learn?”
Thus, the grant was born.
“The goal of this grant is to provide ACU faculty with the chance to dream big, to totally rethink how, when and where teaching and learning happen,” she said. “We want faculty to get outside of the box of thinking, ‘Class has to happen in this way’ and help them to think about how to best help learning happen.”
The grant amounts to $2,400 each – $6,000 for four projects – and recipients will be selected by the Teaching Innovations Grant Committee by next fall. At the end of the semester, the committee will evaluate and choose what two projects were most effective and continue to fund those as well as choose two more projects to fund.
“You start to cultivate some of the best ideas and you find those ideas as they come into the classroom,” Rhodes said. “Really this is a way to make it more official than some of the individual work that’s been done before.”
Rhodes and Shewmaker encourage instructors to apply for the grant and to continue innovation in the classroom.
“The grant will benefit the university as a whole, including faculty and students,” she said. “It gives us the chance to use our strengths as a university, and the excellence and innovation of our faculty, to transform educational innovations into scalable realities that will impact student learning across campus.”