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Find out what Colby-Sawyer alumni have been up to since graduation.

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The Art and Science of Teaching

by Jean Eckrich, Professor of Exercise and Sport Sciences

Educators often cite helping students become lifelong learners as their highest goal, and this is especially true at a teaching college like Colby-Sawyer. As faculty, we must also commit to continuous learning, not only in our fields of study, but also in pedagogy—the art and science of teaching. The classes we teach today differ dramatically from those we experienced as college students, and thus it is vital for faculty to integrate the best new research, methodologies and tools into our teaching practices.

In fall 2009, the college initiated the Teaching Enrichment Center (TEC), which supports the faculty's professional development activities through funding from the Davis Educational Foundation. The TEC's primary goal is to enhance student learning through the support and development of excellent teaching practices. We achieve this goal by bringing faculty together to share successful teaching techniques and to brainstorm innovative ways of approaching teaching or learning challenges —such as facilitating effective class discussions or designing new courses. Our faculty members also participate in workshops led by colleagues or outside experts and often visit one another's classrooms to learn from each other.

Each academic year now begins with two major TEC initiatives, which reflects our commitment to excellence in teaching and engaged learning. In the four-day New Faculty Orientation program, our new full-time faculty members learn about the college and discuss teaching and learning issues and practices, exploring topics such as how to develop learning outcomes for courses, effective learning assessment practices and ways to encourage active learning strategies among students.

The Teaching and Learning Salon is a mini-conference in which faculty and academic staff discuss topics such as how to incorporate Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) activities or peer review of writing into the classroom. These sessions are augmented by poster presentations that highlight research on teaching and learning that faculty members have presented at professional conferences, with recent topics addressing the use of concept maps in courses and ways to integrate quantitative literacy across the curriculum.

Throughout the academic year, TEC programs facilitated by faculty and staff include “coffee, tea and conversations,” reading groups and learning communities that extend our focus on teaching and learning. We discuss or read about topics such as integrating undergraduate research throughout students' experiences, developing effective group assignments and designing an inclusive classroom.

While each TEC opportunity is valuable, the collective impact on our teaching and learning environment has been positive and powerful. I use new classroom assessment techniques every semester and recently adopted some POGIL activities in my biomechanics class, in which I provided pictorial descriptions of four different velocity and acceleration scenarios. Students were then able to write the mechanical principles that guide understanding of velocity and acceleration, and successfully solve some biomechanical problems.

Sharon Beaudry, a new faculty member in Business Administration who began teaching through lectures and PowerPoint slides, says the TEC programs have helped her be “more thoughtful, creative and courageous” in the classroom. “Last semester while teaching business law, I used techniques such as debates and case studies to encourage student discussion,” Professor Beaudry says. “Over the course of the semester, even the quietest students began to share opinions. The outcome was a very lively and engaged class, even at 8 a.m.”

Assistant Professor of Social Sciences and Education Eric Boyer was a self-proclaimed “Luddite” who “feared all things technological” when he arrived at Colby- Sawyer four years ago. Through the New Faculty Orientation and other TEC activities, Professor Boyer says he “slowly made peace with technology.”

“The Teaching Enrichment Center has been a fantastic ally for me as I attempt to convert my teaching philosophy into effective teaching practices. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the realm of integrating technology into the classroom,” Professor Boyer explains. “I am now bringing online simulations into both my face-to-face and virtual government classrooms.”

Professor Boyer has had success in experimenting with team-based learning strategies and in engaging his students in the subject matter of his courses through interactive technologies such as wikis and blogs. His effectiveness as a teacher was recognized twice—in 2011 with the Jack Jensen Award for Excellence in Teaching— Colby-Sawyer's highest teaching award—and the New Hampshire Excellence in Education Award for Higher Education in 2012.

It has been my privilege to be part of this initiative and to work with faculty and staff colleagues who challenge and assist each other in their quest to create meaningful and stimulating learning environments. Our faculty from all disciplines and with all levels of experience are sharing ideas and strategies, knowing students will be the ultimate beneficiaries.

Professor Jean Eckrich directs the Teaching Enrichment Center. She is an expert in the role of exercise in lifelong health, the mechanics and development of human motion, the changing role of women in sports, and appropriate principles and practices for coaches.