Stories Strategic Plan Progress

Published on June 28th, 2013 | by SMUMN

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Defining educational excellence in the Lasallian tradition

 

In this new age of education, the classroom is being redefined.

The bold addition of online and blended courses on both the graduate and undergraduate levels at Saint Mary’s moves the classroom to the nearest laptop or even iPad.

Through experimentation with classroom “flipping,” undergraduate and graduate students watch traditional lectures on their computers and mobile devices outside of the classroom through SMU’s Blackboard and Tegrity technology. In this new model of learning, classroom lecture videos or narrated presentations are watched as homework, so students have more time for hands-on discussions, activities or problem solving inside the classroom. SMU tested classroom flipping in a few courses this past fall, and is evaluating feedback.

Another example is the addition of two new science majors at the College, where students study two years at Saint Mary’s, and another two years through the Mayo Clinic — a creative partnership that enhances the typical four-year undergraduate experience. In the Schools of Graduate and Professional Programs, students in the MBA and Public Safety Administration program travel abroad for their capstone to solve a real-world organizational problem — a departure from traditional research projects. These changes in teaching methodology mean that educators need to have an expanding perspective on how to best reach and prepare learners. Regardless of how or where students are learning, Saint Mary’s faculty members remain committed to an educational experience that is rigorous and relevant.

Dr. Roger Peckover

Dr. Roger Peckover addresses a group of faculty and staff.

“We want to make sure that Saint Mary’s students are getting the outcomes we want,” said Dr. Roger Peckover, director of the College’s CELT (Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching) and academic assessment. “The delivery method is going to continue to change, but we don’t want to lose our identity.”

CELT is a university commitment to invest in faculty development to achieve the best student experience possible. Dr. Peckover creates opportunities for faculty members to develop and deepen their professional skills to maximize student learning.

“It’s about how can we better serve our learners,” Dr. Peckover said. “We are defining now the meaning of a degree that must anticipate the challenges facing our graduates. We have a responsibility to shape learning experiences that assure our graduates will thrive in a world where they will be expected to be collaborative problem solvers, innovators, and servant leaders creating the meaning of community in the 21st Century.”

On the Twin Cities campus, CELT (known there as Partners in Learning) has been under the direction of Dr. Sue Hines in alliance with the faculty development committee. Dr. Hines divides her time between being the director of faculty development and associate professor in the Ed.D. in Leadership program.

CELT has taken several different approaches at the College and the SGPP.

At the College:

  • There’s a focus on individual faculty members and their development, with a special focus on student learning. This involves professional development plans, classroom observation and mentoring.
  • Through ISTEP (Individual Semester Teaching Exploration Process), groups of faculty from all disciplines meet to explore aspects of teaching. There is an emphasis on cocurricular collaboration and sharing knowledge. “We’re getting back to our Lasallian roots of teacher-to-teacher learning,” Dr. Peckover said.
  • PLCs (Problem-based Learning Communities) are made up of faculty who come together around a common need or problem. They serve as research and advisory groups for the entire faculty body. For example, the Lasallian Online Pedagogy PLC is examining how to provide online teaching and “stay Lasallian.” This group is helping faculty better understand how they can embed Lasallian principles of practice in their use of 21st Century learning technology.

At the Schools of Graduate and Professional Programs:

  • Most faculty are part-time educators who are working professionals in their fields; therefore, faculty development is provided through combination of in-person and online offerings.
  • All new faculty are introduced to SMU’s mission and what it means to be a Lasallian educator for adult learners.
  • Through instructional workshops and e-Friday webinars, all faculty in the metro and outlying areas can explore in a variety of topics essential to good teaching.
  • A six-month teaching and learning series (both online and on campus) is offered each year on educational issues specific to the adult learning environment on the Twin Cities campus. Topics have included fostering critical thinking, effective
    grading and evaluation, teaching accelerated courses, supporting quality academic writing, and Lasallian pedagogy.
  • The annual fall faculty conference is a time to celebrate by giving teaching and length-of-service awards, reconnecting with colleagues and friends, and learning from experts in adult education.

The other side to this work, Dr. Peckover said, is ongoing academic assessment. “As an organization committed to excellence in learning and teaching, we must address two questions central to continuous improvement,” he said. “First, at the instructional level, how are we making the link between the learning process and measuring what learners can do with our teaching? Second, as a learning organization, how are we using our assessment knowledge of learner performances to improve our collective practice?”

Education faculty from both the undergraduate and graduate teacher licensure programs are using new education assessment technology called TaskStream. With TaskStream, education students will collect their work in an electronic portfolio that both provides evidence of their achievement and is an assessment tool for the university.

Education faculty have received online training on how to help graduating teacher licensure students create portfolios for the Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA) starting in spring 2013. The State of Minnesota evaluates TPA student portfolios to assess the quality of Saint Mary’s teacher preparation programs.

The discussions, and the benefit of this level of teaching support are multifold. One SGPP faculty member stated in a survey, “I teach at other universities in the Twin Cities and never have experienced such strong support for teaching. Thank you for providing all these faculty development opportunities.”

“There is a profound connection to our Lasallian heritage in what we are working to do through CELT. We’re developing
together as faculty and being intentional about the kind of learning community we are building,” Dr. Peckover said.

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