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2015 Excellence in Teaching Day


Excellence in Teaching Day, the successor to eTeaching 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 interactive plenary sessions and hands-on workshops, faculty members have the opportunity to address specific challenges and possibilities for growth in their own teaching, as well as learn from other faculty members and experts about new strategies, techniques, and technologies.

Excellence in Teaching Day 2015 was held on May 13. The plenary session featured Mike Wesch, Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State and 2008 U.S. Professor of the Year, and Silvia Bunge, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at University of California, Berkeley. Additional information about the day can be found below.


Plenary Session


Mike Wesch

Mike Wesch

Dubbed “the prophet of an education revolution” by the Kansas City Star and “the explainer” by Wired Magazine, Wesch is a recipient of the highly coveted “US Professor of the Year” Award from the Carnegie Foundation. After two years studying the implications of writing on a remote indigenous culture in the rain forest of Papua New Guinea, he turned his attention to the effects of social media and digital technology on global society and education. His videos on culture, technology, education, and information have been viewed over 20 million times, translated in over 20 languages, and are frequently featured at international film festivals and major academic conferences worldwide. Wesch has won several major awards for his work, including a Wired Magazine Rave Award, the John Culkin Award for Outstanding Praxis in Media Ecology, and he was named an Emerging Explorer by National Geographic. After years of experimenting with social media and assessing the learning potential of these tools, Wesch argues that they don’t automatically foster significant learning or establish genuine empathy or meaningful bonds between professors and students. Using social media is but one of the many possible ways to connect, but the message that Wesch’s experimentation brings is that only genuine connections may restore the sense of joy and curiosity that we hope to instill in our students.

At Excellence in Teaching Day, Dr. Wesch discussed the question, "How does the (real but) virtual realm in which we live affect teaching and learning in higher education?"

Silvia Bunge

Silvia Bunge

Dr. Silvia Bunge is a Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at the University of California at Berkeley. Her other affiliations at UC Berkeley include the Institute of Human Development and the Research in Cognition and Mathematics Education program. Professor Bunge directs the Building Blocks of Cognition Laboratory, which draws from the fields of cognitive neuroscience, developmental psychology, and education research. Researchers in the laboratory examine developmental changes and neural plasticity in cognitive control and reasoning skills in healthy and neurologically impaired children and adults. The laboratory seeks to better understand both negative and positive environmental influences on brain and cognitive development. Through her research and membership in the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, Frontiers of Innovation, the Latin American School on Education, Cognitive, and Neural Sciences, the International Society for Mind, Brain, and Education, etc., Professor Bunge seeks to promote academic readiness among children at risk for school failure.

At Excellence in Teaching Day, Dr. Bunge discussed the question, "What does the science of learning teach us about the practice of teaching university students?" 

Q&A session

Teaching with Technology Awards


Award winners from left to right:

  • Can Erbil
  • Andrew Hargreaves [accepted on behalf of Andrew by Michael O'Connor]
  • Nanci Peters
  • Tiziana Dearing
  • George Wyner
Teaching with Technology awards

Afternoon Workshops

Teaching Upside Down: Starting with Why

Michael Wesch, Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology, Kansas State University

Mike Wesch

When we prepare to teach a class, we often spend a great deal of time deciding what we are going to teach, and sometimes how to teach it, but we spend less time contemplating why. In this workshop, we will flip the questions and start with the big why, build new and more suitable hows, and rethink our whats. Meanwhile we will be guided by the question of Who. Who are our students? Who do we want them to become? Who are we? And how can we help them get there?


Reasoning and the Brain: Implications for Education

Silvia A. Bunge, Professor of Psychology and Director of the Building Blocks of Cognition Laboratory, University of California at Berkeley

Silvia Bunge

Reasoning, or the ability to think logically and solve novel problems, is a prerequisite for scholastic achievement. Despite – or rather because of – its central role in theories of human intelligence, reasoning has in recent years fallen out of favor as a topic of research. However, it is worth revisiting this line of work with a fresh perspective. Is the capacity for reasoning set in stone by the time students get to college, or can it be strengthened through practice? In this session, I will describe a key aspect of reasoning that is essential for scholastic achievement, and present results from our laboratory showing that intensive practice of reasoning skills in college students can alter brain structure, function, and task performance. This overview will serve as a springboard for a broader discussion on how best to build reasoning skills into introductory courses so that students are prepared to tackle more complex challenges in upper-level courses. 


Discussion As A Form Of Presence: Asking, Listening, Learning

Allison Pingree, Director of Professional Pedagogy, Harvard Kennedy School of Government

Allison Pingree

With the proliferation of online learning, the possibilities for faculty-student and student-student interchanges have multiplied exponentially. In the face of these changes, what remains as the value of in-class interaction? What kinds of learning, if any, are still best achieved through face- to-face conversation? And how might we as instructors make the most of these in-person discussions with our students? This workshop is designed to enhance our capacity for discussion facilitation, with particular focus on asking better questions, listening more deeply, and being fully present. 


Learning To Teach Inclusively

James Keenan, S.J., Canisius Professor of Theology and Director of the Jesuit Institute
Patrick McQuillan, Associate Professor of Teacher Education

Allison Pingree

Racial inequities raise challenges to those of us teaching in a community with the explicit commitment to prepare students to live lives in service to others. How do we teach in a way that's inclusive of all students? How do we want to learn to teach in a way that's inclusive of all students? Join Fr. James Keenan, Prof. Patrick McQuillan, and other faculty colleagues for a discussion about race and teaching.


Engaging Students In The Sciences

Clare O’Connor, Associate Professor, Biology
Can Erbil, Associate Professor of the Practice, Economics
Ken Galli, Lecturer, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Can Erbil, Associate Professor

Teaching in the sciences comes with its own set of challenges, particularly around student engagement. This panel discussion will feature Boston College science professors discussing strategies they have found successful for engaging their students in the classroom. Topics to be discussed include use of personal response systems, interactive media, project-based learning, and more.


Exploring Project-Based Learning

Tim Lindgren, Senior Instructional Designer, Center for Teaching Excellence

Tim Lindgren

This workshop will consider what it means to have students learn by creating projects, particularly in light of recent teaching scholarship and emerging digital technologies. We will survey a range of strategies for assignment design, such as engaging students with real-world problems, cultivating an authentic sense of audience, using primary material for research, and incorporating relevant digital tools. We will have opportunities to share our experiences about what has worked in our classes as well as the challenges we may have encountered with project-based learning.

Read a Google Document with information from the workshop


Professor As Designer: Best Practices For Creating Learning Materials

Drew Reynolds, Instructional Designer, Center for Teaching Excellence

Drew Reynolds

Are you ready to take the next step in developing your online course sites? Come to this workshop to learn how to work with Canvas Pages to author content directly online, find and embed rich media (video, audio, images) to support learning goals, design your site according to accessibly standards, and design your site to work on mobile devices.

Read a resource flyer with information from the workshop