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University of Wyoming Foundation

Keeping Up with Teaching Trends

Ellbogen Summer InstituteThe field of teaching is always growing and changing, and faculty at the University of Wyoming are keen to keep up with the trends. The John P. Ellbogen Summer Institute—and the endowment that supports it—allows them to do just that.

The John P. Ellbogen Summer Institute can host up to 30 faculty from various departments and disciplines on campus. It takes place after the regular school year has ended and right before many faculty engage with their summer research. The institute lasts for four seven-hour days, with an intensive schedule. Although it is exhausting, the participants leave the institute with new information and ideas about best and promising practices in teaching and learning.

“We have two aims for the Summer Institute,” says Meg Flanigan Skinner, director of the Ellbogen Center for Teaching and Learning (ECTL). “One is keeping faculty abreast of developing, innovative, and promising trends in teaching, and the other is supporting initiatives that arise from Academic Affairs.”

Many faculty members have high teaching, research and service demands that leave them little time during the academic year. A summer stipend from the John P. Ellbogen Summer Institute endowment provides the opportunity for faculty and lecturers to participate in workshops or projects run through the ECTL that result in course and curriculum redesign, refinement, or delivery.

“This endowment gives us the ability to really do something in depth that we simply couldn’t do at any other time” explains Meg. “The Summer Institute just wouldn’t happen without the John P. Ellbogen Summer Institute endowment.”

The program has multiple benefits. Inclusion of faculty from diverse disciplines provides opportunities for discussion among colleagues who normally have little opportunity to exchange ideas. This interdisciplinarity allows faculty to become aware of the effective practices used in one field that may not yet have traction in their own. As faculty are introduced to new ideas, they have time to consider which practices would be best suited for their own disciplines. They also have the time to revise course and/or curriculum design that they may not have during the busy and demanding school year.

In 2013, the first John P. Ellbogen Summer Institute was held on blended learning. Participating faculty taught in online and/or classroom settings. The institute looked at ways faculty could blend the best of face-to-face and online teaching techniques to maximize the learning experience for students.

This year’s institute focused on supporting one of Academic Affairs and the Faculty Senate’s changes to the 2015 University Studies Program curriculum: the introduction of a First-Year Seminar. Again, the faculty attendees came from a variety of departments and disciplines. The intention of the institute was to introduce faculty to research-based best practices in course design for first-year students. As an additional benefit, as these participants create curricula and syllabi for their courses, they will become models for other UW faculty members designing First-Year Seminars.

“The people who really make the Summer Institute work are the participants,” says Meg. “If they didn’t care deeply about students and their learning, if they didn’t come with their ideas and their energy, and if we didn’t have some very open and honest conversations, nothing would work. The very best part of the whole thing is that we get re-inspired and re-energized in our teaching—we remember why we love it.”

Photo:
UW faculty attend the John P. Ellbogen Summer Institute

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