Instructors primarily receive course feedback from the main audience — students.
While a student’s personal experience is valuable when reviewing and modifying teaching methods, instructors need input from colleagues as well.
That is how the Faculty-led Inquiry into Reflective and Scholarly Teaching program was formed at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. The professional development program offers instructors an opportunity to meet with other faculty at the university and discuss teaching.
FIRST provides a template for instructors to document and assess courses and teaching methods in a professional portfolio.
“I participated in FIRST (formerly Peer Review of Teaching) as a first-year participant in 2007,” Jody Kellas, co-director at FIRST and chair of communication studies, said.
Kellas went on to become an advanced participant the next year and advanced leader the next year before becoming co-director of FIRST with Eve Brank.
“I got involved in fall 2009,” Brank, director of the Center on Children, Families and the Law and professor of psychology, said. “Beyond focusing on the general organization of the program, I focus on the advanced project for faculty who have completed the initial year of the program.”
When Instructors join the program, they will develop a course portfolio and reflect on teaching in a constructive and supportive climate with colleagues across disciplines.
Participants who return will be placed in the advanced program, which focuses more on teaching from a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning method.
Typically, there are about two dozen first-year participants and about 12 advanced participants in an academic year.
“The advanced program offers a space for continued conversations and written reflection about teaching and improving student learning,” Brank said. “Specifically, the advanced program is designed to support faculty interested in developing a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning project. The advanced program seeks to provide you with the resources to develop manuscripts and/or presentations that have a reach beyond the University of Nebraska.”
The FIRST program was initially offered once a year but has recently been restructured to allow applicants to apply in the fall or spring. The program boasts rave reviews from former participants and welcomes all faculty members at the university to apply.
“My experience encouraged me to finally get rid of having lectures in my classroom,” Kevin Lee, research professor of physics and astronomy, said. “I made the leap to a 100% student-centered pedagogy because of my peer review experiences. It made me completely aware of how little my students were learning.”
“By participating in the project, I have added lectures, discussions and activities that are directly tied to course objectives, and I better monitor student groups,” Larkin Powell, professor in the school of natural resources, said.
Learn more and apply for the spring cohort on the FIRST website.