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On Feb. 4th-6th, I attended the Lilly Conference on College University and Teaching with the support of the Faculty Teaching Initiative Grant sponsored by the Teaching and Learning Center. All of the sessions that I attended were thought-provoking and broadened my view of teaching. Here are some highlights from the conference:

I attended the session on “Defining Effective Teaching”. Leslie Layne from Lynchburg College surveyed students and faculty on how they define “effective teaching.” Both students and faculty agreed that it is important that the teacher “knows the subject material well.” Faculty also ranked important being “organized and well-prepared for class” and “[outlining] expectations clearly and accurately.” Interestingly, students’ responses differed from faculty responses and ranked the following as also important: 1) “is accessible to students”; 2) “uses a variety of teaching methods or formats”; 3) “keeps students interested for the whole class period; makes the class enjoyable”.

I also attended a crowded session on “What Makes a Great Teacher? (or What Makes a Teacher Great?)” At the beginning of the session, Scott Simkins, Director of the Academy for Teaching and Learning at N.C. A&T State University, highlighted the “Professors (& Learners) of the Year,” which is an award given by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Simkins reported on empirical research on effective teaching, and here are some points that he raised from the professional literature:

  • Set big goals and high expectations for students
  • Pedagogical content knowledge
  • Work backwards from learning outcomes
  • Maintain focus on student learning
  • Frame questions that capture the students’ imaginations and challenge paradigms
  • Clarity
  • Organization
  • Build trust
  • Exploring not explaining

I attended the plenary session on “The Good, Bad, and Counterintuitive: How Evidence-Based Teaching Can Correct the Commonsense Approach to Instruction.” Ed Neal and Todd Zakrajsek from UNC-Chapel Hill presented a variety of evidence-based teaching principles:

  • Engage students’ preconceptions; students have preconceptions, but if their preconceptions aren’t engaged, then they may fail to learn new concepts.
  • Deep foundational knowledge that is retrieved; There are different levels of students’ learning: “I heard about it” –> “I understand it” –> “I can do it in my sleep”
  • Learners must be taught to take a metacognitive approach.

I’m always interested in attending sessions on science teaching, and I also learned about the Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College and the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science. It was also great catching up with other librarians from UNCG at the conference. I am still in the process of reflecting on all of the sessions that I attended, and I have collected bibliographies and articles on teaching if anyone is interested in reading them.