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Prospectus for RENAISSANCE UNIVERSITY
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Photo courtesy of Elan Sun Star
Photo courtesy of Elan Sun Star

 

 

Unique Incentive System

 

Renaissance University will be a full, graduate and undergraduate, degree-granting liberal arts institution, though it will fulfill some community college services in each community where it is situated.

 

Because of our emphasis on and development of profoundly enhanced/accelerative learning and developmental techniques, among all its schools and divisions Renaissance University's School of Education will have the greatest emphasis. We will be our own lab school and also create lab schools for that school of education. One key part of this University, from as early in the program as its backing can be developed, will be our system of incentives.

 

 

Incentives for Faculty

 

As superb as the set of teaching and learning methods is that we bring to this University, we know that they are but a drop in the bucket to what is possible. Every full member as well as many more casual participants in this University will be encouraged into a major effort, seeking out and/or creating even better methods and techniques, and facilitated in that search. Invaluable to encouraging that search will be a strong system of incentives. Moreover, we do not wish to stand shotgun over the faculty, requiring it to use our or any particular methodsówe intend instead to create the environment where each faculty person on his or her own will actively seek out and use the best available, or create even better on his or her own. For this to happen, beyond that very first and uniquely motivated first year, requires an effective system of incentives.

 

A substantial part of the salary of faculty and staff will ride with how well their students advance across a broad spectrum of measures. We expect that after our first year or so of demonstration, many corporations (and many private individuals), impatient with what comes out of schools currently, will contribute massively to that incentive fund, and our better teachers will soon be realizing annual income in at least six figures.

 

Much of the business community now realizes that it has not been paying education for results. It should be readily demonstrable in the instance of Renaissance University that it in fact can. The potential for garnering support from the private sector, for at least this feature of the Renaissance University program, becomes considerable.

 

In the opening years of Renaissance University, almost all faculty, staff and students will be imbued with a sense of mission and not very much in need of any financial incentive.However, we want to begin testing and modeling such a system as soon as possible; moreover, even one initial year is a long time to go on just enthusiasm and conviction.Over time, all systems drift in the directions their incentives point them toward, and the only drift we want in Renaissance University is in the direction of ever better ways of teaching, learning and human growth.

 

Some of the measures across which the progress of our students will be measured will be standardized tests in their legitimate use, comparing before-and-after within the same student instead of between students. Some will be specialized instruments sought out or created specifically for evaluative purposes unique to aspects of the program. "Real life" provides a series of real tests under usually less generous conditions:  our students will get used to measuring up to intentions and expectations. Where some faculty person may object that some particular and valued quality is not covered in the assessments program, we will encourage and support him in finding or creating a suitable instrument with which to assess his own students in that quality, and include that provision in his contract. If the aforementioned quality is one we find valuable and the instrument a good measure of it, we will then include that in the assessment of progress of other students besides those of just that one professor.

 

Non-teaching staff will also share in the incentive program, since they control much of the environment within which the learning and teaching is taking place.

 

Part of the evaluation will be conducted internally, part of it will be contracted with outside parties. Differences between internal and external assessments will yield further valuable information.

 

By consulting extensively with accrediting authorities on student assessment standards and measures, accreditors can be led to feel a positive partial responsibility for the advance of the University. Some accreditors are genuinely knowledgeable in this regard and can be of real help in our designing an evaluative system.

 

Instead of complaining that educators are not paid enough, our incentive program will provide every opportunity for educators to earn fully commensurate with their very real value. Some will easily realize a six-figure annual income directly from results of their teaching, aside from whatever other professional opportunities may accrue. And the University itself, once established and unmistakably demonstrating the quality of its instruction, will not lack for funds and support on a continuing basis.

 

 

Incentives for Students

Even if our in-flow of support makes it feasible, economically speaking, to provide free tuition to all, we won't. We do intend to provide a large number and proportion of partial scholarships, as soon as we can begin to afford them, and build in additional stepped rewards in the form of additional partial scholarships for exceptional excellence in performance. Many of these will revolve around performance gains in the developmental programs where much of the hardest work in the University will be going on, improving participants' ability to perform.

 

These several incentive programs will be under periodic review by the University community, to make certain that they in fact do motivate the intended behaviors, to make certain that extrinsic motivators do not get in the way of or impede intrinsic motivation, and to make certain that the mechanics of the system do not impede the larger and general educational missions.

 

With these regards thoroughly respected, it is our intention by the above means to have virtually every person and participant in Renaissance University's program, student, staff and faculty, highly and actively motivated to achieve as best he or she can.It will be part of the adventure of every one of us in the University to discover just how high that best can be.

 

 

 

Image courtesy of Elan Sun Star
Image courtesy of Elan Sun Star

 

 

Methods Initially Featured in Program

 

Instead of being institutions of learning, too many schools today are mainly bureaucracies or gate-keepers. Ours will be an institution of learning, geared to results first, paper credentials a very long second. When a student qualifies and the next stage of opportunities is appropriate for him, he moves on at the convenience of his development rather than at the convenience of our bureaucracy, to the extent that our resources and accreditors' requirements will permit.

 

 

Typical Academic Course: Methods by which taught

 

This is not the required methodology, but we do expect to see many courses taught by something like this pattern of methods in the opening years, until even better methods come along:

 

Texts: 5-10, including a biography or autobiography of leading persons in the field of study. These will be PhotoRead, as will additional books students select from a wider range of options. The one main text will be actualized in detail and used as orientation and reference in class. (Note: the "Syntopicon" format, an apparent further advance on the PhotoReading process, is under review and may be fitted into this aspect of Renaissance University's initial methods of teaching.)

 

Beginning each formal reading, and beginning each lesson, each student will generate his own predictive image, asking his faculties to show him "an image which will make everything here come together and make immediate good sense to me."

 

Beginning the course, the 25-50 most major concepts of the course will be turned into questions. Each student will record his own predictive image in regard to each question, and keep that record close by for reminder and easy reference as the course proceeds.

 

The course itself will feature extensive focused buzz-grouping, in quick alternation with lecturettes and orientation/stage-setting. The course will also feature group and individual practice of not only Borrowed Genius but numerous of the Project Renaissance accelerated-learning techniques and numerous Project Renaissance problem-solving techniques turned into accelerated-learning techniques. Some, many or all classes will conclude with a form of the "Instant Replay" process for purposes of review.

 

Lab work, outside research, individual and team exploratory work as appropriate.

 

Concluding the course: not only whatever assessment and evaluative processes, but the review process Final Exams (Winsights No. 52). Courses with a high memorization content, such as foreign languages or chemistry names, will feature use of some Suggestopedic methods as derived from the work of Dr. Georgi Lozanov. Wherever possible, though, course contents will be oriented not toward memorization but toward full and richly creative understanding.

 

Some coursework will be strongly directed toward independent research by students, focused well enough to let them interact closely on more-or-less even terms with world leaders in the fields featured in the topical symposia, which will also be a major part of the Project Renaissance instructional program.

 

 

Distance Learning

 

Part of the run-up to creating Renaissance University will probably be the creation of a number of academic courses on CD and website. These will be based not only upon student practice of some of the Project Renaissance techniques in the process of learning course content, but upon several students working together at the same terminal, cued to buzz-group face-to-face, live on the key topics and issues of the lesson.

These distance-learning courses will be intended to give students a better command of subjects than would obtain in rigorous in-person live courses in leading institutions, but in and of themselves will not be full Renaissance University courses. Several days in live summer-in-residence programs with each course will be included, for enrichment, diagnostic evaluation and reinforcement, before a distance-learned course is fully counted as a full-credit liberal arts course at Renaissance University. However, students may qualify instead through a most rigorous testing program, in keeping with the prevailing University policy of basing the advance of students upon their actual performance qualifications rather than upon paper-credentialed requirements. If students use our distance-learning courses as part of their preparation for those qualification examinations, we won't complain.

Because each course is much more inexpensively taught by creating a distance-learning packet than by assembling a class and appropriate faculty, in the opening years of Renaissance University we expect to build with a high proportion of distance learning to in-residence functions. Over time as the University approaches its optimal size and resource base, the balance of the mix will shift toward in-residence, but always the emphasis has to be on whatever achieves the actual qualification and performance standard and benefit of the student, rather than on some rigid paper formula.

 

 

 

One Element Toward Planning

Instead of trying to launch the whole program in one gulp, we've been looking at various possible self-supporting educational ventures, worthy in their own right, which we could more readily launch between now and then. These can also take advantage of our unique methodological resources. The most successful of these could then, in turn, provide a nucleus and operating platform around which the entire university could then be assembled.

One possible interim step could be to create one or more educational enterprises which could then contract with existing colleges and universities as an independent "adjunct department," while also providing its programs to its own clientele.

Another possible interim step will be to create a number of educational courses on CD or DVD or website, featuring use of Project Renaissance's accelerated learning methods to create higher-than-conventional levels of achievement in the topic or subject by the learner. These packaged supplemental courses will be made available to a wide range of uses.

Also, we would like to discuss matters with people who have experience in providing non-profit educational services to the community. Also, we wish to talk with people who have some expertise in creating commercially viable product CDs, DVDs and the like. Please reply on these points to Win Wenger.

 

 

Image courtesy of Elan Sun Star
Image courtesy of Elan Sun Star

 

 

Issues in Initial Location of the University

We think, pending further information, that somewhere between 500 and 2000 students may represent the best-sized learning community for a university which is not immediately set upon major athletics.

We anticipate focusing the physical activities of Renaissance University upon developing individual capabilities, notably via the Developmental Program, rather than large-scale big-time competitive team athletics, certainly over the first few years. We are aware, however, that many of our learning-performance techniques can also serve athletic performance, so we will leave open for a time the question of whether the university in the long run will want to compete in major team sports. That issue, in turn, obviously will affect how large the university will want to be. Our present inclination is to put the interests of an ideal learning community ahead of those of temporary glory in big-time sport athletics.

Given those constraints, and to maintain size and focus of an ideal community of learning, and yet also to provide the breadth of specialized and advanced programs of study in the curriculum: once the initial campus passes 500 students in size, we will need to be planning—

  1. A second campus and subsequent campuses in the vicinity, in the "cluster colleges" concept;

     

  2. Branch campuses in other communities and states and even in other countries; and/or

     

  3. Partnering arrangements of various kinds with other colleges and universities.

This last, partnering, can be directly between Renaissance University and other colleges and universities, and/or it can be through creating a cluster of independent services and coordinating agencies which are visibly free, equally, to look after the interests of their students in our institution and to look after the interests of our students in those other institutions. Thus, we can eventually build a spread of special course offerings and programs appropriate for a pool of many thousands of students, while retaining optimal focus and community size for each campus of Renaissance University.

The first two options, cited above, render less critical the key question of where we should locate the first campus of the University, while the third option makes it more critical. In the first two options, no matter where the first campus gets situated, we eventually should be looking at many campuses in many locations. In the third instance, we find reason to favor locating adjacent to other highest-quality institutions.

 

 

Location by Accreditor:

In this regard, we must be careful as to which state - or, possibly, which country - we locate the first campus in. In the United States, the state boards of accreditation are remarkably variable, and we flatly cannot offer a degree without earning state permission. What it takes to earn that permission is the variable, and not always what is apparent.

Regional accrediting associations, however, historically have been more consistent in favoring what supports higher standards of academic performance. The regional bodies have generally demonstrated a greater willingness to see meaningful innovation in pursuit of such higher performance. If this historical tendency continues, we will find friends and support among regional accreditors. They will find themselves to be our natural allies and we theirs.

We may also find allies among some state accreditors; in other states there exists what amounts to a closed union shop for a variety of reasons.

We will have to do our homework: selection of the right state in which to locate will likely be critical. If we locate in some other country we will need to do that much more homework - even greater variations in regulations and regulatory aims, in addition to relations between that country and the USA, and local stability, being among the factors that need to be carefully weighed.

 

 

Location by Supporter:

If land, buildings, facilities and/or other material support are offered to us or offered at favorable terms upon condition of locating the University accordingly, this indeed has to be a major consideration. So does the qualityand security of the neighborhood, proximity of other quality universities, and the prospective ability of the University to serve the local community as well as the broader public which latter will be the main source of our main student body and client base.

 

 

Location of the Initial Campus, by Other Factors:

Air-conditioning certainly makes location by climate less critical than before, but we have some preference toward a climate which is moderate during the main season of use. A region that is healthful is also preferred. Because we will feature many world conferences in our educative program, and seek out world leaders in every field so involved, we will be hosting among those leaders many who are elderly and whose health and stamina may need some degree of support or protection even in the incidentals of moving between buildings.

We can create our own beauty on campus, but would have some preference toward locating in a region of considerable natural beauty. Aesthetic and intellectual functions in the brain closely overlap. As a result, many outstanding intellects closely involve with either the arts or with natural beauty.

We strongly prefer locations and regions which are rich in artistic, intellectual, cultural and recreational resources and opportunities. We have also given thought to an alternative, that of creating some form of highly disciplined rigorous academy, to maximize the personal development of all individuals involved. Such an academy would prefer to locate away from distractions. Our conclusion on this, however, is that —

  1. Off-campus engagement in and around the community is a key, important part of education; and

     

  2. We believe that the strength of the programs of Renaissance University will suffice to sustain the dedicated efforts and motivation of our personnel and clientele, without the need of isolation or other forms of externally imposed discipline.

When growth has brought us to the point of establishing other campuses and some of these based upon different educational models than the one we are now pursuing, we may give thought again to the academy issue and possibly create one for a special dedicated focus from within even the context of Renaissance University as it has developed to that time. While we expect a number of campuses of the University to be based upon the largely Socratic model and set of methods described in this Prospectus and elsewhere in http://www.winwenger.com, we also anticipate creation of some campuses based upon other, very different and powerful educational models and theories, letting these perform side-by-side as part of a process wherein we become able to generate still more powerful and productive educational models than any of these and than any which exist today.

More generally — for the initial campus we want a setting where it is readily feasible to further develop one's own experience and abilities in many dimensions, and not only with the resources which we manage to muster directly within our campus.

This last consideration above also points us toward a preference for a metropolitan setting, though several of the other considerations point toward a suburban, rural or even wilderness setting. A city-based university will also have more safety concerns, both on and immediately off-campus.

A city-based university will have to guard more strenuously and overtly against drugs. That is a matter to be handled very carefully to minimize damage to the air of freedom we wish to cultivate. Since the recreational drugs degrade performance, one possible way to reduce drug use is to post "the calculus" of each participant's performance in the developmental function — not the absolute performance level but the self-compared performance level of each student (and possibly each participating professor?) in various of the physical, intellectual and other parameters of the developmental program. In other words — how each student's performance changes over time, from day to day or week to week.

Active counseling services should spot sags in student performance before serious damage is done in the classroom or to the student's academic record. Highlighted incentives for the most striking degree of improvement in various parameters, over whatever periods of time, should create considerable positive support for a program which incidentally and parenthetically made it almost impossible for drugs to establish on campus, even without heavy policing. So we lean toward locating the first campus in a metropolitan setting.

We don't know of any university, however rigorous, which has successfully eliminated alcohol use and abuse from its student body. The performance-related measures cited in the paragraph just above, in reference to drugs, will we think help to contain and minimize the abuse of alcohol in and around campus, wherever located.

 

 

Overseas programs:

Much of our initial involvement and support is international. Given that, and given the nature of the modern world economy, culture and communications; and given our intention of a curriculum strongly featuring frequent international conferences on many academic and scientific topics, we will need to set up overseas branch operations and/or study exchange programs with overseas universities.

While the most popular such programs are expected to be summer exchange with universities in Europe and specialized programs with Pacific Rim countries, the service emphasis in many of the professions as we conceive them will also require us to seek exchange and special arrangements with universities in less developed or prosperous regions of the world.

We also anticipate, sooner or later, locating full campus branches of Renaissance University in various countries around the world. Indeed, it is not certain that the first campus of Renaissance University will be located within the United States, though we anticipate initially many or most of our students and faculty to be American.

 

 

Advantages to the Community Where the Initial Campus will Locate:

Universities in that community will benefit because -

  1. Some of their students will find their way into the various learning-method, developmental and other service programs which Renaissance University will be providing locally. Most of these students will become part of the strength of the universities which they are attending, and stop being their failures or impending failures and marginal performers.

     

  2. Some of their faculty will sooner or later find their way to learning something of our methdos, and so come to perform much more strongly where they are. We will facilitate this happening, as best we can without provoking issues.

     

  3. Intellectual and artistic events, and increasingly some scientific research programs, sponsored by other universities, will be enriched by participation from our members.

     

  4. Our succession of world conferences will welcome participation by other universities, in each academic and scientific discipline where we manage to feature these conferences. This will afford opportunity to participating universities to interact with the world leaders in each such topic. Such universities as sponsor such events of their own, we will seek to cultivate a supportive relationship to and provide effective participants to those events.

The community will benefit from our participation in existing cultural events, from its citizens participating in some of our events, and from rapidly becoming a world capitol in various of the academic, scientific and arts topics and disciplines which emerge from our succession of world conferences and from other aspects of our educational program.

The community will also benefit from the various services which Renaissance University will be providing, both directly and through a variety of organizations.

  • Some of the initial benefits will be in terms of learning skills, reading and language skills, and better teaching methods provided to local schools, enrichment programs, and special volunteer projects and agencies.

     

  • Aspects of our human developmental programs will also be marketed or provided within the community, directly and through already-existing agencies, service groups and projects.

     

  • We will also work to provide problem-solving techniques and skills to local leadership, especially through the Chamber of Commerce, the Jaycees, Rotary and various other civic clubs.

     

  • Also, as our University grows, it will attract to the area some high-calibre professionals, artists and intellectuals whose own, independent, contributions to the community will be significant.

 

 

Conclusion:

Where best can we launch Renaissance University's mission, and where can it perform that mission best for the long run? Necessarily, much of that has to be determined by what support we can attract, especially in the starting-up phase, and under what conditions are required for that support. That has to weigh as strongly as do any of the above-cited considerations. However, it does not outweigh them. The choices which we make, from whatever factors and resources emerge for us, must be congruent with our intentions, and congruent with the intention of our becoming deservedly recognized as one of the world's very leading university within a decade of the formal date of our founding.

 

 

Special Invitation to Other Educational Programs and Proponents:

Our own educational theory, model, and methods revolve in large part around modern forms of Socratic Method, around neurophysiological considerations featured in our Developmental Program, and a very careful but creative use of incentives. There are other worthy educational objectives besides ours, theories beside ours, practices besides ours. Note in this regard the proposed development, in the School of Education as described above, of laboratory schools at all educational levels, testing out under controlled conditions various educative methods and models side by side. In this regard, even Renaissance University itself can be its own laboratory school.

We are looking for partners. If your educational purpose and special methods are good enough, contact us to explore possibilities of an alliance furthering both our respective efforts together. Our differences can and should be complementarities, provided that our joint objective will be to create a university which greatly strengthens academic achievement standards rather than trying to escape them. And that this joint objective should include a liberal arts and sciences program which we will seek to make one of the best in the world. Given that, we can look at a joint focus on the environment, and/or on wholistic issues and/or on various issues of human service. Between us, we shall need to exercise some care to make sure that the combination between us is greater, not less, than the sum of our separate efforts. We can bring closer the realization of your ideal school and you can bring closer the realization of ours, and these may even be the same institution, Renaissance University. Please contact wwenger101@aol.com

To everyone who reads this: Your ideas, suggestions, and direct help are very much needed and welcome. Please reply to Win Wenger or P.O. Box 332, Gaithersburg, MD 20884-0332 U.S.A. Thank you.

 

 

 

Image courtesy of Elan Sun Star
Image courtesy of Elan Sun Star

 

 

A Socratic Ideal

How would your own life be different now if you had attended a school where you and everyone around you were Socratic to each other and to yourselves? Where you were drawn out in detail, in depth, at length, on every nuance of your deepest and subtlest awarenesses on topic after topic in your courses of study?

That "at length" has been the critical issue. In traditional Socratic Method, while you are being Socratic to one or two students in the class, the other forty-seven or hundred-and-forty-seven get restless. Now, we've modernized Socratic Method in such a way that everyone can be Socratic to each other and to themselves at the same time, even in the largest classes and groups. To see a small part of how this miracle is worked, please examine Dynamic Format.

What would happen to the quality of your thoughts and perceptions, if every nuance of your thoughts and perceptions were being relayed in detail to an eagerly awaiting world? How thoughtfully would you consider and address the topics at hand? We now can easily create forms of this effect for everyone.

If the decision-makers in your enterprise met for several hours, say on every Thursday afternoon, drawing each other out on your subtlest and deepest awarenesses regarding the situation of that enterprise, your performance would go out the ceiling.

Imagine a school where from the onset everyone - faculty, staff, tutors, parents, volunteers — were trained and supported in drawing students out in rich detail, at length and in depth, on their subtlest and deepest awarenesses in each topic of each course in the curriculum.

Imagine a school where from the onset every student was trained and supported in drawing each other out and themselves out, in rich detail, at length and in depth, on their subtlest and deepest awarenesses in each topic of each course in the curriculum.

That is only one of many distinctive features of the proposed Renaissance University, and of several of its proposed satellite laboratory schools.


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