Cultivating Campus Cultures of Teaching

Ways to encourage faculty to innovate in the classroom.

HOW CAN A BUSINESS SCHOOL encourage faculty to refresh and rethink their teaching practices? Put systems in place that make it easier for faculty to adopt pedagogical innovation. At Bryant University, a management-focused institution in Smithfield, Rhode Island, administrators and faculty have implemented initiatives to create a culture of teaching innovation:

Faculty Without Borders (FWB). Bryant has created an online calendar where professors willing to open their classrooms to other faculty can note both best times for visits and the number of empty seats available. As part of their posts, they also can include details of what these specific class meetings will entail. Then, other professors can sign up to visit classes they are most interested in. After each visit, both faculty members discuss and reflect on the teaching approaches applied.

“Not only does FWB help faculty share pedagogical ideas with their peers, to explore and experiment,” explains Edward Kairiss, Bryant’s director of faculty development and innovation, in a school publication, “it also helps build a culture where teaching excellence is paramount.”

Academic Innovation Center. The AIC, opened last year, supports pedagogical innovation by providing faculty access to a range of collaborative learning spaces, including tiered classrooms to promote debate, flat classrooms with modular furniture, and breakout rooms. Before teaching in the AIC for the first time, faculty meet with technology and teaching support specialists to become familiar with each room’s features.

REDay (Research and Engagement Day). The school cancels classes for a full day each April to hold this event, where students and faculty from across campus showcase not only their papers and independent study projects, but also pedagogical innovations they’ve implemented, via presentations and poster sessions. During last year’s REDay, the school introduced a new activity: a “teaching slam,” in which ten faculty each were given ten minutes to demonstrate a technique they use in their classes and explain why they find the approach valuable.

Teaching workshops. The school regularly chooses books about great teaching, which the faculty read before attending workshops to discuss their content. Occasionally these workshops feature guest speakers who present on pedagogical topics. Last semester, for example, professors read the book Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning by James Lang—then Lang himself came to campus to participate in the workshop discussion.

Teaching-oriented scholarship. Professors who introduce teaching innovations in their classrooms then assess the outcomes of those interventions. In many cases, that assessment will form the basis of a scholarly publication. Kairiss emphasizes that he does not expect a single day’s observation, one new idea, or an isolated research paper to have a sudden transformative impact on a professor’s pedagogy. However, in combination, they can have an amplifying effect. “By encouraging the exchange of experiences about classroom engagement,” he adds, “we continually advance the culture of innovation in teaching and learning.”

For information about REDay, visit my.bryant.edu/portal/reday/.