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October 16, 2013

New services offer teaching support for faculty

Stuart Jordan
Stuart Jordan

Stuart Jordan, senior lecturer in political science, was recently named faculty director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL). He will work with Vicki Roth, executive director, and Jenny Hadingham, assistant director, to augment CETL’s efforts to support Arts, Sciences & Engineering faculty and their teaching—an initiative that started two years ago when CETL (formerly known as Learning Assistance Services) was renamed and expanded its mission. CETL is located in Dewey Hall, Room 1-154. To reach CETL, call 275-9049 or email cetl@ rochester.edu.

Why are teaching-support services important for college educators?

More colleges and universities are offering concentrated support services to assist their faculty with teaching and help them grow as educators. At Rochester, the demands on faculty are immense—we are expected to be world-class researchers and innovative educators. There is a culture of excellence in teaching here at Rochester, and having a center where faculty can find support for the teaching component of their job will enable them to work even more successfully with their students.

What services are available to faculty?

I believe the centerpiece of the program is a one-on-one consultancy service, in which faculty come to CETL with any concerns they may be having about an aspect of their teaching practice. One of the practices we employ is a process of classroom observation, which allows us to be an extra pair of eyes and ears to see what’s happening in the classroom while a professor presents class material. We also host teaching roundtable sessions, which provide opportunities for teaching faculty to exchange ideas and generate discussion about effective teaching.

Other resources we offer include a mini-grant program and online teaching materials. What can faculty expect from a consultation?

We sit down with the faculty member and ask them what they want out of a collaboration with our office. One of the harder problems for many faculty is engaging students, particularly undergraduates, in a seminar discussion. If a faculty member were to pose this issue, we would focus on what does happen when a discussion is facilitated in the classroom. We would then work with the faculty member to get some data about what is actually happening during the seminar and why, and discuss an appropriate plan of action. The consultancy service goes beyond blindly applying techniques that are supposed to be best practices by first undergoing a process of diagnosis to pinpoint faculty concerns. The goal result is that the faculty member will have a better understanding of what’s going on in their classroom.

How will teaching support services evolve at CETL?

The teaching support mission of CETL is relatively new. We began by implementing the consultancy service and encouraging collaborative faculty groups to discuss teaching, but these initiatives are just the beginning. Part of my job is to make faculty aware that a permanent program is being built and now is the time to build it; the rest will be determined by our faculty. My view is that is doesn’t make sense for CETL staff to come up with our own ideas about what the faculty will benefit from, but rather to encourage teaching support services invented by faculty, for faculty. We want faculty to establish a productive relationship with the Center and other faculty in a way that makes their job as teachers more fulfilling.

Can you talk about the new collaboration with the Rochester Center for Community Leadership?

I have been working with Glenn Cerosaletti, director of the RCCL, to identify faculty who may be interested in developing new courses or new components of existing courses in which students interact with the community. The idea is to have students integrate real life experience and direct contact with the larger community into their academic experiences in the classroom. We plan to engage in discussion with interested faculty about what the College, CETL, and RCCL can do to support them in these initiatives. For example, we are currently working to find faculty to collaborate with a judge from the Rochester state courts, who is interested in offering a course that explores the legal system and an accompanying criminal justice internship in the community.

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