Research and Evaluation

CDF Research and Evaluation Overview

How can the real conditions of the classroom inform the implementation and design of campus curriculum initiatives? How do we design supports for faculty and students in ways that are adaptive, equity oriented, and foster anti-racism? 

The Creative Discovery Fellows (CDF) Program helps instructors incorporate creative assignments into UC Berkeley’s undergraduate social justice graduation requirement. The CDF Program supports faculty and students in utilizing digital design tools to deepen and enhance the academic experience and to explore new avenues for public dissemination of research and teaching centered on social issues. The mission of the program is to help Berkeley undergraduates push the boundaries of social justice, knowledge, and meaning-making while also becoming capable technology users.

An important and unique aspect of the program is that we have theorized about and investigated the necessary conditions to achieve the impacts we imagined, with iteration, experimentation, and adaptation as core principles of our program design. Our research focused on three overarching goals:

  • Support: Affirm and improve the multi-faceted support provided for instructors and students through the CDF Program

  • Potential: Demonstrate the powerful potential of integrating digital tools in service of social justice-oriented learning goals

  • Dissemination: Develop best practices and a program model for implementation and support of impactful creative work

Our research protocol was approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) and we hope it can support a broader campus conversation and scholarly agenda around effective equity-oriented teaching practices.

Research Highlights

By the Numbers

As of Fall 2020, the Creative Discovery Fellows Program has impacted a wide range of instructors, students, and departments:

  • More than 125 hours of course development support provided to faculty and graduate student instructors
  • More than 250 hours of student support provided
  • 27 courses supported to date
  • 1,750 students have received some training
  • 1,100 students have completed creative assignments stemming from CDF
  • 15 faculty program graduates

Notably, most faculty have implemented creative assignments in subsequent semesters and several have gone on to seek and receive funding from other sources to build on the work they began in the CDF program, including the Arts+Design Creative Discovery grant program, Berkeley Collegium, and the CTO Changemaker Innovation grant.

Student Impacts

  • Over 90% of students agreed that their creative project aligned with their own interests and motivations.
  • Nearly 90% of students reported that their creative projects allowed them to develop knowledge and skills that they can use after their course.
  • Nearly 90% of students also reported that the creative projects informed their understanding of the course content or theories.
  • 85% of students agreed that their creative projects allowed them to think about or use their prior experiences, backgrounds, or skills.
  • 83% of students reported that their creative project allowed them to (re)examine their prior assumptions, experiences, or expectations.
  • Nearly 80% of students reported that they thought their creative project would have an impact beyond the course.
  • Nearly 80% of students chose to use Adobe or other digital applications for their creative project.
  • Nearly 40% of students said that they planned to continue developing or using their Adobe or digital skills that they gained from their creative project.

Elements of Impactful Creative Work

Central to the CDF Program is understanding that impactful creative work is much more than student knowledge and skill acquisition. A significant aim of our research was to theorize critical elements and supports for this broader agenda, summarized in the graphic below.

Elements of creative work: intellectual growth, skills development, motivation, collectivity, storytelling, social impact, application (connections outside of class)
  • Intellectual growth: Impactful creative work necessitates that students engage in or develop a reflexive (circular) relationship between the course content/theories and the content/framing of the creative project. 
  • Skills development: Impactful creative work necessitates that students develop and/or leverage technical and creative design skills.
  • Motivation: Impactful creative projects allow students to experience learning and doing for emotional or intrinsic satisfaction instead of learning driven only by external validation (e.g. grades). 
  • Collectivity: Impactful creative projects give students the opportunity to do work that is in service of something or someone besides themselves. 
  • Storytelling: Impactful creative projects help expand the boundaries of who and where power comes from and tell a wide range of stories (e.g. challenge dominant storytelling). 
  • Application: Impactful creative projects provide opportunities for students to develop knowledge and skills that have use and application outside of the classroom/project. 
  • Impact: Impactful creative projects allow students the opportunity for their project to have an impact outside of the classroom (e.g. wider audience/use).

The Creative Discovery Fellows’ mission is to ensure our graduates are not only capable technology users, but also enable them to push the boundaries of social justice, knowledge, and meaning-making.

I'm seeing how the students are taking the concepts, using them in incredibly creative and contemporary ways and using them to engage the world. There's a way in which the bounds of the classroom start to stretch and the learning continues outside of the classroom and outside of the normal semester and those concepts become relevant in the world and the way you see things. That's my real goal.
Karina Palau, Comparative Literature
The final [creative] project greatly encouraged me to delve deeper into the material covered in lecture, particularly the Asian American unit of the class (unit 4). As an Asian American myself, I was able to create connections with my family history that I otherwise would not have.
Student, ESPM 50AC
[The CDF creative project] was probably the only creative project that I worked on that had a real impact on the community so that was really interesting. The experience I gained from doing this project can make me better at future projects, and I could potentially lead or help my group members that have not done one before.
Student, ESPM 50AC