Teaching Project Discussion

I had the opportunity for an excellent discussion with a group of about 20 faculty today who are participating in the University Teaching project:

Many teaching programs at other schools follow what might be called the “expert model,” where purported pedagogical specialists dispense their wisdom to a passive audience of faculty. Our Teaching Project follows what we call the “collegial model,” where faculty learn from each other’s insights and experience in the classroom, often working in the same kind of flexible small-group settings that foster student learning. In short, the University Teaching Project models good teaching practices at the same time that it institutionalizes a dialogue on good teaching practices across campus.

I used the time to focus on two key questions that I’m wrestling with:

  1. To what extent do should William and Mary be trying to understand and respond to the changes in student learning preferences of the “Net Generation”.
  2. To what extent should the College be paying attention to some of the technological opportunities that could be made available by the move from a instructional paradigm to a learning paradigm.

The discussion was very far-ranging, but I was taken with how thoughtful most everyone was about the best ways to teach within their disciplines. My notes are on my mediawiki

4 thoughts on “Teaching Project Discussion”

  1. Glad to hear your presentation generated a substantive, thoughtful discussion. Not surprising–your notes on your wiki are an impressively concise intro to some of the generational differences between our young students and the rest of us.

    It seems like one insight we have to offer students about technology is the ability to critically reflect upon it. As you say, they’ve never lived in a world without it. I wonder if it’s something that they take for granted rather than interrogating its value vis-a-vis other forms of communication (like talking face-to-face around a table). If they consider email old fashioned, perhaps they do. Have they opted for one tool over another because it really offers them something uniquely valuable?

  2. This seems like a great pannel and step in the right direction. Over the last year of talking with a diverse range of faculty, I have found more often than not, that the gap is growing larger between the majority of professors and their students. While the student body is growing more and more in tune with every subtle technological advance, the professors are still gaining understanding of tools such as blackboard and shared hard drives.

    On the other hand, the student body is also uniquely divided into both technological extremes. Some students use their computers for the most basic of functions and have no intention of being abreast with evolving technology, while others are constantly scrouring the net for the next new development.

    Email is a standard way of communicating and has, in my personal experience, turned the corner and become attractive to students once again. Other forms of communication and tracking social networks such as blogging, facebook communities, etc. are rampant among younger and younger students and will soon become the norm as Instant Messanger did so many years ago.

    To note a different insight, I have surprisingly found that very few students actually collaborate regarding academic or professional endeavors, but rather use these tools as a means for social communication. So is there a way to use the tools that they already use for social networking for more educational ventures?

  3. Bay,

    Thanks for your thoughtful response. I had another discussion with the new faculty arriving at William and Mary this afternoon. I was able to start the discussion with the story about how useful this social software can be. I blogged and posted the notes from my presentation 5:00 yesterday afternoon, and by 9 the next morning I had your comments. When I met with the faculty at 1:00, I was able to cite your post as evidence to bolster my argument that we could connect better with students if we understood their use of technology better. You raise an additional important question for all of us: why is it that students don’t make a better connection between their social tools and their academic work.

  4. Another great post, Gene. Thanks for sharing all this.

    I remain stubbornly convinced that faculty will respond most fully to these opportunities when they are situated within disciplines. That’s not to say that interdisciplinary studies aren’t important. They’re vital, in my view. But it is to say that academics who have devoted their lives to a course of study within a focused intellectual framework are more likely to accept these technologies as potentially useful and rigorous when they can see instances of these good things within a context they already value.

    Most days I think it’s all about intellectual passion. Naive, maybe. Home truth? I think so. The thing that drives intense communication is shared passion. We can perform a vital role in detecting, shaping, and awakening shared passions. That’s really why I got into the field, I think.

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