learning impact 2018 gateway initiative

“Building the skills of reflective practice is a big part of the course. These are the same skills that they employ to think critically about their own and others’ social positions,” she explains. “These reflections, as key parts of active learning pedagogy, also help to cement the learning experience.” — Professor Kim Rogers, Sociology 1: Intro to Sociology

The Gateway Initiative is designed to support faculty in achieving their teaching and learning goals for larger-enrollment foundational courses. The Initiative provides faculty with the opportunity to engage in deep collaboration with instructional designers, media educators, librarians, and assessment specialists. Courses in the initiative are generally large, introductory classes that fulfill major and distribution requirements and open doors to deeper study.

Sociology professor Kim Rogers prepares her students for the game, and weaves in sociological context. Photo by Eli Burakian '00.


The goal of the Gateway Initiative is to use research based methodologies to redesign traditional introductory (larger enrollment) courses to achieve the learning goals of small upper division courses.

The Gateway program makes available significant resources and expertise for faculty to transform large enrollment introductory courses that serve as “gateways” to a major.

Faculty work with a team of instructional designers, librarians, media educators, learning fellows, and experts in assessment and evaluation to develop, run, evaluate, and continuously improve their courses.

All Gateway courses incorporate active and experiential learning, including but not limited to: student reflection, frequent low-stakes assessment, greater opportunities for faculty/ student interaction, and the inclusion of students in the course design process.

Photo by Eli Burakian '00.
"We would never go back to teaching the way we did before. It so clearly benefits the students, and it's a lot more fun for us." – Professor of Biology Thomas Jack, Biology 13: Gene Expression and Inheritance

To date, the Gateway program has worked with 23 faculty to redesign 14 larger-enrollment foundational courses at Dartmouth. These courses have, to date, enrolled over 4,000 Dartmouth students.

  • ANTH 3: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, Sienna Craig and Laura Ogden
  • BIOL 13: Gene Expression and Inheritance, Tom Jack, Patrick Dolph, and Erik Griffin
  • CHEM 52: Organic I, Chenfeng Ke and Cathy Welder
  • CLST 1: Antiquity Today – An Introduction to Classical Studies, Paul Christesen
  • COLT 1: Read the World, Rebecca Biron
  • COSC 1: Introduction to Computer Science,
  • Devin Balkcom, Thomas Cormen, and Hany Farid
  • EARS 6: Environmental Change, Bob Hawley
  • ECON 20: Econometrics, Ethan Lewis and Taryn Dinkelman
  • ENGS 31/COSC 56: Digital Electronics, Eric Hansen and Geoff Luke
  • MATH 3: Calculus, Scott Pauls
  • PHYS 13: Studio Physics, Robyn Millan
  • PSYC 1: Introduction to Psychology, Thalia Wheatley and Brad Duchaine
  • RUSS 13: Slavic Folklore, Misha Gronas
  • SOCY 1: Intro to Sociology, Kim Rogers
Small groups discuss matters of identity, privilege, and oppression in Sociology 1. Photo by Eli Burakian '00.

Average cost for the first iteration of a Gateway course: $22,500

30 course applications to be part of Gateway

4,282 students have taken a Gateway course

“Faculty are used to being responsible for every aspect of their courses. Teaching is usually something we do pretty much alone. One of the most valuable parts of the Gateway Initiative is the opportunity to work together with a team that includes instructional designers, media production folks, librarians, and teaching assistants. As one of the Gateway professors said, ‘It’s hard to exaggerate how helpful it is to work with a team.’ ” — Lisa Baldez, Professor of Government, and Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Studies Cheheyl Professor and Director, Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning

The Gateway Initiative is led by DCAL and run in close collaboration with partners throughout the College. Our partnership with Educational Technologies, the unit that provides the instructional design and media resources, is essential for the Gateway work. The Library, Office of Institutional Research, and the Registrar have also provided support, data, and resources.

Biology 13 Learning Fellow Joe Minichiello

The redesign of each course is different depending on the teaching goals, subject, and other variables. While there is no “one size fits all” approach, large-scale course redesigns tend to share the following common elements:

  • Faculty and learning design specialists collaborate on learning objectives and competency outcomes. Planning for active, experiential learning opportunities during class time that has been freed from the need to “deliver” content.
  • Development of formative assessment materials (ex. short, frequent quizzes), which may be automatically scored to provide instant feedback to students. There is the possibility in some courses of introducing adaptive learning technologies to personalize the feedback.
  • Faculty recorded lectures that students can preview before class, review after class and study prior to quizzes and examinations.
  • Faculty and instructional designers create hands- on interactive exercises and develop small-group discussion and problem solving tasks.
  • Introduction of additional high-value materials, such as simulations, learning games, and visualizations.
  • Data analysis to improve student learning. Learning analytics combines information from student usage of teaching materials (such as recorded lectures) with outcome data from formative and summative assessment. These data can be utilized to improve the design of course materials and to alter the pacing, length, and delivery methods of the online and classroom curriculum.


Support for undergraduate Learning Fellows and other instructional costs, as well as a stipend, is provided as needed. Gateway faculty also join a community of practice of Dartmouth professors to discuss and share strategies to enhance active and experiential learning in their teaching, including new opportunities to use student data and collaborate on tools and techniques.

Professor Paul Christesen
“Participation in the Gateway program enabled me to accomplish some of my teaching goals in Classics 1 that were previously out of reach. First, the Gateway Program provided a mechanism for dedicated access to instructional design assistance and collaboration. I worked very closely, and over extended time periods, with the instructional design team to find new opportunities to create active and experiential learning opportunities in the course. The second big advantage of the Gateway Program was that it paid for a team of undergraduate Teaching Assistants. This team of highly motivated undergraduates (who had previously taken and excelled in the course) were instrumental in working with me to develop a tight-knit learning community within our entire class. The Gateway Program also provided a flexible budget that I could draw on for logistical, technical and operational needs that arose as I was teaching the course, a resource that allowed us to experiment with new techniques and methods in the course design and teaching.” — Professor Paul Christesen CLST 1: Antiquity Today – An Introduction to Classical Studies


Faculty are best placed to evaluate the impact of any course redesign efforts on student learning, and this Gateway Initiative seeks to assist faculty in those efforts by pairing the faculty with an evaluation and assessment team.

Learning Designers work with faculty to evaluate the impact of the course redesign, and to plan future changes based on the data gathered from the assessment efforts. Faculty interested in building on their redesign experience through educational research and dissemination receive support from the DCAL and the Gateway team.

Learning Fellow Adina Harri '18

Through the Gateway Initiative, DCAL has developed capacity in evaluation and assessment of teaching and learning. DCAL is working closely with faculty and students to evaluate the impact of their redesign efforts, and to provide data for faculty to support their continuous efforts to improve learning. We have collected qualitative data (interviews, focus groups) and quantitative data (surveys, course evaluations, analytics) to support both continuous improvement of teaching methods, and scholarship in the science of learning.

Professor Sienna Craig
“Participation in the Gateway Program allowed us to transform this core course from a lecture-based class to an active learning experience, while retaining the course’s larger class size (50-65 students). The Gateway Initiative has facilitated the creation of short videos of anthropology faculty speaking about particular issues within the discipline; these videos will be used in teaching the course starting this Spring, and are also a way of further introducing our diverse discipline and our faculty to students. Funding from the Gateway Initiative has also supported an undergraduate teaching fellow who helped reorganize course materials into modules, develop small group discussion exercises, and help to produce these short videos featuring anthropology faculty discussing key concepts in the field.” — Professor Sienna Craig Anthropology 3: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
Professor Devin Balkcom
“Computer Science 1, a course originally designed to teach students to design, write, understand, and analyze code for computational problems, has grown in popularity immensely in recent years. This enthusiasm, while exciting, provided us with the challenge we brought to the Gateway Initiative: it had became more and more difficult to recognize struggles and respond to this large group of students in a timely and effective manner. Through our participation in Gateway, we have mobilized our team of undergraduate course teaching staff, providing pedagogical training and coaching to increase their reach as extensions of the instructor. We are also experimenting with new grading approaches to simultaneously challenge the students and grade more accurately according to the Dartmouth Scholarship Ratings in the ORC. Finally, we are introducing modifications to the lecture component of the course, engaging students with content that helps them better practice course skills: creative problem solving, thoughtful design, and inclusive analysis.” — Professor Devin Balkcom, Computer Science 1: Introduction to Computer Science
“A lot of times when you take these course, it is easy to feel like you are the only one who doesn’t understand. But when you are in these groups, and everyone’s feeding off each other’s questions and answers, you realize that everyone is in the same boat and that it is okay to be confused.” — Emily Yang ‘18 Student Biology 13: Gene Expression and Inheritance
Emily Yang '18, left, with classmates

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