With over one dozen speakers and panelists, the Fall 2022 Teaching and Learning Symposium hosted by the Center for Transformative Teaching and the Executive Vice Chancellor’s Office had something for everyone.
The focus of this year’s symposium was on experiential learning or learning that is an active way to apply coursework to real world experiences in the classroom, community or workplace and reflect upon the process once it has concluded. Structured, intentional reflection is an essential component of experiential learning and is what differentiates it from other hands-on learning experiences.
The keynote speaker, Patrick M. Green, director of Center for Engaged Learning, Teaching and Scholarship at Loyola University in Chicago, described different types of experiential learning and showed several examples.
At Loyola, students are required to enroll in three credit hours of experiential learning, which is considered a high impact practice. This means it supports deep learning, increases student time on task, interactions with faculty and peers and has frequent feedback.
Green had participants break into groups halfway through his presentation to look at several examples of learning and classify the examples as high or low experience, how well the example integrated with the field of study and the degree to which reflection was built into the experience.
After lunch and the keynote, Trisha Vickrey shared how an optional pre-course had narrowed student achievement gaps and increased course completion in Organic Chemistry 251. Olha Tytarenko, associate professor of practice of Russian in the Modern Languages and Literatures Department, described how she uses low-cost virtual reality to help students practice speaking the Russian language.
Another guest speaker at the symposium included Michelle Paxton, director of the Children’s Justice Clinic and a lecturer with the College of Law, who spoke on a panel about experiential learning.
When asked what educators can do to help prepare students for real world scenarios, Paxton offered the advice to “make a cocoon environment where students can feel safe to get things wrong. It helps to make mock scenarios so students can learn how to handle feelings and improve soft skills.”
Also speaking on the panel was Louise Lynch-O’Brien, assistant professor of insect biology, who answered the same question by stressing how vitally important experiential learning is in helping students decide their future.
“It’s better for a student to figure out if they like something [through the experiential learning process], or if they don’t like it, before setting themselves up for a whole career,” Lynch-O’Brien said.
Concluding the symposium were several presentations by faculty and staff members of the university in a speed session format.
“We were so pleased with the turnout of participants here on East Campus and I don’t believe we have ever had such great range or speakers, presenters and topics,” Nick Monk, director for the CTT, said. “It’s great to see what faculty members are working on and have this exchange of ideas.”
The symposium is conducted every fall semester and is open to faculty, staff, and students at the university.