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Foundations: Teaching students how to learn

Foundations classes do more than teach academic knowledge, said Jon Linford, dean of Foundations and Interdisciplinary Studies. The classes also teach students how to learn.

“Foundations classes help students master the Learning Model and learn how to be better teachers and disciple-leaders,” said Linford, who has been a team leader involved in developing Foundations classes since the courses were initiated. This education that focuses on providing groundwork for learning is the basic concept behind the courses, he said.

Foundations classes differ from traditional general education classes in several ways. “There's a difference between studying general things and studying things that are going to serve as a foundation for everything else you do,” Linford said.

For example, in a physical science class, the facts of science aren't the only things taught. Instructors also to teach students how to express themselves orally and verbally and to think critically, extending these skills even beyond the traditional subject matter.

Another way in which Foundations courses differ from traditional general education is in the breadth of subjects studied within a single course. In a general education course, students would learn a little bit about everything. In such courses, “the idea is to go for a scattergun approach, like getting a taste of everything at a sushi bar,” Linford said.

Foundations classes, on the other hand, tend to be more topic oriented. “We're going to take a little slice and focus on the slice,” Linford said. “We're going to give you enough background to understand what we're doing, but we go deeper into a certain topic.”

The Foundations classes still have some work ahead to get all the problems worked out, Linford said, but he is sure the classes will someday prove to be a great blessing to the entire field of education. He said, “I think everyone will look at what we're doing with Foundations and say, ‘we want something like that.’”

To learn more about the Foundations Program, click here.

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