New faculty take part in intensive syllabus design project | Duke Kunshan University

New faculty take part in intensive syllabus design project

June 12, 2020


Daniel Stephens, assistant professor of philosophy, presents at a Learning Innovation Fellowship (LIF) workshop in 2019. The LIF moved entirely online this year in response to Covid-19

Forty-four members of the third faculty cohort hired for Duke Kunshan’s undergraduate program completed a week of workshops and group discussions on cutting-edge curriculum development in May as part of the Learning Innovation Fellowship (LIF).

The Design Intensive, which ran May 11 through 15, brought new recruits and established professors together to discuss teaching and learning innovation and to design syllabi for the university’s unique interdisciplinary courses and seven-week sessions.

Duke Learning Innovation and the Center for Teaching and Learning co-organize the LIF every year to help new arrivals connect with colleagues and learn more about Duke Kunshan’s liberal arts curriculum and student-centered teaching practices.

The program lasts over two months and includes two in-person design workshops, one at Duke’s Durham campus and another in Kunshan, and an eight-week online component. This year, in light of the Covid-19 situation, the LIF moved entirely online.

“The forum discussions for the LIF have been great,” said Noah Pickus, dean of curricular affairs and faculty development at Duke Kunshan, who leads the LIF. “In particular, the current faculty have displayed a whole new level of preparation and engagement to inform and collaborate with the incoming faculty.”

Duke Kunshan will welcome a total of 59 new faculty and visiting scholars for the undergraduate degree program this summer. Members of this cohort come from countries around the world, namely the United States, China, Singapore, Australia, Japan, Brazil, Canada, France, Hungary, South Korea and the United Kingdom.

Since March 30, the incoming faculty has been interacting with colleagues as well as accessing reading and video materials through email, Sakai, WeChat and Zoom.


From left: Noah Pickus, Keping Wu and Marcus Werner

This year, the LIF also featured a revised mentorship model through which participants receive intensive support from members of their new division, including the division chair. This included live group sessions to introduce their division’s goals and place in the curriculum, best teaching practices and syllabus design, effective course activities and assessments, and more.

“The LIF is the first time I’ve ever experienced so much collaboration and interaction among the teaching faculty from various disciplines. Every process makes even experienced teachers inspired and excited about the new things they can try,” said Keping Wu, who will join Duke Kunshan as associate professor of anthropology.

She said the seven-week session structure was initially intimidating, “but the LIF has opened up the world for me, and I see more opportunities to engage the students in ways that a traditional teaching format doesn’t allow.”

Marcus Werner, a Ph.D. holder from Cambridge University, will start as associate professor of mathematics in the fall. He said he appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the university’s innovative approach, and added, “My research is at the interface of mathematics and physics, and I'm delighted that DKU genuinely values this.”