Teachers learning from each other

One morning this fall, associate teaching professor Alison Papadakis sat among students for the class of a Johns Hopkins University colleague. Though the subject matter—engineering business and management—was distant from her own area of expertise in the Krieger School's Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, she was interested to see how another professor organized student discussion around case studies, a technique she was using in her own Models of Psychotherapy course.

"I was looking for how the professor motivates them to engage in good, high-quality discussions, including everything from getting students prepared to facilitating conversation and evaluating participation," Papadakis says.

The fellow faculty member, Illysa Izenberg, a lecturer in the Whiting School's Center for Leadership Education, had reached out to Papadakis through the new Faculty Exchanges program on the Homewood campus.

After the observation, the two faculty members went out for coffee together on the campus, with gift certificates the program had provided. "We had a great conversation about why she does particular things in her classroom, how she manages challenges like students looking at laptops, and the broader context for the case discussions," Papadakis says.

In turn, Izenberg later sat in on one of Papadakis' courses, which revolved around a family therapy case study. The two have continued sharing feedback and thoughts ever since. "We found out that we have a lot in common, including our passion for good teaching," Papadakis says.

This type of exchange between colleagues—both professional and social—is exactly the goal of Faculty Exchanges. The Center for Educational Resources launched the program this fall in response to demand from faculty members themselves, according to Mike Reese, the center's director.

"What we were hearing was that professors felt a bit isolated in their classrooms. They were curious about how other faculty taught," Reese says.

The center started out by recruiting 18 initial faculty volunteers and setting up online profiles for them listing their specific teaching techniques—such as "Team-based Learning," "Clickers," "Video Production," or "Flipped Classroom."

Though the program does intend to share insight on innovative techniques (the "Flipped Classroom," for instance, has the professor actively helping out with assignments students would otherwise complete outside of class), it's not limited to novel or experimental approaches. Some professors, for example, are particularly skilled at traditional lectures, and their colleagues can benefit from observing them in action in front of 200-plus students, notes Macie Hall, senior instructional designer for CER.

The program—open to faculty and graduate students on the Homewood campus—facilitates by introducing the two prospective participants via email, coordinating their classroom observations, and setting them up with the $5 coffee certificates, if they choose to use them. From there, the faculty members can take the collaboration in whatever direction they see fit.

Beyond sharing teaching techniques, Faculty Exchanges hopes to foster friendships. "A secondary goal is to build relationships across departments, to build social capital within the institution," Reese says.

Interested in participating?

If you want to sit in on a class of one of the participating professors, listed here, you can click on his or her name to generate an email request to CER, which will then coordinate the introduction.

If you're a faculty member interested in allowing others to observe your own classroom teaching, contact Hall at macie.hall@jhu.edu to start setting up your profile.

Posted in Tools+Tech