The National Teaching & Learning Forum

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Online ISSN: 2166-3327

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James Rhem, Executive Editor

Editor James RhemHaving felt a passion for teaching for as long as he can remember, James Rhem, creator and executive editor of The National Teaching & Learning Forum, describes teaching and learning as sacramental acts. He was pursuing post-doctoral studies when the opportunity to have a wider influence on the teaching community opened and he began creating publications on teaching for higher education. After founding four newsletters, including the popular Teaching Professor, he founded The National Teaching & Learning Forum in 1990. Rhem is also active as a speaker, offering a humanities perspectives on teaching.

Editor's Note, Volume 25 Number 4

May 2016

Seasoned faculty know and new faculty quickly learn that there are many things an education needs to offer students that aren’t found in textbooks. Sometimes fashionably called ‘soft skills’ today, these habits of mind shape learning, citizenship and character. They are about knowing what it is to participate fully and honorably in the human community. The articles in this issue of the FORUM take up these cornerstones of character which turn out to be vital keys of learning.

The cover feature by Susan Alvarado who teaches philosophy at Austin Community College explores four ‘intellectual virtues’ -- humility, courage, empathy, and perseverance. Grasping these gives students a deeper understanding not only of what it is to learn to also how to go about learning. And Alvarado doesn’t teach these things by preaching. She immerses students in robust discussions prompted by case studies and video clip vignettes.

Moral, social problems surround most significant learning in one way or another; certainly they surround the teaching of criminal justice today. With the Washington Post just having won a Pulitzer for reporting that documented 990 citizens shot and killed by police in 2015 (too many of them young black men), it’s clear criminal justice and social justice find themselves in fierce contention. Tamara Madensen who teaches at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas embraces this struggle by guiding her students toward seeing the failure of a single-minded world view. The complexities, she says, demand an understanding of multiple perspectives.

In a way too much of a good thing appears in this issue in another way as well. This issue’s TECHPED column by Michael Rogers of Southeast Missouri State University “Embarrassment of Riches” looks at the plethora of apps available for students’ ubiquitous smart phones. Most have a narrow focus. Sometimes the focus is just right for an assignment. Sometimes it’s too limited. Which app is right? There are so many to learn. Mightn’t it be better for faculty to learn the available LMS well and stick with that?

Some psychologist feel we’re paralyzed by having too many choices, but that seems still to be a minority opinion. NTLF’s residency at the Austin Community College last April found a whole host of new approaches to faculty development and nobody seemed paralyzed. Indeed, things seemed more like a party where the guest were all interested in learning and sharing than anything else.

Back to those ‘soft skills’ or habits of mind: Marilla Svinicki’s AD REM . . . column echoes Tamara Madensen’s focus on the importance of failure and understanding the educational value of failure, but Marilla looks at the capacity needed to embrace failure’s lessons -- resilience. If students can’t bounce back from failures in a positive way, the learning is lost. As Marilla explains, we need to teach them that. Indeed, as this issues CREATIVITY CAFÉ column points out risk-taking and the possibility of failure are essential to engaged and creative learning which may explain why “creating” not stand atop the revised pyramid of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

-- James Rhem
Executive Editor, The National Teaching & Learning FORUM

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