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To help professors keep up with a changing educational environment, the Center for Faculty Development (FDC) fosters strong communication among professors through the Open Classroom Project.
The Open Classroom Project encourages professors to learn teaching techniques by observing each other in the classroom. FDC director and psychology professor Ann Johnson said the idea came about partly because she took a French class, and discovered she learned a lot more than language skills.
“I was just blown away by how much I could learn from my colleagues by just sitting in class and watching how they teach,” Johnson said. “Even though we teach very different subjects, I really picked up a lot of good ideas, and it was just very inspiring.”
Fifteen plastic, purple swivel chairs fill a Murray-Herrick Campus Center second-floor classroom on a Tuesday afternoon. A St. Thomas faculty member works her way through a slideshow in the hour-long class, calling for participation and feedback at different points.
“Does anybody have an example they would be willing to share?” she asks about 10 minutes in. A few seconds of silence drag out. “Hmm, quiet group.”
A hand reluctantly makes its way into the air, and a comment that kicks the conversation forward follows. Over the next 50 minutes the room flits from lecture and questions to general and small-group discussions, gaining momentum and openness before it adjourns at hour’s end.
This scene plays out countless times each semester across St. Thomas, but this session was noteworthy in that the 15 chairs weren’t filled by students. They were filled by faculty members, who – in this particular workshop – were being schooled on how better to gain and understand formal feedback from students.
Teachers being taught is a common theme for the Center for Faculty Development (FDC), which, through its wide range of offerings, supports faculty in becoming better at everything they do.