Teachers teach, right? They are trained and they know what to do. This is not always true. Professors have an enormous grasp of their subject matter, but in the 21st century, the plethora of learning styles and teaching tools have identified a need for training teachers in order to be able to reach all students with all the teaching platforms.
SGU is one of the few universities to devote energy and resources on this type of training. The Department of Educational Services (DES) at St. George’s University promotes excellence through academic development and support services for students—but its outreach doesn’t stop there. Their innovative and highly popular Let’s Talk Teaching series focuses on faculty development.
“The idea of the Let’s Talk Teaching series is to fill the gap between being content experts and being expert teachers,” said Dr. Bill Blunt, DES Deputy Director and the University’s Director of Faculty Development. “Any one member of faculty influences many hundreds of students, so helping just one faculty member strengthen their teaching has a huge impact on our students.” The series clarifies what is “good teaching” in higher education, and addresses how students learn, how to structure lectures, labs, tutorials, courses, and curricula using technology, evaluating effectiveness of teaching, developing higher order critical thinking, and reliably assessing learning.
Faculty members are excited about the well-attended Let’s Talk Teaching series. “I find the seminars extremely valuable because of the interesting and thought-provoking topics,” says Dr. Amy Baldwin, Associate Professor of Microbiology who has both attended and presented at the series. “We are all here to teach, so having a series that focuses on teaching is noteworthy. As professors, we are always looking for new and better ways to teach.” She notes that camaraderie is an added benefit: “The sessions are supportive in an emotional way. It is easy to get caught up in your specific subject and department, but there is a lot of strength, value and insight when we all come together in this way.” She says the sessions help the faculty to be well-rounded and provide a steady reminder to practice student-focused teaching.
Dr. Satesh Bidaisee, Associate Professor and Deputy Chair of the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, an attendee and former presenter, extols the merits of the series. “Let’s Talk Teaching is an opportunity for educators to discuss and explore the discipline of education. Our diverse faculty lends itself well to these discussions as their wide range of backgrounds can offer unique insights into techniques, providing participants with a distinctive learning experience. We have the opportunity to learn from each other’s experience and apply new techniques that have worked well in the classroom and lab. “
Visiting professors and resident faculty members pitch in to assist Dr. Blunt in delivering the sessions. Each semester, the series reintroduces the basics of teaching and covers several topics geared at introducing new ideas and encouraging faculty to take new initiatives in teaching. A theme is chosen each term and topics include teaching and assessment strategies, professional and organizational development, community building, leadership and technology.
The Education Computing Team led by Dr. Avril Best is also instrumental in faculty development, providing an important complement to the Let’s Talk Teaching series with seminars on the effective use of technology in education.
Instituted 12 years ago, and held twice each week, the Let’s Talk Teaching series has had impressive success. “Our attendance rate illustrates that the faculty are enjoying these sessions, and finding them useful,” Dr. Blunt said, referring to SGU’s more than 150 faculty who participate in the series each semester. “The best proof, however, may be our students and graduates, who continue to achieve impressive results on licensing exams and to pursue successful careers after graduating from St. George’s.”