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Faculty session connects theory, practice

By : Katie Ellis

Faculty, teaching staff and graduate students interested in learning how to connect teaching theory and practice — with the goal of improving their teaching — gathered at the University Downtown Center for the 11th annual Institute for Student-Centered Learning on May 18-19.

More than 65 people took part in the discussions and activities, organized by the Center for Learning and Teaching (CLT). Following an exercise to identify different learning theories moderated by Kim Jaussi, associate professor in the School of Management, participants heard from colleagues and students about what works for them in the classroom.

Sharon Holmes, associate professor and director of the master’s program in student affairs, noted that she first must learn “who the students are so they will have a sense of themselves as learners.” She uses tools such as the Myers-Briggs type indicator assessment to determine how students interact with others.

“Once I lay that foundation, I do a number of group projects, and from those inventories I have a sense of who they are as individuals and learners,” she said. “I put students together based on personality type and background and they come up with the best solutions.”

Holmes said this practice allows students to work in a collaborative setting, which they’ll need to do throughout their lives and careers.

Kathryn Kear, assistant professor in the School of Education, works with adult students and uses a lot of motivation, she said, giving students a choice of assignments and assessments.

“I teach people how to teach people to read,” she said. “There is no one way to teach someone how to read, so I use open assignments like the book-buddy assignment. My students choose a child to work with, the strategies they want to try and then they reflect on them. By having it so open, they can be teaching a 10th-grader or a 3-year-old.

“It’s what they learn along the way and develop as they go that’s important to me,” she added.

Elizabeth Anderson, a lecturer in the School of Education and member of the ISCL steering committee, said there can also be a misconception that lecturing is not a good strategy, but it depends on whether students need that information to move forward.

“Lecturing can be done in a strategic manner to build off of what they know,” she said. “And they can be active with it.”

As part of a panel discussion on the first day, ISCL continued its tradition of having current students share their perspectives on what works in the classroom. Student panelists spoke of the benefits of clear objectives, the ability to apply what they’re learning to real-world problems and the importance of making connections with fellow students and their teachers.

“One of the best experiences I’ve had is when the teacher takes the time to get to know me and is out there with us,” said Naomi Ulrich, an environmental studies major.
“It’s really important that the professor is engaged and engaging,” said Anntoinette Bryan ’09. “I don’t want to feel like they have to be here. I want to know they’re here because they want to teach us something and take an active role.”

ISCL participants also looked at different learning theories in action, assessment issues and homework. With representation from all schools across the university, ISCL leaders emphasized the value of continued discussion on teaching among the community of educators at Binghamton.

“We share our research successes and challenges,” said Wayne Jones, professor of chemistry and director of the CLT.  “We should do the same with our classroom and curriculum efforts.”

Faculty interested in participating in future ISCL activities can look forward to a kick-off luncheon for ISCL activities early in the fall semester.

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Last Updated: 10/14/08