By Reagan Foster
Posted on: November 2, 2018
They come from different disciplinary backgrounds, but faculty members Joe Jones, Alan Spies, and Julie Rotholz have one thing in common – their experience teaching University 101 has positively influenced their teaching and interactions with students in their home departments. Over 90% of University 101 instructors report each fall that teaching the course increases their satisfaction with the university and helps them develop skills they can apply in other professional settings. Additionally, nearly all instructors (99% in each of the last two years) indicate that teaching the course helps them better understand students. Faculty members like Dr. Jones, Dr. Spies, and Dr. Rotholz have the additional opportunity to take strategies they learn through their University 101 training and teaching experiences and apply them to their other courses, exponentially extending the reach and influence of University 101’s instructor development efforts across campus. Of those University 101 instructors who teach courses in other departments, nearly 90% agree that University 101, with its focus on active learning and engaged learning environments, has helped them improve their teaching in their discipline-specific courses.
University 101 has made me realize that engaging the class in discussion is important in all of my classes.
-Dr. Joe Jones
Dr. Joe Jones, faculty principal of the Green Quad living-learning community and Assistant Research Professor in the Environmental Health Science program, believes the impact of University 101 on his teaching has been substantial. It was during the University 101 Teaching Experience Workshop, the three-day required training for all prospective University 101 instructors, that he first heard the word “pedagogy” and considered how active learning strategies could enhance the learning environment within his classroom. Since then, one strategy in particular, classroom discussion, has been prominent in both his University 101 and marine science classrooms. “I firmly believe students are trained to sit there and say nothing. When we first have a discussion there is awkward silence. By the end of the first month there is active discussion about topics from the class. University 101 has made me realize that engaging the class in discussion is important in all of my classes.” Even in his large classes, Dr. Jones has used a variation of a discussion-starting strategy called “think-pair-share” to get his students talking to one another; after asking students to respond to questions using their iClickers, he asks them to discuss their answers with a neighbor.
Additionally, Dr. Jones believes teaching University 101 has taught him how to better understand students. Knowing what students are going through helps him in University 101 as well as in his other courses. “Being more aware of what’s going on in students’ lives is important in any class…I [once] canceled an exam because I knew [the students] would be traveling after a break. I realized that if I had to take an exam the day after a break, I wouldn’t want that. So I changed the date of the exam. I think being open to hear what students say is important. University 101 has helped me understand that.”
I spend a few minutes speaking, asking questions, and then leading discussion…I make sure that I don’t go into class and talk forever. It’s going to be short bursts with a lot of hands-on activity.
- Dr. Alan Spies
As Clinical Professor and chair of the Kennedy Pharmacy Innovation Center, Dr. Alan Spies teaches a lecture-based leadership development class for students within the College of Pharmacy. Before teaching University 101, Dr. Spies had never taught first-year students but applied to teach University 101 because he was interested in connecting with pre-pharmacy students during their freshman year. While Dr. Spies already incorporated active learning strategies in his other courses, he realized through University 101 the importance of taking time to build community and help students develop relationships and connections with their peers. Starting out as a new faculty member, he was trained to give students as much content as possible – the more the better. However, through his experience in the University 101 classroom, he realized that less really is more and that relational content – the things that help build classroom community – is just as important as subject-matter content. Dr. Spies now spends time helping students get to know one another in order to enhance their learning in his leadership course.
Dr. Spies also has added more active learning strategies to his lectures. “A specific strategy that I use in my courses due to University 101’s guidance is breaking up the amount of time I speak at once. I spend a few minutes speaking, asking questions, and then leading discussion. That’s something I’ve been even more intentional to do because I saw that in our University 101 training. I make sure that I don’t go into class and talk forever. It’s going to be short bursts with a lot of hands-on activity.”
Teaching [the course] has made me appreciative of time. It has helped me use my time in a much more deliberative way.
-Dr. Julie Rotholz
Dr. Julie Rotholz, Clinical Assistant Professor in the Higher Education and Student Affairs master’s program, has been a long-time advocate of active learning. Teaching University 101 reinforced her commitment to student engagement in the classroom and helped her think more intentionally about what she does during class time. “University 101 has definitely impacted the way I teach my other courses in the graduate school. Teaching [the course] has made me appreciative of time. It has helped me use my time in a much more deliberative way…I know what I need to cover, but because of University 101 I now think about what I’m going to have my students do so they’re not just listening to me.” Additionally, Dr. Rotholz now understands the importance of knowing students’ names and the value of having every student talk every day in class. “Things like that are norms and values of University 101 but have truly shaped my other classes as well.”