Targeting teaching

Student learning depends on great teaching, and Bluffton's faculty is focused on a variety of efforts to help each other grow as teachers, advisers and mentors.

Chief among these efforts is creation of a Teaching and Learning Center (TLC) to support faculty with ideas for improving teaching, instructional technology, and student assessment and advising.

Dr. Lamar Nisly, associate dean of academic affairs and the center's director, envisions much of the work stemming from conversations with individual faculty members, although workshops and presentations may also be scheduled. He sees the TLC piggybacking on a series of popular lunch discussions of teaching and learning hosted last year by Bluffton's Faculty Development Committee.

"We're not trying to create programming for the sake of programming," he says, noting that the center's staff—also including Drs. Sarah Cecire and Ross Kauffman—will respond to what their colleagues indicate would be helpful. Cecire, a professor of education, is learning technology coordinator for the TLC, while Kauffman, an assistant professor of public health, is its student learning assessment coordinator.

After emphasis on student learning emerged in the strategic plan, Nisly and Dr. Sally Weaver Sommer, vice president and dean of academic affairs, put together a document listing four learning-related priorities for the academic affairs office. In addition to developing the TLC and "Becoming a Scholar," they included consideration of Musselman Library's role in the process and a heightened emphasis on student writing.

The latter priority is being addressed through creation of a writing-enhanced course for each major, with attention to teaching of writing and in the context of the respective disciplines. Nisly, also a professor of English, is working with instructors of those writing classes under the umbrella of the TLC.

This year, he adds, the center's work includes establishing a presence—on the Web and otherwise—so faculty members will "think about us when they have questions about ways to improve and innovate in teaching."