published July 1, 2006

SENCER E-Newsletter, July/August 2006, Volume 5, Issue 10

"Next Generation" Alternative Plenary Session Planned on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning


Members of the SENCER community who have attended more than one of our Summer Institutes have remarked on how the Institutes have changed (may we say evolved?) over the years.


We like to say - and we profoundly believe - that the strength of the SENCER effort is due to our recognition that our "members" (the people who attend our Institutes, work on SENCER courses, participate in assessment activities, lead our regional meetings, etc) represent the genuine intellectual capital (as well as the implementing labor) of our project. In recognition of this, we actively invite our members to propose ways to maintain the basic program while promoting "next generation" features that advance the goals of the project.


Cathy and Matthew


As a result, the SENCER project now features a rich mix of newcomers and old hands, people ready to take the first steps towards improving science courses at their institutions as well as those who are working on the new generation of challenges that arise from taking the basic steps.


Some elements are so fundamental to the SENCER mission that they haven't changed much at all. For example, we've invited Barbara Tewksbury to present a plenary on course design for the last three years. Through this plenary and associated sessions and workshops, Barbara has enabled many of our partners to bring a sharp focus and clear goals to the course design enterprise. We know that she'll do this again for those new to the SENCER project when she speaks this August 6th. Some of our alumni, to be sure, will make it a point to hear Barbara again this time as one can always get something new from listening to her and thinking about her core messages, which might crudely be summarized as "less is more" and "depth begets breadth."


This year, however, we are experimenting with a new feature that will offer an alternative program for those who have already engaged in the course planning that Barbara so effectively describes. We might call this a "next generation" program, proposed by some of our SENCER alumni, to feature a presentation and discussion of what is becoming known as "the scholarship of teaching and learning."


Long-term SENCER partners Matthew Fisher, Brian Hagenbuch, and Cathy Middlecamp will lead 2-part alternative plenary session. Participants can expect the following:


Both the scholarship of teaching and learning and SENCER have as a central concern what our students are learning and how they learn. This plenary session will look at these two perspectives on teaching and learning with the goal of understanding better how SENCER and the scholarship of teaching and learning can inform and contribute to each other. The first part of the session will look at what types of questions we can ask about student learning and what evidence can be gathered towards answering these questions. Matt Fisher's work as a 2005 Carnegie Scholar exploring integrative learning in the context of biochemistry will be used as an illustrative example of how this work can unfold over time. At the end of this section of the plenary, participants will have some ideas for questions they might pursue on their own campuses and evidence that could be potentially very useful in formulating initial answers to these questions. The second part of the presentation will be a panel discussion, including Brian Hagenbuch and Cathy Middlecamp, that looks at questions, challenges, and resources that would be helpful for those faculty who are interested in approaching their SENCER work as scholarship of teaching and learning.