together with their Mentors:
Each paragraph indicates a comments from an individual Fellow. Comments are organized into the following categories:
NB: Fellows were told that we expect to learn the following information from their reports:
I had initially been nervous about being the only person from Arts and Sciences (with the exception of one natural scientist) in the group. But this turned out to be wonderful. I was intrigued to learn more about the expectations, concerns, and institutional cultures of different disciplines and departments. I also felt like I was getting to know some of the people who will and should be leading figures in their departments, schools, and the University in the years ahead. This was apparent from early on during the retreat: I knew then that this would be an interesting group to spend time with in the coming year. I was never disappointed.
I learned a tremendous amount from listening to the other fellows and mentors. I really enjoyed hearing about research and teaching from their perspective. I found a lot of common solutions (or at least, common problems) across the disciplines and it was so refreshing to be with people from other departments!
I was very
happy with our group. I think that the diversity across disciplines was
important. If I had a group of [people in my discipline] together talking
about teaching, I am sure that we would not have covered the breadth of
ideas and approaches that came out in our discussions. Moreover, it was
some of the broader questions and ideas that I have ended up trying to
incorporate into what I do.
The university community is a tapestry of dedicated individuals who pursue different yet entire consistent goals, via pathways that are surprisingly similar. (Or, they pursue surprisingly similar goals via different yet entirely consistent pathways. I am not yet sure which it is.)
My mentor (and colleagues in the UTF program) taught me that dedication to teaching has both intellectual and practical rewards. The development of teaching skills has a definitive synergy with the pursuit of world-class research; for an engineer, this statement runs counter to the conventional wisdom that the latter can be achieved in absence of highly successful teaching. The experiences I shared with my mentor and UTF colleagues inspired me to blend teaching and research in a much deeper and more meaningful way, and to initiate research into understanding and developing successful teaching approaches. Perhaps most importantly, it alleviated fears that doing so would detract from the successful negotiation of the minefield known as the tenure track. For this reason, even it takes me months or years to utilize the vast and effective resources of the TRC, it would be devastating to lose the TRC - it is a meaningful comfort to know that it exists and is supported, both materially and intellectually, by the University.
As Angel Lillard
described, synthesis and production of creative ideas lies at the heart
of our jobs. I have been conducting research on teachers' beliefs and
attitudes and I am reading this literature in a new light-constantly thinking
about my goals for the preservice teachers in my class. As Robert Boice
recommends, I have been tucking idea nuggets--little examples that exemplify
excellent teaching--in little folders for class. Our discussions in the
UTF group have helped me think of new strategies for my work. I see the
integration between my research and teaching more than I have in the past.
I think that I will remain friends with [the other Fellows] for the rest of my career, and I cherish our meetings this past year as we shared hopes and frustrations. One reason for this more personal level of interaction is the early retreat at Wintergreen when we were "thrown together," six perfect strangers that at the end of those two days seemed like we knew each other forever. The retreat was great and we discovered more about each other by simple interaction than we could have ever been able otherwise. We learned about our spouses, kids, advisors, students and classes, we even had our little adventure (walking in a pouring rain for a mile or so). The retreat was a great start to an outstanding set of activities organized by Marva and the TRC!
I got great value from the Wintergreen retreat where fellows discussed our plans for the fellowship, our approaches to teaching, the place of teaching in our scholarship and other issues of interest to us faculty.
I learned a lot about good lecturing from Milton Adams' talk, and several great ideas about cognitive development from Marva's talk. In general the great positive fact about all TRC events is that one suddenly realizes that there are so many efforts to organize and formalize what great teachers do naturally such that everyone else can learn and improve.
The relationship with my mentor has been one of the most valuable aspects of this program. He met with me almost weekly last summer as I revamped my course. He patiently attended the entire course, gave me feedback and suggestions throughout, and attended all the UTF sessions. . . . I am struck by the significance of having a great mentor over this past year. If weren't for the UTF program, I would have never had the opportunity to learn from him. Going forward, I realize that I have internalized some of his recommendations and that I will ask myself, "What would my mentor do here?" as I make decisions about my classes.
In the end, I realized that the UTF inspired me to start to develop a teaching philosophy, rather than simply implement new approaches in the absence of a conscious global framework.
I am beginning to rethink the role of the student in my classes. During our UTF sessions, I was struck by the ways in which some of the other fellows rely on the students to "do the work" of the class. I plan to give the students the opportunity to read and prepare questions for guest lectures. I am thinking more about how to get students to "contribute" as opposed to only "participate" in class. Increasingly, I hope to view myself as a facilitator of learning-the stealth instructor setting up experiences that promote learning.
I have tried a lot of new things over this past year and I still have more ideas to try. With respect to my classroom, most of the changes that I picked up over the year were designed to help me connect better with the students in the class and to get them thinking for themselves. Breaking up the lecture with quick questions, and quizzes that they do alone and then consult with a neighbor, were both things that worked well for me. There were a number of other things that I already did, but our discussions and workshops about these approaches made me more aware of what really works for me.
While there was no radical change in outlook or approach, my views did develop. Our conversations did two important things. First, they confirmed many of my convictions about what successful teaching entails, in part by helping me articulate my thoughts about distinct elements in my teaching. Second, I added a few more tools to my kit or became more comfortable using some tools I had laid aside or used less often before. These include becoming more focused in the composition and presentation of lectures, being more explicit with students about how to improve certain academic skills (writing), and thinking more carefully about what to assign in order to develop those skills. I also gained a good deal from my increased focus on how to work with teaching assistants. . . . In short, my teaching gained fewer new elements than it gained a greater and better articulated self-awareness about what I am doing and what I might do better.
From the program,
I learned several new methods and strategies for making my teaching more
effective. The first is that it is important to begin by eliciting the
relevant conceptions about the subject matter that students enter the
class with before presenting them with new material. Secondly, I was exposed
to the concept of differentiated instruction and the value of accommodating
the different learning styles of students in my classes. One of the teaching
fellows described the advantages of requiring a series of short written
papers as a way of developing student maturity over the semester. I adopted
this technique with impressive results in my own course. Another fellow
described how she makes her classes more interesting to students by first
thinking about what the students are interested in at this stage of their
lives and presenting the topics in the context of their interests. I plan
to adopt this technique in my courses. From the book and workshop on classroom
assessment techniques I discovered the classroom opinion poll, which I
used to get much more meaningful evaluation of my course than the standard
instructor and course evaluations offered by my School.
The final session [Fellows' discussions of their work-in-progress on their courses) was one of the most effective sessions. As I handed out a very rough draft of my syllabus, I began to see the ways in which it could be improved. I left with a list of almost 20 improvements to make. One of the truisms of education is that students learn from feedback from experts. This feedback loop-a student performs and an expert (or peer) responds-is one of the basic units of the educational process. The final session exemplified that process for me. Bringing something half-baked for others to critique was very useful.
I had hesitated for three years to apply to the Teaching Fellows Program because I thought that it would take too much of my time away from my research projects and writing. I was definitely wrong! This year of discussions about teaching, and thinking and revisions in my own course, has energized my approach and interests in the teaching part of my job, and this has not come at any 'cost' to my research. My major motivation to get into the program was twofold: to get back an enjoyment of teaching and to meet new people in other areas of the University. Both of these objectives were accomplished, and I got more from this program than I had ever expected.
Being part of the University Teaching Fellows program was a great experience in which I could directly observe and interact with great young minds which had very different backgrounds and interests, yet shared very similar worries, goals and intellectual thirst for knowledge. Being part of this outstanding group of individuals was an honor and I think it reinforced some of my ideas about great teaching and scholarship, yet it also provided an innumerable set of new ideas and opened many new avenues, not only for teaching, but also for managing a career, setting up attainable goals and balancing the intrinsically unbalanced life of a professional in the 21st century.
In addition to all the practical methods and technical insights I gained from the UTF program, its two most valuable products to me are the confidence I have gained in my teaching and the colleagues I have made in the other fellows and mentors with whom I shared this year. I feel that I can now contribute to teaching at the university by sharing the insights I developed through this program and that I have a network of colleagues at the university to whom I can always go for help and guidance.
To put it succinctly, the many benefits of the UTF program outweighed the few, and minor, costs of participation. On the cost side, the time commitment was never so heavy that attending or preparing for meetings felt burdensome. The only other cost was that some of the activities or presentations seemed less useful than others, but that is to be expected when one is doing many different kinds of things involving a diverse group with varied concerns.
I was struck how often our discussions about how to solve a problem in the classroom involved solving a problem created by administrative barriers (course loads, class sizes, room availability), a problem created by off-Grounds expectations (publishers' deadlines, ABET guidelines, the demands of schools for certain kinds of teachers), or the individual's available time and resources. Virtually all of the interesting teaching issues thus rested upon larger professional issues. I always found working at this level most rewarding.
In sum: an excellent year. I'd do it again.
This program has both changed and confirmed my teaching. Although I don't think the UTF program completely overhauled the way that I teach, I do feel that it has provided me with many new tools and strategies. Most importantly, the UTF program has offered me an opportunity to reflect on my teaching.