Professional Development

Sarah at the Lilly Conference

Thursday, February 17, 2011 4:17 pm

On Feb. 4th-6th, I attended the Lilly Conference on College University and Teaching with the support of the Faculty Teaching Initiative Grant sponsored by the Teaching and Learning Center. All of the sessions that I attended were thought-provoking and broadened my view of teaching. Here are some highlights from the conference:

I attended the session on “Defining Effective Teaching”. Leslie Layne from Lynchburg College surveyed students and faculty on how they define “effective teaching.” Both students and faculty agreed that it is important that the teacher “knows the subject material well.” Faculty also ranked important being “organized and well-prepared for class” and “[outlining] expectations clearly and accurately.” Interestingly, students’ responses differed from faculty responses and ranked the following as also important: 1) “is accessible to students”; 2) “uses a variety of teaching methods or formats”; 3) “keeps students interested for the whole class period; makes the class enjoyable”.

I also attended a crowded session on “What Makes a Great Teacher? (or What Makes a Teacher Great?)” At the beginning of the session, Scott Simkins, Director of the Academy for Teaching and Learning at N.C. A&T State University, highlighted the “Professors (& Learners) of the Year,” which is an award given by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Simkins reported on empirical research on effective teaching, and here are some points that he raised from the professional literature:

  • Set big goals and high expectations for students
  • Pedagogical content knowledge
  • Work backwards from learning outcomes
  • Maintain focus on student learning
  • Frame questions that capture the students’ imaginations and challenge paradigms
  • Clarity
  • Organization
  • Build trust
  • Exploring not explaining

I attended the plenary session on “The Good, Bad, and Counterintuitive: How Evidence-Based Teaching Can Correct the Commonsense Approach to Instruction.” Ed Neal and Todd Zakrajsek from UNC-Chapel Hill presented a variety of evidence-based teaching principles:

  • Engage students’ preconceptions; students have preconceptions, but if their preconceptions aren’t engaged, then they may fail to learn new concepts.
  • Deep foundational knowledge that is retrieved; There are different levels of students’ learning: “I heard about it” –> “I understand it” –> “I can do it in my sleep”
  • Learners must be taught to take a metacognitive approach.

I’m always interested in attending sessions on science teaching, and I also learned about the Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College and the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science. It was also great catching up with other librarians from UNCG at the conference. I am still in the process of reflecting on all of the sessions that I attended, and I have collected bibliographies and articles on teaching if anyone is interested in reading them.

NCLA Library Instruction 2.0

Sunday, November 23, 2008 5:59 pm

On Monday and Tuesday I participated in the NCLA Library Instruction 2.0 Conference with Roz, Susan, and Giz. Roz, Susan, and I gave a panel presentation on Monday on the 2.0 techniques we teach with at ZSR.

We must be onto something at ZSR, because after the presentation I heard from several other librarians that they thought WFU must be a wonderful place to work and they were impressed with what we’re doing instructionally.

Roz, Giz, and I gave a workshop on Tuesday on using Google Docs, Reader, and Sites in teaching and other library work. It was a long session, but people appeared to stay engaged and the content was new to a lot of the audience.

Unfortunately, between the presentations, and teaching obligations back at ZSR, I didn’t attend many other sessions. I did get to hear Debra Gilchrist’s keynote, though. If you’re interested in my notes, you can find them in my blog.

Innovation in Instruction

Friday, August 22, 2008 11:28 am

Yesterday I attended Elon University’s 5th Innovation in Instruction Conference. I’ve attended almost all of them, and each year they get better. This year’s keynote should make it clear how impressive the event has become. Michael Wesch, of The Machine in Us(ing) Us, Information R/evolution, and A Vision of Students Today fame, was the keynote speaker and was one of the most interesting and provokative speakers I’ve heard in some time. The drive alone was worth hearing this talk. My notes, in detail, are here.

I also was able to give a few talks. My first one was “Learning From the Context” and I think we had at least 70 people in the room. It was a really nice crowd and I got positive feedback from several people:

I gave another talk with Jolie Tingen on convergence literacies. We had a smaller crowd, but we had some really good discussions:

The final session I attended was on “Teaching the Futures” and was largely about integrating futurist thinking into courses. My notes are here.

Innovations in Instruction is a great, and free, opportunity for those who are interested in effective and innovative teaching. It’s a crazy time of year, but I’m glad that they have it when they do. Reaching professors and instructors as they’re just getting ready to gear up for the fall is prime time for people who are looking to do something a little bit different this year. And the content and enthusiasm of the presenters was just the inspiration I needed to get energized for this coming semester.

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