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Scholarship program chooses CSULB, will improve education

The Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning program (CASTL) chose Cal State Long Beach as one of 87 higher education institutions worldwide to participate in a new program with the objective of improving undergraduate and graduate education.

Betsy Decyk, a lecturer in the philosophy and psychology departments at CSULB, and the other faculty leaders have expressed their ideas about students being actively involved in their education through the program.

The CSULB faculty members, in addition to Decyk, who make up this leadership team include Chicano and Latin Studies lecturer Julie Rivera, science education professor Alan Colburn, Terre Allen, director of the Faculty Center for Professional Development, and assistant English professor Nancy Strow Sheley. All of these faculty members have been actively involved with the Faculty Center for Professional Development.

The group of faculty leaders created the theme “Sustaining Student Voices in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.” CSULB is grouped with Western Washington University, Elon University, Illinois State University, North Seattle Community College and the University of Nevada to work under this theme together.

This innovative theme was derived from a PEN, Professional Enhancement Network, meeting. Decyk is the founder of PEN, an organization that promotes active learning for faculty and where faculty members get together and discuss mutual concerns. The role of students in their education was one topic they discussed and from that, their theme was invented.

In an effort to promote student growth, the leadership group has initialized a discussion of collaborative learning between a group of students and a group of faculty members who listen to each other’s opinion, problems and concerns with teaching and learning.

During the month of October, a video was recorded of a discussion where the faculty members and students expressed their points of view regarding conflicting due dates. This video was then presented at the International Society of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, part of the Carnegie Foundation, and was well-received.

“I think more of this type of communication [between faculty members and students] will help everybody all the way around,” Rivera said.

At one of these student and faculty discussions, one student asked if teachers ever get together and talk about assignment due dates. This opened up the idea that if teachers started talking about due dates among other things, they could avoid assignment overloads and work to further students’ learning success.

Decyk said her goal for this project was “to generate excitement about, engagement in, and improvement of, learning and success…for everyone [students and faculty].”

Rivera said the discussions between faculty and students have been “a very fascinating experience.”

Decyk added, “Rather than imagining education as a river which flows from the teacher to the student, it would be better to think of education as a whole ecosystem which is both dynamic and interactive.”

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