UW News

April 15, 2010

Opening classroom doors: Teaching and learning highlighted at annual symposium

Professor Diane Gillespie believes that writing and telling stories are a great way for educators to assess their teaching practices. As the keynote speaker at this year’s Teaching and Learning Symposium, she will share this method.

“I will be talking about narrative psychology as a method of reflective teaching practice,” Gillespie explained. “It’s really interesting to talk about teaching methods by telling a story. Either writing down the story, sharing it with peers or recording it, the stories really help the reflective process.”

She said that stories vary greatly and can cover many issues related to teaching. “They could be about how the instructor plans and prepares for the class. Or it could be about a great new book they found that helps student learning. The stories aren’t just random and capricious. They have to do with actual teaching experiences and can be a very powerful tool for the person whose story it is and for the people he or she tells the story.”

Gillespie said that educators can learn a lot from others’ stories. “As a teacher, you might be having difficulty presenting one of the key concepts of your field effectively to your class. So, someone else’s story might help you figure that out. Or at least get you closer. The stories don’t just help the teller to evaluate their teaching; stories can be just as helpful for others.”

She recommends that instructors write down their stories. “Then they can go back and look at their own growth over time. The stories help teachers identify their own teaching identity, and it’s great to be able to look back and really see the development.”

Gillespie, who teaches within the Interdisciplinary Arts program in Bothell, is also the recipient of the 2010 UW Distinguished Teaching Award.

“I’m overwhelmed, honored, and very moved,” she said, when asked about the honor. “I keep thinking they’re going to call and tell me they made a mistake or something,” she joked. “I don’t even know who originally nominated me. … But I’m incredibly humbled and look forward to presenting at the symposium.”

The 2010 Teaching and Learning Symposium schedule:

2 – 2:45 p.m. Welcome

Jerry Baldasty

Vice Provost and Dean, The Graduate School

Keynote Presentation

“Through the Stories We Hear Who We Are*”:
Examining Teaching Through Instructor Narratives

Diane Gillespie

Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, UW Bothell, 2010 Distinguished Teaching Award Winner

2:45 – 3:30 p.m. Poster Session 1

3:30 – 4:15 p.m. Poster Session 2

A couple of the presentations in session one are: “Totally RAD: Using Online Instruction to Engage Freshmen in Research and Discovery” and “The UW Advising Podcast: Extending the Advising Experience and Enhancing Student Engagement.”

“Totally RAD” will be presented by Kathleen Collins, Amanda Hornby, and Ben Tucker. In 2009, the UW Libraries teamed up with Freshmen Interest Group instructors and student leaders to implement the RAD (Research and Discovery) project. It created an online instructional tutorial and research assignment, which introduced 4,000 incoming freshman to library services, research tools and skills. The Web site’s abstract explains the project as “an example of a scalable and easily replicable project that instructors and librarians can implement, regardless of discipline, to meet the needs of distance and in-person learners.”

Presented by Clay Schwenn and Kurt Xyst from Undergraduate Academic Affairs, “The UW Advising Podcast” explores the power of approaching advising through podcasts. “The Advising podcast has given advisers an opportunity to extend classroom learning by profiling internships, student clubs, study abroad, research, and professional opportunities,” the online abstract explains. The project has really taken off and now has more than 85 episodes.

Session two presentations include: “Ten Years Teaching Trans/Gender Studies” and “Mindfulness in the University Classroom: Introducing Practical Techniques to Your Lecture.”

Presenter Amanda Lock Swarr has taught the same Women’s Studies class for ten years. The course, which was first called “‘Real’ Women: Sex, Gender, and Transgender Queries” and is currently known as “Trans/Gender Queries,” focuses on “unsettling the concept of ‘woman’?,” according to the abstract. Lock Swarr said that it is sometimes referred to as a Transgender Studies class, and it is the first of its kind to be granted permanent status at UW. The presentation reflects on the class over its first 10 years.

“Mindfulness in the University Classroom: Introducing Practical Techniques to Your Lecture” presents the results of introducing two-minute “mediation moments” at the start of some 300 and 400 Psychology classes. Jamie Diaz will present and explain the incorporation of “Mindfulness” into educational practice. From the abstract, “before lecture began the class was asked to close their computers or notebooks, a meditation chime was sounded as the professor asked to students to ‘be present’ in this moment – ignore the ‘to do’ list and focus on the class materials, and then the students were asked to take a slow inhale, pause a second and take a slow exhale. After a brief pause, class would then begin.” The majority of students reported that the exercise helped them better focus on the following lecture. The study will now “attempt to determine if this perceived improved focus actually translates into better performance measured by objective criteria.”

To read the abstract for every presentation click here.

“I think that anyone interested in teaching or learning, not just instructors, would find the symposium interesting and useful,” said Gillespie. “It crosses so many disciplines and even if you teach Literature, something in a Biology presentation might help you and your teaching.

“My favorite part of the symposium,” she continued, “is that through it, the University is making visible what goes on behind classroom doors. The event really opens those doors and highlights how important teaching and learning is to our school.”

The Teaching and Learning Symposium is Tuesday, April 20 in the HUB Ballroom. It begins at 2 p.m. and ends at 4:30.