Center Aims to Help Professors Become Better Teachers



Following a year-long absence, the Office of Teaching Effectiveness, which administrators shut down last fall in the belief that its services would be better administered by UB deans, reopened this semester as the Center for Teaching and Learning Resources.

Following a resolution for its reinstatement passed last November by the Faculty Senate, Provost Capaldi announced in March that the new office would be established and charged Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Kerry Grant with its implementation.

The center assists faculty members, particularly new professors and TAs, with formulating their lectures in order to enhance the quality of their instruction and student learning. Its services currently include consultation and lessons on teaching skills such as writing effective syllabi and developing quality lecture presentations, and are scheduled to expand over the course of the semester.

"You can have a demonstrable effect on the effectiveness of your teaching by considering the presence of people in your class who learn more strongly by different approaches," said Kerry S. Grant, vice provost for academic affairs.

Professors can request the center videotape their lectures for critique by faculty volunteers, said Grant, to improve "many things [students] will have noted either account for your sense of the class as interesting and well-organized or ... leave you behind," such as "clarity, presentation, organization [and] mannerism."

Grant believes the center, while currently bare bones operational and to be fleshed out over the course of the semester, will open participants' minds to new ways of doing the same job.

Its administrators also aspire to foster communication between faculty members. The center will "provide an avenue for faculty to share different kinds of teaching effectiveness strategies or to seek ideas," said Associate Director for the Center for Teaching and Learning Resources Jean Molina.

"I would like to have people come and watch me lecture, look at my syllabus and give me feedback," said Christine Pelkman, a new assistant professor of nutrition.

The center will also function as a remedial resource for department heads, who can recommend its services to specific professors whose classroom skills they feel are lacking. Grant, however, was quick to note participation in the center's activities "is not a matter of being bludgeoned into receiving assistance."

In the short-term, a search is under way for a faculty director to oversee the center. He or she will occupy the position on a half-time basis, with his or her teaching duties lessened correspondingly.

Molina is also working to develop a Web page for the center. "This is one of my priorities so that we can get the word out that we exist. We hope to get the Web page up and going as soon as possible."

Jeffery Errington, assistant professor of chemical engineering, sees the Web site as a valuable tool. "Down the line, if I ran into a problem, I would certainly go to that information on the Web site," said Errington.