The higher education program sponsored a set of teaching and learning workshops by visiting scholar Dr. Amanda Irvin, Assistant Director of Faculty Development in the Koehler Center for Teaching Excellence at Texas Christian University. Two workshops were offered on September 25th. The focus of the morning session was on the topic of Turning Student Groups into Teams: Student Engagement through Team-based Learning. The topic of the afternoon session was Evaluating Student Engagement: Strategies to Track Participation, Preparedness, and Professionalism. Attendees at these professional development sessions included faculty and staff from William & Mary, and also teachers from Williamsburg James City County Schools.
According to Pamela Eddy, organizer of the event, “What made this training opportunity so robust was the mix of attendees. Discussions occurred that allowed the sharing of best practices and the ability to see how the teaching strategies Dr. Irvin was highlighting could be used in multiple contexts.” The sessions were taped for future use by individuals not able to attend and will become part of the archive of professional development sessions for the College Teaching Certificate (ctc.wm.edu).
In addition to the open training sessions, a working lunch occurred with select faculty and administrators from William & Mary to discuss the role of learning spaces. Texas Christian University recently opened a new state of the art academic building built to foster student learning and focused intentionally on how the learning space influences student engagement. Rees-Jones Hall is a multidisciplinary academic building that has writable walls throughout the building and incorporates high-levels of technology in a flexible high-tech classroom environment. Discussion at the luncheon occurred around ways to retrofit existing, and in the case of William & Mary, historic buildings that are flexible and engaging learning spaces. The conversation involved discussion of the design center in the Mason School of Business and the proposed Innovation Center in the School of Education. Mark Hofer, Associate Dean at the School of Education, commented, “Dr. Irvin’s presentation on efforts at TCU to support different modes and models of learning through flexible and creative teaching spaces provided great insight as we imagine new learning spaces in the School of Education. As we hope to promote innovations in learning design, the vision and lessons learned by Dr. Irvin and her colleagues will be extremely helpful.”
The immediate application of the teaching strategies explored during Irvin’s visit helped participants see how they could readily work to increase student engagement. The networking within the meetings also helped in forging new lines of communication about teaching and learning issues on campus, and within area public schools.