The Art of Teaching – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

The Art of Teaching

A team of faculty and staff from the Colleges recently presented on alternative methods for teaching at a national conference on learning. Assistant Professors of Psychology Jamie Bodenlos, Portia Dyrenforth, Bernard Gee and Julie Kingery, along with Assistant Director for the Center for Teaching and Learning Ruth Shields and Assistant Professor of Economics Elizabeth Ramey spent several days in Bethesda, Md., where they attended the Lilly Conference on College and University Teaching and also learned new methods to bring to their classrooms.

The national conference assembles educators from across disciplines to present on and learn about strategies for classroom advances in teaching and learning. This year’s theme focused on “Evidence-Based Learning and Teaching,” which reflects the philosophy that teaching and learning should be based on scholarly activity.

Bodenlos, Gee and Ramey presented “There is no ‘I’ in Team-Based Learning: A Faculty Collaboration,” in which they discussed their inaugural approach to team-based learning at a liberal arts college.

“This is a powerful technique that challenges students to work together and apply knowledge in an engaging and enriching manner. Our presentation was unique because the three of us formed our own ‘faculty team’ to more effectively employ team-based learning in each of our classes,” Gee said.

The results, they said, included positive student response, and enhanced preparedness for certain activities. The professors also discussed the importance of the collaborative process they developed with one another outside of the classroom.

Dyrenforth and Shields presented a poster on the Teaching Fellows program. The Teaching Fellows program at HWS was designed to create a learning environment founded in the creation of a culture and community of engaged, active learning. Teaching Fellows are students who have displayed excellence in their particular field of study, and work with other students for learning support in order to create a supportive, inclusive educational environment on campus. Through this presentation, Dyrenforth and Shields found quite a bit of excitement about the way the program is structured and how it benefits both students and faculty.

Kingery presented a paper titled, “Active Learning in a Child Psychology Course: Understanding Play by Visiting a Children’s Museum” in which she described an active learning experience that involved a class trip to the Strong Museum of Play for her developmental psychology students. She discussed the details of the museum experience and related assignments, as well as the impact that this experience had on her students’ learning about the developmental benefits of play. Kingery also attended sessions on topics such as how to make lectures more interactive, engaging students in academic writing, motivating students to accomplish challenging tasks, and integrating small group activities into the classroom.

“The sessions themselves were very interactive, as presenters often asked participants to work in small groups or complete other tasks to ‘practice’ the pedagogical skills that were being described. It was refreshing to meet and exchange ideas with individuals from a variety of different institutions and disciplines,” Kingery said.

Others agreed. “I thoroughly enjoyed the interactions among other educators from many different backgrounds. The meeting gave me many new ideas and inspiration to incorporate into my own teaching,” said Gee. 

“The conference turned out to be a wonderful experience. It was the first time I have attended a conference focused specifically on pedagogy and I feel like I got some great ideas that I will use next semester,” said Dyrenforth.