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Columbia Doctoral Students Travel to Princeton for Ivy+ Teaching Development Summit

by | May 18, 2017

On April 28, a group of select Columbia University doctoral students were able to do something unusual: travel as a group to a peer institution to discuss teaching development and practices. The Ivy Plus Summit at Princeton University was the first inter-institutional gathering for graduate students. The event was designed by Columbia’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) in partnership with the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning at Princeton and the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Pennsylvania.

A group of select Columbia doctoral students gather the morning of the summit before traveling to Princeton. Photo credit: Mark Phillipson.

Twelve Columbia students, twelve Princeton students, and five Penn students from a range of disciplines gathered with facilitators from the three teaching centers. Throughout the day participants focused on ways that future faculty can are spearhead and model new practices. The day’s agenda included presentations, brainstorms, and discussion about ways to improve pedagogy through approaches such as peer mentorship and support.

During a round of teaching artifact presentations, a number of objects epitomizing teaching values were considered. These artifacts included an upside-down map that provokes questions about representation and power, a rock that is invested by a class with ritualistic significance, and a simple social network exercise that makes mathematical algorithms more approachable. During a round of lightning talks, a number of peer teaching development models were discussed including Columbia’s Teaching Observation Fellowship, Lead Teaching Fellowship, and CTLgrads Learning Communities.

Ivy Plus Teaching Transformations Summit. Photo credit: Evelyn Spradley

“Attending the Ivy Plus Teaching Transformations Summit was a terrific opportunity to share teaching experiences, forge new pedagogical ideas, and simply get to know colleagues from other institutions,” said Kevin Windhauser, a doctoral student in the Department of English and Comparative Literature. “During the day I had the opportunity to get peer feedback on a research assignment I am developing for future courses, which improved the assignment design immensely. I also received invaluable suggestions on future classroom activities and student assessment practices that I look forward to incorporating next semester.”

The day culminated in an “unconference” session during which participants defined and discussed topics of greatest interest. These conversations included a critical inquiry about what constitutes the “basics” in a given course, a discussion of shifting between small and large class instruction, an inventory of creative assessment techniques, and a consideration of how teaching centers could expand support for graduate student professional development.

Ivy Plus Teaching Transformations Summit. Photo credit: Mark Phillipson

Funding for this event was provided by the Teagle Foundation and the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School at Princeton. In addition to the Ivy Plus graduate student summit, funding from the Teagle Foundation helped Columbia doctoral students attend conferences during the 2016-2017 academic year specifically focused on evidence-based instructional practice and teaching professional development. The CTL provided this support to graduate students traveling to the 2016 Professional and Organizational Development in Higher Education (POD Network) Conference and the 2017 HASTAC Blended Learning in the Liberal Arts Conference.

“The trip to Princeton turned out to be a great occasion to meet new people and get to know firsthand what other institutions are doing in the field of education,” said Almudena Marin-Cobos, a doctoral student in the Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures. “As a graduate student, I felt empowered because a certain kind of responsibility had been put on my shoulders. My view, as well as my colleagues’, was going to be listened to and (hopefully) taken into account for the design of new forms of teaching and learning. We were there because our opinions matter. In that sense, we were acting as ambassadors of our own work as educators.

The CTL offers a range of (paid and non-paid) professional development opportunities for Columbia graduate students. Applications are now open for paid CTL Microteaching Facilitator and Graduate Student Teaching Consultant positions.