Reinforcing the joy of teaching

    Portrait of Dr. Lisa Larson

    Portrait of Dr. Lisa Larson

    For the first time, the College has "someone who wakes up every morning and goes to work thinking primarily about how to improve teaching and learning."

    That would be Dr. Lisa Larson, the founding director of the Center for Teaching Excellence, as described by Beth Domholdt, vice president for academic affairs.

    Larson's charge is to develop programs and events to enhance teaching for the purpose of improving student learning. Her activities so far include:

    • Enhanced first-year faculty experience focused on scholarly teaching
    • Establishment of a peer teaching consultation program
    • Facilitation of flipped classroom pilot projects
    • Establishment of a learning community on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
    • Facilitated discussions to improve faculty skills in managing diversity flash points in the classroom.  

    "There's a strong interest among faculty in incorporating more active, engaged learning into their courses," Larson said. "It's well documented that active learning can improve learning. Faculty who are redesigning lessons and courses for active learning need more resources and support."

    Larson earned an Ed.D. in Instructional Technology and Media from Columbia University, an MFA in creative writing from the University of Alaska Anchorage, and a BA in philosophy from Whitman College.  Her experience in faculty development includes particular expertise in research-based teaching practices and integration of learning technologies.

    Excellence in teaching at St. Scholastica faces challenges that are common across higher education, she said.

    "Learning isn't always easy, so teaching isn't always easy. Time is the limiting factor we all struggle with. It takes time for faculty to design and redesign lessons and to maintain currency as teachers and researchers in their disciplines. As course content changes, as faculty incorporate more active, engaged learning into courses, and as courses and programs are redesigned for different teaching contexts and student populations, pressures on faculty time will increase. The good news is that the College is ahead of the game in looking at new models and structures for conducting and compensating this work."

    The most satisfying aspect of the work, she said, is sharing practices that "reinforce the joy of teaching."

    "Faculty devote an enormous amount of their intellectual, emotional and spiritual energy to teaching," she said. "I see that every day, and it's inspiring."