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 23 Number 3

March 2014

James Rhem, Executive Editor:

The FORUM has had international readers since its founding over twenty years ago, and from time to time, we’ve had some provocative contributions from faculty in countries other than the United States. This issue, however, offers something a bit different with regard to connecting with education internationally. NTLF Editorial Board member Mark Stoner, CSU-Sacramento spent a year studying education in Finland trying to gain insight into the so-called “Finnish Miracle.” Finland consistently rates at the top in educational success in international rankings. Why? To explore what he witnessed, Mark queried several colleagues from his sabbatical. Together, their round-robin discussion offers insight into why education in Finland succeeds so well. This issue offers part one of their discussion.

Increasingly, as pressure on, hope for, and concern with education increases everywhere, faculty find themselves pressed to investigate their own teaching. Why does it work (or not work)? When does it work (or not work)? While these questions interest all faculty, many find themselves puzzled as to how to investigate them. Ten years ago, I was pleased to be part of the steering committee that founded the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Its first president was Craig Nelson, a professor of biology at Indiana University. Craig has been a leader among faculty in doing what’s called SOTL research. We lead off this issue with the model he’s evolved for doing this kind of work. It’s a practical and inspirational model bristling with commonsense and, as I see it, provoking intellectual excitement. However interesting a faculty member may be in his or her area of subject expertise, few take up the life of a teacher without also being profoundly interested in what helps, lets, or causes learning to happen. Think of Craig’s model as a blueprint for getting on with remodeling the building you’ve long been inhabiting; it’s never finished and can always be improved.

When I was a graduate student, I used to escape the campus and wander through a local hardware store. I’d grown up surrounded by tools and men who knew how to use them to build things. They didn’t write; they sawed wood and drove nails. I didn’t want to lose touch with that, but it amazed me how new tools and materials kept appearing. Somehow, naïvely, I thought tools were tools and that there wasn’t much room for improvement. But there was and is, and in teaching and learning new tools keep appearing that don’t so much redefine the job as help us rediscover the joys in its depths and complexities. Kimberly Kode Sutton and Joshua DeSantis, York College of Pennsylvania offer a brief introduction to two new web tools capable of turning a large, passive assembly of students into an interactive learning community via any of the ubiquitous mobile devices with which almost all students are now equipped.

But, of course, not-to-be-forgotten basics persist. Students seek education today in order to be more effective (and employable) once they leave college. “Teaching Real World Writing” from John Immerwahr, Villanova University not only reminds us of the obligation to prepare students for the world beyond the campus, but offers examples of how to do it with redesigned writing assignments.

And Marilla Svinicki’s AD REM …? Well, it bears repeating: “If nothing else, be organized.”

—James Rhem

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