Signature Inquiries

Classes with Impact

Miami’s Signature Inquiries are curricular innovations designed around 5 major areas for topic-based inquiry, pushing the boundaries of pedagogy.  These courses encourage faculty and students working in different academic areas to connect in addressing vital and important needs in today's world that require understanding and solutions from a variety of disciplines.

Signature Inquiries push students to areas of study beyond their primary major(s). They feature authentic, active learning and application of knowledge, and are interdisciplinary at minimum in the course readings, activities, or methodologies. Best of all they are designed for the benefit of non-majors who can employ prior knowledge or skills from these courses into other fields.

Signature Inquiries are designed to overlap with Perspectives Areas.

Signature Inquiry Topics

Signature Inquiries are a 9-credit hour component of the Miami Plan 2023 that guides students’ Perspectives Area course selections through 5 topic areas.  Students may take hours from different topic areas, or they may choose to concentrate on one topic.  Of the 9 credit hours, students take courses from three distinct programs/departments (Banner subject codes). Courses may be at any level, 100-400. 

Sustainability & Resilience Courses in this area investigate how resources—whether natural, scientific, technological, ecological, creative, educational, artistic, historic, or sociocultural—have been and can be sustained, engineered, and deployed to meet the needs of current and future generations

Power, Justice & Social Change Courses in this area ask students to consider questions of cultural and linguistic diversity, equity and social justice broadly conceived, and the ways in which dynamics of ecology, power and conflict shape societies across time.

Technology, Information & Society Courses in this area investigate the myriad ways in which information, data, and technology impact societies and cultures, including influencing our understanding of “truth” and reality, among other interrelated issues critical to our world.

Creativity, Storytelling & Design Courses in this area explore how people construct narratives or imagine possibilities, experiences, and worlds (internal or external), as ways to make meaning and identity, gain new perspectives, or devise solutions to problems.

Global Health & Wellness Courses in this area explore health as not merely the absence of disease, but as the results of biological, environmental, individual, social, political-economic, or cultural processes that yield and impact physical, mental, or social well-being.

Signature Inquiry Outcomes

All Signature Inquiry courses will follow these SLOs, thus by the end of their work in Signature Inquiry courses, students will be able to:

  1. Investigate through active, engaged, or authentic learning that applies knowledge and identifies problems that affect people or the world around us.

  2. Understand interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, or cross-disciplinary approaches through the course readings, activities, or methodologies; and/or make explicit links to other courses/disciplines in the relevant Signature Inquiry area.

  3. Search for, read/listen to, and evaluate appropriate sources of information (primary or secondary) for understanding issues or seeking solutions.

  4. Synthesize information and share ideas with others (informally or formally).

Designing a Signature Inquiry Class

Meeting the spirit of Signature Inquiries and refreshing the curriculum should be a goal of each department/program.  It’s more than shoehorning existing courses into the Miami Plan. Rather, look at the “curricular ecology” view of your program and the new opportunities the MP offers. This can be e.g. merging or reformulating existing MP courses, designing new classes, or scaling-up existing courses that fit.  Analyze the audience, market, & goals of your courses; your teaching resources, and devise a programmatic strategy for Signature Inquiry.  Courses in the Signature Inquiry should reflect this refreshed curricular approach in pedagogy, theme, approaches, topics, & titles.

  1. Signature Inquiry courses are issue/theme-based and feature active teaching.

  2. The idea of Signature Inquiries is that they are NOT the usual intro or survey courses. Disciplinary introductions or courses in the OT36 may not be appropriate. Not all current Foundation courses will be, or should be, Signature Inquiry. 

  3. Student assessments in SI courses (eg. assignments, quizzes, exams) should be weighted towards authentic, active learning and engagement rather than traditional  midterms and final exams. While we appreciate the need for culminating or synthesizing exams to ensure basic competencies, the purpose of "authentic" learning is to get students actively engaged in doing, searching, creating. See “What is ‘authentic learning?” below.

What is “authentic” learning?

Signature Inquiry courses feature authentic learning, dependent on active learning environments that support students in making connections as they engage in the learning process. The learning outcomes of Signature Inquires reflect authentic learning frameworks. At the heart of the pedagogical model of authentic learning is the tremendous difference between “learning to be or do,” and “learning about,” and includes the following core characteristics:

  • Tasks are of interest and relevant to students.
  • Students actively engage in interdisciplinary exploration and problem-solving.
  • Inquiry and communication are connected to the world beyond the spaces of instruction.
  • Learning develops higher-order thinking, such as analyzing, synthesizing, creating, evaluating, with opportunities for discourse.
  • Learning is driven by students with instructors/mentors/experts supporting, facilitating, or guiding.

Authentic learning prompts students to construct knowledge and understanding by doing, attempting, and sometimes failing as they investigate real-world situations, topics, issues, and concerns. Learning in relation to such meaningful contexts, stands in contrast to “learning about” through traditional learning in which students are supposed passive recipients of knowledge who absorb knowledge from individuals with expert knowledge.

Proposal Criteria

All MP course proposals are submitted through the CIM system.  Before entering information into CIM, you should be prepared to answer the following questions and provide the requested materials. All Signature Inquiry SLOs must be met for any given Signature Inquiry course.  NOTE: You will need to copy/paste the relevant SLOs from this webpage into the appropriate text box of your CIM submission.

For MP Signature Inquiry  proposals, CIM will ask for the following information:

  • Bulletin description, Course Rationale (an explanation of how the course fits into your curriculum and/or the MP), Enrollment restrictions, regularity of offerings. Course-specific SLOs. NOTE:  These are distinct from any MP SLOs and are required of all courses regardless of MP status.

  • Mark the Signature Inquiry area(s) in which the course fits. You may choose up to two areas.  You will be asked for a short explanation of how the course fits into the relevant SI area(s).

  • How will each of the MP SLOs be met?  Prepare one or two sample assignments that meet each required SLO.  That is, you need to explain how course activities serve to meet EACH student learning outcome for Signature Inquiry.  This should be included in the text boxes where requested.  Materials such as longer assignments may also be  uploaded to CIM. NOTE: appx. 70% of the course should meaningfully engage the requested SLOs. You will also be asked how you will ensure that each section and iteration of the course will meet the same SLOs.

  • How will the Four Pillars be met?  Provide specific information about how the course will meet each of the Pillars through e.g. assignments, activities, pedagogical styles.  Also, provide a short student-centered explanation appropriate for a syllabus.

  • A course syllabus (uploaded). NOTE:  The syllabus is different from the CIM text box responses in both audience and genre.  The syllabus is an outward-facing, student-oriented document that should show students what they will actually learn in your class.  The CIM responses are for Liberal Education Council review, Office of LIberal Education records, and documentation that courses are meeting MP outcomes. When asked for “syllabus language” in a CIM text box, it is most efficient to copy/paste that language from your syllabus rather than re-creating it.

    While the CIM text box responses require addressing each Pillar and each relevant SLO in detail, do NOT simply cut and paste the Pillars and Miami Plan 2023 SLOs into your syllabus. In the Syllabus, your course content should be privileged but should reflect the Pillars and Student Learning Outcomes of the new MP. They should be integrated into your narrative, unique and contextualized, and make links among the course content, student assessments, pedagogy, and the overall MP.  That is, explain how MP courses address the goals of a Liberal Education by making connections between the MP and the unique features of each course.  

    Thus your syllabus should include student-centered explanations,  and the course topics and amount of time spent on them should be clear. The OLE/LEC is not concerned with syllabus items such as grading rubrics, attendance policies, or administrative details.  We only review items specifically related to content/topics, assignment/assessment descriptions, and pedagogy/class activities.

When you are ready to submit for approval, you must use the Curriculum Management System (CIM) on the Registrar's website.

How to use CIM

Propose a Course in CIM