Professor, teach thyself.
That message will provide the foundation for a series of workshops being led by 2013-14 Distinguished Teacher-Scholar Amy Woods and sponsored by the Office of the Provost and the new Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning.
The five-workshop series, “Inquiry in the College Classroom: A Journey Toward Scholarly Teaching,” runs from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesdays beginning Sept. 25. (See schedule below.)
“Faculty members are trained really well in conducting research, but they don’t always think about applying it to their teaching,” said Woods, who is a professor of kinesiology and community health. “It’s just a matter of thinking about the class you teach and deciding you want to examine it in a scholarly way. Teaching needs to be based on more than hunches.”
The workshops will ask participants to develop a research question based on a specific teaching challenge they face, and provide them data-collection techniques and methods that can be employed for analyzing it.
“It’s sort of a luxury to take the time to do it,” she said, “but the payoff in your classroom and the way you feel about your teaching can be huge. It’s not about ‘busy, happy, good,’ – you need to be working toward some kind of goal and be purposeful.”
Woods said there are numerous proven techniques to improve the quality of classroom discussion and stimulate more of it, as well as ways to identify the cues students give when they don’t understand a concept.
One way to improve is to team with colleagues to critique the classroom experience and be a “critical friend” with each other’s approach she said.
“I think we can really help each other,” she said. “You don’t do research in isolation and you shouldn’t teach that way either.”
Woods’ specialty is researching the career cycles of elementary and secondary physical education teachers; her dissertation comprised case studies of beginning teachers as she followed them for 25 years.
She taught high school P.E. for two years before earning her Ph.D. at the University of South Carolina. Now she teachers prospective teachers, including master’s and doctoral students.
“The attrition rate for teachers is not very encouraging and it’s understandable why teachers don’t always stay,” she said. “There are just too many challenges and it gets to be overwhelming. But among the teachers I have studied, looking at the ones who stay is very valuable; they don’t get burned out. It’s almost like they become these teaching machines.”
Workshop participants will be given the opportunity to share their workshop findings with the campus.
Woods said each participant will be asked to create an electronic portfolio of their work that will be made accessible through publish.illinois.edu and may include student interviews and classroom survey results.
She said she hopes to learn from as well as share with workshop participants by publishing her own research findings from the data she collects as facilitator.
“You have to always want to find ways to improve your teaching,” she said. “The students pay well to come here – they want to be challenged and they want you to bring new ideas and innovation.”
Inquiry in the College Classroom: A Journey Toward Scholarly Teaching
- Sept. 25: “Introduction to Scholarly Teaching and Classroom Action Research: Asking Questions About Your Teaching is a Good Thing.”
- Oct. 9: “Defining an Inquiry Hypothesis: What Question Do You Want to Explore?”
- Oct. 23: “Developing an Investigative Plan: What Are the Steps in Your Study?”
- Nov. 6: “Using Qualitative and/Quantitative Data: Where Can You Find Key Data?”
- Nov. 13: “The Ethical and Legal Aspects of CAR: How to Obtain Institutional Approval and Student Consent”
All workshops are from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. in Room 428 Armory. More information is online.