Teaching the teachers: Academy aims for ‘ongoing improvement’ in instruction

Dr. Christopher Richmann assists other educators in an ATL workshop. Photo courtesy of Christopher Richmann

By Caleb Wheeler | Staff Writer

While professors are often the ones doing the teaching, Baylor’s Academy for Teaching and Learning is a service for them to learn how to improve their instructing.

In 2008, the university implemented the Academy for Teaching and Learning. The institution exists for the sole purpose of ensuring faculty have every resource at their disposal to create a good educational experience.

“What the ATL does, not exclusively but really more specifically, is supporting faculty with the classroom stuff,” Dr. Christopher Richmann, assistant director for teaching and learning at the ATL, said. “That’s not all we do, but that’s kind of the heart of what we do.”

Dr. Lenore Wright, director of the ATL and professor of interdisciplinary studies and philosophy, said while the program is nearing two decades old at Baylor, it is still quite new, considering Baylor was the last of the Big 12 schools to implement such an institution.

“Ultimately, it’s the students’ experience that we’ll help to transform by being great teachers,” Wright said. “It’s that classroom experience that identifies Baylor as a place that values great teaching.”

Wright said the ATL offers lectures, seminars, group meetings and more — and those resources are not limited to faculty. Wright said the ATL extends services to adjunct faculty, graduate students and staff.

“We teach anybody in an instructional role,” Wright said. “The ATL welcomes them to our programming, to our events, etc.”

The institution’s services also include sitting in on classes to observe a professor’s teaching.

“What I’m looking for are suggestions that I can make to help [a professor] or maybe consider new ways of teaching [or] refine the things that they’re doing in the classroom,” Richmann said. “So it’s very much focused on ongoing improvement.”

Richmann said he occasionally finds himself in the position of having one-on-one conversations with professors to talk about their teaching methods after observing their classes.

“We just want to approach it very holistically and … look internally at Baylor. What are the needs of our instructors, and how can we meet those needs?” Wright said. “And then externally, what’s happening in higher ed? What do we know about the challenges today in teaching and learning?”