‘Seminars for Excellence in Teaching’ series explores classroom strategies

Dr. Christopher Richmann, assistant director for teaching and learning at the academy, said the series is providing new opportunities for professors to have a platform. Photo courtesy of Baylor University

By Tyler White | Staff Writer

Baylor’s Academy for Teaching and Learning is hosting its “Seminars for Excellence in Teaching” series throughout the semester. From topics like student spiritual life to discussions on the importance of grades, the series highlights and addresses all aspects of teaching.

Dr. Christopher Richmann, assistant director for teaching and learning at the academy, said the series is an opportunity for faculty and staff to have a platform to share their experience.

“A lot of teaching is translatable across disciplines. Not all of it, but a lot of it is,” Richmann said. “So we get a chemistry professor who now has a platform with this type of event to speak to folks who are in any and all departments, so it’s really an opportunity for them to share.”

The series from Baylor’s Academy for Teaching and Learning provides faculty and staff with a diverse understanding of various topics related to student life, Richmann said. They can learn from others and implement those experiences in their own classes.

“We want to continue to get better,” Richmann said. “We want to continue to adapt. We want to continue to be reflective and thoughtful in our teaching.”

Dr. Burt Burleson, university chaplain and dean of student life, is leading a session on the spiritual lives of students on Sept. 28. He said it’s important to focus on the spiritual life of the student body and to recognize its spiritual diversity.

“We have ways of putting blinders on and making assumptions,” Burleson said. “We can lock down on those assumptions on what a Baylor student is. I think that it’s really important when you’re teaching because you need to know who’s sitting out there — or at least have the capacity to say there’s probably someone out there who ‘fill in the blank.’”

Burleson said he hopes faculty and staff can walk away from the session with an understanding of the importance of attending to the spiritual lives of students because it makes an impact on their experience in the classroom and their relationships with professors.

“Students tell us in the faith and character study that at least 50% of the students had an experience in the classroom that strengthened their faith … where somebody was taking you deeper,” Burleson said. “That may have been because this person was just really kind and gracious and alive, or it might have been that they sat down over coffee and got deep — I don’t know. But what we do know is that that concern for their student … and their own concern for their own faith, have a high impact on a student’s faith.”

Richmann said the series is designed to allow faculty and staff to implement new strategies and adapt to the needs of students.

“The hope is that the teaching is always refining,” Richmann said. “We always want to be improving, but it’s not just a matter of improving. It’s also a matter of being responsive to the students that we have.”

Although the series is for faculty and staff, Richmann said the desire is for it to translate into impacting students as a result.

“That improvement very holistically should, we hope, trickle down to the students’ experience.” Richmann said. “That they have more thoughtful, more reflective, more caring instructors who also have more tools and techniques in their bag too.”