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Talking about teaching: SLIS faculty share pedagogy expertise

July 24, 2015

It's never too late to learn from your peers. Ask retiring Professor Bob Holley, who participated in the School of Library and Information Science's inaugural "Faculty Showcase" held April 15. Holley, who joined the faculty in 1988, said the informal show-and-tell forum led him to some important discoveries from his colleagues. For instance, Holley learned from Assistant Professor Jen Pecoskie that a feature in Blackboard allows an instructor to grade multiple students in a group setting automatically with the same grade, something that Holley had been doing manually for each student.

"Thank you so much," Holley said. "I learned something very important today!"

Likewise, Professor Dian Walster said she had adopted Holley's technique of "quick quizzes" with her students which, while ungraded, provide students with participation points and a way for them to keep on track with the material.

Dean Sandra Yee shared a concept of a "pyramid exam" she had recently learned of, where students take the same exam twice in succession; the first as individuals and the second time after discussing the exam in small groups. The exam is then weighted with 70 percent of the exam being the individual grade, the remaining 30 percent after the group dynamics have taken place.

"It provides students with a type of interaction that is fun, instructional, and motivating," Yee said.

With SLIS faculty at the forefront of online education, much of the forum's discussions centered on the best technology for different applications, from the pros and cons of Collaborate to recommendations for the best voice-recognition software, as well as ideas for trouble-shooting connectivity issues.

But perhaps the best take-away from the forum was the different ways instructors were learning from their students, not vice versa. Holley employs a technique early in the semester of asking a provocative question with multiple answers, taking a hands-off approach to providing an answer until the students have digested the question and its nuances.

"This helps me achieve my goal as a faculty member of students not just parroting back what they think I want to hear," Holley said. "They have to form their own thoughts and opinions, and I've been very pleased with my ability to force that outcome, as I get some amazing answers I wouldn't otherwise have thought of."

Pecoskie agreed.

"I find for some assignments, the less guidance I give, the better the objectives," she said. "It can be hard to give up control like that, but the learning that happens behind it, I was just stunned this term by the exceptional and beautiful answers I was getting."

As one of the newest SLIS faculty members, Assistant Professor Peter Hook said the forum was both interesting and helpful.

"It's easy to recognize a teaching or technology need that isn't getting met, and then address that need," he said. "It's harder to hear about dynamic techniques that others are using that will benefit my own teaching."