January 25, 2010

Distinguished Teaching Scholars share know-how

Professor Jeff Rosensweig

The seasoned faculty gathered for a recent Distinguished Teaching Scholars seminar to debate, discuss and share best pedagogical practices. Center for Faculty Development and Excellence (CFDE) Director Laurie Patton posed provocative questions as each scholar contributed unique insight from their respective schools and disciplines.

Continuing the CFDE’s mission to build intellectual community, the Distinguished Teaching Scholars program is designed to honor Emory faculty who are leading teachers, and create a university-wide conversation around pedagogy.

“One of the things that we can always do well at the university is reflect carefully and seriously about pedagogical practice, and how the pedagogical practices converge with our individual and collective intellectual agendas,” says Patton.

The CFDE designed the program to serve several different functions. The fellowship “creates prestige, it creates gravity and weightiness around serious intellectual questions of teaching, and it creates a sense of energy that can be shared within each of the units,” explains Patton.

Nominated by their deans, the first cohort of Distinguished Teaching Scholars includes Morgan Cloud, Law School; Sarah Freeman, School of Nursing; Andrew Furman, School of Medicine; Jeff Galle, Oxford College; Tom Lancaster, Emory College; Jeff Rosensweig, Business School; Brent Strawn, School of Theology; and Nancy Thompson, School of Public Health.

Each scholar is an exemplar in their field, says Patton. As intellectual leaders on pedagogy in their individual units, the scholars work with the CFDE to nurture initiatives on teaching.

Galle, Oxford College associate professor of humanities, was the featured presenter at the most recent Distinguished Teaching Scholars seminar. The rotating presenter post allows the scholars to seek peer feedback on the teaching or research project they’re implementing as part of their fellowship.

Galle, who also directs Oxford’s Center for Academic Excellence, shared the curriculum redesign and inquiry-driven model for general education programs Oxford is currently exploring. Galle noted after his presentation that the feedback from his colleagues was valuable. “It’s a real give-and-take,” he notes.

Thompson took notes during Galle’s presentation, making connections to her own work in Rollins School of Public Health.

“Jeff’s presentation on inquiry-driven teaching stimulates me to think about all the classes I teach and what I could do differently or better,” said the associate professor of behavioral sciences and health education who holds a joint appointment in epidemiology.

Thompson’s fellowship project is to interview public health professionals — from lab workers to state health directors — about their most influential teacher in an attempt to find common themes and how they could be applied to public health teaching methods and messages.

The program provides a discretionary professional development account for one year, used to support teaching and research activities.

Thompson, for example, will use the stipend to hire doctoral students to help conduct the research, incentivize study participants and cover the cost of interview transcriptions.

The Distinguished Teaching Scholar program is among the many ways the CFDE is helping to strengthen faculty distinction, a key priority of Emory’s strategic plan.

Thompson says she appreciates the opportunity to participate in a faculty development program at this level of her career.

“It’s very inspiring to me to get fresh ideas from people doing creative teaching,” says Thompson.

After their year of participation, Distinguished Teaching Scholars will have the opportunity to meet together for follow-up conversations and to advise the CFDE about its ongoing work. Patton hopes the torch lit by the scholars’ pedagogical projects will be passed to the next cohort for “a sense of integration across the University and each group of fellows.”

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