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Engaging in Big Questions

In a period of relentless change, all students need the kind of education that leads them to ask not just "how do we get this done?" but also "what is most worth doing?"

21st century learners

Educational research supports that the best teaching and learning occurs when students are challenged to tackle "Big Questions." This is "the process by which we merge the questions of ultimate reality with the immediate needs and duties of our generation" (Nelson, J.C). Engaging students in thinking deeply, critically, and in integrating knowledge and experience to address problems of the day is a basic goal of liberal education. Employers also recognize the value of a potential employee who is skilled in innovative problem solving. Students at Vanderbilt are expected to engage in "Big Questions" in and outside of the classroom.

Big Questions:

Samples of broad areas from which Big Question conversations might evolve:
Some topics were copied from the AAC&U website on Liberal Education and America's Promise (LEAP)
  • Human dignity and freedom
  • Money and power
  • Science and Society
  • Cultures and values
  • Global interdependence
  • Changing economy
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Increased reliance on technology
  • Consumption in contemporary culture
  • Impact of social, economic, political context on communities
  • Equitable educational systems nationally and globally
  • What constitutes being a "good citizen in the American democracy?"

Specific questions/issues that interest individual students will vary. To learn more about opportunities for engagement, resources, and support as you tackle the "Big Questions" you can peruse the CCL Portal, DOS, SIA website or contact staff in the SIA office:

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Personal Support

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Rietta Turner

Assistant Director of Strategic Initiatives and Assessment; 615-322-6834

Kelsey Roberts

Graduate Assistant

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