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Announcing the Provost Innovation in Teaching Awards

Last August I posted an announcement that described an attempt to fill a void in recognition of exemplary performance among our faculty colleagues. It noted that while Georgetown has multiple awards for classroom teaching performance, we were not recognizing the amazing examples of innovating in pedagogy that are occurring around campus.

The awards could serve two purposes. First, we could thank those who have created and refined such innovations. Second, we could describe and highlight their innovations for other faculty encouraging similar innovations in their own work.

Well, given the great work of Vice Provost Bass and a set of faculty reviewers, I am absolutely overjoyed to note that we have completed the nominations and review process of the first annual awards.

As the nomination process evolved, some new insights emerged. It became clear that the invention of different types of awards had merit. Some of the nominations identified a group of faculty who worked together to redesign multiple courses or program curricula. They worked as an integrated team to achieve the innovation. Other nominations described the work of an individual faculty member, inventing new ways to enrich the learning in their own classes. Finally, especially in this first year, the reviewers recognized that some nominees merited recognition for consistent innovation over many years – in some sense, a career achievement of innovation.

The second change over the year was that generous donors, hearing about Georgetown’s desire to reward innovation, wanted to help us do so. We can now announce the Bill and Karen Sonneborn Innovation Fund, which permits us to offer monetary awards connected to the Provost Innovation in Teaching Awards. We will hold an event in September 2019 where the awardees will make presentations on their work in a celebration of teaching and innovation.

The awardees, in the three categories, are the following:

The Program Category Award: The Disability Studies Program

The Disability Studies Program has become a model of at least three innovations: 1) interdisciplinary coordination across the boundaries of the entire University that connects course, events, faculty and students; 2) cross-curricular coordination that links courses through “clusters” and shared assignments, projects and end of semester events that links students and student work; 3) making use of pedagogical techniques inspired by principles of universal design for learning.

Each semester, the Disability Studies (DS) program’s “cluster” approach creates a community of learning and practice by bringing together courses from fields as varied as biology, literary and cultural studies, bioethics, nursing, healthcare administration, women’s and gender studies, and anthropology around common readings and visits by scholars, performers, and advocates. The Program extends its interdisciplinary reach across GU’s campuses through new collaborations with the Med Center and The National Rehabilitation Hospital and into the community with a host of immersive learning opportunities, including internships and community-engaged experiences in conjunction with the Center for Social Justice.

Individual Category: James Freericks

Dr. Freericks’ specific innovation is how to translate complex physics classrooms from a conventional lecture format to an online format suitable for either a MOOC or a flipped classroom. Jim has been involved in both, producing GeorgetownX’s course Quantum Mechanics for Everyone, which was named a 2018 edX prize finalist, ranked ninth on Class Central’s top 50 MOOCs of all time, and was one of Class Central’s best MOOCs of 2017, and producing the flipped classroom experience for Physics 155, Mathematical and Computational Physics, for students on the hilltop.

The first project was undertaken to teach the complex subject of quantum mechanics to a wide group of students and brought part of the Georgetown course Physics 008, The Quantum World Around Us, from the classroom to the internet. The second was orchestrated to fit the specific need students have for more practice in learning the complex math required to major in Physics. Flipping the class moved the lectures outside the classroom, which is now filled with problem-solving sessions and demonstrations that actively engage the students.

Career Achievement Category: Elizabeth Hervey Stephen

Dr. Stephen is being recognized not because of one innovation, but rather for the arc of innovation over her 31-year career at Georgetown. Dr. Stephen’s innovations all center on developing a Community of Scholars. In one extended innovation, Dr. Stephen experimented with keeping her first-year proseminar students together as a cohort across four years. Assembling the four years of work starting with the students’ papers as freshmen up through the senior year, Dr. Stephen was able to analyze the inflection points at which their writing and thinking improved.

She was able to apply her knowledge studying student progress from the proseminar forward by serving as the first-ever coordinator of all 22 proseminars taught each fall in the SFS. As coordinator, she created a community of scholars among the faculty by developing shared proseminar learning goals, syllabus alignment, regular luncheons, and shared web-based resources for proseminar faculty.

Dr. Stephen’s other set of innovations include a series of experiments with online teaching that led her to teach one of the first on-line course during the academic year for undergraduates at Georgetown. She designed a course, “Border and Security Concerns,” with three interconnected sections: one section on the main campus, one section at Georgetown’s Villa Le Balze in Fiesole, Italy, and one section at GU-Q. Her reasoning was that the topic of Borders transcended campuses and that by combining the three sets of students into discussion groups that they would learn from one another.

Please join me in congratulating our colleagues on their achievements!

4 thoughts on “Announcing the Provost Innovation in Teaching Awards

  1. Great awards. Great innovative programs. I wonder if the Medical School might have some similar programs. Just a thought .

  2. Congratulations to both winners. I have had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Stephen. I hope to meet Dr. Freericks one day.
    This is an absolutely great category of awards to showcase great teaching and learning and the innovations in this space.
    Hope we can duplicate this at the Qatar campus.

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