Talking About Teaching
Spring 2009

Conversations will be held in the CST, DeWitt Wallace Library Suite 338 on Thursdays from 12:00-1:00.

Thursday, January 29 - John Cannon, Physics & Astronomy, and Tom Varberg, Chemistry, “"Bringing Your Research into the Classroom"
Bridging the gap between scholarship and teaching can be challenging but is there a model that combines both? We will discuss recent courses where a major research component formed part of the curriculum. In both cases, students acquired and analyzed scientific data; results are being disseminated at national conferences and in peer-reviewed journals. The discussion should generate new ideas for course design that encourage faculty in diverse disciplines to undertake similar endeavors.

Thursday, February 5 – Mark Mazullo, Music, “Substantive Conversations: Probing Student's Knowledge with Oral Examinations”
Several years ago, in an effort to break out of ingrained and long-unchallenged pedagogical habits and to respond to student concerns about the relevance of written examinations, I began to administer oral examinations in my music history courses. In these conversations, complemented by other graded activities such as listening tests and essays, I was able to gauge rather effortlessly and quickly the depth to which a student has mastered the course material. Do we do ourselves a disservice by underestimating the spoken word?

Thursday, February 12 - Pete Ferderer, Economics, “PowerPoint: Too Much of a Good Thing?”
With the touch of a button PowerPoint allows us to project pictures, text, mathematical equations, graphs, tables, and other information important to teaching. Given our cognitive limitations, it is possible that PowerPoint can be overused and adversely impact student learning. I share my experience using PowerPoint in the classroom over the past six years and invite discussion about the potential costs and benefits.

Thursday, February 19 - Mary Montgomery, Biology, & Chad Topaz, Math/Computer Science, “Clickers in the Classroom: Assessing Real-time Learning”
"Clickers" are small, handheld electronic devices that students use to respond to instructor-posed questions in class. Clicker-based teaching methodologies can benefit student learning by providing real-time feedback to students and instructors. We will provide a live demonstration of clicker technology, discuss our own experiences using clickers in the classroom, and facilitate a discussion about the pedagogical and technical aspects of implementation.

Thursday, February 26 - Paula Cooey, Religious Studies, “The Art of Class Discussion”
Good class discussions don't just happen, and those that aren't good can be excruciatingly painful. Why have them and how can we make them work? What about those dominating students? The quiet ones? What about those moments of silence? Do we talk too much? How do we make class discussions work as part of an overall experience of learning?

Thursday, March 5 – Karin Aguilar-San Juan, American Studies, & Paul Schadewald, Civic Engagement Center, “Teaching/City”
In this talk, we will give you the 411 on the Urban Faculty Colloquium, a weeklong summer workshop for faculty interested in urban and civic engagement. We will discuss the opportunities and challenges of "thinking local" in developing syllabi, assignments, and course-related internships and consider the many ways that engaged teaching creates active links between multiculturalism, internationalism and civic engagement on campus.

Thursday, March 12 – Karl Wirth, Geology, “Make Grading Easier and Your Teaching More Effective”
The “rubric” is one of those exceptional tools that no instructor should be without. For the instructor, the planning and preparation of rubrics helps to clarify learning goals and instructional design. For students, rubrics serve to focus learning and foster the development of self-assessment skills. As an evaluation instrument, the rubric makes grading more efficient, thorough, and consistent. Following a brief introduction to the essential elements of rubrics, we will discuss example rubrics for evaluating critical thinking, oral presentations, and writing.

Thursday, March 26 - Paul Dosh, Political Science and Latin American Studies, “Are Letter Grades Holding Your Students Back?”
In this short presentation, I challenge Macalester's reliance on letter grades as its primary tool for assessing student learning. I plan to share the pedagogical results of a system of qualitative assessment used in my courses - "S/D/NC with Written Evaluation," in which written evaluations subsequently accompany official transcripts. Join me for a discussion of the role of grades in teaching and learning.

Thursday, April 2 - – Harry Waters, Theatre and Dance, with Dominic Taylor (University of MN) and David Wiles (Carleton College), ”Representations of Race in Class and Performance”
Having the position in our collegiate environment of African American professors in the performing/fine arts, the challenges that arise encompass a broad field of cultural representation. This "permission" comes at a price while the lessons learned, on both sides, informs the quality of the teaching in the classroom.

Thursday, April 9 – Tonnis ter Veldhuis, Physics, “Integrating Research and Writing Experiences in Upper Level Majors Courses”
I incorporate the process of scientific research to help our majors to make the transition from undergraduate student to professional physicist. Through a semester-long project, my students write a proposal, do a literature search, perform an original project, and draft a manuscript. They then participate in the peer review process. Join me for a discussion as I highlight successes and challenges.

Thursday, April 16 – Three Rivers Project: Holly Barcus, Sarah Boyer, Andrea Cremer, Dan Hornbach, Dave Lanegran, Wang Ping, & Chris Wells
In July 2007, Macalester received a grant from the Mellon Foundation to encourage new research and instruction concerning the Saint Croix, River, the Minnesota River, and the Mississippi River. This Three Rivers Project encourages faculty to extend conventional instruction into the field through field-based modules and student-faculty research collaborations and to establish long-term partnerships with community groups, academic entities, and the government.

Thursday, April 23 – Adrienne Christiansen, Political Science, “&%@#! Teaching Catastrophes: Losing Student Attention to Laptops & Cell Phones”
“&%@#! Teaching Catastrophes” will be an occasional series where faculty discuss times when things go wrong in our courses. I am an enthusiastic adopter of computer technology but I cheered when a host of colleges and universities began banning student laptops from classrooms. Should we do the same here? What is gained? What might be lost? Can our classes ever compete with Facebook, Twitter, and online poker?

Thursday, April 30 - Devavani Chatterjea, Biology, and David Matthes, College of Biological Sciences, UMN, "Not Just in Time: Using a Preparation/Participation Scaffold to Transform Student Seminars"
It can be a challenge to get students to give sufficient effort to their preparation for graduate-style seminars that involve the reading and analysis of primary literature. In this discussion we will describe strategies that we have used in primary literature-based seminars at Macalester to thwart procrastination, enhance preparation and inspire high-quality discussions by students.

Lunch provided; no RSVP necessary