Michigan alumni often cite their educational experiences as transformative. These experiences envelop students in unexpected ways and unexpected settings. The classroom, of course, is the foundation of this transformation, and the University’s traditional strength in educating students can be heightened through engaged learning experiences in and beyond the classroom. Learning at Michigan also unfolds in the libraries, museums and laboratories, on the Diag, in student organizations and artistic presentations, in mentorships and internships, in residence halls and service-learning settings, in Ann Arbor and around the globe.
Higher education had been broadly conceived in the 20th century to provide students with the ability to write, to think critically, and to reason quantitatively, with these skills contextualized within a body of disciplinary knowledge. However, for students graduating into the 21st century, a number of the U-M’s internal and external stakeholders have defined equally important characteristics or educational outcomes for students’ intellectual, professional and personal development, including:
- Creativity – students must develop an understanding of creative processes and understand their own capacity to create new works and ideas. They must understand that creativity is not a rare gift to the few, but a fundamental human trait that can be developed and expanded.
- Intercultural intelligence – our learners must understand the role of values and culture in driving decisions, they must develop flexibility in working with others having different values.
- Social/civic responsibility and ethical reasoning – students should develop an understanding of the human, social and environmental impacts of actions, and develop the ethical reasoning tools to make sustainable and responsible decisions; and they must develop their ability to hold and reason across the perspectives of multiple stakeholders.
- Communication, collaboration and teamwork – students must have the ability to communicate with many audiences and to utilize varied formats and styles that will most effectively convey their messages. They must appreciate and leverage diverse contributions to a task, and know how to cooperate with others towards common purposes.
- Self-agency, and the ability to innovate and take risks – students must know how to observe the opportunities and capacities of human communities, understand where new or existing ideas or systems could bring value within those communities, and be able to act effectively in order to drive sustained and positive change to provide that value.
A key characteristic of these competencies is that they must be practiced to truly develop. Engaged learning can then be conceived as a set of educational practices that provide students with these opportunities for practice by addressing unexpected, unscripted challenges in imperfect, authentic settings where stakeholders (including the students themselves) are significantly invested in the outcome.
We aim to intensify engaged and innovative educational experiences through academic programs and activities that expose students to the kind of complexity and volatility that they will increasingly face when they leave the University. The types of activities are extensive and may include education abroad experiences, undergraduate research, civic engagement, entrepreneurial activities, innovative courses and co-curricular activities.