Western Carolina University


Educators from as far away as Wisconsin and as close as Cullowhee gather at Western Carolina University this month to share what they've learned about teaching – from how to use virtual office hours to “Teaching With Your Mouth Shut” to encourage questions.

Presentations will be held in the A.K. Hinds University Center throughout the day Thursday, Feb. 23, as part of Western's second annual Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Faire, which expands this year into a regional event and next year to two days. “It is my hope that the event will develop into a main national Scholarship of Teaching and Learning conference,” said Alan Altany, a senior fellow with the Coulter Faculty Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, or SoTL, is an evidence-based approach to developing teaching techniques that create the best learning experiences possible for students. Through SoTL, faculty members from all disciplines apply their research skills to exploring teaching issues, testing changes and sharing their findings.

Western faculty will present projects at the SoTL Faire centered on online course design, campus-community partnerships, theatre in education and strategies for engaging online students. Faculty who work outside Western will present projects exploring topics such as gender and learning styles, what students say about how they learn best, and methods of getting “fast feedback” to improve teaching and learning.

John Habel, an associate professor of psychology and fellow for scholarship of teaching and learning at the center, said Western's focus on SoTL sets the university apart. “At many institutions of higher education, teaching ranks far lower than traditional research as a worthy activity that should be rewarded, but, here at Western, our main focus is on teaching and promoting student learning,” Habel said.

Altany said he chose SoTL as the guiding principle for the university's faculty center programs. They include the upcoming SoTL Faire, annual summer institutes for teaching and learning, an international e-journal called MountainRise, cross-discipline faculty leaning communities, readers' roundtables, seminars for new faculty and open classroom circles that encourage instructors to observe each other as they teach.

Participants say the programs have helped bond faculty together and build excitement for teaching. Georgia Hambrecht, associate professor in human services, tested incorporating “evidence” from faculty questionnaires to accreditation goals in her course design. She presented her findings recently in San Diego and will share them again at Western's upcoming SoTL Faire. For Hollye Moss, a new assistant professor of management and international business, the programs helped her develop ways to help students better connect to the content, such as committing more class-time to going beyond the process of finding a solution to what the solution means. Other faculty members such as Laura Cruz, assistant professor of history, said she found co-authors for articles and collaborators on projects. “I think the center is the reason why the culture of teaching at WCU is changing to embrace innovative, interesting and diverse methods of teaching,” Cruz said.

Altany, who leaves Western in May to take a position as director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching at Georgia Southern University, said he envisions Western as a national model for SoTL and for “the transformation of an academic culture into one where conversations, collaborations, investigations, experimentations, applications and dissemination about teaching and learning form the kind of academic community that attracts and retains the best faculty possible, the kind of place where faculty dream of being.”

The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Faire kicks off at 3 p.m. Feb. 22 with a workshop titled “Student Portfolios, Student Learning.”  Sessions on Feb. 23 begin at 8 a.m. and continue throughout the day. All events take place in the A.K. Hinds University Center.

For more information, visit www.wcu.edu/facctr/sotlfaire or contact Alan Altany at (828) 227-7302 or altany@email.wcu.edu .

The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Faire will be held Feb. 23 in A.K. Hinds University Center.

Presenters from Western Carolina University

 -- “Online Course Design That Promotes Higher Level Learning Outcomes”

Sharon Dole and Lisa Bloom

-- “Campus-Community Partnerships: Reviving Civic Engagement”

Rey Trevino, Glenda Hensley and Baldwin Sanders

-- “Rubrics: Are They Worth the Time to Develop Them?”

Laura E. DeWald, Dixie McGinty, Catherine Carter and Aster Dewanti

-- “Theatre in Education: A Model for Teaching, Learning, and Engaged Service”

Glenda Hensley, Claire Eye, Sara Dodson and students

-- “Strategies for Engaging Online Students Actively”

Mitchell Williams, John Lebaron, Irene Mueller, Barbara St. John, Charlene Merritt and Candace Roberts

-- “Promoting SoTL by Means of the Institutional Review Board”

John Habel and Christopher Cooper

-- “SoTL at Western Carolina University: Course-Based Studies about our Students' Learning”

John Habel and university Faculty Learning Community members

-- “Teaching with Your Mouth Shut: Encouraging Inquiry in the College Classroom”

Justin Menickelli and Mary Orr

-- “Using Evidence to Support University Teaching Practice”

Georgia Hambrecht

-- “Theatre in Education: Cultural Literacy, Diversity, and the Service Spiral”

Glenda Hensley, Claire Eye, Luther Jones, Davy Arch, Jen Carmen, Tracy Mullinax and students

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Last modified: Monday, February 13, 2006
Copyright 2006 by Western Carolina University