The Culture of Learning

The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning is a field that is foreign to many, but so integral for our success, especially in a place like Oberlin College & Conservatory where we are passionate about creating an inclusive, supportive, collaborative learning environment where our students can explore and grow.

Institutions of higher education are constantly on the hunt for ways to evaluate the teaching effectiveness, expertise in instruction, and student impact of their faculty members.  We see this come in many forms: student evaluations, classroom observations, metacognitive reflections, etc.  While many of us are evaluated on our expertise as teachers, very few of us have the resources, time, or ability to keep up with the developments within the field of teaching and learning.  For this reason, we rely heavily on our colleagues, our Center for Teaching Innovation and Excellence, the Oberlin Center for Technology Enhanced Teaching, and our professional organizations to bring to light important new developments, studies, and approaches for success.

Recently, the University of Calgary produced “A Framework for the Growth of Teaching Expertise.”  The model presents a method for continually moving toward successful instruction in support of what they call “foundational habits of mind: inclusive, learning-centered, collaborative ways of knowing and being.”  The developers of this framework identify five important facets of teaching expertise that are integral for progress: teaching and supporting learning; professional learning and development; mentorship; researching, scholarship, and inquiry; and educational leadership.  Through exploration, engagement, and expansion (terms issued by the researchers), instructors can achieve four important objectives:

  • understanding – of the activities we engage with daily to improve our teaching
  • self-reflection – in order to identify areas of strength and weakness in our teaching
  • dialogue – about continual growth in teaching and learning
  • facilitating future-oriented conversations – to nurture, support, and help develop instructors across campus

Here at Oberlin, we are fortunate that our institutional history, academic culture, and administrators and colleagues value instruction and the importance of forging meaningful relationships with students.  We are lucky to be able to pour our energy into teaching as well as our own research and often find that success lies where the two intersect.  When considering a framework like the one presented by the University of Calgary we can be proud of the fact that teaching expertise is highly valued at our institution and that we are continually developing ways to support our colleagues, create learning networks for faculty as well as students, and that programming for instructional development is supported by our administration to ensure continued and increased success in the classroom.

So let’s be diligent in our engagement with the centers on campus that promote teaching expertise and professional development.  Take advantage of the offerings by CTIE and OCTET.  Ask questions here in the CILC about your language, culture, and literature classes.  Let’s make sure that our framework for success is working – and engage in dialogue about what we can do to make it better.  Most importantly, let’s demonstrate for our students the importance of academic inquiry by continuing to support the Oberlin culture of learning and modeling for our students that learning is a lifelong process.

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