By Brian Schmidt
This last semester, three separate groups of faculty members met on a regular basis to discuss and improve their instruction. Lary Duque coordinated a group that focused on the Learning Model process step of “Prepare.” Interest in this topic attracted a diverse group of faculty members to the meetings, including individuals from math, engineering, Spanish, history, sociology, and health science and education departments. Around a dozen faculty members met every other Friday afternoon.
A springboard for the initial discussions was the Prepare overview tool from the Learning and Teaching Website. In subsequent meetings, however, participants went much deeper, sharing their own challenges and practices. I visited with several members of this Learning Community at the end of the semester to ask them why they attended, and what they gained from the experience.
Matt Alba explained that the Learning Community gave him “the opportunity to share challenges, successes, new ideas and progress and in a friendly, small-group format with colleagues from around the university.” He further noted that it was more than a support group. “[It] gave us a chance not to commiserate, but to put our heads together to come up with practical solutions.”
Such practical solutions were a common topic of discussion. Danae Romrell commented, “I really enjoyed getting to discuss teaching strategies with other faculty from across campus. I found that they had a different perspective that helped me think of new things to try. For example, after a discussion in our learning community about the group exams that Kathy Cook uses in her nutrition courses, I decided to try them in one of my calculus classes. I had to modify a few things to make it fit with the content in my course, but it was very successful.”
Kathy Jo Cook pointed out that she also collected some useful instructional strategies. “For example, I liked Lary Duque's statements in his class outline, 'come prepared to discuss ....’ This helps the students to focus their preparation not only on learning information, but on how to use it. Another example is the use of Camtasia that Marie Parkinson shared. "I am using short segments of narrated PowerPoint using Camtasia to help students prepare for class.” (Editor’s note: Camtasia is a software program used to capture a PowerPoint presentation with audio narration, and post it to I-Learn.)
Helping students come better prepared is rarely easy, so a broad range of ideas was explored over the course of the semester. Lary Duque explained that the group talked about how to better direct student reading, how to follow-up on reading assignments (so students know their effort matters), how to hold students accountable with tests, and how to avoid lecturing on information students should have gleaned from their preparation.
Jeremy Slade, a new faculty member, pointed out that the Learning Community allowed him the opportunity to bounce ideas off of experienced faculty members and get valuable feedback on ideas for his class before implementing them. Danae Romrell added, “Sometimes it is easy to get busy and fall back on the teaching methods that I am used to. By attending the learning community I was more motivated to think about, plan, and implement new Learning Model techniques in my classes.”
The participants of the Learning Community studying preparation have chosen to continue their association through the winter semester. If you would like to participate, contact Lary Duque to get the meeting times and location. Likewise you can contact Lynda Hawkes to learn more about a Learning Community studying ‘Teach One Another' or Steve Hunsaker for the Learning Community studying ‘Ponder/Prove.' Other professional development opportunities such as teaching groups, brown bags, and Learning Model in Action Workshops will continue to be available each semester.
Currently rated 4.3 by 3 people
Wednesday, February 18, 2009 2:07 PM
I am a little slow reading some of the things being made avaiable to us right now because there is so much. However, I finally got to this one and feel it strenthens the idea that more heads are better than one. I felt the article was the Learning Model only in writing instead of oral expression. Good example!