March 29, 2012 | Myrna Anderson

The Teaching and Learning Network is launching How We Learn, a year-long series on improving the classroom experience.

The Calvin faculty who make up the Teaching and Learning Network are hoping to lure their colleagues to an event held at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, March 30 in the Covenant Fine Arts Center. That event will launch the How We Learn project, a year-long series designed to improve the quality and quantity of Calvin's pedagogy.  

English professor Dean Ward, who co-leads How We Learn with history professor Kristin Du Mez and chemistry professor Herb Fynewever, said the project is an effort to bring coherence out of many and various teaching models Calvin faculty hear about both on and off campus: "There's really good reliable research out there on how people learn and how they're planning their teaching," Ward said. "We're working to make the variety of faculty-development efforts out there more synergistic."

At the May 30 event, seven colleagues will introduce research-based models of learning and teaching and give examples of how those models can inform pedagogical decisions. There will be plenty of give and take with the audience. Following the presentations, faculty will be invited to join learning communities that will meet  throughout the 2012–13 academic year. Faculty who participate in the learning communities will receive stipends.

Learning Communities

The learning communities will equip faculty with opportunities and resources to improve their teaching and their students' learning experience. "That sustained commitment is more likely, generally, to lead to change in the classroom," Ward said of the groups.

How We Learn is not just about faculty, Ward emphasized. Student Senate is co-sponsoring the kickoff, and student interest is crucial to the project: "Most faculty-development models do not involve students," he said. "We knew from the beginning we wanted to work with students ...  and they've been very helpful."

Ward says getting educators to change their habits of pedagogy takes time: "If you can get 20 to 30 percent of faculty committed to change, then you can change the culture," he said.

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