Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Putting Learning First

On Saturday, April 25, 2009 the Faculty Center for Excellence in Teaching at the University of Missouri in Kansas City hosted the Greater Kansas City Third Annual Symposium on Teaching and Learning (SoTL).

Amy Goodburn, Associate Dean for Faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences and a Professor of English and Women's and Gender Studies at the University of Nebraska--Lincoln, gave the keynote address, "Different Roles, Same Goals: My Journey Towards Scholarly Teaching." Professor Goodburn engaged the audience of fifty teachers from ten area colleges (Avila College, ITT Technical Institute, Johnson County CC, the University of Kansas, U of Missouri—Columbia, Park University, Rockhurst University, the Truman Medical Center, UMKC, and William Jewell) and the Topeka School District in a lively personal narrative about an academic career enlivened by the work of Ernest Boyer and Lee Schulman. She explained how her attitude towards teaching, research, and service was transformed by the 1991 AAHE publication on Teaching Portfolios (Edgerton, Hutchings, Quinlan). After making a convincing case for the direct involvement of teaching faculty in the definition of the administrative structures and processes used to assess and reward teaching, Professor Goodburn led an hour long open conversation about the place of Scholarly Teaching in Higher Education.

In addition to twenty-five posters on subjects including “Writing as a Way to Learn about the Brain,” the “Shared Inquiry Model,” and “Using Graphs to Illustrate the process of Recursion,” breakout sessions during the day demonstrated a number of different aspects of the scholarship of teaching and learning. The sessions emphasized curricular integration and the application of "online social interaction," ways to use student work to provoke SoTL-oriented enquiry, the process of turning research into teaching and vice-versa, Diversity Education as a way of re-defining learning-based scholarship, and classroom strategies that stimulate engaged learning.

During the final, all-group session, “How to Make It Count!,” Professors Bernstein and Goodburn were joined at the podium by Thomas Stroik, Professor of Linguistics and Associate Dean in the College of Arts and Sciences at UMKC. After Professor Bernstein had re-capped the history of SoTL, emphasizing why it is crucial that we make our scholarly work on teaching and learning public, Professor Stroik questioned the priority given to “Teaching” in too many conversations that are, ostensibly, about “Learning.” Playfully suggesting that we should re-name the discipline the Scholarship of Learning and Teaching, "SOLT," so as to centralize what should count, Stroik challenged the audience to think about how we “learn to learn” and “whose learning counts?” Professor Goodburn concluded the formal presentation by analyzing the word “count,” engaging the audience in deep criticism of how we hierarchize, value and exclude different kinds of knowledge and how we decide what to define as “learning.”

Next year’s symposium will also be hosted by UMKC (April 24, 2010). For details from this year’s symposium please go to

-Written by Stephen Dilks, FaCET Director, UMKC

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