By: Erin Martin Kane
A new task force composed of faculty and staff from all of the University’s schools and colleges and several key academic support departments is working to understand how new technologies and diverse, innovative teaching methods are being utilized across campus.
Led by co-chairs Dean Elizabeth Liddy of the School of Information Studies and Lois Agnew, associate professor of writing and rhetoric in The College of Arts and Sciences, the task force has been charged with identifying, promoting and encouraging innovative pedagogies across disciplines. “We’ll begin by discovering the exciting work that our colleagues are doing in their classrooms,” Agnew says. “Then we’ll share this work in an effort to offer faculty new teaching methods and pedagogical strategies that might benefit their teaching.”
The task force comes together at a time when demand for online courses is expanding, when the learning styles of college students is changing and when financial pressures have individuals, families and employers looking for increased value from their coursework. “This is a period in which we must move to a new level of exploration and activity related to advanced pedagogical techniques and new teaching and learning modalities,” says Vice Chancellor and Provost Eric Spina. “Our faculty are doing some terrific work and we need to make others more aware of these exciting developments.”
An important part of this initiative is to encourage a conversation about the productive role technology and other nontraditional approaches can play in advancing the quality and effectiveness of teaching and learning at SU.
Flipped classrooms—a model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed—and open collaborative courseware are two concepts earning the immediate attention of the task force. Another popular trend: hybrid courses. “Students are now able to engage with each other more fully through hybrid classes that combine face-to-face instruction with online class time to create sustained conversations that enrich their learning,” Agnew says. “Faculty can use digital technologies to help students create multimodal texts that enhance their communication and allow them to develop new strategies for reaching varied audiences.”
The challenge of advancing any new pedagogy begins with an understanding of the student population. “Our students today are exciting, engaged and agile. They have keen interests and deep capabilities,” says Liddy. “My hope is that the work of the task force will lead to productive conversations among faculty that encourages and supports them to enhance their pedagogy more broadly, whether that’s in a particular course or to make their scholarship more widely available.”
The task force will provide a preliminary written report and recommendations to Spina by June 1.