The National Teaching & Learning Forum

Cover image for Vol. 26 Issue 2

Online ISSN: 2166-3327

Editor's Note, Volume 25 Number 5

In its first issue of the fall semester The National Teaching & Learning FORUM begins in a contemplative mode. Meeting with students either or face-to-face or online is a ritual, but unlike many rituals it usually lacks a sense of ceremonial self-awareness. That’s not the case at Naropa University in Colorado. At this Buddhist inspired school classes begin with a short bow shared between students and teacher. Elaine Yuen, who teaches at Naropa, explains how this and a number of other strategies help establish a contemplative classroom, a place where students and teacher may calmly focus on why they’re there together and what they’re doing.

Contemplation and creating a contemplative classroom DEVELOPER’S DIARY columnist Ed Nuhfer points out in this issue should also be seen as metacognition. Encouraging a disposition in students (and in one’s self as a teacher) toward conscious awareness of the dynamics of thinking, not just the product of it, produces more and better learning and learners.

And part of contemplation in teaching means being a good listener. Linda Hodges’ essay on reading between the lines of student evaluations to find out what they are really asking for as novice learners offers faculty guideposts on the road to better teaching.

Old tools, we discover, work well in combination traveling along this road – pre-tests, post-tests and group work. Linda Verdone and Rebecca Maas have found a way to combine these that helps students become more aware of themselves as learners and thus begin to learn more.

Michael Pravica is tireless in his enthusiasm for teaching, even teaching a subject many first approach as arcane – physics. Pravica doesn’t let that idea stay with students very long. He shows them how what we’ve labeled “physics” is simply the world of sight and sound and touch that they inhabit. This certainly changes their contemplative awareness and opens their minds to learning.

So what about the nuts and bolts of teaching? What happens to all those good ideas and insights about how to work a course more effectively next semester? AD REM . . . columnist Marilla Svinicki offers some sage advice just as we begin a new semester how not to let those ideas that will come to us along the way slip away.

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