When CTL Director Susan Pliner sent out a call to professors, asking them if they’d like to attend a conference that would teach them some of the latest, most innovative approaches to teaching, they jumped at the opportunity. Earlier this semester, Pliner and seven faculty members left campus to attend the Lilly Conference on College and University Teaching in Traverse City, Mich. The HWS faculty attendees included Professor of Art Patricia Mathews, Associate Professor of Art Stan Mathews, Assistant Professor of Biology Meghan Brown, Assistant Professor of English Laurence Erussard, Assistant Professor of Economics Feisal Khan, Associate Professor of Economics Jo Beth Mertens and Instructor of Mathematics/Computer Science Jaime Barrera.
The conference, titled Millennial Learning: Teaching in the 21st Century, brought hundreds of professors together from colleges and universities of all types from across the country for a day of pre-conference workshops and presentations and two days of workshops all focused on how to bring into the classroom new technology, such as Blackboard or Youtube, or new techniques, such as the use of art or the incorporation of critical thinking.
“After the faculty members were accepted, we all met for lunch a week before,” says Pliner. “We had a conversation all about teaching and learning. They had all thought about the topic in their discipline but had never come together and had a direct conversation about it.”
“Part of what came out of the conversation was that each of the faculty members had different reasons for wanting to attend, but all of them wanted to think and learn more about teaching and learning,” said Pliner. “My goal was to meet a couple of times while there at the conference.”
Erussard described the conference as, “an occasion to discover new pedagogical strategies and to discuss them as a group. We learned about aspects of teaching that we barely would have suspected, such as the brain functions during memorization, for instance.”
When they arrived at the conference, the group surpassed Pliners expectations. “We ate every meal together, discussing what each person was learning and ideas they had for integrating the new knowledge into the HWS classroom,” Pliner said. “Our group was so interestingly different: we had two economists, a mathematician, two professors from the art department…it was interesting to see the reaction of each person to what they were learning,” said Erussard.
“Aside from the conference itself, it provided an opportunity for a diverse group of faculty from HWS to spend time together talking about teaching in a stimulating environment where we were learning new things and discovering what others do,” Mertens said after the conference.
At the conference, Erussard and Brown offered a workshop, titled Using Learning Communities to Enhance Undergraduate Learning, based on the learning community model at HWS. “All the feedback we received was positive; the experience allowed us to get questions from professors attending the workshop, many of whom gave us knew views on the use of learning communities.”
The seven faculty members who attended the conference presented at the Friday Faculty Lunch the following Friday. “Collectively, they set up a powerpoint presentation as well as a quiz, using techniques and strategies they’d learned at the conference. The faculty members also spoke to their colleagues about active learning at the lunch.”
Ready to enact what they’d learned, many of the seven faculty members started making changes the day after the conference on Monday morning. “In my morning intro architecture studio, I implemented several of the techniques I’d learned, specifically, group formation and reiterative concept formation in a community of inquiry during a group design critique,” Stan Mathews said. “Normally, I’d get up in front of the students and critique their work for three hours. This time, I guided them through the process. They conducted their own critique, and the results were astonishing. They came up with most of the concepts and comments I would have made on their own.”
“The class was energized and extremely effective – they all reported having learned a great deal in a short time,” Mathews said.
The faculty members attended the conference thanks to the sponsorship of CTL and the Provost’s Office.