by Laurel Willingham-McLain, Director, Center for Teaching Excellence, Duquesne University
At the Duquesne University Center for Teaching Excellence we’re trying out some new programs in the SCALE initiative. SCALE, which stands for Small Changes Advancing Learning, was inspired by James Lang’s, Small Changes in Teaching series, and his book, Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning (2016), as well as AAC&U’s High-Impact Practices and the Transparency in Learning and Teaching Project.
Our initiative continues to explore the power harnessed by small changes in teaching and learning—methods that are
- achievable by instructors in varied contexts,
- based on principles of learning
- known to benefit students equitably
- open to creativity.
Lang, in Small Teaching, writes, “you can create powerful learning for your students through the small, everyday decisions you make in designing your courses, engaging in classroom practice, communicating with your students, and addressing any challenges that arise.”
New for Spring 2017, we are offering a series of 30-minute lunchtime workshops, 12:20-12:50 pm. Designed to accommodate busy schedules, these micro workshops highlight a teaching and learning topic and introduce simple, proven strategies that you can incorporate into your course right away. Associate Director for Faculty Development, Steve Hansen, came up with the idea for these workshops as a way “to model to faculty how small teaching practices can have big connections to student learning. We want faculty to experience how learning in a micro-context can have macro-learning implications that faculty can apply and scale up for their own teaching contexts.”
Spring topics include transparent assignment design, how emotions motivate learning, micro-aggressions, using nudges to deepen learning, and a student-learning graffiti wall. The series will begin on January 23 and 24 and will continue through February.
Follow-up opportunities will be available through wrapper sessions and consultations with CTE staff. Wrapper sessions provide faculty with an opportunity to reflect and learn from experience; they are based on the learning strategy called an Exam Wrapper, which guides students to review and analyze their performance (and their instructor’s feedback) on an exam, with an eye to improving their next attempt.
In December 2016, we tried out our first Course Wrapper where participants enjoyed time to reflect individually and with colleagues about a fall course, and then outlined steps for their spring courses based on their reflection and feedback. Participants reported that “The reflection and discussion were a great way to put a bow on the semester” and the Wrapper session provided a “wonderful way to wind down the semester.” The Wrapper
sessions encourage teachers to practice the systematic reflection they ask of students. Participants are invited to consider successful aspects of a recent course and plan ways to model future teaching on what worked well. We take a whole-person approach, encouraging faculty to plan ways to bring their very best selves to their teaching. New spring Wrapper Sessions look at Students Evaluation Surveys and assignment design.
Our semester culminates May 17-18 in the seventh annual Inspired Teaching Retreat at the Spiritan Retreat Center.