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Recognizing Innovation in Instructional Approaches to Existing Classes

Over the past few years Georgetown has invested many resources to permit faculty to mount experiments inside their classes, in an effort to continually improve the instruction we offer our students. Georgetown faculty repeatedly note that the most rewarding part of their job is teaching our students. Hence, they are constantly seeking ways to innovate in their instruction.

In fall 2012, the Initiative for Technology-Enhanced Learning offered support for faculty to use computer-based platforms to “flip” the classroom, allowing faculty to spend more time in dialogue with students. It incentivized experiments with a whole host of new pedagogical techniques. Each experiment was evaluated with regard to its efficacy. By 2018, scores of different approaches have been tested. Those receiving positive evaluations have been adopted by other instructors across the university. The “Designing the Future(s)” initiative has prompted a surge in experience- and research-based learning approaches to traditional courses. The “Core Pathways” program is permitting team-teaching across departments, modularization of core curricular requirements, and greater flexibility to students to fulfill their requirements. In short, the past few years have seen a leap in pedagogical innovation at Georgetown.

It seems an appropriate time to recognize the creativity of faculty who have invented new ways to teach and interact with our students, to the benefit of their formation and learning. The purpose of the recognition would, of course, be to celebrate the success of our colleagues in their teaching activities. It would also be a vehicle to spread innovation across departments, schools, and campuses, by reporting techniques that actually work. Six years ago, Georgetown needed a catalyst for innovation. At this point, the rate of innovation naturally occurring seems to suggest that now we need recognition of the innovative techniques being introduced each year.

So, to that end, the provost’s office is seeking input from faculty on how best to recognize such innovation. The options forwarded already are:

                  1. An annual award presented to a faculty member nominated by their                   department/unit/school.

                  2. An annual conference by invitation, where faculty who have innovated in their courses can                    discuss their path to creating the innovation, perhaps attached to TLISI.

                  3. An annual lecture by a nominated faculty member on their teaching philosophy and                   methods.

                  4. A periodic instructional innovation newsletter describing pedagogical inventions, sent to                   all faculty members.

Of course, none of these are mutually exclusive. There are probably other ideas among us.

Our students are increasingly coming to us demanding ways of learning that fit their ambitions – to go deep into a topic in a challenging way, to mix theory and application, and to combine ways of learning within the same course. In response, Georgetown faculty are working harder than ever to exceed those expectations, to the benefit of all.

Recognizing such innovation is proper for Georgetown at this time. It will allow us information to stimulate our own quest to invent new ways of presenting the content of our courses. It will celebrate the success of our colleagues who are models of such innovation.

One thought on “Recognizing Innovation in Instructional Approaches to Existing Classes

  1. Thank you for initiating this discussion. This blog is timely as I was just thinking about this topic. The four options presented above are excellent ways to recognize and disseminate examples of pedagogical innovation at Georgetown. I know that CNDLS’ magazine, The Prospect, already “highlight[s] innovative teaching practice at Georgetown”; its distribution across campus could inform more faculty not only of accomplishments by fellow colleagues, but also of available resources related to teaching.
    Since I know from first-hand experience the incredible amount of time and effort that go into course redesign and implementing new teaching approaches, other ideas for encouraging and rewarding innovation could be:
    1) More and substantial internal grants (like TEL) dedicated to pedagogical innovation (e.g, experiential learning, community-based learning) to compensate for time spent on its preparation and implementation
    2) Reward (e.g, financial, eventual course release) for continued implementation of such innovative practices, again, given the time commitment required to maintain and update various elements (e.g, technology, partnerships)

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