In Support of Excellence in Education
Since 2001, the Innovative Pedagogy & Course Redesign three-day conference has brought together academics from far and wide to talk about best practices in teaching. Organized by the University’s Center for Academic Excellence, the conference is a forum for participants of all disciplines to share information about teaching innovations, pedagogical strategies, and instructional technologies. This year’s conference at the end of May drew 130 enthusiastic attendees; almost half were from Fairfield University, with others from as far as Tennessee and Minnesota, and three international participants from Senegal and Qatar.
“The value of a conference like this, as contrasted with many other professional conferences, is that every participant feels personally welcomed, recognized and valued, and knows that he or she is contributing to and enriching a community of scholarly and collegial practices that celebrates connections across disciplines rather than distinguishes their singularities,” noted Dr. Patricia Calderwood, director of the Center for Academic Excellence.
The theme for this year’s conference was collaboration, and distinguished speaker Mary Deane Sorcinelli of UMass Amherst kicked off the morning with a participatory talk on mentoring, its value, and its limitations. While most of us think of mentoring in a hierarchical way, a traditional pair up of one seasoned and one junior faculty member, we would all do better to create more of a network of those we can go to for support, she said. “Mentoring lowers barriers to collaboration,” she added, noting that the best universities build a culture on campus around mentoring.
Breakout sessions included seminars on course redesign, service learning initiatives, ideas and assessments on first-year engagement programs, and coupling electronic devices for use in the classroom. Several were hosted by Fairfield University faculty or staff.
Dr. Laurie L. Grupp, professor of special education and director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Providence College in Rhode Island, was intrigued by a breakout session she went to on approaches to deal with issues of academic integrity. “The participants were generous to share their stories, and had very effective materials that can be used elsewhere.” She was both surprised and encouraged by the overall conference, she said, adding, “The best takeaways are the contacts and networking opportunities, plus the sharing of great ideas.”
“The conference theme of collaboration was not only the focus of the plenary, concurrent, poster, and roundtable sessions, but also for the behind-the-scenes design of the conference,” said Dr. Suzanna Klaf, associate director of the Center for Academic Excellence and a conference organizer. “This conference would not be possible without the collaborations and sponsorships that take place internally at Fairfield University. It is a joy to engage with participants and witness the interactions and collaborations that emerge during these three days.”