By Ryan Nielson
The first of what will hopefully be a long series of Faculty Conferences took place just prior to the beginning of fall term. The Faculty Development Committee (FDC) organized the event, with the generous support of the Academic Office. The FDC initially planned for perhaps seventy or eighty attendees. However, nearly two hundred and eighty (280) faculty members were in attendance at some point during the day. Once sessions were underway, the biggest challenge was usually finding a seat.
The conference began with a keynote address by Brother John Ivers, Dean of the College of Languages and Letters. Dean Ivers schooled attendees in his scholarly observations about the state of teaching in our culture. His observations were gleaned from academic literature, were seasoned with his own personal observations and garnished with plentiful humor. He modeled the art of the delivery, which he argued should still be studied and practiced.
Brother Ivers' address set a clear tone of introspection for the sessions which followed. In these sessions, faculty members who had responded to the call for papers shared their ideas and experiences. These ranged from the big ideas that change courses from the roots through small ideas that add flavor to a class or a single activity.
Following the keynote address, thirty separate sessions were offered with some thirty-three presenters. Several themes emerged in the topics presented. These themes ranged from using library resources and making technology work in the classroom, to how publishing faculty benefit their students. Some presenters shared insights for better understanding our students.
Participants could find talks on best strategies & practices, ranging from computer models to case studies and inquiry. A number of presenters spoke on how learning occurs in a particular discipline. They also made suggestions about what this can teach us about learning generally.
At least two sessions explained how Harvard Teaching Groups worked for coordinating many instructors teaching the same course. Recent assignments and needs with Foundations courses generated a lot of interest in these presentations. The sessions showed how Teaching Teams coordinate the material to be presented across sections while preserving the strengths and personality of the instructors in the classroom.
These were very satisfying results for a first conference. The Faculty Development Committee began the project with the assumption that, collectively, faculty members from campus have as much or more to offer each other as any nationally known speaker. Based on the results of this first conference, that assumption seems fully justified. The FDC will sponsor a similar conference next year and expressed the hope that faculty members will seriously consider submitting a proposal for next year's presentations.
All faculty members, both those that attended the first conference and those who did not, are invited to give feedback about the faculty professional development conference by clicking on the following feedback link.
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