Lecture teaches faculty new teaching methods

Andrew Messamore

In hopes of encouraging faculty to apply student-centered teaching techniques to their classrooms, educational psychology professor Marilla D. Svinicki lectured on how professors could apply recent discoveries in psychology to their curriculum as part of the Academic Transformation lecture series by the Center for Teaching and Learning.

At the FAC, Svinicki lectured to a group of nearly 60 professors from different UT departments interested in improving their teaching methods using Svinicki’s data from current research literature.

“They want to get a dialogue going on what students can do to regulate their own learning experience,” said Michael Sweet, director of Instruction and Development at the Center for Teaching and Learning. “Our goals are to talk more and more about learning and less and less about teaching.”

After a short introduction by Sweet, Svinicki began her lecture by pointing out long term changes in education resulting from behaviorist theories about the way people learn.

“We felt we could know everything by observing what people did and not what they thought, but modern theories have replaced that and now we believe that the learner ultimately controls learning,” Svinicki said. “Unfortunately, every tool our students have now is based on old models — taking notes and reading the book and writing down anything the teacher says.”

Svinicki then listed ways in which teachers can work to improve their students self-efficacy, that is, their ability to work and learn on their own. Interested professors were then given time to discuss the different methods they used in their own classrooms to address these issues.

“I think what’s being said here is about important motivation in teaching,” said kinesiology professor Dolly Lambdin.

“There are always better ways to teach, and everybody here is anxious to find better ways to do what they are doing.”

However, the reality of applying these issues is more difficult than simple discussion. In class sizes like those at UT, some students wonder if a professor can really attend to the education of every student in the classroom.

“You can’t attend to 300 kids in one class, but if you got 30-40 in a single class then, yeah, you can do that,” freshman Brent Schiffman said. “I think the better question is, ‘Do kids take advantage of what’s already there?’”

This will be the only lecture by Svinicki this semester, although the Academic Transformation series will continue in October with a presentation on integrating technology into the classroom.