Teaching Leadership: Designing Curricula to Engage Students in Social Change
A curriculum that successfully engages with its students' communities both promotes student learning and encourages the development of responsible citizenship. Such a curriculum provides the appropriate context for teaching ethics and politics. When students experience a link between academic work and life outside the classroom, they discover themselves as agents in relation to urgent social problems and recognize the possibility of offering leadership within their communities.
As collaborators in Project Pitch (Partners in Teaching Community Health), a consortium of colleges and universities focused on developing partnerships with high schools and community agencies around issues of women's health, the authors designed and delivered a curriculum for teaching leadership and social responsibility. The curriculum integrates learning across all levels- faculty, graduate students, undergraduates, and high school students- while engaging students' families and communities in the learning process. The program offers high school students of diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds access to the college classroom and provides them with the opportunity to develop critical pre-college skills. Graduate students and undergraduates form teams with the high school students to pursue multi-disciplinary research projects on community issues, such as inequity in health care or the ethics of reproduction, which are presented to their families and community. These mentoring relationships facilitate self-directed learning, while the projects both encourage students to connect academic work with life issues and engage faculty in the community beyond the classroom.
Based on the outcomes of this program, the authors assert an intimate link between competent citizenship and a well-designed curriculum. They argue that ethics ought to be approached, not merely as individual decision-making, but as a social enterprise, and that the discursive sciences, such as history and philosophy, have a responsibility to design curricula in which students develop the skills to identify fallacies, recognize rhetorical manipulation, analyze complex problems, and adduce strategic solutions. Such a curriculum assists students in resisting the sophistry that corrupts political discourse today, as well as helping them to develop the sense of agency necessary to responsible citizenship and effective leadership.
Keywords: Curriculum, Learning, Ethics, Collaborative Pedagogy, Leadership
Prof Mary C. Rawlinson
Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy College of Arts and Sciences , Stony Brook University
Professor Helen Rodnite Lemay
Distinguished Teaching Professor, Department of History College of Arts and Sciences , Stony Brook University