The Common Good
A teaching and learning newsletter
It's time the secret got out: both faculty and students at SUNY Plattsburgh care about good teaching.
I know this statement is true because I hear it all the time; faculty want to be great teachers, students want to be successful learners, and both have insights about how this can happen. This newsletter is one attempt to encourage communication between faculty and students about teaching in a way that values when it is done well, and supports efforts to make it even better.
The Student Committee on Teaching Excellence (SCTE)
Much of what is offered in this newsletter comes from the Student Committee on Teaching Excellence, a group of highly motivated students who are deeply invested in issues of teaching and learning. Some students were recommended for membership on the Committee by faculty or students while many simply stepped forward to serve when they heard about it.
The 16 members of the SCTE serve in an advisory capacity to the Center for Teaching Excellence, and in a few months they have already collaborated on ideas to help improve both teaching and learning at SUNY Plattsburgh. Their primary responsibilities are to:
- act as liaison between the student body and the CTE in order to solicit input on teaching
- explore ways of teaching students how to be better learners
- offer recommendations on teaching
- design and administer an annual faculty award for excellence in teaching that is given by the students at this College.
The SCTE members meet twice a month with the CTE Director to discuss teaching techniques they have observed, those that are effective, and those that are not, and to discuss student responsibilities in learning.
Students on Teaching
What gets rave reviews:
- Clear explanations and examples of practical application for theories and ideas
- Use of different media like YouTube, and generally using metaphors and references that are relevant to students' experiences
- Teachers who are self-accountable, who reflect on what they are doing and change when they make mistakes, and who try to meet student needs.
And what doesn't:
- Too much use of technology, especially Power Point, and reading Power Point slides in class
- Being disrespectful of student opinions
- Lack of variety in teaching techniques
Students on Learning
If you want to be successful, do this:
- Show up to class.
- Be creative with assignments (ask the teacher if you can tweak certain aspects) to better match your skill and challenge you on your level.
- Speak up in class whenever you feel the need, whether it be to ask for clarification on something or to contribute to a conversation.
Don't do this:
- Don't sleep in class.
- Don't ignore failures, learn from them and figure out why they happened and then FIX IT!
- Don't wait until the last minute to begin semester long projects.
Teacher of the Month
While the SCTE was collecting input about teaching and discussing it among themselves, they decided that there are many faculty who deserve recognition for their teaching, and so they decided to initiate a Teacher of the Month award that will be announced in each month's newsletter.
October's winner is Richard Gottschall, lecturer in Marketing & Entrepreneurship.
Faculty are nominated by students who offer brief descriptions of a valued teaching technique, a teaching style, or even a teaching moment, created by their professors. The SCTE then evaluates the nominations based on the thoughtfulness of the written nomination and its consistency with what they understand are the highest standards of excellent teaching, that is, respect and care for students, expertise in and passion for the field taught, and the ability to communicate ideas effectively.
October Teacher of the Month: Richard Gottschall - lecturer in Marketing & Entrepreneurship
The SCTE received 41 nominations for October's Teacher of the Month, which is a reminder to us all that out there in the classroom trenches, faculty are doing a great job teaching every day. The SCTE selected this nomination because they felt it reinforced many of the major points they wanted to stress about good teaching this month.
An excerpt from the nominating submission
"Enthusiastic about the subject! He's a great teacher because he holds the class attention. Good voice inflection and he moves around a lot which prevents people from falling asleep. It's a three hour class, so that is important. He proposes thought-provoking questions and really gets into class discussions - which is much more fun than watching a boring Power Point."
Richard has a special appreciation for student learning styles as he is a student himself - currently in the Ph.D. program in Entrepreneurship at Concordia. "I am a student, I have my own issues with trying to pay attention in class," he noted. Probably what characterizes his teaching most is his belief that delivery methods and content objectives need to have equal status, and that is also a measure of his concern for how students learn, not just what. For that reason, he continually changes his courses from semester to semester.
Richard's advice for other faculty: "Don't be afraid to try new things."
Richard is the first recipient of the "The Mug," a coffee mug with the SUNY Plattsburgh Center for Teaching Excellence logo on one side, and "Teacher of the Month" on the other.
Students can nominate their professor by writing an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by contacting any member of the SCTE, or the Director of the CTE.
For more information about the Center for Teaching Excellence, please contact:
Becky Kasper, Ph.D., Director
301 Feinberg Library, Plattsburgh, NY 12901
Phone: (518) 564-3043
Fax: (518) 564-5100