An event to be held Sept. 30 at the Illini Union that will highlight the role and accomplishments of teaching academies on campus and honor instructors for excellent teaching is part of a larger effort to explore pioneering teaching and learning methods at Illinois.
“Innovative Teaching at Illinois: A Forum for Faculty” provides an opportunity for faculty members to join cross-campus conversations on issues that teaching academies have been studying separately in their colleges. Stanley Ikenberry, president emeritus of the UI, will begin with a discussion of innovations by faculty members that led to systemic improvements.
The half-day event also will include breakout sessions during which campus teaching academies will host discussions about ongoing faculty innovations in areas that are ripe for similar improvements and share insights. The teaching academies – from the colleges of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Applied Health Sciences – will host a discussion, “Mentoring New Faculty Members.” “Connecting Classrooms With Field Learning/Experiential Learning” will be the topic of a discussion hosted by the teaching academies from the colleges of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences; Engineering; Law; and Veterinary Medicine.
Teaching academies are places for faculty members to share their wisdom on teaching and learning, to experiment and disseminate ideas about innovations and best practices, said Mary-Ann Winkelmes, campus coordinator for programs on teaching and learning and administrative provost fellow in the Office of the Provost. The academies also provide a collegial atmosphere for conversations about pedagogy.
“What’s important about the forum and the academies is that faculty members can share insights they’ve developed within their colleges and collaborate across colleges to explore common interests,” Winkelmes said. “At the same time, it’s very important for them to focus on what is discipline-specific and unique to the culture of each school or college. Looking ahead, there will be a balance between what they do individually and what they choose to do in a collaborative way.”
The forum is part of an effort to create a unifying vision of teaching and learning initiatives at Illinois that began last spring with the founding of the Campus Programs on Teaching and Learning, led by Winkelmes, who is advised by faculty members on the Campus Teaching and Learning Board.
Over the years, disparities in funding and priorities had created an environment on campus in which some colleges’ teaching academies were thriving, while other colleges did not have teaching academies, either because they had never created them or because their academies had dwindled or disbanded when funding was depleted.
Seven new college teaching academies have been created this fall, bringing the total number to 14 – one in each college or school. New academies include those in the colleges of Law, Media and Medicine, Winkelmes said.
Campus Programs on Teaching and Learning is implementing a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional research project on students’ learning called the Illinois Initiative on Transparency in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. The Transparency Initiative, which began this semester, provides education-research expertise and administrative support for faculty member to research teaching and learning practices in their own courses while connecting their findings with those of comparable courses at institutions across the country. It also engages teachers and their students in dialogues about the processes of teaching and learning.
The premise of the study is that students learn more and retain knowledge longer when they understand how and why they are learning content in particular ways by way of “transparent” courses that include an explicit focus on their learning processes and how they can increase their capacity to master disciplinary content. Transparent courses are expected to increase students’ critical thinking skills and their abilities to monitor and take responsibility for their own learning while also increasing faculty members’ satisfaction and effectiveness. Ultimately, the transparency initiative will identify teaching and learning practices that most efficiently and most effectively enhance students’ learning and their capacity to continue learning.
After a small trial at the University of Chicago during the spring 2009 semester, the initiative was implemented at the start of the fall semester here with six courses of various sizes and disciplines and about 1,500 students.
Beginning with the spring 2010 semester, more courses will be added at Illinois and at other universities over the next five years.
“Rigorous research on students’ learning requires a time commitment that faculty outside the field of education, neuroscience or psychology often can’t afford,” Winkelmes said. “The transparency initiative aims to remove those barriers by providing education research expertise, statistical analysis, administrative support and an Institutional Research Board approved format. Faculty members can choose different ways of coordinating their research with a large national body of data that we’ll be generating and compare their findings with results from similar students, comparable courses and other faculty at a variety of colleges and universities. Any faculty member who participates will be able to find out what small changes they can make to their teaching for the biggest impact on students’ learning.”
UI TEACHING ACADEMIES
- College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences Academy of Teaching Excellence
- College of Applied Health Sciences
- College of Business
- College of Education
- College of Engineering: Academy for Excellence in Engineering Education
- College of Fine and Applied Arts
- College of Law
- College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
- College of Media
- College of Medicine
- College of Veterinary Medicine
- Graduate School of Library and Information Science and University Library
- School of Labor and Employment Relations
- School of Social Work
“Innovative Teaching at Illinois: A Forum for Faculty”
9 a.m.-noon Sept. 30
To register, send an e-mail with the subject “register.” Include your name, department affiliation and contact information in the body.