From the Director

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In a recent essay in The Teaching Professor, Keith Starcher from Indiana Wesleyan University tells of his transition from private industry executive to college professor: “I had long dreamed of being a college professor and imagined I’d be joining a collegial community where faculty would help each other improve as teachers. But that didn’t happen. Instead, I discovered that professors are just too busy teaching to help one another become better teachers.” This strikes me as sad, but understandable. Our busy calendars often don’t permit us to have the kinds of conversations with each other that could support and reward our teaching efforts. But if you’ve ever benefitted from “word of mouth pedagogy,” as I have, you know how great it can be to pick up a quick tip from a colleague and have it work successfully in your next class.

To make those kinds of conversations more likely, we’ll be instituting some new programs in the 2012-13 academic year intended to increase connections and conversations among faculty. One of them is the “open classroom project.” Here, willing faculty members identify themselves as available for occasional observation in the classroom (with prior arrangements, of course). We’ll list them on our website, along with any particular pedagogical expertise they’re willing to share (want to see how clickers are used effectively? Or how to organize successful class discussion?). Interested colleagues can set up an observation and, perhaps, share a cup of coffee afterwards.

Are you interested in participating? Can you recommend a colleague who whose skill in the classroom makes him or her a good candidate for observation? If so, please let me know (a9johnson@stthomas.edu). College teaching can be a lonely profession but it doesn’t have to be. There is much that we can learn from each other, if we just create the time and opportunity.

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