FAU hosts workshop for new faculty

Dylan Bouscher

It turns out you really can teach an old professor new tricks.

At a New Faculty Workshop on Jan. 17, professors who were new to FAU, and some to teaching, listened to three speakers with strategies for capturing students’ imagination and keeping their attention. The speakers polled, quizzed and made new faculty members draw up lesson plans for Goldilocks and the Three Bears as techniques to use in classrooms. Half of the professors that went had already been teaching for at least four years according to a text message survey taken during the workshop.

Dr. Jeffrey Buller, Dean of the Wilkes Honors College was the one that polled them through the text messaging survey that also showed 40 percent of the professors there were in their first year of teaching — the other 10 percent were in their second year. This was Buller’s first technique for keeping students focused in large class sizes.

Diane Alperin, Associate Provost of Personnel and Programs, passed out copies of Buller’s book, The Essential College Professor before he spoke. “The book is extremely helpful for new faculty members,” said visiting professor, John Topinka. Topinka is a public administration professor in his first year of teaching.

Assisting visiting professor, Dr. Marianne Russo, has been in academics for more than 20 years, and found the workshop to be excellent, calling it “a learning experience.” She teaches statistics and educational research at FAU.

Buller asked the faculty members to outline their profession and salary expectations. He then asked the newbies to write down what they want their single, greatest accomplishment to be. These were parts of the “aspirational curriculum” he asked the professors to create.

“I loved Dr. Buller’s workshop,” said Russo, clarifying later that “in fact, all [speakers] were experts in their instructional delivery.”

During her presentation, Dr. Chamely-Wiik, a chemistry professor talked about increasing undergraduate research at FAU. “Helping undergrads would be a step forward,” said Dr. Chamely-Wiik, adding that it “could make FAU very attractive to exceptional students.” Chamely-Wiik is also Director of the Quality Enhancement Plan, a five to seven year plan that is part of the FAU accreditation process and helps enhance student learning.

Last to speak was psychology professor, Dr. Jennifer Peluso who is also director of the The Scholarship of Teaching, an organization that researches what improves higher education. Peluso started her presentation by asking the new faculty what the difference was between studying and learning. Russo answered, “one must study something to learn it.” Topinka said the difference was “studying is reaching a level of understanding, learning is being able to apply it.”

From taking a 30 second quiz on counting vowels to writing a one minute paper, Peluso offered fresh strategies for teaching in her presentation. In one activity, Peluso had the professors create lesson plans for Goldilocks and the Three Bears based on Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning. Bloom’s pyramid breaks down the six levels of learning into remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating.

She also covered student learning, and why students coming out of high school struggle at first when they get to college. Peluso explained this happens because students spent too little time studying in high school, and consider their own academic abilities greater than they really are.

Peluso referred to a study that showed 71.2 percent of students entering four year colleges and universities rated their academic ability above average. The study was done by the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute and also showed that 63 percent of students spent less than six hours a week on homework in their senior year, according to the HERI website. She used the statistic to warn new faculty members to “beware of your students’ expectations.”

Peluso wrapped up the workshop by telling professors to “take risks and have the courage to be imperfect.”