Judith Reagan, TRC Associate Director and Department of Drama
One of the best aspects of working at the Teaching Resource Center is that we regularly interact with U.Va. faculty from all schools and departments. There's a lot to be learned by this continual exposure to the varied ways in which individuals and disciplines approach teaching. Another productive avenue for us is attendance at national conferences of teaching center personnel, observing how other centers accomplish the tasks inherent in developing and sustaining teaching expertise at their colleges and universities. More recently a third strand of interaction has emerged: international exchange of ideas on problems and potentials in university teaching.
In February 2002, TRC staff spent a day in consultation with 20 faculty from seven Australian colleges and universities, who were participating in a program titled "Transforming Teaching and Learning." They visited several American universities and were most interested in these issues: best ways to involve faculty in enhancing teaching; innovations in delivering good teaching, including instructional technology; ways to focus on learning as well as on teaching; and ideas for responding to the need for institutional change brought on by changes in society. They were particularly keen to hear about the University Teaching Fellows Program and the Distinguished Teaching Professorships.
On four separate occasions, from 1999 through 2001, delegations representing the Norwegian Commission for the Reform of Higher Education visited U.Va. and the TRC. All these visits provided lively exchanges and the opportunity to see how another country is approaching system-wide changes in the delivery and assessment of university teaching. We found it extremely interesting to compare our cultural contexts, faculty expectations, and goals for higher education. The conversations were so productive that TRC Director Marva Barnett was invited to give a plenary session on the workings of the Teaching Resource Center and our approach to faculty development at the National Network Conference for University and College Pedagogy at Agder University College in Kristiansand in October 2002.
As an outgrowth of ties established by faculty from U.Va.'s Environmental Sciences Department and a visit by a University of Venda delegation last March, Jeffrey Plank, Vice Provost for Research and Graduate Studies, and I were asked to travel to South Africa in November 2002 to work with an interdisciplinary group of UNIVEN faculty. We led a week-long workshop on two themes: innovative teaching and evaluation methods, and development of a research culture and quality research programs. Adding to the richness of the experience, the UNIVEN faculty hailed from seven different countries. Through them we learned about some of the many educational system changes following the transformation in South Africa's governance.
As is always
the case in an international context, the learning has definitely been
two-way. Our interactions with colleagues from Australia, Norway and South
Africa provide food for thought when considering current U.Va. priorities
such as expanding opportunities for study abroad, recruiting and retaining
minority faculty, support programs for international teaching assistants
and faculty, and discovering international variations in pedagogical practice.