September 10, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Taking Risks in Teaching: A Seminar for Arts & Sciences Faculty

By Neil Bernstein, Associate Professor of Classics and World Religions, and Herta Rodina, Associate Professor of Modern Languages

Dear Colleagues,

You enjoy teaching. You’re good at it. Have you taken any risks in your teaching lately?

Several institutional structures discourage faculty members, especially untenured faculty, from taking risks. Our dependence on teaching evaluations for annual ratings, tenure, and promotion, as well as the lack of monetary or institutional rewards, may cause faculty to steer away from making risky choices. Such choices may include radically redesigning course methods and content or discussing potentially sensitive material. Yet without making such choices, instructors may be inhibited from practicing true pedagogical innovation (as opposed to slight incremental change) and effectively challenging students to move out of their comfort zone.

With generous financial support from College of Arts & Sciences Dean Robert Frank, we seek to form a small group of Arts & Sciences faculty to initiate discussions on the topic of “Taking Risks in Teaching” for this spring semester. Participants should come from a variety of disciplines, as we all have a different concept of pedagogical risk. This program consists of five 2-hour meetings during January to May 2014. At each meeting, two participants will introduce a topic for 15-20 minutes apiece and then use the remaining time for discussion. We are also inviting a guest speaker to address the topic of pedagogical risk.

In addition to stimulating productive group discussions, seminar members will a) generate a statement for dissemination among incoming faculty and chairs and b) prepare a presentation for a larger meeting of faculty in fall 2014. Participants who complete all five meetings will receive a $300 honorarium.

To apply, please send the following via email: (1) your current CV; (2) a statement of interest, not to exceed 250 words. This statement should outline the particular issue of pedagogical risk that you would be interested in discussing with your colleagues in the seminar. First preference will be given to currently untenured and recently-tenured applicants. Applications are due Monday, 28 October, via email to Neil Bernstein or Herta Rodina. We will notify all applicants by Friday, 20 November.

Many thanks for your time and consideration. We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Bernstein, Associate Professor, Classics and World Religions

Herta Rodina, Associate Professor, Modern Languages


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