An online publication for the staff, faculty, students and friends of Community College of Philadelphia
June 1, 2009

Faculty Explore New Teaching Methods

This article was written by Lisa Handler, assistant professor of Social Science and teacher-in-residence at the College’s Teaching Center.

F aculty at Community College of Philadelphia were energized by a visit from L. Dee Fink, Ph.D.; an internationally recognized leader in faculty development, at the start of the spring term.

Fink’s visit was sponsored by the Teaching Center, the Achieving the Dream initiative and the offices of Professional Development and Academic Affairs. It had two goals. One was to introduce faculty to a powerful model of course design. The other was to try a new model for professional development by having Fink’s visit kick off follow-up workshops in the Teaching Center. Both goals were met. More than 100 College faculty attended Fink’s three-hour workshop during Professional Development Week. College administrators and faculty from two other area community colleges also attended the workshop.

Faculty member Pete Watkins listens intently to assistant professor of Social Science, Lisa Handler, during a Teaching Center workshop.

The excitement generated by Fink’s workshop Designing Courses for Significant Learning lasted for weeks after Fink’s visit. Fink’s workshop prompted many faculty members to talk with their colleagues about teaching methods, rework their syllabi and incorporate some of the quizzing techniques Fink shared into their courses.

More than 20 faculty members signed up for the five follow-up workshops held by Lisa Handler in the Teaching Center during the College’s spring term. Another workshop series will be held in the summer.

The workshop series facilitates the process of designing courses—structuring them from start to finish—for more significant learning. It is the area with which most faculty members have the least training. It also is “the area where faculty can most improve the quality of their teaching, and the quality of their students’ learning,” Fink said.

For faculty, Fink’s systematic approach provides a way to structure a course in which all the parts fit to create a comprehensive taxonomy for thinking about learning goals beyond the basics of memorizing and identifying information. For students, a course that is designed using Fink’s model holds the promise of an engaged learning experience that addresses the entirety of the student; in short, a powerful learning experience.