LA 497 Visualization

“LA 497 Visualization” was a team-taught course in Spring 2015 that was designed to encourage collaboration and integration. This class was funded by a Penn State University Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence grant. Using a fifth-century Chinese Buddhist text on visualization meditation as a point of departure, students and faculty jointly embarked on an interdisciplinary exploration from the perspectives of History, Religious Studies, Art, New Media, Psychology, Neuroscience, and Information Sciences & Technology. We researched the role of visualization practices in Asian religion and philosophy, produced artwork that engaged with the imagery and practices described in the text, examined the psychological and neurological foundations of meditation, and designed an immersive virtual world based on the text using cutting-edge virtual reality technology. The semester’s main learning objective was to synthesize interdisciplinary approaches through individual and collaborative projects, some of which are recorded here on the class blog.

The concept for this class was the outcome of many discussions about the central role of collaborative teaching and learning in the future of higher education faculty members have been involved in at Abington College. We envisioned this course as a pilot project that could pave the way for future interdisciplinary and collaborative teaching on our campus, and could serve as a model for other campuses throughout the university system. The specific problem that this course was intended to address was that, all too often, classroom instruction of our students remains one-dimensional, bounded by disciplinary methodologies and inherited comfort-zones. One of our main goals was to generate deeper possibilities for critical thinking and creativity through the explicit and purposeful integration of multiple disciplines. Our ideal outcome for the class was nothing less than the creation of a new, integrated model of teaching and learning that transcended conventional approaches to postsecondary education. Through participation in discussions and collaborative work throughout the semester, students and faculty mentors expanded their intellectual horizons by making connections between different areas of academic inquiry. Whether they came into the class as scientists, programmers, historians, or artists, all participants experienced a highly stimulating range of approaches, and were pushed to think about how these can enrich one another.

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Syllabus Files

Participating Faculty

  • Pierce Salguero, Assistant Professor of Asian History & Religious Studies,
    salguero@psu.edu (Project Director, Lead Course Designer)
  • Jake Benfield, Assistant Professor of Psychology, jab908@psu.edu
  • Michael J. Bernstein, Associate Professor of Psychology, mjb70@psu.edu
  • William Cromar, Senior Lecturer of Art, newMedia, williamcromar@psu.edu
  • Leah Devlin, Associate Professor of Biology, cld5@psu.edu
  • Dolores Fidishun, Library & Information Science, dxf19@psu.edu
  • Yvonne Love, Assistant Professor of Art, ymm1@psu.edu
  • Joe Oakes, Senior Lecturer of IST, joe.oakes@psu.edu