Faculty enhance teaching skills in Provost's Academy on Critical Thinking

Provost Academy

Craig Nelson (standing) leads academy participants through reflective exercises.

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(May 24, 2010)--More than 40 UTSA faculty members participated May 12-14 in the second annual Provost's Academy on Critical Thinking in the Connally Room at the Institute of Texan Cultures.

In addition to a thick binder with materials, each participant received a flash drive with teaching-related resources on topics such as assessment, concepts maps, critical thinking, deep learning, effective questioning, rubrics, teaching large classes effectively, writing assignments and cooperative learning.

Each day, six people whose names were drawn selected a teaching-related book of their choice to share with their various departments. One of the three key speakers, Terry Doyle, Ferris State University, discussed the importance of a learning-centered approach to teaching.

Barbara Millis, director of the UTSA Teaching and Learning Center, outlined Dee Fink's model for redesigning courses including his 36-page workbook with forms to help faculty think through the redesign process. Because tightly structured group work can lead to critical thinking, she also modeled and discussed active learning strategies in the context of four key principles of deep learning.

Craig Nelson spent a day guiding the faculty through reflective critical thinking activities, making the point that education is changing radically with universities such as MIT making online courses public and with paper-grading services provided in countries such as Bangladesh. After discussing William Perry's stages of intellectual and ethical development in the context of critical thinking, he concluded with this reminder: "If we are only teaching for content, then we can be replaced by computers and graders in Bangladesh. If, however, we are teaching to transform our students, then teachers are indispensible."

Lavonne Grandy and Jason Fane from the Instructional Design and Development Group offered insights into teaching through Blackboard and various technology-related tools, complemented by Mike Miller's (Sociology) presentation on integrating multimedia.

Featured UTSA faculty and two Ph.D. candidates gave brief presentations on teaching with games (Charles "Andy" Speer, Anthropology), scratch-off quizzes (Mike Anderson, Statistics) and interactive lectures (Rick Utecht, Marketing). Patricia Geppert, Biology, gave an inspiring mini-presentation on how she applied in her classes the things she learned at last year's Provost's Academy with an emphasis on using personal response systems ("clickers") to promote critical thinking.

The Provost's Academy received rave reviews with most rating the overall value as a 4 on a 4-point scale. Participants appreciated the research and resources, the opportunity to network with faculty from other disciplines and noted the significant impact the seminars will have on their instruction techniques.