University of Rochester

Under New Name, Rochester's Teaching Center Expands Its Mission

July 7, 2011

Center will Focus on Discussions, Techniques of Teaching Methodology

In an effort to focus more energy on faculty members and graduate teaching assistants, the Office of Learning Assistance Services (LAS) in the undergraduate College at the University of Rochester has expanded to create a forum for the discussion of teaching methodology and pedagogy. Renamed the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), the center will continue serving undergraduate students by offering academic support and study skills counseling, among other resources, and also will continue its support of new teaching initiatives in partnership with members of the faculty.

"Through the center's expansion, we're hoping to bring faculty members from the College together to share successful teaching methods and work to develop new ones," said Richard Feldman, dean of the College at Rochester.

Vicki Roth, who is the founding director of LAS, and will continue in her role as director of the new center, agreed that the shift in the mission is about faculty collaboration and dialogue.

"There is a lot of excellent teaching taking place in the College," Roth explained. "We want to capitalize on that by providing a place where faculty can learn from each other, borrow ideas, or discuss new approaches."

Under Roth, the office has had a long history of supporting innovations in teaching methodology, including those created by the Center for Workshop Education (CWE). Co-directed by Roth and Terry Platt, professor of biology, biochemistry, and biophysics, CWE led a pioneering effort to use a workshop model in the classroom, bringing small groups of students together to work through problems collaboratively, guided by a trained peer facilitator. In 1995, Roth worked with the late Jack Kampmeier, chemistry professor and former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, to adopt the workshop method for his organic chemistry class. Today, several departments weave team-learning methods into their courses.

To support CETL's expanded mission, Roth has been joined by Jennifer Hadingham, the center's newly appointed assistant director, who will run the day-to-day operations. An expert in pedagogy, Hadingham last served on the staff at the teaching center in the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. At Rochester, she will be charged with planning workshops and forums, and supporting faculty-driven initiatives, as well.

Hadingham also will work one-on-one with faculty members and graduate students to provide guidance and feedback on their teaching methods and will help the CETL expand its website to offer a selection of online resources. She also will work closely with Barbara Masi, the College's director of assessment, to evaluate how well students are learning and identify ways to improve learning based on their findings.

"This partnership is a statement about the College's commitment to supporting excellent teaching," said Feldman. "At the core, the center's mission is to provide our students with the best possible learning experiences."