faculty panel

Panelists on the second day of the Symposium on Teaching and Learning participating in a discussion on interdisciplinary teaching innovations. From Left: Melpomene Katakalos, professor of theater; Christina Viau Haden, professor of mechanical engineering and mechanics; Valerie Jones Taylor, assistant professor in psychology and Africana studies; Larry Snyder, professor of industrial and systems engineering and Director of the Institute for Data, Intelligent Systems and Computing, and Suzanne Edwards, associate professor of English and a faculty member in women’s, gender and sexuality studies.

Annual Symposium Showcases Innovative Teaching and Learning Ideas

The 13th annual Symposium on Teaching and Learning returned this month after a two-year hiatus caused by the pandemic.

Story by

Christina Tatu

Photography by

Kathleen Frederick

During Lehigh’s 13th annual Symposium on Teaching and Learning, Lehigh educators  discussed changes in their approaches to instruction as a result of the pandemic and the new techniques they plan to carry into the future, from hybrid learning to virtual reality and mindfulness.

Hosted by the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning (CITL), the event took place April 6-7 after a two-year hiatus due to  the pandemic. It was the 13th year Lehigh has held the event, which took place in the Fairchild-Martindale Library the first day, then virtually the second morning, ending in the main gallery of the Lehigh University Art Galleries with an in-person faculty panel discussion on interdisciplinary teaching innovations co-sponsored by the Mellon Humanities Lab.

There were 21 presentations of about 10 minutes each, with a total of 160 faculty, students and staff attending at least one session. 

“Over the past two years, our faculty found they had to rethink how they interacted with our students…They had to recast their methods of instruction,” said Greg Reihman, vice provost for Library and Technology Services and Director of the CITL, who has served as the organizer and presenter of the event since its inception in 2008.

Greg Reihman

Greg Reihman, vice provost for Library and Technology Services and Director of the CITL, presents speakers on the first day of the 13th annual Symposium on Teaching and Learning.

Faculty found new ways to build community, engage students, and check on students’ well-being during the pandemic, Reihman said. Many professors realized that traditional methods of teaching were secondary to having empathy for students as they navigated a new reality fraught with uncertainty.

Siva K. Sivakumar, the Arthur Tauck Chair and a professor of marketing, kicked off the first day of presentations with his talk, “Post-Pandemic Professor: A Personal Journey.”

“I’ve heard of universities being compared to battleships, being very difficult to change and taking a long time to change direction, but I think we have shown during the pandemic that we can change,” Sivakumar said. “My own approach is that if we don’t change, change will be forced upon us.”

Sivakumar said education isn’t just about bestowing knowledge upon students, but engaging with them and making them feel involved in the process. He adjusted how students use the chat function in Zoom when he asks a question.

“I don’t want people to just look at what other people are writing, so I tell them, ‘Don’t submit, just write, and I will give you a signal after 30 seconds, then you submit."

He encouraged his fellow professors to embrace small changes that will eventually add up, but most importantly, he encouraged them not to be scared to try new things with technology.

“Sometimes I tell my students, ‘I’m going to try this out. If it doesn’t work out I won’t do it next time.’ I tell them upfront,” he said. “Humility is obviously important, but I think ultimately so is good faith.”

Siva K. Sivakumar

Siva K. Sivakumar, the Arthur Tauck Chair and a professor of marketing, during a presentation the first day of the Symposium on Teaching and Learning.

Mary Newbegin and her colleague Teresa Cusumano, both language specialists with the International Center for Academic and Professional English (ICAPE), talked about the challenges of welcoming international students for the fall 2020 semester.

“The idea of just coming to college alone can be very daunting, let alone the insecurity about getting here and whether you’re going to have classes online, whether you’re going to start your college career online and things like that,” Newbegin said.

As a result, the center developed the “Virtual College Success Academy,” a three-credit online course in which high-intermediate to advanced students in English proficiency learn about university culture, develop their academic communication and study abroad skills, and engage virtually with Lehigh teachers, staff and students on campus.

The program is entering its third year, Newbegin said.

One of the students’ assignments was to make a “day in the life” video where they show different aspects of their lives, such as what they eat for breakfast or religious customs in their part of the world.   

Many of the instructors who spoke during the symposium recognized the need to prioritize students’ well-being during the pandemic. Sometimes it was as simple as asking, “How are you doing?” at the start of class.

“I want to talk about this concept called social connection,” Haiyan Jia, an assistant professor in the department of journalism and communication said during her presentation, “Building True Connections: Pedagogical and Technological Strategies to Help Students Navigate Times of Crisis.”

Jia was teaching a senior seminar class in fall 2020 when she noticed some of her students were really struggling, not only academically, but physically and psychologically.

“I realized my students were just not ok…We were focusing so much on material, but not really showing kindness, understanding and the care aspect,” she said. “What I started to do was have ‘me time.’"

 My hope is that attendees hear one or two things that resonate with them, put those ideas into practice in their own classes, and come back next year to report on how it went.

Greg Reihman

During their Zoom meetings, Jia would spend a few minutes before each class asking students to talk about what they were doing outside the virtual classroom. Some talked about learning how to churn butter or bake croissants, another student shared a video of himself flying a plane as he trained for a pilot’s license.

One student shared a poem about her grandmother who died from COVID during the pandemic, later thanking Jia for providing the opportunity to share.

Jia ended her presentation with an African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

The two-day seminar finished up with a faculty panel discussion on interdisciplinary and innovative projects.

Christina Viau Haden, a professor of practice in mechanical engineering and mechanics, and Melpomene Katakalos, a scenic designer and professor in the theater department, blended art and engineering with their class on Leonardo DaVinci. The class included weekly design prompts, drawing and creating a kinetic art piece.

Larry Snyder, a professor of industrial and systems engineering and director of the Institute for Data, Intelligent Systems and Computation, and Suzanne Edwards, an associate professor of English and a faculty member in women’s, gender and sexuality studies, are teaming up to create a class on algorithms and social justice. Often people think algorithms are objective, but they can contribute to bias, Edwards and Snyder explained.

Valerie Jones Taylor, a social psychologist and assistant professor with a joint appointment in psychology and Africana studies, also presented her work using virtual reality to explore bias and its effects. 

audience

The audience listens to presentations during the first day of the Symposium on Teaching and Learning.

 “The goal for the symposium is to recognize and promote educational experimentation and innovation more broadly across campus,” Reihman said. “My hope is that attendees hear one or two things that resonate with them, put those ideas into practice in their own classes, and come back next year to report on how it went.”

The pandemic has been a “magnifier” and an “accelerator,” he said. It accelerated the possibility of new pedagogies, technologies and new ways of understanding learning. It’s also magnified some of some of the challenges Lehigh faced in supporting faculty and students through those changes. 

“The more we as a university can continue to do the things we learned to do well, the better I think everyone across campus will be,” Reihman said. 

For more information on the symposium and to view recordings of the presentations, click here.

Story by

Christina Tatu

Photography by

Kathleen Frederick

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