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Engaging minds while teaching and learning innovation

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In her welcoming remarks at Stetson’s “Beyond Engagement” Colloquium on Teaching and Learning Innovation, Stetson Executive Vice President and Provost Beth Paul, said, “This is our day to celebrate learning at Stetson. It’s such a treat to gather together as a community to focus on the heart of what we do. Our goal of inspiring students to be lifelong learners is more important in this fast-paced knowledge age. In today’s society we need to ‘turbo-charge’ life-long learning! The effect of an inclusive learning community is powerful.”

Held in early April, the second annual colloquium showcased passion for all aspects of learning. It opened with an interactive workshop led by Hilary Landorf, Ph.D., and Stephanie Doscher, Ed.D. from the Office of Global Learning Initiatives at Florida International University.

Together, Landorf and Doscher presented the keynote workshop in which attendees broke into small groups. Group members were challenged to look at a serious problem through not only their perspective, but through the ‘lens’ of others. Attendees were further challenged to see the interconnectivity of individuals, noting how inclusive education and dialogue is paramount to address today’s most pressing problems.

“Global learning is the key to inclusive excellence,” said Landorf.

“But that doesn’t mean we need to necessarily leave the classroom. Integrative learning can take place anywhere. You just need to make meaningful connections,” added Doscher. “Examine how you can bring global learning and integrative learning to create meaning for your students. We need to learn what we don’t know in order to achieve Global Equity.”

The morning session continued with plenary speaker Kirsten Shippert Brown, director of Stetson University’s Community School of Music.

Brown said the best example they have of integrative and service learning in the School of Music occurs in private lessons in which a Stetson student becomes the teacher to others from the community at large.

“Now in the role of a teacher, student-teachers become aware and naturally observe themselves as they observe their students. Our students learn firsthand that the better you get at teaching, the better you get at playing.”

The colloquium’s afternoon portion consisted of round-table discussions, interactive presentations and poster sessions.

Brown Innovation Fellow Michele Randall, visiting assistant professor of English at Stetson, was an attendee as well as co-presenter of a poster session titled, “Buffy Belongs in College: What Popular Culture adds to the University Classroom.” She notes that by integrating popular culture into the material, student motivation and course interest increases.

“The more interesting you make the material for the students with pop culture stories, the more they can connect to the material. The students are increasingly invested and then we can pack everything in that approach. Students come in to class ready to learn when they are engaged and excited,” said Randall. “What I’ve learned is that if I’m passionate about teaching it, the students, in turn, become passionate about learning. I’m having a lot of fun with this style of teaching and am excited to be sharing my experience and learning from others today.”

“In addition to expanding from a half day event, the most important change I’ve observed in 2016 is engaging learners from even more institutions,” said Rosalie Richards, associate provost for Faculty Development and Colloquium Chair. “Last year, members from Daytona State College and Bethune-Cookman University joined in the discussion, and this year we hosted those institutions as well as colleagues from Saint Leo University, Georgia College and Florida International University. Next year, we envision it to be a hub for all aspects of engagement – including K – 12, not-for-profits, government and more. As a collective, we can enhance or reimagine how we work together in the service of learning by all,” she explained.

“The more opportunity we have to engage with each other, then the higher likelihood we are to have inter-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary innovations,” Richards continued. “That kind of engagement is the type of learning we must model for Stetson University students so they are equipped to address complex challenges.”

Stetson University’s annual colloquium is supported by Stetson University’s Brown Center for Faculty Innovation and Excellence, thanks to the pioneering vision of trustees and longstanding Stetson supporters Hyatt and Cici Brown.

By: Trish Wieland

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