By Steven Krolak
(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)–Imagine trying to teach students how to count to ten in Klingon. Or to commit the perfect murder, using poison. Or identifying Fibonacci sequences in nature.
Those were some of the challenges given to teams of IU Southeast faculty members during the “Top Prof” teaching competition, held during the 24th annual Spring Teaching Symposium, a collaboration of the Faculty Academy on Excellence in Teaching (FACET) and the Institute for Learning and Teaching Excellence (ILTE).
Not quite “American Gladiator,” but close.
The game was the brainchild of Dr. Robin Morgan, professor of psychology and director of the Institute for Learning and Teaching Excellence (ILTE).
Teams from the Schools of Business, Arts & Letters, Social Sciences, and Education were given approximately 15 minutes to teach. Not only were the challenges tough and weird by definition, but the teachers also had to deal with various disruptions, such as staged arguments among students, before finding a way to assess the learning of their audience members.
“Each team brought their own style and flavor to the presentation,” said Lisa Russell, associate professor of strategic management and entrepreneurship, and FACET campus co-liaison.
Some used skits, some dove into theoretical foundations, but all learned a great deal about themselves and their metier,
Honors and bragging rights ultimately went to the winning team of Bernadette Jessie, associate professor of criminology & criminal justice ; Quinn Dauer, assistant professor of history and international studies; and Megan Kahn, assistant professor of psychology, from The School of Social Sciences.
Their team formed in December and was given lesson plans, assessment rubrics and the challenge: to teach colleagues how to count to ten in Klingon.
They began to research Klingon culture by watching reruns of “Deep Space 9” and ultimately decided on a scenario that involved ordering cups of bloodwine (candy was used as a more socially acceptable substitute).
For Kahn, the game was an opportunity to work with colleagues outside her discipline, and demonstrated how much fun it can be to research in areas beyond her expertise.
“It’s easy to forget that we ask students to take these plunges into new knowledge all the time, while we often get to slowly broaden or deepen our knowledge at our own pace and within our own comfort levels,” Kahn said. “I am going to draw upon this experience the next time a student asks me to supervise readings in an unfamiliar area and remember that I can go on that learning adventure with them.”
After positive feedback, Russell is confident the contest can become a regular feature of the FACET symposium.
“Being able to experience how our colleagues apply pedagogy, sometimes under challenging circumstances but always in good fun, gives us a chance to relate to one another and laugh at ourselves,” Russell said. “More than anything, it provides the opportunity for us to bond with one another as we learn about some of our best teaching practices.”
Homepage photo (l-r): Dr. Meghan Kahn, Dr. Quinn Dauer, Dr. Bernadette Jessie at the coveted Top Prof podium, a good-natured prize.