STUDENT SUCCESS: Rethinking How We Teach

This entry is part 18 of 21 in the series Fall - 2015

STUDENT SUCCESS: Rethinking How We Teach

by Stephanie Clemons, PH.D.

On any day at CSU, an enjoyable walk across campus – often skirting construction cones or an occasional biker – reveals the amount of intentional and purposeful renovation and new construction taking place. These new spaces, many made possible by private support and donations, are designed using multiple strategies to enhance student success. Articles in this issue will discuss “place-making” design initiatives at CSU geared toward enhancing collaboration, conversation and serendipitous exchanges on campus, including: LEED living/learning spaces, the addition of more kitchens in residence halls, the inclusion of more group study spaces rather than individual carrels, and the integration of stairwells rather than elevators, among many others.

As these spaces have been envisioned, there has been a deliberate desire to maintain the legacy of the campus and ensure a healthy environment for our students. In particular, I appreciate CSU’s desire to limit the height of new construction so that a view of Long’s Peak is accessible by all. I think you also will be inspired by the connection and collaboration we’ve encouraged with the surrounding Fort Collins community as increased student numbers impact the urbanization of both entities.

While the campus has been rethinking its physical design, professors on campus have been rethinking how to better teach and engage students in the learning environment. When surveyed, Admissions research data indicates that incoming freshmen students indicate the number one reason for making CSU their school of choice is the “quality of the academic programs.” Instructors are innovating in the classroom in many ways.

Some faculty are moving to the “flipped” or “reverse” classroom pedagogy. This teaching style flips selected lectures to outside class learning, which allows time for sample “homework” exercises to be collaboratively completed in the classroom environment. Instructors can rotate around the room to determine if students are struggling with the “muddiest” point of their “homework” and offer one-on-one instruction. To support this type of learning, professors can reconfigure the classroom setting in 10 minutes or less because the furniture, marker boards and technology screens are all on wheels. Flipped classrooms, an active learning environment, allow peer-to-peer teaching, debates, gaming, studio projects, and group quizzes to take place – all types of learning assessments.

Our faculty is adapting to a dramatically expanded learning environment due to available technology, which allows us to reach out internationally as well as generationally. With technology, the classroom is the entire world rather than a physical location. There is increased demand for gaming and robotics, for innovative styles of classroom collaboration, for sensitivity to the culture and language of international learning styles. Research related to high impact practices is being used to guide new curriculum development. Three dimensional imaging offers “real life” simulation. In many ways, teaching feels like a new profession that is placed in an ever changing physical learning environment, and the CSU faculty has embraced a pioneering role in the face of these changes.

We love our students! They are remarkable, individual, and accomplished. Our professors care deeply about their success. While this magazine issue will discuss importance of student success in a collective sense – our students are treated as individuals, often with 24/7 assistance. Similar to the families they left at home, we realize we only have them for a short period of their lives. Therefore, we want to maximize our time with them. Enhancing our student success is a pivot point around which many conversations take place on campus. We hope you enjoy this critical issue outlining some of the fantastic student-centered initiatives in which CSU is engaged!

Professor, Department of Design and Merchandising
University Distinguished Teaching
Scholar Board of Governors Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award Recipient (’15)
Vice Chair, Faculty Council

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