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Mike Welch speaking at Excellence in Teaching Day

Excellence in Teaching Day


Excellence in Teaching Day is an annual event sponsored by the Center for Teaching Excellence that brings together faculty members from across the University with nationally-recognized scholars for substantive dialogue about important issues in teaching and learning. Through provocative keynote addresses, interactive breakout sessions, and the Teaching Innovation Poster Session, faculty members have the opportunity to explore with their colleagues new possibilities both for the classroom and for higher education at large.

Making Learning Visible

Excellence in Teaching Day occured on Monday, May 6, 2019 and invited participants to reflect on the challenge of “Making Learning Visible” in our classes. It asked us to consider how we might more intentionally design our courses -- our assignments, class activities, exams, lectures -- so that both instructors and students can identify and gauge the learning happening in their classes. As BC seeks to build a more robust culture of assessment, faculty have the opportunity to shape the role that assessment plays in student learning.


Keynote: “Every Teacher a Teacher-Scholar”

Professor Claire Major delivered this year’s keynote address, titled “Every Teacher a Teacher-Scholar: Learning Assessment as a Way to Build Teacher Knowledge of Effective Teaching.” A dynamic speaker who got her start teaching English literature, Dr. Major is currently Professor of Higher Education at the University of Alabama, where she teaches courses on college teaching and technology in higher education. An author of many teaching guides for faculty, Major is a leading thinker on the role of assessment in the classroom.

Major’s address challenged faculty to take a more scholarly approach to teaching through the practice of learning assessment, which involves linking learning goals, instructional practices, and assessment in a seamless whole. In many ways this is work we are already doing. Whenever college teachers take stock of what went well in a class session or online learning module, we are assessing teaching. Whenever we think about whether students understand information, we are assessing learning. These regular activities can be harnessed in a powerful process that can help us develop the knowledge we need to improve student learning.

The keynote happened from 1:30 - 3:00 in McGuinn 121, and the first 50 people to arrive received a free copy of Dr. Major’s book, Learning Assessment Techniques.

Excellence in Teaching Day Schedule Overview

8:30 - 9:00

Light Breakfast

Stokes N201

9:00 - 10:15

Breakout Sessions I

Stokes Hall

10:15 - 11:00

Teaching Innovation Poster Session

Stokes N203

11:00 - 12:15

Breakout Sessions II

Stokes Hall

12:15 - 1:30

Celebratory Lunch

Lyons Dining Hall, Lower Level

1:30 - 3:00

Keynote & Discussion: Dr. Claire Major

McGuinn 121

3:00 - 4:00

Reception (catered by Flour Bakery)

McGuinn 121 Foyer




Breakout Sessions I (9:00 - 10:15)

Authentic Assignments: Helping Novices Think Like Experts

Stokes S295

Carling Hay (Earth & Environmental Sciences), Drew Hession-Kunz (CSOM), and Joe Nugent (English)

Authentic learning experiences task students with ‘doing’ the discipline by presenting them with a real-life challenge that requires them to use a range of different skills and knowledge to solve. At the heart of this strategy is the need for instructors to deconstruct their disciplinary expertise into demonstrable activities that enable novices to achieve proficiency as experts. But how can faculty identify and curate challenges that are both appropriately demanding, and manageable for students? In this session, attendees will hear from three BC faculty members who brought authentic learning into different elements of their teaching practice.

Creative Process as a Vehicle for Critical Thinking

Stokes S461

Amey Victoria Adkins-Jones (Theology/African & African Diaspora Studies), Crystal Tiala (Theater), and Jon Wargo (LSEHD) 

Creativity can be a means of freeing and focussing our thinking, and faculty in seemingly unrelated fields are exploring it use for a range of teaching purposes. This session will highlight a number of ways instructors have had students generate or respond to creative expression as a way of deepening their engagement with their work, and will include an exercise to explore the role of creativity in learning.

Crystal Tiala handout

Jon Wargo slides

Developing Brains, Developing Lives: Promoting Student Well-Being in the Classroom

Stokes S115

Jessica Black (SSW) and Elise Phillips (Health Promotion)

Stress is a growing problem on most college campuses, and we sometimes find ourselves at a loss for how to hold students to high standards while meeting them where they are and supporting them appropriately. Neuroscience and research on late adolescent brain development can shed light on these questions and suggest ways to structure student work, in and out of the classroom, that tend to promote their well-being. Professor Jessica Black will present her research on this topic, accompanied by Elise Phillips, Director of Health Promotion, who will share resources available for students at BC.


Disciplinary Approaches to Constructive Disagreement

Stokes S201

Jonathan Howard (English/African & African Diaspora Studies), David Storey (Philosophy), and Susan Tohn (SSW) 

As we look for ways to heal social and cultural divides in and out of our classrooms, our fields themselves provide a wealth of resources. In this panel discussion, faculty from across the University will share strategies from their disciplines for cultivating respectful debate, deep listening, careful analysis, and other skills that transform conflict into meaningful exchange.

Making Learning Visible in Culturally Diverse Classrooms

Stokes S209

Betty Leask (LSEHD)

Cultural diversity is the norm rather than the exception in university classes today. Teachers and learners respond to diversity in complex ways. In this interactive session, Dr. Betty Leask (Professor Emeritus in Higher Education at La Trobe University, Melbourne and the author of Internationalizing the Curriculum) shares hers and others' research undertaken in Australian University classrooms over a period of 5 years, the result of which was a set of good practice principles for learning and teaching across cultures. Participants will explore the possibilities and potentialities of diversity in their classrooms and ways in which they can apply the good practice principles to make learning visible.

Betty Leask slides

Breakout Sessions II (11:00 - 12:15)

Making Learning Visible to Students: Crafting Assignments that Center Core Curriculum Learning Goals

Stokes S209

Claire Major (University of Alabama)

The University Core Curriculum seeks to invite students to consider how and why the liberal arts matter, both for themselves and for the world. However, even when students are deeply engaged in their Core courses, they don’t always recognize those bigger questions at work. In this session with plenary speaker Claire Major, faculty will explore ways to design assignments that make learning visible not only to the instructor but also to the students, with a particular emphasis on the Core Curriculum Learning Goals. While this session is particularly relevant to faculty teaching Core courses, it could also be helpful to anyone interested in making learning more visible to their students.

Decolonizing the Mind: Disrupting Disciplinary and Classroom Assumptions and Practices

Stokes S109

Nick Gozik (International Programs), facilitating; panelists: Ana Martínez Alemán (LSEHD) and Kalpana Seshadri (English)

This interactive session explores how faculty might question, disrupt, and transform the exclusive and marginalizing narratives and frameworks that dominate disciplinary scholarship and classroom practices. The session begins with an overview of the concept of "the decolonization of curricula" and continues with presentations by BC faculty who will discuss approaches that they have employed in the past. The session concludes with an open conversation in which all participants are invited to contribute to the dialogue around decolonizing pedagogical practices in BC’s classrooms.

From Theory to Practice: Helping Students Apply What They Know

Stokes S295

Rob Fichman (CSOM), Laura Lowery (Biology), and Chandini Sankaran (Economics) 

This session will confront the gap between articulating a principle and using it to solve an appropriate problem -- or even recognizing it as the solution. This gap is familiar in many fields, and we will hear from a panel of faculty who have explored ways to give students the practice and insight to bridge it that apply across disciplines.

Rob Fichman slides

Laura Lowery slides

Geo-Spatial Mapping for Learning: Insights from the Libraries GIS Faculty Cohort

Stokes S201

Anna Kijas (BC Libraries), facilitating; panelists: Mike Barnett (LSEHD), Andrés Castro Samayoa (LSEHD), and Sam Teixeira (SSW)

Mapping and data visualization can be powerful tools for learning in a range of disciplines. Over this past year O’Neill Library’s GIS Cohort has brought faculty together from around the University who were interested in exploring the affordances of using spatial visualization across disciplines and issues of social justice. In this panel we will hear from Cohort participants and other faculty who have brought this work into their classrooms, and the Library’s Digital Scholarship team will share information about support available to all faculty interested in pursuing similar projects.

Inside Texts, Outside Comfort Zones: Helping Students Read Differently

Stokes S115

Allison Curseen (English), Natana DeLong-Bas (Theology), and Laura Hake (Biology)

Learning content can be as much about navigating new formats and phrasing as it is about grasping the concepts themselves. Students find it difficult sometimes to get started with a text, and at other times to grasp its full meaning. This panel gathers faculty who have found ways to meet this challenge in a variety of settings, and help their students grow as successful readers in and beyond their courses.

Natana DeLong-Bas handout


For Excellence In Teaching Day Participants Visiting Boston College On May 6th: