Student-led IDEAS Program Strengthens Leadership, Deepens Learning

The IDEAS program enables students to become more active learners and take ownership over their education by engaging their peers in intellectual conversations focused on topics and ideas about which they are passionate.

Why IDEAS Is Important?

Democratic education celebrates the joy of learning and enables students to play an active role in shaping their own learning by creating a framework for the sharing of ideas, learning philosophies, teaching practices and community visions. These programs give students more ownership over their education and they are a vehicle for students to share their passions, experiences and wisdom with their peers in ways that aren’t always possible in a traditional classroom setting. 

IDEAS courses foster intellectual discussions among peers where everyone plays an equal role in teaching and learning. IDEAS classes promote open discussion and multiple opinions which leads to greater class participation. This type of environment has led to students being more confident after taking part in the classes. Students who take part in these classes tend to gain confidence and are more willing to offer opinions during discussions than in traditional classes. 

Students often have the ability to shape the direction of courses. Facilitators are incredibly responsive to their students and often cater their courses to what the students would like to learn. The practice of democratic education increases student engagement because students take ownership over their education and create the course alongside their peers.

IDEAS courses makes Stonehill graduates more attractive to graduate schools and employers because of the initiative reflected in teaching a course as well as  the skills developed in the process. The program provides an opportunity to gain confidence and teaching experience as well as skills that can be used on a broader scale to engage and lead groups through effective management, cooperation and administrative skills.

The IDEAS program not only benefits Stonehill students. It also invites faculty members into a conversation about democratic education. By creating an inclusive, judgment-free environment, similar to the IDEAS program, faculty may discover that discussions are more fruitful in the traditional classroom.

IDEAS classes are heavily based on collaboration and effective communication. Better collaboration undoubtedly leads not only to improved group projects and assignments but greater mastery of the course content. Additionally, courses often require oral presentations, a task feared by many students. If students become more comfortable participating during an IDEAS course, they will not only be more inclined to share their opinions during traditional course discussions but also will become better at classroom presentations. 

IDEAS Classes for Spring 2020:

APL 090 A: IDEAS: Debunking Fake Science

What do Frankenstein, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and Wall-E Have in common? All explore the representation of science and how science is communicated--or miscommunicated--within our culture. Starting with the potential origins of scientific mistrust, we will explore resources ranging from early Gothic fiction to modern media while unpacking concepts like the archetypal “evil scientist” such as in Stranger Things Or Dan Brown’s Origin. We will analyze these fictional examples along with some real-world examples, such as climate change, discussing how heavy jargon used by scientists can sometimes reinforce societal fears by leaving conclusions unclear and mysterious.

APL 090 B: IDEAS: Dismantling Violence

Is sex trafficking happening only outside the United States or is this problem we are having right in the city of Boston? Each week in this course we will explore the different types of gender based violence (GBV) and dismantle the false claims society holds about GBV, such as the beliefs that domestic violence can only happen between married couples and that sex trafficking victims are usually not US citizens. We will consider GBV internationally, informed by research I conducted in Nepal, Jordan, and Chile. In addition, we will also look at GBV in the United States and its connection to patriarchy. Students will leave this course understanding the different types of GBV, how to serve as an advocate for victims/survivors, and how to educate others in the community about this human rights issue.

APL 090 C: IDEAS: Exploring Empathy

What is empathy (and what is it not)? How can we differentiate between empathy and similar but separate emotions, such as sympathy and compassion? Are people born with a fixed ability to empathize, or is this a skill we can grow and develop? Is it possible to have too much empathy? How do cognitive empathy, affective empathy, and empathic concern interact to shape our relationships with ourselves and with others? In this course, we will explore these questions (and many more) from philosophical, psychological, biological, and sociopolitical perspectives to try to grasp the intricacies of empathy.

These classes show the importance of interpersonal interactions and closeness in the academic process. When you feel supported and comfortable, you will be more open to new perspectives.

Contact Us:

Sarah F. Gracombe

Sarah F. Gracombe

Professor of English
English