The Teagle Collegium: Promoting Instructional Reflection Among Graduate Students
“[The Teagle Collegium] made me question my preparation, in-class, practice, and afterwards. We do many things in our teaching without questioning why we do them. Teagle, by constantly encouraging us to answer questions about the reasons and consequences of our practices, helped me rationalize some of my teaching practices, while it also led me to change or abandon some others.”
--Graduate student (Communication and Culture)
How does a research university intentionally promote reflection among graduate students about teaching and student learning? The Collegium on Inquiry in Action at Indiana University offers evidence on how to promote graduate-student classroom instruction. Funded by the Teagle Foundation from 2008-2011, the Collegium brought together yearly cohorts of graduate students from four departments in order to ask questions, generate new teaching practices, and share literature on ways to foster high quality student learning. Each departmental team was composed of four graduate students and one faculty mentor who considered how to teach in ways that are framed by the theory on what works and based on evidence of student learning. The teams worked within their disciplinary contexts and also shared practices and discoveries across departmental lines with their colleagues in meetings of the full Collegium.
In the fall semester, graduate students (Fellows) and faculty in the Collegium read theoretical literature and empirical research about signature pedagogies of their respective disciplines, construction of effective learning environments, and design of authentic learning assessments. Discussions about the readings were structured with intra- and inter-disciplinary Collegium activities (such as concept mapping); examination of video and written teaching cases; planning of classroom assessment techniques; and analysis of and reflection about individual teaching experiences. Fellows regularly wrote reflections about how both the readings and discussions uncovered and conveyed distinctions and overlaps in disciplinary questions, methods, and pedagogies. In the spring semester, Collegium Fellows prepared and implemented classroom innovations and assessments based on the understandings of teaching and learning they had refined during the fall semester activities. Fellows assessed student learning in response to their innovations and shared results and plans for the future with the full Collegium through course portfolios as well as formally in other public venues through conference presentations.
On the whole, the Collegium Fellows, chosen from their graduate programs based on their promise as outstanding researchers, are now savvy, informed, responsive teachers ready to contribute to undergraduate education with real-life practice in how to use inquiry methods to improve student learning. Through participation in the Collegium, Fellows became more reflective about their teaching practices, more informed about assessment and teaching strategies that are empirically proven in promoting learning, more purposeful in aligning learning theory and pedagogical practice, and more articulate about how their teaching choices influence their students’ learning.
Critical Reflection and Intentionality in Teaching. Fellows reported that reflection on their own teaching practices was a consequential practice they took away from their participation in the Collegium. They considered whether their instructional practices were aligned with course goals and their personal philosophies of teaching and learning. Many felt empowered as they analyzed themselves, their course objectives, and the signature pedagogies used within their discipline as they began their development as university instructors. Implemented in the final year, a philosophy of teaching and learning statement served as a valuable baseline against which to observe change and as a meta-cognitive activity as students learned more about effective teaching practices, reflected on their own teaching and implementations, and prepared for future faculty positions.
Student-Centered Instruction. As fellows reflected on their current practice, many made intentional decisions to shift away from a teacher-centered to a more learner-centered classroom. With the support of the Collegium community, the graduate students reported being more willing to take risks in their individual classrooms and showed increased teaching efficacy. Participants also reported that they saw great improvements in classroom participation as they actively sought to help students understand the processes of the discipline, and how they might become more central members of that community, instead of simply memorizing content.
Conceptual Understanding and Signature Pedagogies. In becoming more student-centered and active in their teaching, Collegium Fellows began paying more attention to the processes of the discipline rather than simply covering the content. Many of the graduate students had interesting “meta-moments” in the Collegium as they became critical about their own teaching practices and the ways those practices support expertise development for their undergraduate students. Intra- and inter-disciplinary peer observations with a structured observation protocol moved graduate students beyond disciplinary traditions and gave them the opportunity to challenge existing ideas about instruction, share classroom successes, and critically reflect on how each teacher might improve.
Formative Assessment. After reading about classroom assessment techniques (CATs; Angelo and Cross, 1993, Classroom Assessment Techniques, Jossey-Bass) and discussing the potential they have to measure student understanding, many graduate students began implementing CATs in their own classrooms. These classroom assessments made explicit what their students were actually learning, enabling graduate students to make course adjustments appropriate to the level of their students’ understanding. These techniques also enabled Fellows to clear up misconceptions, better explain difficult concepts, and make explicit the processes of the discipline.
The work of the Collegium Fellows extends beyond the classroom. Each of the graduate student fellows has prepared a course portfolio to document their goals, processes, and assessments of teaching innovations and impact on students’ learning. Additionally, Fellows have made over twenty presentations at meetings such as the Association of National Teaching Fellows (London), the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Conference (Bloomington, IN), the Lilly Conference for Teaching and Learning (Oxford, OH), the Navigating your PATH Conference (Toronto, Canada), and the Ecological Society of America (Pittsburgh, PA). Jonathan Rossing, Teagle Fellow from Communication and Culture, won the 2010 K. Patricia Cross Award recognizing Commitment to Academic and Civic Responsibility and Promise as Future Leaders of Higher Education, awarded by the Association of American Colleges and Universities. The work of the Teagle Collegium will be published in the forthcoming book edited by Kathleen McKinney, Ebbs, Flows, and Rips: The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in and Across the Disciplines.
All course portfolios as well as a listing of publications and presentations can be found here.