STILLPOINT Archive: last updated 04/12/2016

A Catalog of Opportunities

by Michael Hildebrandt, Director, The Center for Teaching Excellence

The Center for Teaching Excellence collaborates with Gordon faculty to support innovative classroom teaching, and digital resources to provide students a catalog of opportunities for 21st century learning. Through consultations, workshops drawn from current educational research on teaching, and a weekly blog, the CTE promotes best practices for Gordon’s academic program. Here are some examples of how that plays out “on the ground.”

Research indicates that peer learning can increase student engagement and achievement, so this spring Dr. Karl-Dieter Crisman (mathematics) had his students work in small groups to complete problem sets. Right away he noticed more discussion during class, and students were more engaged as the class later reviewed the correct answers to the problem sets. 

Dr. Crisman also worked with the Center for Teaching Excellence last fall to pilot a “virtual classroom” so he could teach calculus while his students were on campus and he was in South Africa. He led the class “live” from overseas; a classroom projector in a Gordon classroom enabled students to view his lectures and interact with him in real time. When they formed small groups, students passed around an iPad so Dr. Crisman could engage with each group as needed.

Taking notes on a laptop seems like a breeze, but it often leads students to take overly copious notes—nearly everything that the instructor says. Research indicates that this impairs their comprehension and retention. Consequently, last fall Dr. Jennifer Hevelone-Harper appointed two students during each session of her introductory history class to be official note-takers who create a “transcript-like” set of notes, shared later with their classmates. This freed others to attend to the lecture more globally. She observed positive outcomes, so this spring she implemented the practice in her upper level courses.

Dr. Jennifer Noseworthy (biology) has been working with the Center for Teaching Excellence to “flip the classroom” for Gordon’s Core science course, The Scientific Enterprise. Rather than begin with a lecture and then assign homework, Dr. Noseworthy and other “TSE” teachers now put “pre-learning assignments” online for students to complete before class. This leverages inquiry-based and collaborative learning: in class, students work in groups exploring specific topics and concepts, have questions answered in clarifying lectures, and present their critical thinking about scientific concepts such as climate change and green energy. Dr. Noseworthy and the Center for Teaching Excellence have applied for a National Science Foundation grant to investigate the impact of such strategies on students’ grasp of science and scientific concepts.