A Magazine for the George Mason University Community

Transformative Teachers

By Colleen Kearney Rich on May 31, 2013


Almost 20 years ago, the emphasis in higher education shifted from teaching to learning. It wasn’t enough to just deliver lectures and grade exams. Administrators and faculty alike began looking closely at student achievement and graduation rates, particularly in hot-button areas such as STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Kim Eby

Kim Eby

“I got up, I talked at you, I gave you three exams, and boom, I’ve taught,” says Kim Eby, director of Mason’s Center for Teaching and Faculty Excellence, of the way things used to be. “And that style of delivery does work for some students, but we know from cognitive science literature that getting students actively engaged is a critical component of student learning.”

The center provides professional development opportunities for Mason faculty and oversees the university’s teaching awards programs, so Eby and Joshua Eyler, the center’s associate director, have an insider’s view of what’s really going on in classrooms—and online—around the university.

“Teaching is a science,” says Eby. “You will try something, and it won’t work exactly as you had planned, so you will try to figure it out. There is a difference between ‘my’ teaching and what the students are learning, and there are all kinds of strategies for assessment.”

Some innovations are driven by a need, such as being able to move more students through core courses in a timely manner; others result from a faculty member’s desire to see better test scores and more students staying and succeeding in the major.

“Our faculty are spending a lot of energy, time, and thoughtfulness on what they are doing in the classroom—and our students recognize that,” she says.

In this feature, we look at a number of Mason professors and the different techniques they are using in the classroom.

Hybrid Class

Paige Wolf, School of Management

“Flipped” Classroom

Amin Jazaeri, College of Science

Distance Education

Shahron Williams von Rooij, College of Education and Human Development

Experiential Learning Best Practices

Susan Hirsch and Agnieszka Paczynska, School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution

Online Discussion Tools

Jeff Offutt, Volgenau School of Engineering

Virtual Worlds

Kevin McCabe, Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study and School of Law

Role-Playing

Allison Frendak-Blume, School of Public Policy

Project-Based Design

Chris Totten, College of Visual and Performing Arts

Hands-on Research

Ali Weinstein, College of Health and Human Services

Lean-Forward Pedagogy

Mark Sample, College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Andy Brown, MFA ’02; James Greif, MPA ’07; and Buzz McClain, BA ’77, contributed to this story.


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