By God’s grace, three science faculty members built on the work done in 2004 and 2005 and added a second track to the SITS 2006 curriculum. This new track emphasizes student-teacher interaction through questioning, logical discourse, and close attention to feedback provided by the students.
A series of sessions focused on effective college teaching practices was used to challenge participants’ thinking and encourage them to critically analyze their approach to the classroom. More specifically, we encouraged faculty members to move their focus away from simply teaching the content of their disciplines to emphasizing engaging students’ minds in the logic of their disciplines. We stressed that students are most readily engaged by presenting them with intriguing questions about real-world phenomena that beg scientific explanation. Because this approach requires more class time, we also discussed how students can most effectively learn some content outside of class.
We implemented several of a growing series of sessions dealing with questioning as a means of engagement in the classroom. This is specifically geared toward stimulating teacher-initiated Socratic questioning. Successful Socratic questioning focused on the logic of the subject results in the highest levels of student engagement, interest, and analytical thinking. It also leads the student to grapple with misconceptions and results in satisfaction when reasoning is successfully applied to the questioning at hand. When properly implemented, this leads to a huge increase in the amount of student-teacher interaction and pays big dividends in student learning.
Individual participants applied the principles they were learning to the development of their target course. Dr. Mike Gray worked on General Biology I and Dr. Bill Lovegrove worked on Microprocessor Interfacing. The remaining participants also presented one or two target course lectures. These sessions were recorded, transcribed to DVD’s, and the participants coached by members of the BJU Division of Speech Communication. This process was applied to Biochemistry I & II (Dr. John Wolsieffer), Botany (Dr. Margene Ranieri), General Physics I & II (Dr. Gene Chaffin), Introduction to Molecular Modeling (Dr. Brian Vogt), and Optics (Dr. Ron Samec).
We also conducted a variety of other sessions dealing with topics including student feedback, the craft of teaching, an in-depth discussion of a biblical worldview, pros and cons of PowerPoint, the importance of teacher reputation, and student assessment.
A sample comment from a SITS 2006 participant demonstrates the scope of benefits afforded the faculty: “Having time to get better acquainted with my colleagues, their interests, their subject areas, their way of thinking, has been very valuable. Feeling free to become engaged in discussion with peers, knowing that they are not pressured with upcoming classes, is a rewarding experience. Having significant blocks of time to develop new materials and procedures or modify existing ones can be especially rewarding and beneficial not only to the teacher but also the student. And the student is what teaching is all about.” Additional comments from all of the participants show that SITS is a high-value endeavor.
SITS is funded by the Science & Engineering Endowment Fund (www.scienceendowment.org). Without the generous support of our donors this valuable work would not be possible. Please pray and give that we may continue this stimulating and necessary work.