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October 06, 2016

Summit To Showcase Innovative, Effective Strategies for Teaching, Learning

By Bruce Gerson

Maggie Braun
Maggie Braun will discuss an inventive seminar course that helps students’ personal development by focusing on the scientist rather than science.

Carnegie Mellon University's inaugural Teaching & Learning Summit will be an opportunity for faculty, postdoctoral researchers, graduate students and staff to discuss and exchange teaching strategies and explore how educational research at the university can be applied in classrooms.

Organized by the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation in collaboration with an advisory committee of faculty and graduate students from all seven CMU schools and colleges, the summit will be held from 1 – 5 p.m., Friday, Oct. 14, in the Cohon University Center’s Rangos Ballroom.

The highly interactive, five-part program will get underway with a keynote talk by Daniel Willingham, a renowned cognitive psychologist, author, and debunker of educational myths. He will be speaking on “Critical Thinking: Why is it so hard to teach?”

“Dan Willingham is famous for translating research results from learning science to education — that is, making them easier for instructors to understand and use in their teaching. And that research-based approach is what makes his keynote a particularly good fit for the Teaching and Learning Summit,” said Marsha Lovett, director of the Eberly Center, co-coordinator of the Simon Initiative and teaching professor of psychology.

Participants can help shape the agenda when they register and indicate their preference for joining roundtable discussions on a variety of teaching and learning challenges. Topics include motivating students, teaching and grading creativity, implementing active learning or “flipped” classrooms, teaching communication skills, or implementing technology-enhanced learning strategies. These discussions will provide informal opportunities to strategize with colleagues within and across disciplines and exchange experiences and perspectives.

Poster sessions will feature 50 CMU course designs, classroom research and learning science research projects.

Several “networking walls” will provide venues where participants can identify potential teaching or research collaborators and build community by connecting colleagues who share similar teaching interests and wish to continue discussions after the event.

Fifteen “quick-fire talks,” akin to a short film festival experience, will rapidly expose attendees to a potpourri of innovative and effective course designs and teaching approaches employed by CMU faculty and graduate student instructors. Talks will focus on concrete strategies for effectively designing interdisciplinary team-taught courses, leveraging readily available technology-enhanced learning approaches, designing team service learning projects, and integrating active learning techniques.

The summit is co-sponsored by the Provost, the Office of the Vice Provost for Education, the Simon Initiative and the Eberly Center. The Simon Initiative is a learning research lab that supports data-driven, continuous educational improvement. Faculty, students and staff can register for the summit online.

A Quick Look at Five “Quick Fires”

Teaching a Broad Spectrum: The Art and Science of Color

Chemistry Professor Catalina Achim and Art Professor Clayton Merrell will give a talk on their approach to teaching students with different disciplinary backgrounds and skill levels.

Achim and Merrell use a variety of teaching methods — lectures, demos, group work, labs, studios and field trips — in “The Art and Science of Color,” a course that brings together art and chemistry majors. They’ve found teamwork works best.

“Throughout the course students work in teams so they can learn from each other and help each other with unfamiliar material,” Merrell said. “The chemistry students have to paint and the art students have to do the laboratory work, but they can rely on each other for guidance.

“I think it is the richness of experience that give the class its impact,” he said.

Tackling Diverse Student Backgrounds Before, During and After Class

Lauren Cook, a third-year Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering, uses just-in-time teaching (JITT) in assisting Professor Jared Cohon in his Water Resources Systems class. The class comprises a wide range of students — juniors, seniors, master’s degree students and Ph.Ds.

JITT is an active learning technique in which students are asked to complete and submit a quiz or homework assignment online before the class.

“You’ll get the results the night before or the morning of the class and then you can apply what they know or don’t know into your next lesson. It allows you to adapt your teaching to what they need help in or what they need clarified,” Cook said.

Eureka! Educating the Whole Student

Associate Biological Sciences Teaching Professor Maggie Braun will discuss an inventive seminar course that helps students’ personal development by focusing on the scientist rather than science.

“EUREKA! Discovery and Its Impact” in the Mellon College of Science aids students making the transition from high school to college by teaching them communication skills, how to collaborate, and strategies for a healthy student-life balance. In large and small group sessions, faculty, alumni, students and staff share their insights on personal, academic and professional development.

“After one year, we’ve seen changes in the academic performance of the student as well as their investment in the community,” said Braun, associate dean for Undergraduate Affairs in MCS.

Strategies for Teaching Group Work That Works

“Group work doesn’t work by mistake, it takes upfront planning to organize the teaching context and then scaffolding the group work process throughout the course,” said Jeria Quesenberry, who draws on her experiences from the service-learning course she helps teach with Joe Mertz that places juniors with a community partner to solve information systems problems.

“We want to share some insights into how we form the teams and want to share teaching examples of the requirements we ask of the students,” she said.

The IDeATe Gallery

Daragh Byrne will feature the IDeATe Gallery, an online platform he created in 2014 to help students share their hands-on projects, document the work process and facilitate critical feedback from instructors and peers.

“One of the reasons we built the Gallery is to help students become more mindful, reflective and critical about the work they were making,” said Byrne, Intel Special Faculty in IDeATe.

“It grew out of a need to help students get more experience with critical feedback and critical reflection on outcomes. They can talk to each other about ways to improve their work and give actionable feedback on ways to make it better,” he said.