At Caltech, innovation, creativity, and risk taking are not reserved for the laboratory only; new teaching approaches and methods are regularly practiced in Caltech classrooms as well.
With the new academic year underway, professors, lecturers, instructors, and teaching assistants are exploring creative pedagogical strategies and implementing the latest teaching methods to enhance learning and understanding across disciplines.
In celebration of this work and of Caltech's commitment to enrich students' educational experience, the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Outreach (CTLO), with support from the Twenty-Seven Foundation, has organized the Institute's inaugural TeachWeek event, which runs from October 19–23, 2015.
The weeklong, campus-wide event provides a forum for conversations among Caltech faculty, students, staff, and guest presenters about diverse teaching practices at Caltech. The week's events include a series of panel discussions and workshops—covering everything from the new methods Caltech faculty are employing in their classrooms to faculty perspectives on how to engage students beyond their fields—as well as an opportunity for members of the campus community to visit a number of classes that are currently in session. TeachWeek also features guest presentations by Harvard physicist Eric Mazur, who will describe how he learned to enhance his own teaching and offer tips on team and project-based learning; Chris Duffy, the host and producer of the radio and web show You're the Expert, who will speak about bringing joy into teaching; and photographer Martin Springborg, a faculty member with the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, who will discuss both the process and products of photographing today's higher-education landscape.
"This event is the culmination of a three-year effort by the Institute to bring more attention, support, and energy to teaching at Caltech," says Cassandra Horii, the director of CTLO. "We have had some wonderful successes since our office was established. There's definitely a growing interest among Caltech faculty and TAs, who want new ideas about teaching and want to connect with what others right here at Caltech are trying in their classes."
Ten faculty members will be speaking at and leading the panel discussions and workshops. Another 10 professors and visiting professors—teaching courses that range from Newtonian mechanics (Physics 1a) to neuroscience (Neurobiology 150) to earthquakes (Freshman Seminar 16) to entrepreneurial development (Engineering 102)—have agreed to open up regularly scheduled classes to fellow faculty, staff, and students (both graduate and undergraduate), in order to provide a deeper look at the variety of teaching methods and approaches being employed at Caltech.
"There were more who wanted to speak or open a class but had a conflict or aren't teaching a regular class this fall," says Horii. "Most of those speaking are faculty who haven't previously presented to the campus about their teaching methods or approaches. The response and interest level speaks to the great amount of thought and care that Caltech faculty invest in teaching."
"The event overall highlights the work that is already happening here but may otherwise remain hidden," she says.
For a complete list of TeachWeek events, including the schedule for open classes and RSVP information, visit teachweek.caltech.edu.