Essential to the fulfillment of the Reinert Center’s mission is the work we do with individual instructors and with academic units. Below is a brief description of the primary ways in which this work occurs. Note: all requests for individual services must be initiated by the instructor and are considered confidential.
The Reinert Center offers two different kinds of teaching consultations: individual consultations and unit-level consultations.
Individual consultations are confidential in nature and must be requested by the instructor. (Administrators may not request consultations for an instructor.) Consultations may focus on any aspect of teaching, from course design to student engagement. They may occur in a single discussion or in regular, ongoing meetings. All consultations are conducted as a collaborative dialogue and are driven by the individual instructor's needs and goals. Common topics for one-on-one consultations include: interpreting and responding to student feedback; approaches to course (re)design; methods for engaging students more deeply in their learning; strategies for meaningful assessment of student learning; and preparing teaching materials for academic dossiers.
Representatives from academic departments, programs, colleges, and schools also may engage seek a consultation on behalf of the unit. Typically, departmental consultations address topics of broader significance to the faculty and/or graduate students of the whole unit. Academic departments wishing to engage Reinert Center staff in confidential consultations on behalf of the unit can simply ask that the content of the session be confidential. Common topics for unit-level consultations include: assessing and documenting teaching effectiveness; curriculum mapping and alignment; program-level assessment of student learning; (re)design of learning spaces; and moving traditional programs to an online or blended format.
One important way to gain insight into how others are experiencing one's teaching is to invite an outsider into the classroom to observe what's happening. We think of this work as an act of deep observation and analysis, rather than as a teaching evaluation. The observer strives to observe specific pedagogical choices the instructor is making and the effects those choices are having. The observer has been trained to view the classroom as a living "text" - identifying patterns, observing student-to-student and faculty-to-student interactions, and documenting the time and duration of various class activities.
Before the observation, the instructor typically meets with the Reinert Center staff member who will conduct the observation. The pre-observation meeting provides an opportunity to discuss any relevant matters of class context, to set instructor goals for the observation, and to share other insights and information that may be needed for the class observation to be useful. After the observation, the observer prepares notes, typically in narrative form (as opposed to a checklist approach), in order to capture for the instructor the overall arc of what happened in the class, as well as any specific patterns observed. Finally, the observer and instructor meet again, post-observation, to discuss findings and to consider possible adjustments that may be needed, if applicable.
A good way to find out how students are experiencing a class is to ask them. Our Small-Group Instructional Feedback Sessions (SGIFs) are best suited to the mid-semester timeframe; they are modeled on nationally-recognized approaches to gathering formative feedback of this type. SGIFs are short focus groups with students, initiated at the request of a faculty member or other instructor. They take about 20 minutes of class time. Instructors (and any T.A.s) are asked to leave the room while the session is being conducted. Because of the importance of timing with SGIFs, we strive to share the results within a day or two. Ideally, the instructor then discusses the feedback with students and makes decisions about whether/how she or he will respond to the feedback. All feedback collected is anonymous. We also have a modified process for asynchronous SGIFs, which may be suited to some online courses. For more on SGIFs, please see the SGIF Frequently Asked Questions page.
Please note: SGIFs are time- and labor-intensive; therefore, we limit them to the mid-term timeframe (when they have the greatest potential to be of use to instructors and to significantly impact student learning). Occasionally, depending on availability of resources, we may not be able to honor all requests for SGIFs.
For faculty and other instructors developing online courses to be offered at Saint Louis University, the Reinert Center provides mentored course building support. In contrast to traditional conceptions of instructional designers (who often design and building online courses for faculty), mentored online course building involves Reinert Center staff members building online courses with faculty, through regular one-on-one contact. Through these collaborations, faculty members receive development in effective online course design and teaching practice, as well as training and support as they build their online courses in the University’s learning management system (currently, Blackboard).
This approach to online course development reflects our belief that course design and online course layout are pedagogically-driven decisions first and foremost. It also is in keeping with the Reinert Center’s overall mission and our approach to empowering faculty members to assume autonomy over all of their courses. Faculty seeking support for designing and developing online courses may request a teaching consultation.
Reinert Center staff can work with individual instructors and academic units to explore ways to purposefully and effectively incorporate technology into teaching and curricula. While we are agnostic about which tools instructors should use, we can help them identify which tools might be best-suited to their course aims. We stay informed about new trends in educational technology, and we regularly experiment with different kinds of tools in our Learning Studio.
We also are well-versed in University-supported tools (like the course management system, lecture capture tools, and web-conferencing software), particularly in how these tools may be effectively used for instruction. Upon request from departments and programs, Reinert Center staff also can facilitate customized workshops on technology-focused topics, such as: integrating technology into student assignments, using social media for learning, and creating effective slides for interactive lecture. To talk with someone in the Reinert Center about teaching with technology, schedule a consultation.
The Reinert Center regularly develops customized workshops, facilitated conversations, and unit-level retreats at the invitation of academic departments, programs, and colleges/schools. Such sessions are available upon request, assuming resource availability, and are developed in collaboration with the requesting unit in order to ensure that the goals are appropriate (both for the Center's mission and for the unit's goals) and to ensure that the sessions are designed appropriately for the intended audience(s).
In the best cases, customized workshops involve one or more co-facilitators from the unit (e.g., one or two faculty from an academic department). While Reinert Center staff can share general best practices and strategies, co-facilitators from the academic unit can offer discipline-specific examples and perspectives, which make unit-specific workshops more meaningful. To request customized sessions, email the Reinert Center at firstname.lastname@example.org.