Excellence in Teaching Day
Friday, May 21, 2021, 12:00 - 3:00 on Zoom
As we came to the end of what, for many of us, had been among the most challenging years of our teaching careers, what it meant to celebrate “Excellence in Teaching Day” took on new meaning. The pandemic forced us not only to remake our courses and our classrooms but also challenged us to redefine what “excellence” in teaching (and learning) looked like.
Some of us had to reckon in new ways with our own and our students’ human limitations. Others gained new insight into what we thought was truly fundamental to learning in our disciplines. And many of us discovered new ways of thinking about teaching that we’ll carry with us even after the pandemic ends.
In many ways, Excellence in Teaching Day this year marked a moment of transition, a time to pause and see what meaning we could make of the past year as well as a time to start imagining what we wanted teaching and learning to look like in a post-pandemic world. Despite being a virtual event, ETD continued to serve as a space for colleagues to gather and think together about the work of the past year and the years ahead.
12:00 - 1:00 Keynote & Respondent
Given this unusual year, we decided to keep our focus closer to home for this year’s keynote address. So we were grateful that Dr. Amey Victoria Adkins-Jones, Assistant Professor in Theology and AADS, agreed to kick off the day with a talk on how she’s making sense of this year: “What Remains: Reflections on Pedagogy, Pandemics, and Practices of Freedom.” She was joined by Dr. Sylvia Sellers-García, Professor of History, who delivered a response to the keynote, followed by a short dialogue between the two.
1:00 - 2:00 Breakout Discussions & Raffle
The program then shifted to breakout room discussions, where participants were able to move among different virtual conversations, with some focused on discussion of the keynote and others dedicated to particular teaching topics or for specific populations (e.g. graduate students, instructors of color, STEM instructors, etc.). Participants had the opportunity to choose which discussions they wanted to join on the day.
Towards the end of the hour, participants also had the option to join in a bit of fun, when we held a raffle for any who chose to participate. We had a selection of prizes, some meant to support rest and rejuvenation over the summer and others geared towards furthering teaching innovations in the new year.
2:00 - 3:00 Panel Presentations
We concluded the program with three concurrent panel discussions, where groups of faculty and students discussed the ways they were making sense of teaching and learning following the pandemic year. See below for full descriptions.
(Re)imagining Student Learning and Engagement
Kyrah Malika Daniels (Art History and AADS), Ellen Goldstein (Math), Rita Owens (CSOM)
As faculty worked this past year to revise their courses for socially distanced and remote contexts, the need to let go of familiar approaches to classroom interaction and assessment often spurred new thinking about student work and its purposes. Instructors experimented with creative new ways that assignments could provide structure, promote interaction with content, move students towards mastery, and even build community. In this session, we’ll hear from three faculty who adapted and re-envisioned their approaches to student learning this past year and how they anticipate those changes will influence their teaching choices moving forward.
Redefining “Inclusion” when Teaching in Times of Crisis
Nicholl Montgomery (LSEHD), Heather Olins (Biology), Min Song (English)
The past year has forced many instructors to rethink their definition of “inclusive” learning. As COVID-19 exacerbated health disparities and experiences of loss, remote learning challenged assumptions about accessibility, and people protested racial injustice on campus and across the country, many instructors found themselves revisiting what they mean when they affirm a commitment to an inclusive classroom. Instructors are asking questions about whose experience is centered in the classroom, what is necessary to enable learning for students who face stigmatization and harassment, and how instructors’ own social location informs how they express their commitments to students. Whether questions about inclusive teaching are familiar to you or a new commitment, this session provides an opportunity to hear BC instructors reflect on how they are defining inclusion against the backdrop of the past year and how they are living out that definition in their classrooms.
The View from the Student Side: Undergraduates Share their Reflections
To get a window into how students are making sense of the past year—and what they’re anticipating in the year ahead—we’ve invited four students to share their reflections on undergraduate life during a pandemic. Representing a mix of class years, majors, and perspectives, these students have offered to share what their learning experiences have been like since last March and how that’s shaped the ways they’re thinking about the rest of their college careers. We’ll spend the first half of the session hearing from the students and then open the floor for questions from attendees.
We know that this year, in particular, making time for yet one more Zoom program may be beyond what even the most dedicated instructor can commit to. For those of you who weren’t able to join us on May 21st, we hope you can still set aside some time for yourself to make sense of the past year, however you are moved to.
There are a number of guides to pedagogical reflection that you might draw on to structure your thinking. One option comes from education scholar Stephen Brookfield who defines critically reflective teaching as “assumption hunting,” or surfacing the beliefs we take for granted and which frame our interpretation of the classroom. Similarly, the University of Georgia has designed a series of questions meant to walk instructors through a process of critical reflection. Or, if you’re looking for something more concrete, a teaching inventory can lead to surprising insights into your practice.
If you’re inclined towards a more contemplative approach, the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society has suggested practices for self-care and meaning making. The Ignatian Examen, from BC’s Jesuit heritage, can be adapted for use by people of all spiritual backgrounds. In addition to personal reflection, written or otherwise, you might compare notes virtually with colleagues who have offered reflections on the Formative Education website. Take a contemplative walk close to home or in a place you’ve been eager to see again; if you are close to BC, take advantage of the Labyrinth behind Bapst Library. Claim time with people you’ve missed.