Priorities:CSM Faculty Project

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Project Name: CoP in Authentic Learning

Project by Faculty Innovation Fellows Candidate Mirna Mattjik

Why is this project important to you, your department, & your Fellows?

Mines@150 targets authentic and distinctive learning experiences for Mines students, which will be achieved by 2024. My idea is to solidify this goal through development of a Community of Practice (CoP) in Authentic Learning. As faculty champion working with the University Innovation Fellows, I propose they should be part of the CoP’s core group. The core group potentially will usher ideas and projects to support authentic learning -- learning that happens inside and outside the classroom. The CoP is open to students, staff, faculty, alumni, other members of our Mines community and beyond. Colleagues in my division can actively be part of this CoP. As a new division on campus, EDS is in the midst of formulating our concrete narrative identity. This CoP is a way to showcase capacity in entrepreneurial thinking, ideation, problem definition and innovative design. Hence it articulates a better-defined role and identity of EDS that will integrate seamlessly into the Mines E&I architecture.


A Community of Practice solidifies a reason to be passionate about knowledge in a subject and serves as an enterprise of collective actions to support it. As described by Wenger below, the degrees of community participation align with my idea of having UIF in the center, but still engaging with entities on campus that supports the goal in providing authentic learning experiences for students at Mines. “Authentic learning is learning designed to connect what students are taught in school to real-world issues, problems, and applications; learning experiences should mirror the complexities and ambiguities of real life” (ACEL)

There are already pathways to innovation and learning defined by the University Honors and Scholars Program. They support students in their interests in learning research, entrepreneurship endeavors, scholarly honors pedagogy, leadership skills, etc. Formal ways to support authentic learning will still be needed in spite of the CoP. This CoP would enhance these efforts and also involve other perspectives from staff and/or alumni who would also like to invest their time and efforts to the cause. Another example of existing efforts is the signature students experience/core curriculum committee who is formulating a new way to approach distinctive learning at Mines. This CoP can be a sounding board for the various proposals being made.

A CoP in authentic learning can be a portal for best practices in academics also by extension a way to curate ongoing students’ projects. Namely projects that are done by UIF-s but also ones done by a number of growing entities on campus who practice and support authentic learning, such as Democratize Creativity. There is also a university committee that aims for a positive culture change and end the notion of “surviving Mines”, and instead for community members to “thrive @ Mines”. Hence, having a CoP like this might seed a conversation about stimulating the love for learning instead of external motivation to study as means to an end.

While all of these entities potentially can be the core group/active members, the alumni group and staff might be good peripheral members, especially with practical experience in their respective fields. One particular practice that comes to mind is reflective practices in the workplace and how it benefits ones’ career in the long run. To add to this group, there are the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center, Trefny Innovative Instruction Center and the Career Center at Mines. Though the degree of participation ultimately becomes an individual commitment. As a Faculty Innovation Fellow, I aim to coordinate and cultivate the start of this CoP. Examples of activities/work to be done: guest speaker series, round table discussions, pop-up classes, a wiki site to sustain/maintain ongoing student projects, a list of references and best practices hosted by Mines library, a sustainable scholarship fund, story-telling/open mic night in collaboration with student activities, hands-on workshops.


Stakeholders served

  1. Mines students (present, future and past), alumni possibly included
  2. Mines Faculty and Staff
  3. Mines Leadership

Key Milestones

  • Fall 2020 - (1) Pitch to the Labriola Center for a possible physical "home" for this Community of Practice and/or complete application for a Signature Student Experience Proposal (2) Brainstorm on recruitment of active group beyond the core.
  • December 2020: Finalize Concept on Joint Enterprise (by Coordinator)
  • Spring 2021 - (1) Creating an online presence where people can collaborate and/or curate authentic learning projects to date -- starting with the core and active group. (2) An "activation workshop" to think about activities to further define authentic learning at Mines (jargon/term sharing, mindset molding, undoing the status quo on learning, stopgaps, and sustainability).
  • March 2021: Terms for Mutual Engagement (by Coordinator and Core Group)
  • June 2021: Defining the Shared Repertoire (by Coordinator and Core Group)
  • September 2021: Active Member Recruitment
  • December 2021: Peripheral Group Recruitment (might invite FIF community)
  • March 2022: Kick off for CoP

An Innovation Portfolio

In our Integrative Design Studios class for our Bachelor's of Science in Engineering degree, I created a curriculum for the first year studio -- part of a 4 yearlong studio series. This is what we named the “Choose Your Own Adventure” (CYOA) module - borrowing the term CYOA, also used in the Thorson First Year Honors Program. For context, we have a series of design sprints students do in their teams, i.e. SDP or Social Design Pathways and DFF or Design for the Future -- This is loosely connected with the CoP, I am showcasing my ability to create a lesson plan that displays authentic learning, which gives students opportunity for agency, latitude and creativity.

In CYOA students are challenged to reiterate their design outcomes from previous design sprints. After interviewing a subject matter expert/stakeholder relevant to the project, they are to choose two of the 4 challenge modules to further validate their design outcome: entrepreneurship, stakeholder analysis, prototyping and testing.


Weeks 12-15.
This is your time to go back to your previous design outcomes and refine them! You may choose any of the design outcomes from SDP or DFF to further analyze. The goal is to understand how you would proceed with iterating the design, create a prototype of the design, and/or validate viability. The suggestion is to do this on your own. However, you may petition** to work with a partner. Though each of you will be graded individually and you will have to submit work separately. First and foremost, you will be interviewing a subject matter expert for consultation on the part of your design that needs validation (this is mandatory for everyone). Next to complete CYOA, you will need to choose 2 of these 4 challenge modules for a guide on validation. I have created these STEP modules with experts in the field; you will choose which are more exciting to you and also appropriate with what you want to validate:

  • Stakeholder Analysis with guest contributor Dr. Elizabeth Reddy (Engineering, Design, and Society)
  • Testing with guest contributor Dr. Alina Handorean (Engineering, Design, and Society)
  • Entrepreneurship with guest contributor Dr. Sid Saleh (Engineering Business)
  • Prototyping with guest contributor Prof. Robin Bullock (Engineering, Design, and Society)

Important Note: In real practice, you would have to work on validating your design through Stakeholder (User) Analysis, Testing and Prototyping. They are not mutually exclusive. And entrepreneurship is a nudge for you to think more creatively in the design space. Because of our restricted time together, I am having you choose 2 of the 4 STEP Modules for Choose Your Own Adventure, but make note of why you’re doing what you’re doing. The design intent is very important to set in the beginning, you will also have to note the measure of success - how do you know you have achieved your intent? More about this is explained here.

Learning Outcomes
This module will support these course level learning outcomes: Build a compelling narrative to support design as an argument for making, thinking or changing in the context of a specific project. Conceptualize and articulate cultural context, stakeholder engagement and broader impacts of design. Formally communicate design and ideas in different modalities. Apply common workplace practices including but not limited to field sketches, engineering graphics, office tools and software.

Depending on the module you choose, you will have different types of assignments related to the challenge. The following is an estimation of time spent overall to complete "Choose Your Own Adventure” that spans from week 12 - 15 but be aware of the holidays in between.

Week Tuesday Thursday
Week 12 CYOA: do yourself or with a partner (you have to petition for this) What to Iterate? And STEP Modules
Week 13 Work time Iteration and Feedback
Week 14 Work time Thanksgiving Break
Week 15 Work time Peer review of capstone projects, no more than 3 people in feedback circle

Related links

  1. ACEL. “Authentic Learning: what, why, how?” April 2016. PDF file Wenger, Etienne, Richard A. McDermott, and William Snyder. Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business School Press, 2002. Print.