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Crookston professor Dan Svedarsky leading a nature hike in the woods with several other faculty members.

Between sessions, Crookston faculty member Dan Svedarsky led a nature hike. The retreat was held near Deerwood, Minnesota.

Teaching through change

U's top teaching faculty prepare for a new learning landscape

By Gayla Marty

From Brief, October 12, 2005

More than 30 of the U's leading teaching faculty from across the state met in a retreat October 6-7 in Deerwood, Minnesota, to talk about change.

Sessions ranged from the pedagogical to the administrative. Some focused on how various types of changes impact how to teach--for example, how changes in technology impact teaching, or how today's students are different and what that means for how to teach.

Discussions also addressed how strategic positioning may impact teaching and learning at the University and how administrators' perspectives on change impact the work of teaching. Discussions about the charges of the various task forces for strategic positioning evoked the most animation, according to microbiology professor Pete Magee. Several additional questions were suggested to task force members for consideration.

Vice president for university relations Linda Thrane attended a session about how to tell the U's story in the face of both internal and external changes. Finding and telling stories about outstanding teaching and its importance to Minnesota will be critical.

Finally, a session addressed the need to focus more intentionally on assessing student learning in order to know what U students are learning, how they are learning, and how faculty members can become even better teachers.

Between sessions, faculty members met informally for nature hikes, bike rides, a bonfire in the evening, and more discussions.

"This ADT retreat--like previous ones--allowed faculty from all over the system to come together to discuss issues about teaching which we seldom have time to address during the regular work week," says Magee. "We all gain from hearing about the different ways that educational issues are addressed on the different campuses. It is fascinating to hear insights into how students have changed and are continuing to change and what colleagues are doing with respect to service learning and educational technology."

The Academy of Distinguished Teachers includes winners of the University's top awards for undergraduate and graduate teaching.

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