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Fall 2009

Trinity Reporter Fall 2009
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To date, nearly every academic department at Trinity has been represented at one of the center’s events, and the feedback from faculty has been positive.

“I’m always interested in new approaches that work better,” says Kathy Archer, associate professor of biology. “I’ve really enjoyed going to the center’s workshops and programs, and Dina and Gary have done a fabulous job of inviting people from a wide variety of disciplines to talk about different techniques and approaches.”

Similarly, Assistant Professor of Psychology Laura Holt, who is beginning her second year at Trinity, applauds the center for challenging her to reflect on her teaching and learn from her colleagues. “It was both validating and exciting to learn that my colleagues in other disciplines were implementing similar teaching strategies and techniques,” says Holt. She also found the new-faculty seminar on balancing teaching, research, and service invaluable in helping guide her through her first year and assisting her in planning for the future.

Located in its new home in the Smith House, the center will include a library with materials related to pedagogy. The hope is that faculty members will see the center’s physical space as a comfortable environment where they can gather for informal conversations.

A top priority: mentoring junior faculty members

One of the top priorities for the coming year is to formalize a process for mentoring junior faculty members. The center has created a template mentoring plan that departments can adapt to guide new tenure-track faculty members through their first six years at Trinity. “The plan is based on conversations between the mentee and mentor,” explains Anselmi. “And by mentor, I mean the entire department. Everyone in the department contributes to a faculty member’s evaluation, so everyone should be part of the conversation.”

But she is careful to underscore that the center is not an enforcer of the plan, or even the evaluator; rather, it’s the resource from which departments can draw knowledge to create robust mentoring plans for their faculty. “We want to make sure people know to ask for help, and we want to empower them to ask for it.”

Additionally, the center will feature year-long themed programming—this year it’s “arguments and evidence across the disciplines.” The center will also host regular brown-bag sessions led by faculty members.

Reger and Anselmi feel strongly that the center’s role is not to tell people how to be good teachers, but rather to be a conduit and a catalyst for discussions about teaching. They see the center as working to make the teaching process more visible. “We can sit down as faculty members and talk about one of the most fundamental parts of our jobs,” says Reger. “People are happy to talk about problems they have had; there’s a lot of openness in conversation, and people are comfortable.”

Trinity receives grant to support assessment of student learning outcomes

In May 2009, the Teagle Foundation, a national foundation focused on strengthening liberal arts education, awarded Trinity College a three-year, $72,000 grant to develop, implement, and institutionalize a faculty-driven learning assessment program for general education and for each academic major.

Trinity’s Center for Teaching and Learning will play an integral, evolving role in the College’s assessment project—working with the dean of faculty and other academic departments—and has already engaged faculty members in several relevant activities, including:

  • New-faculty seminars, which have included discussion on questions of student learning and assessment.
  • Round tables for faculty at large that focus on assigning and evaluating writing across the disciplines.
  • An assessment reading group that brought together faculty members from across the College to read research literature on assessment and discuss the applicability of the research to the College’s assessment project.
  • A forum on assessment in which two departments presented their approaches and the advantages and disadvantages they have encountered.

This grant follows on the heels of a $25,000 planning grant, also from the Teagle Foundation, that helped the College determine the structure by which it would implement its faculty-driven learning assessment project.

To date, the faculty has already identified, and adopted, learning goals for general education, and Trinity has begun an extensive assessment of writing in the First-Year Program that will extend through each of the majors and programs.

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