ITeach 2008 to help faculty focus on the classroom

At research universities such as Washington University, faculty members constantly are creating, uncovering and discussing new theories, discoveries and ways of thinking about important and complex questions. Finding ways to integrate this scholarship into the classroom experience can be an opportunity for distinction and academic excellence. It also can be a challenge — a challenge not often discussed among faculty.

“Most faculty at research universities are interested in teaching and develop innovative teaching methods, but they do it in isolation,” said Regina Frey, Ph.D., director of The Teaching Center and senior lecturer in chemistry in Arts & Sciences. “They don’t necessarily talk to their colleagues about what they’re doing.”

That’s why, on Jan. 10, The Teaching Center, University Libraries and the College of Arts & Sciences will host ITeach 2008, an event at which faculty can gather to talk specifically about their teaching experiences and learn about new teaching methods and technology that can help students learn more quickly and easily.

The symposium, which will take place from 8:45 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. at Eads and Ridgley Halls, is free and open to all University faculty members. The Teaching Center requests that those planning to attend register by Jan. 4.

ITeach 2008 will feature 16 separate sessions about topics ranging from “Improving Student Writing” to “Using Digital Research Materials for Teaching.” Other offerings include “Web-Based Homework in Large Courses,” “Engaging Students in Large, Introductory Courses” and “Teaching with GIS.”

Since the first biennial ITeach symposium in 2002, which focused exclusively on incorporating new technology into the classroom, subsequent symposiums have added increasingly more sessions about teaching methods that have little or nothing to do with technology. At ITeach 2008, just 65 percent of the sessions offered will be technology-related.

“Technology was the initial impetus, but what we found is that this becomes a great occasion for faculty to talk to one other about the art of teaching,” said Dennis Martin, associate vice chancellor and associate dean of Arts & Sciences. “There really isn’t another forum for that on a campus-wide basis.”

Still, the majority of sessions offered at ITeach 2008 are centered on the use of new technology in teaching, including the use of Geospatial Information Systems (GIS), currently a hot topic in education and research. WUSTL recently invested in a campus-wide site license and is developing staff expertise and infrastructure that has helped make GIS available to faculty across the University.

“The focus is not on technology for technology’s sake” Martin said, “but instead on discovering how technology can allow a teacher to present information in a different, more compelling way that will allow students to learn more effectively.”

In addition to the learning sessions, ITeach 2008 features a plenary address, “Capturing the Visible Evidence of Invisible Learning,” led by Randy Bass, executive director of Georgetown University’s Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship.

The lecture will aim to help faculty determine whether students are truly mastering the material they are being taught and how teaching methods can be changed to better engage students.

ITeach 2008 also will provide an environment where faculty members can discuss how those areas that aim to support teaching, such as University Libraries, can best serve them, said Judith Fox, associate dean of University Libraries. “The library is always looking for ways we can assist faculty in teaching and research,” she said.

According to Frey, faculty of all ages and all disciplines likely will benefit from attending ITeach — not only because of the learning sessions, but also because of the opportunity to discuss teaching with other faculty members during breaks, meals and the reception.

“I think that’s the real usefulness of ITeach,” Frey said. “Faculty are not just speaking to colleagues in their department, but to colleagues throughout the University, so there is an interdisciplinary conversation about how to improve teaching and enhance student learning.

“Along those same lines, the young faculty are talking to older faculty, who have more experience. Older faculty are talking to younger faculty, who have new ideas. Therefore, just as we have an interdisciplinary connection, we have an intergenerational connection as well,” she said.

For more information about ITeach 2008 or to register, visit or call Liz Peterson at 935-6810.