At The Teaching Center, we see teaching as a collaborative, not a solitary, endeavor. This perspective is central to a reflective, or scholarly, approach to teaching—which involves trying out evidence-based methods, observing the results, and using those results to further refine your teaching. As Pat Hutchings and Lee Shulman (1999) describe it, scholarly teaching involves “practices of classroom assessment and evidence gathering, . . . informed not only by the latest ideas in the field but also by current ideas about teaching in the field, . . . [as well as ] peer collaboration and review” (13).
Our Approach: Fostering Reflective Teaching and a Growth Mindset
One of the clear lessons from the existing literature is that active-learning techniques must be well-executed to be effective (Andrews et al., 2011). In partnership with the researchers of The Center for Integrative Research on Cognition, Learning, and Education (CIRCLE), Academic Services staff at The Teaching Center collaborate with faculty to apply current knowledge about learning toward the design, implementation, and evaluation of curricular innovations congruent with each instructor’s course objectives and teaching style. The Teaching Center works with faculty via workshops, institutes, and individual consultations to help instructors integrate evidence-based teaching methods, such as those involving active learning. Our goal is to transform the environment for students and faculty so that active learning and other evidence-based teaching approaches become the expectation, rather than the exception.
Central to our approach to faculty development is the application of “growth mindset”—an outlook that regards intelligence and skill as malleable rather than fixed or innate — to the practice of teaching (Dweck, 2006). We see this mindset as essential not only to helping students learn, but also to helping faculty innovate in the classroom (Fisher, Dufault, Repice, & Frey 2013).
William Buhro, George E. Pake Professor in Arts & Sciences and Chair of Chemistry, has described this perspective as it has shaped his own ideas about teaching:
I initially believed that one either had a knack for teaching, or sadly, did not. I believed that everything that could possibly be known about teaching had been discovered a long time ago, and endlessly discussed since. I have more recently developed a “growth mindset” about effective teaching, which I now see as the product of knowledge and skills developed over time. Participating in . . . the teaching community at Washington University has fed that growth, giving me new insights into recent advances in research on cognition and learning—and new teaching methods that can be used to increase student motivation and learning in tough curricula (Fisher et al., 2013).
If you are a faculty member interested in participating in these programs, please contact Teaching Center Executive Director, Gina Frey.
Initial funding for the STEM education initiatives at Washington University was through a four-year grant from the American Association of Universities (AAU). This work continues through the Transformational Initiative for Education in STEM (TIES), which is supported by the Office of the Provost.
Andrews, T. M., Leonard, M. J., Colgrove, C. A., & Kalinowski, S. T. (2011). Active learning not associated with student learning in a random sample of college biology courses. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 10(4), 394-405.
Dweck. C. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. NY: Ballantine.
Fisher, B.A., Dufault, C.L., Repice, M.D., & Frey, R.F. (2013). Fostering a growth mind-set: Integrating research on teaching and learning and the practice of teaching. To improve the academy: Resources for faculty, instructional, and organizational development, 32, 39-56.
Hutchings, P. and Shulman, L. S. (1999). The scholarship of teaching: New elaborations, new developments. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning 31(5), 10-15.