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Teaching Resource Center Offers Support for Redesigning Courses

In the sci-fi TV series “Star Trek,” Capt. Jean-Luc Picard is famous for saying “engage,” when ordering the USS Enterprise to proceed into space. New programs at the University of Virginia for redesigning courses also center on “engaging” – by involving faculty and students to boldly go into new worlds of teaching and learning.

For faculty members interested in making changes to a course they teach, U.Va.’s Teaching Resource Center offers some new program options, including instructional and funding support for “flipping the classroom,” integrating contemplation into the syllabus or improving an introductory science class.

The deadline for applying to a program is April 12 for the next academic year. Any full-time faculty member – tenured, tenure-track or nontenure-track – from any U.Va. school or department may propose a course. The funding varies for each program, from $550 to $10,000.

Each of the programs includes the requirement of participating in the center’s Course Design Institute May 20 through 24. More information and details on the application process can be found online.

Hybrid Challenge for Engaged Courses

The “2013-14 Hybrid Challenge for Engaged Courses” is in its second year; last summer, the center and the U.Va. Faculty Senate – with funding from President Teresa A. Sullivan – launched an initiative to encourage faculty members to transform an existing course into a flipped, hybrid, technology-enhanced course. Instructors may also propose to develop a brand-new flipped course. This year, faculty members will have more time to prepare their courses.

“Flipping the classroom” refers to using digital technologies, such as online short lectures, wikis and blogs, to deliver course content outside of class and incorporate more interactive, problem-solving, creative activities in class. The degree to which hybrid courses use traditional classroom and online learning environments varies depending on the nature and subject matter of the course.

Preference will be given to courses enrolling at least 100 students and to lower-division courses. Some funding may be available to support flipped January Term or summer school courses.

Participants in the yearlong program are expected to engage with each other and with Teaching Resource Center colleagues in several different ways, including sharing their successes and lessons learned from developing and teaching their courses. Faculty members also will be able to apply for a grant of up to $5,000 to support learning-outcomes assessment done through the Curry School of Education’s Center for the Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Faculty members who foresee requiring such support should detail their funding requirements in their proposal.

Nucleus: Improving STEM Education

Another program, “Nucleus,” begins with the idea that introductory-level science and engineering courses shouldn’t serve as “weed-out” courses. Nucleus aims to help U.Va. instructors improve introductory-level courses in the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics – the STEM disciplines – by using recent research-based teaching methods and assessment, and to ensure that faculty and departments can sustain improvements. Some of the new pedagogies include problem-based, team-based or peer-led learning.

Faculty members participating in the program can learn to identify common barriers that students face when learning difficult concepts and develop appropriate learning activities to overcome them.

Instructors who are open to learning-centered approaches to teaching and those willing to fully and actively participate in small, structured learning communities are especially sought.

Contemplation Pedagogy

Contemplation, or contemplative, pedagogy – the integration of reflective or meditative practices into higher education courses – has been shown to boost concentration and improve cognitive and academic performance. Studies also indicate that this integrative approach increases capacities such as self-awareness, creativity, empathy, compassion and interpersonal skills.

“Drawn from ancient Eastern teaching philosophies and Greek educational traditions ... contemplative education transcends the idea that knowledge arises in the thinking mind only,” according to the Naropa Institute, which has incorporated it into classes for 35 years. “Instead, it invites students to embrace the immediacy of their interior lives as a way to fully integrate what they learn.”

The program will support up to seven faculty members who will redesign a course to teach during the fall or spring semester. Each participant may apply for small grants of up to $550 to support the implementation and assessment of their courses.

With funding support from the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education and U.Va.’s Contemplative Sciences Center, the Contemplative Pedagogy Program will particularly appeal to instructors committed to fostering self-awareness in their students and to assisting them in their search for meaning and purpose, said Dorothe Bach, an associate director of the Teaching Resource Center.

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