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Friday, June 29, 2018

Want to Help Professors Become Better Teachers? Find Them a Mentor | The Chronicle of Higher Education

"As a lecturer in aerospace and mechanical engineering at the University of Arizona, Justine Schluntz takes pride in her commitment to teaching" explains Beth McMurtrie, writes about technology’s influence on teaching and the future of learning.
 

Photo: Justine Schluntz, a lecturer at the U. of Arizona, poses with her "Intro to Engineering" section.

So when the university began inviting instructors to use its new collaborative learning spaces, she decided it was a great chance to move away from the traditional lecture format toward active learning. But she was also nervous about trying a form of teaching that was unfamiliar to her.

For help, she turned to Kasi Kiehlbaugh. The professor of civil and environmental engineering had been involved with faculty learning communities on campus and was familiar with active-learning techniques.

"The week before the summer course started we sat down and she said, Tell me what you’re going to do," Schluntz recalls. Her plan, as she told Kiehlbaugh, was to go over the syllabus on the first day of class and give students the highlights.

Kiehlbaugh encouraged her instead to get her students involved early by having them take charge, first by reading the syllabus themselves, then telling her what they thought was important. "It was such a small thing," Schluntz says, "but it completely changed how I thought about teaching that class."

The value of faculty mentorship to young instructors and researchers has long been known. But it may not occur very often: According to one survey, only about one in four undergraduate-teaching faculty members mentor others "to a great extent." Typically, mentors help their less experienced peers do things like learn how to navigate campus hierarchies, plan their careers, or map out research agendas.
But mentorship can also help improve teaching. As professors, including seasoned faculty members, explore new ways of teaching in online and active-learning classrooms, they too find that having a strong mentor is critical to their success. Instructional designers may be great at helping redesign a curriculum. And academic technologists are key to understanding new technologies. But for day-to-day teaching challenges, nothing beats an ally who has been there, done that. But it may not occur very often: According to one survey, only about one in four undergraduate-teaching faculty members mentor others "to a great extent."
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Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education 


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