Investing in Teaching
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Aug. 31, 2011
Investing in Teaching
Trinity faculty organize The Collaborative for Learning and Teaching to share pedagogic techniques and learn new strategies to engage students.
Trinity faculty members visit the new Collaborative for Learning and Teaching in the Coates Library
At the end of the first week of classes for the fall 2011 semester, Trinity University faculty gathered for a celebration in the Coates Library that included food, drink, and plastic hard hats. The reason for the festive event was the opening of a recently renovated space that will ultimately benefit the education to all students at Trinity: The Collaborative for Learning and Teaching.
The Collaborative, located on the northwest corner on the 3rd floor of the Coates Library, provides a venue where professors can learn new strategies in pedagogy and share teaching techniques that successfully engage students in the classroom. The space features a room with data ports, a projector, and a sizable whiteboard that can be configured for both large and small workshops. It also includes an area where faculty can meet in informal groups to talk about teaching or just sit and read material on pedagogy from a library housed inside the facility.
Along with the physical space, the Collaborative will offer presentations by experts in the field of pedagogy. A search is underway for a director who will help organize programming and act as a resource for professors.
Work on establishing the Collaborative began late last year, with the creation of a faculty committee led by Diane Persellin, professor of music, and Barbara MacAlpine, associate professor in the library.
|Diane Persellin, professor of music (left), and Barbara MacAlpine, associate professor in the library, co-chaired the faculty committee that oversaw the creation of the Collaborative.|
"People are excited about the Collaborative," said Persellin. "We had a series of lunches over the summer and asked faculty for their input and asked them what they wanted to see in a learning and teaching center and they told us."
Ben Surpless, assistant professor of geoscience and chair of a subcommittee on developing the space, said the idea for the collaborative comes from the faculty's serious commitment to teaching. "I might get great evaluations from the students, but I know I can do better," he said. "The easiest thing to do is to stand in front of the classroom and lecture, but study after study shows that if a student is not actively engaged in what you are saying, they are not learning as they should."
Among the concerns professors face are the different ways to relate to students in both small and large class sizes, how to involve students who may not be as familiar with a subject as some classmates, and what types of technology add to a student's learning ability.
"If you talk to any faculty member who has taught more than five years, they will tell you students change," said Surpless. "They are thinking potentially about a lot more things than I was when I was a student."
MacAlpine thinks that, although the Collaborative is in the Coates Library, faculty will be as engaged in learning as their students will be in the classroom. "I actually hope it won't be too quiet. I think that if people are excited and their voices are a little bit louder, that's great. We really want people to be excited about their teaching and sometimes that sharing brings up the volume."
The Collaborative officially opens on Tuesday, Oct. 11, with a lecture by Michael Reder, director of the Joy Shechtman Mankoff Center for Teaching & Learning at Connecticut College.
Funding for the Collaborative was provided by a $5 million technology grant given by the AT&T Foundation during Dream. Aspire. Achieve. The Campaign for Trinity University, which successfully concluded in 2009. The grant had previously supported:
- The renovation and installation of new equipment in the AT&T Center for Learning and Technology in the Coates Library.
- The conversion of KRTU-FM into a high definition digital facility.
- The renovation of the communication department's television studios to a high definition broadcast-ready facility.
In addition, the grant supported the creation of an information commons area in the main floor of the Coates Library and funded the installation of new equipment in technology classrooms across campus.