Spring 2020 — We piloted the integration of AFCs into Shriver Center program curricula and other courses across the campus (e.g., IS, FYS).

Winter 2020 — We presented at the AAC&U annual conference in collaboration with UMBC’s Truth, Racial Healing, & Transformation Campus Center on the synergy of values and principles across these two initiatives.

Fall 2019 — We launched a final draft of 10 AFCs and descriptive content for use in pilots to integrate AFCs across the campus. We presented at the Provost’s Teaching & Learning Symposium. We presented at the IARSLCE annual conference to share our work on exploring the relationship between alternative education strategies (e.g., virtual reality, digital stories, 360 degree video) and the development of AFCs. We lead a Faculty Development Center-sponsored workshop for faculty and staff to provide background and context on our AFC work and strategies for them to consider regarding the integration of AFCs into their own courses, research, and programs.

Spring – Fall 2019 — We partnered with Dr. Anita Komlodi (IS – HCC) on a pilot research project to explore the impact of virtual reality on graduate students’ perspective-taking related to people experiencing homelessness. From this project, we applied for NSF grants and conference presentations.

Fall 2018 — We presented  at the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) Research Summit and the Provost’s Teaching & Learning Symposium.

Fall 2017 — We launched the new FYS, and continue analysis and dissemination of our current data (see Current Activities)

Spring 2017 — Thoughtful re-design of the INDS430 course led to the creation of a new First Year Seminar (FYS) — “Character Equals Destiny” in order to engage students early enough in their undergraduate careers to allow them to develop meaningful research

Summer 2017 — We presented at the Lilly Conference on Evidence-Based Teaching & Learning. We also submitted funding proposal to the Corporation for National & Community Service proposal to continue to fund this research project

Summer 2016 — We designed a pilot for a new course: Creative Survey Design (INDS430) to engage students as co-creators with this research.

Fall 2016 — We launched INDS430: Creative Survey Design. As an outcome of this course, we discovered that:
This research is complex and challenging (not so much a discovery as a reinforcement of our own Dunning Kruger journey!)
“Empathy” is a particularly strong example of pitfalls associated with this research: the word means very different things to multiple communities and researchers actively engaged in researching how and where to develop it within higher education!
Student reflections are a useful tool to explore affective competency development;
Students who study this topic as co-creators of research change more than we had anticipated;
Students’ interest in continuing research in this area was high – but as a 400-level course, it occurred too late in their academic career to allow much opportunity here.

Other outcomes of this period were that we presented a scholarly paper on our project at the annual meeting of the International Association for Research on Service-Learning & Community Engagement, and presented as part of a panel at the Corporation for National & Community Service’s annual Research Summit.

Spring 2016 — Informed by the finding that the likert survey tool was not going to provide the information we were seeking, we explored the option of using scenario-based questions. Several work-group members attempted to design questions using this strategy. We soon realized that we had a different perspective than our students and, therefore, could not create relevant or appropriate scenarios. Meantime, wheels were already turning in the academic cycle to produce another sample of Likert surveys and cognitive interviews – which deepened and reinforced the observation of flaws recorded above. Within this process, working group members began to notice the benefits of qualitative data (e.g., student reflections, coded according to standard qualitative data analysis techniques). Pilot analyses here by Michele Wolff and Stephen Freeland led to excitement that here we were avoiding (or, more accurately, capturing in detail) the Dunning Kruger effect and learning valuable insights about how and where our students were experiencing affective growth. On this basis, we submitted a Letter of Intent to the John Templeton Foundation for further funding (“Do applied learning experiences lead to positive growth in character for undergraduate students, and how can we know?” (ID#FI-12145))

Fall 2015 — One of our graduate student assistants conducted cognitive interviews with several students to better understand the shortcomings of the Likert survey, clarifying many of the points raised above.

Summer 2015 — Success of the Hrabowski Innovation Fund grant enabled us to hire two graduate students to analyze the survey data. This analysis established that the Likert approach was flawed in several key areas (participants often interpreted key phrases differently, they reported survey fatigue, and many demonstrated signs of the Dunning-Kruger effect – whereby participants’ self-reported affective skills diminished as they actually improved because they replaced naive and misplaced positive self assessment with humbler, more informed self assessment)

Spring 2015 — Members of this project’s community piloted the Likert tool in a number of courses/experiences that had applied elements and were led by members of our work group.


Fall 2014 — This group re-convened in October 2014 to establish a list of Affective Functional Competencies (AFCs) and associated elements with which to define the scope of this project. Towards this end, we used several existing resources (e.g., AAC&U VALUE Rubrics; UMCP rubric). The output of this meeting was a list of eight AFCs (i.e., self-awareness, ethics/integrity, intercultural development/perspective, social responsibility, teamwork, adaptability/resilience, innovative leadership, critical agency) and their elements.
Following this meeting, the group’s attention focused on two specific objectives:

  • We created a simple Likert scale survey for pre/post assessment of affective learning taking place in several different curricular and co-curricular experiences.
  • We prepared a proposal for a Hrabowski Innovation Fund grant to further this work, submitted January 2015, requesting funds to support graduate students as co-creators.


Summer 2014 — a large group of faculty and professional staff met over 3 days to discuss diverse applied learning experiences taking place at UMBC. This meeting established that far more was going on on campus then anyone had catalogued. The group decided to focus initial efforts on 3 directions:

  • An inventory of current activities;
  • Exploration of current ideas for evaluation and assessment;
  • Searching for opportunities for funding.

The other major insight from this meeting was that Linda Hodges (Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs & Director of the Faculty Development Center) and Vickie Williams (Department of Education) pointed out that what we were talking about referred to a second, and far less well known, domain of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning, namely the Affective Domain.


Academic Year 2013-2014 — The origins of this research project may be found in three different conversations that took place at UMBC during the Academic year 2013/2014. One involved the Honors College, another involved the Shriver Center and the third involved the Interdisciplinary Studies Program (“INDS”). The common thread linking these conversations was Dr. Diane Lee, then Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education at UMBC (and now emerita).

  • Michele Wolff, director of the Shriver Center, had met with Dr. Lee to discuss how applied learning could best be integrated/encouraged more broadly throughout UMBC’s curriculum.
  • Simon Stacey, director of the Honors College and Stephen Freeland, director of the Interdisciplinary Studies Program had each (independently) met with Dr. Lee, as their direct supervisor, to discuss how to better incorporate applied learning into their respective academic units.
  • Dr. Lee helped these three individuals meet early in the winter of 2014 in order to converge their overlapping interests. A primary finding of their first meeting was that numerous individuals, distributed across UMBC, had something relevant to contribute to any attempt to distill “best practices.” [bringing together individuals to discuss moving this type of teaching/learning forward across the curriculum/co-curriculum]. As a result, Wolff, Stacy and Freeland applied (successfully) for a BreakingGround grant to convene a larger group of relevant faculty and staff.