By Kristi Kaeppel
Each new year offers a clean slate for creating new opportunities and work that betters ourselves and the world we inhabit. As exhilarating as new projects can be, they’re also intimidating as it can be hard to know where to start. Let me propose an initial step that is beneficial regardless of the nature of your ambition:
Talk to people with the same mission as you.
As obvious as this seems, I can’t tell you how many times I struggled with an issue in my classroom only to discover long after the fact that a colleague had already tackled and found a remedy for the same concern. Maybe it’s the age-old issue of a lack of time that prevents us from talking or perhaps it’s a fear that everyone else has their teaching more together than we do, but for whatever reason, most of us probably aren’t in the habit of discussing and reflecting on our teaching practice with others. And yet, it may be the cheapest, easiest, and most effective way to make swift improvements in our practice.
That’s where this blog comes in. Founded in connection with the University of Connecticut’s Graduate Certificate in College Instructor and the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), it offers a virtual space where you can–safe in the confines of your bedroom or office–be humbled to read about the challenges other instructors face and pick up advice and insights. It’s also a space where teacher-scholars can share their research in a more accessible format than standard academic journals.
And let’s be clear: this is a worthy goal. The work of college instructors is important. Researchers have found consistent support linking faculty approaches to teaching and students’ approaches to learning. When faculty strive to help students understand concepts, rather than transmit information, students report taking a deeper approach to learning (Trigwell, Prosser, & Waterhouse, 1999). There is also evidence that on campuses where faculty use active and collaborative learning strategies, students report statistically significant gains in personal development, general education knowledge, and practical competencies (Umbach & Wawrzynski, 2005), again suggesting that our practice matters.
Although it is good news that our teaching is impactful, it also creates an additional feeling of responsibility in an already time-strapped environment. But by communicating with others, we lessen the burden of responsibility because it is no longer ours alone to shoulder.
We invite you to join us either as a reader or contributor as we tackle some of the critical and exciting issues facing college instruction. Among some topics we hope to explore in the coming months are the challenges of creating equitable learning conditions, mitigating the impact of implicit bias in the classroom, the emerging insights of neuroscience on learning and its implications for teaching, the role of technology in facilitating student learning, the ongoing struggle to balance work and life, and many more.
Welcome, and we hope you will be a regular visitor and contribute your own ideas as we talk shop!