In October and November 2019, with the support of the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) at LaGuardia Community College (CUNY), Dr. Mangala Kothari, Professor in the Mathematics, Engineering, and Computer Science Department, led two professional development seminars about the integration of SENCER principles into courses beyond STEM disciplines. The seminars were co-designed and co-facilitated by Dr. Michele Piso Manoukian, CTL Associate Director for Scholarship and Publication.
“SENCER: Creating and Integrating Science Literacy across the Disciplines” began with a warm welcome by Eric Hofmann, Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs and the CTL Director. Dean Hofmann shared his expertise on using SENCER models for CollegeNow program in 2007 at CUNY Central, NY that prepares high school students for college level courses. Dr. Kothari emphasized the importance of developing quantitative reasoning skills in teaching abstract mathematics and statistics courses and how teaching in context helps students to see the connections between their classroom learning and the real world around them.
The guest speaker, Dr. Davida Smyth, a Senior SENCER Leadership Fellow and professor of Natural Sciences at Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts at the New School, New York, presented an overview of SENCER and other National Center for Science and Civic Engagement initiatives. Dr. Smyth also spoke about how she uses the SENCER approach in teaching her First Year project-based Biology seminar, “Toilets Changed the World”.
Over twenty LaGuardia faculty from Math, Humanities, English, Natural Sciences, Library and Education participated in stimulating discussions about bringing the SENCER approach into their courses. Dr. Manoukian was instrumental in conceptualizing the seminars, recruiting participants, developing the agenda, and creating materials. Professors Marina Dedlovskaya from the Mathematics Department and Patricia Sokolski from the Humanities Department at LaGuardia gave a presentation on “Eco-Friendly Cell Phone Bags” a SENCER project that they employed in their paired course Pre-Algebra with Critical Thinking. On November 8th, during the second seminar, Professor Milena Cuellar from Mathematics, Engineering and Computer Science department presented an innovative example of incorporating Statistics into non-STEM courses.
On both days, participants had deep conversations on how to teach their course concepts using issues that are interesting, relevant, and real to the lives of students. The possible use of several real world topics, such as waste water treatment, climate change, birth rate trends, diabetes and poverty, trade wars, pervasive fake news, emerged through the discussions. On November 8th, faculty were able to create a possible SENCER assignment, outline their lessons, and get feedback from others. Dr. Manoukian described the workshops as, “concrete and encouraging; examples offered by faculty who integrated SENCER principles into their disciplinary content showed our STEM and non-STEM colleagues how to step outside of their disciplines—lots of us want to incorporate science and math into our humanities courses, but perhaps have lacked confidence or guidance in attempting these approaches.”
Dr. Kothari hopes to continue these discussions with LaGuardia colleagues in the future.