TitleOURSTORY Curriculum Framework Development Plan Request Date2012-11-30
DepartmentEducation; NPTT Program
RequestorRobert Carson Phone994-4709
Campuses Bozeman Billings Havre Great Falls FSTS Extension MAES
Cross Depts  
Proposed Dates Start: SP 2013 End: End of SP 2014 term
"OURSTORY" is a curriculum mapping system for organizing key developmental events in intellectual history (viewed as the 'co-evolution of culture and cognition'). Imagine being able to 'tell the story' of the epic narrative of intellectual culture. This is a framework that distills that cognitive and cultural history down to its primary transformative events, and traces their conceptual and thematic linkages through time and across disciplinary boundaries. We seek funding 1) for the next phase of its development; 2) to create a website to promote its use; and 3) to develop an undergraduate survey course based on this project's resources.
Objective I.1: Increase the integration of learning, discovery and engagement.
Objective I.2: Increase work across disciplines.

This project serves objectives I.1 and I.2 of the MSU Strategic Plan, and has the potential to stimulate a number of other very exciting developments. As a specialist in education, my suggestion is that the Ourstory concept reconstitutes the greater purposes and virtues of the traditions of liberal education for our contemporary setting. In many respects, considerations of the meaning of a liberal education are ineffective because it is a collapsed discourse.
Within the host department (Education) the Ourstory framework already anchors a significant proportion of the Northern Plains Transition to Teaching (NPTT) program’s conceptual framework. Our graduate students are nearly unanimous in praising its role in promoting discussions on curriculum development, thematic integration of units and lessons, and instructional strategies intended to get at the deep semantic structure of their respective disciplines. NPTT students currently produce an “exemplary unit” based on the Ourstory concept, but this proposal will create the infrastructure to allow us to expand those units into full-blown capstone projects for their masters degrees. In their own lives, this will increase the integration of learning, discovery, and engagement. And the projects they produce will be entered into the Ourstory web site as teachable units, available to teachers anywhere. This will serve the university’s outreach commitment by making useful knowledge available. Learning, Discovery, and Engagement are simultaneously promoted by the very nature of this project, especially when students from different disciplines are actively engaged in sharing their work within the context of the Ourstory framework. And that engagement creates a working model to increase productive work across disciplines.
With time and resources committed to the further development of the Ourstory framework and its associated resources, an aspiration to turn this project into a general undergraduate course of intellectual history and educational empowerment can be realized. It has already been used, ten years ago, as a heuristic in the educational psychology courses I taught. And it has been utilized in public schools, even down to the level of sixth grade social studies in local schools in Bozeman. Because of the inherently interdisciplinary nature of Ourstory, and because of its foundational strategies in getting at the underlying mechanisms of intellectual culture, this will almost certainly have far reaching effects on the capacity of undergraduates to understand how intellectual culture works, and to realize the creative opportunities both within and across disciplinary boundaries.
Funding Type: One-Time Only Funding Base (3-yr Recurring) Funding
  FY13 FY14 FY15 Base ($) OTO Startup ($)   FTE;
Salaries 8000  12000           
Benefits 2560  3840           
Materials & Supplies              
Contracted Services 3000  2000           
Other Operations              
TOTAL 13560  17840     
Please comment, if necessary, regarding cost and requirements.

The costs are pretty straightforward.  Salary will support the PI in performing most of these goals, and may provide for some targeted inclusion in this project from other NPTT personnel if need be. 

The contracted services are primarily going to fund the web design, and some social media networking and web optimization costs to make sure this resource begins to find an audience outside of the program's participants.   

Describe the Proposal

            The “Ourstory” project provides for a way of thinking about the way we teach academic subjects in public schools.  It arose initially from the observation that subject matter taught in schools suffers from its reductionism, its ahistorical presentation, an absence of aesthetic emphasis, and its isolation from other disciplines and from the whole of intellectual culture, both current and historical.  It arose, also, from a longing to see those intellectual disciplines represented through the eyes and the experiences of those who love them most. 

             The central purpose in writing this proposal is to carve out time to consolidate and refine the Ourstory project from the various papers and resources that currently are used to represent it, and to produce a single synoptic work that represents it clearly, concisely, and across all main discipline areas more evenly.   It needs a thorough synthesis, but it also needs its references and its underlying scholarship updated.  The specific features of this request are the following goals:  

            Goal 1.  Update the theoretical underpinnings in light of scholarship I have done over the past two years in cognitive archaeology and cultural archaeology, and in light of cognitive science, fMRI based brain science, and in the traditions of liberal education. 

            Goal 2.   Update and revise the outline and inventory of recommended “primary transformative events” and make a better effort to represent thematic and conceptual connections between them. 

            Goal 3.  Update and expand the inventory of resources (books, journals, web sites, etc) recommended to get students in each disciplinary area started on studying the development of their field and in understanding how key advances have been made. 

             Goal 4.  Review and revise the design of lesson and unit planning protocols specific to teaching of cultural-historical events, and to do so in light of the new Common Core State Standards that have emerged at the national level for K-12 education. 

            Goal 5.  With those things accomplished, the NPTT program will acquire a much needed revision of a key resource.  These revisions then will have established most of the guidelines for students to proceed with a new variant of the capstone project for the M.Ed.  I will need to create stand-alone guidelines for those capstone projects, cross-referenced to the revised Ourstory materials which will be used in the program’s first course.   

             Goal 6.  Develop a website to host exemplary units based on the Ourstory project.  The goal is to identify approximated five to six hundred key transformative events and to begin the task of orchestrating development of discrete resources for teaching each of those events.  This will also allow us to generate a coherent 'research program' to orchestrate and focus the create energies of hundreds of graduate students. 

            Goal 7.  As these various aspects of the project come together, I want to develop and pilot an undergraduate course modeled after the Ourstory project.  It would be an elective, and probably a core course.  It would be open to any MSU student and may help to provide yet another option for the large numbers of students currently enrolling at MSU.  Because it offers an overview of intellectual culture and its development, we may think of it as a "core within the core."

Describe the broader impacts and benefits of this proposal

            The immediate impacts of this proposal will be to improve a very successful graduate program, which in recent years has attracted roughly 80 new admissions per year, to create a mechanism for sharing student and faculty produced curricular resources, and to perhaps offer an interesting course to MSU undergraduates. 

            Beyond NPTT, this body of scholarship holds a potential for four additional venues of deployment. A) the website, which makes the collection of Ourstory-based curricular materials available to anyone; B) as a basis for professional development of teachers in alignment with the disciplinary emphasis of the new Common Core State Standards that are replacing No Child Left Behind as the centerpiece of national/federal educational reform; C) as the basis of one or more undergraduate courses that would function as a “core within the core” at MSU and could serve to help orient undergraduates to the architecture of knowledge and to the relationships between human cognition, intellectual culture, cultural history, and the ‘tools for the mind’ that are featured within the Ourstory concept; and D) a potential for attracting grant funding for the capacity to frame interdisciplinary curriculum developments ( NSF interest in STEM teaching for example; or enrichment offerings for professional development related to K-12's new Common Core initiatives). 


Implementation Plan



Time Frame

Project phases to begin:


Spring 2013

  1. Update the theoretical underpinnings;
  2. Update and revise the outline and inventory of recommended “primary transformative events”
  3. Update and expand the inventory of resources



Summer 2013

  1. Redesign of lesson and unit planning protocols;
  2. Align Ourstory to the Common Core State Standards;
  3. Create guidelines for NPTT M.Ed capstone projects
  4. Outline and begin development of website for hosting Ourstory resources.



Fall 2013

  1. Implement revised materials and processes in NPTT
  2. Create and implement surveys and collect performance data around their use.
  3. Survey instructors to guide revision of materials
  4. Complete development of web site 


Spring 2014



  1. Continue all of the above processes and incorporate student participation into those processes where appropriate. 
  2. Seek additional funding to further development of web site for deposition of all Ourstory materials
  3. Design undergraduate course based on Ourstory materials, and seek input and/or approval to pilot it.


Fall 2014


  1. Analyze results of the project, and continue working on all portions that are viable.  If not viable, revert to earlier materials and processes. 


Assessment Plan

Assessing Revisions to Ourstory.  To assess the effectiveness of the redesign of Ourstory materials and resources, the objectives of the redesign effort will be used as the basis of a survey instrument.  NPTT student responses will be analyzed to determine where and to what extent those objectives have been met.  Instructors who teach the two courses where Ourstory is most centrally featured will also be surveyed for their assessment of those changes. 

 Assessing the Web Site.  It will take time to begin populating the web site with completed units, but we will survey users of the web site and its resources to at least determine whether it is being seen as a potentially useful resource, and to gather suggestions on how to make it most effective and helpful. 

 Assessing the Undergraduate Course.  In addition to the Knapp surveys that are standard for all courses, one of more supplemental surveys will be conducted of students to determine how well the objectives of the course are being met.  The surveys from the first offering will be considered as formative; the surveys from the second offering will be considered summative and a judgment on whether the course should be promoted or terminated. 

If assessed objectives are not met in the timeframe outlined what is the plan to sunset this proposal?


These objectives will be met, and I am confident that they will be met within the timeline presented above.  If the timeline stretches out beyond what is being funded here then NPTT will assume any further costs.  If the intended refinements to the Ourstory project fail to live up to expectations, the fallback plan does not require cancellation of the program but reversion back to existing materials and processes.  That, too, is unlikely.  The web site will not be complicated to maintain, or contribute to, but whether it ‘takes off’ as a resource worldwide remains to be seen.  We see it as a high potential but low risk venture.  Lastly, if the undergraduate course offering envisioned here cannot be realized, or if it is realized but fails to attract student interest, then the course will be discontinue.  I have spoken to Diane Donnelly in University Studies about this idea several times and she has predicted that it will be successful. 

Department Head: Jayne Downey (
Dean/Director: Carl Fox (
Executive/VP: Martha Potvin (