The "Truth in Society" Section
of the Aquinas Program, 1994-1995:
A Preliminary Report

Russell A. Hunt

John McKendy
Thom Parkhill

1 August 1995

Introductory note

Though it was written for print, the following report has been redesigned to be as readable as possible in this hypertext format. This has entailed some radical reorganization, although we have included all of the original text. If you would prefer to read it in its printed format, please contact Russ Hunt, who can send it as hard copy, or electronically as an ascii file.

This printed file will not include the appendices, however, except as specifically requested. These provide a great deal of explanatory detail, but are too long to send out, as they include a set of all the more than seventy written "Prompts" by which the daily work of the course was organized (and in which will be found much more detailed explanations of the various components of the course), the complete text of the first term task force report on program evaluation, and other documents relevant to the course. The seven booklets produced by focus groups -- three during the first term, four during the second -- are available separately.

We begin by outlining what our aims for this section of the Aquinas Programme were.

One way we thought of what we were doing was as "creating a space for learning."

From the very beginning of the planning process much of what we did coalesced in our intention to create an environment in which learning would be powerfully afforded. That is, we saw our role as designing a set of situations in which students would be not so much receptors as doers. We also expected that although we could plan some of the details of this situation in advance, many important decisions and changes would have to be made during the process.

The environment we wanted to create can be thought of as having four components: we saw ourselves as designing the physical, temporal, virtual and social spaces we and our students would work in.

Another important issue was just exactly who the students were who enrolled in this course.

The day-to-day activities of the course are outlined in the form of a chronology of what we did, illustrated by the written prompts which were distributed to students regularly. Another way to think about this is by considering the kinds of things the teachers and the students actually did during the course of the year.

The issue of evaluation is one that we considered at some length.

The bottom line

For a report on what the students thought at the end of the first term, see the appendix titled "Task Force Report." An even more extensive review of student response was conducted in April, and is in the process of being qualitatively analyzed. As part of that review, however, students were asked to rate various elements of the course in terms of their usefulness, from 0 (at the far left, "completely useless") to 4 (the fifth column, "extremely useful"). At the far right, in the sixth column, is a comparative rating arrived at by combining and weighting the ratings. These rankings are, of course, of only marginal use outside a context of explanation which is provided by the (often extensive) discursive comments on the various items. As soon as it is completed, we expect to provide an analysis of those comments. In the meantime, this chart will function as a way of seeing which elements of the course structure seemed most (Nos. 2 and 4) and least (Nos. 8 and 9) valuable to the students as of April.

What we think

Each of the participating teachers plans to write an individual reflection on the process. These will be available as appendices as soon as they are completed.

An outline of the budget for this section is also available.

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