May 15, 2013
Michaella Thornton

Resonances and Ripple Effects: CTTL Hosts Learning Studio Symposium

Past and present Innovative Teaching Fellows spoke about their experiences teaching in the technology-rich space at the second annual event hosted by the Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning.

Beccy Aldrich, Assistant Professor, Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, explains during the 2nd Annual CTTL Learning Studio Symposium how, as an Innovative Teaching Fellow, she designed a globally-engaged course for students at Saint Louis University and in partnership with the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.
Beccy Aldrich, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, explains during the second annual CTTL Learning Studio Symposium how, as an Innovative Teaching Fellow, she designed a globally-engaged course for students at Saint Louis University and in partnership with the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden. Submitted photo

Each spring, the Paul C. Reinert, S.J., Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning invites the Center's Innovative Teaching Fellows to share what they have discovered or are in the process of discovering from teaching in the Learning Studio, a state-of-the-art, technology-enabled classroom in Des Peres Hall designed by Saint Louis University faculty and students in 2011.

This year's second annual Learning Studio Symposium was held April 19 and drew a crowd of almost 40 full-time faculty interested in learning more about the space, the Innovative Teaching Fellowship program and how to potentially transfer the lessons learned in the Learning Studio across disciplines and other learning environments.

Symposium presenters, both past and current Innovative Teaching Fellows, included Jenny Agnew, of the School for Professional Studies (fall 2012); Beccy Aldrich, of the Department of Occupational Sciences and Occupational Therapy (spring 2013); Paul Lynch, of the Department of English (spring 2013); Nathaniel Rivers, of the Department of English (fall 2012); and Thomas Stewart, of the School of Law (fall 2012).

At the start of the Symposium, moderator and alumna of the Innovative Teaching Fellowship program (spring 2012), Flannery Burke, Ph.D., of the Department of History, encouraged attendees "to look for the surprising resonances between what all the Innovative Teaching Fellows have found in their work and, in particular, to look for the potential ripple effects ... Surprising, unexpected, and marvelous things happen as result of teaching in this room."

For Aldrich, who taught in the Learning Studio this spring, she partnered with the Karolinska Institutet, a medical university in Sweden, to deepen the international focus of her course, "OCS 372: Occupations in Diverse Contexts."

"I hope that giving students first-hand experience with global counterparts would really bring that professional, international nature home to them," Aldrich said.

To foster student understanding of what it means to be an occupational therapist in a global context, Aldrich reported "students on both ends were split into two groups of 12-26 students and each SLU-Karolinska dyad met once a week for an hour to discuss topics such as culture, globalization, occupational justice and the political practice of occupational therapy."

Aldrich leveraged the Studio's immersive video wall and Fuze Meeting a newer SLU-supported academic technology akin to Skype, but more stable and secure, to host synchronous conversations between St. Louis and Stockholm.

In fact, the design of the Learning Studio enhanced not only cross-cultural, technology-enabled conversations like the ones in Aldrich's class, but also helped personalize the face-to-face considerations of Agnew's "English 150: Process of Composition" course.

"We made use of the tables and chairs for a writing class, where you're doing peer review," Agnew said. "It's great that they are facing each other; the room has laptops, [which] we used those regularly. We [also] used ... the rolling white boards ... to do small group work and to brainstorm ideas [and] we used the bar for conferences ... and I could sit in the back and conference individually with students. There are some pretty amazing ways to use this space."

Agnew also enjoyed the ability to change the front and back of the room, depending on her needs and her students, not to mention those of her three community guest speakers, who talked with students about their involvement with local food in St. Louis — one of the central themes of the course — and the writing process.

And while the Learning Studio is definitely a unique learning environment, Lynch, who taught in the Studio this spring, also explained how shifting his approach to teaching as a result of the Fellowship could and did translate to other courses he teaches.

"One thing that I would say about all of this is that all of this could probably be done at any room across the campus, right?" Lynch began. "That's not to downplay the importance of this room. In fact, what the importance of this room is for me that it forced me to think about things differently. I don't think I would have been able to do this if I had been working in a room where all of my students had laptops say in Beracha, even though there is nothing wrong with Beracha Hall, but being in here and working with [my instructional designer] forced me to think about things differently."

This paradigm shift also resonated with Stewart, a School of Law faculty member and director of Trial Advocacy. Stewart saw the Learning Studio not as a classroom, per se, but as an opportunity to simulate and enact a law-firm look and feel to prepare his evidence students as professional, self-directed attorneys.

"What I made clear to these apprentice lawyers is this: When you leave law school and you pass the bar exam and you begin to practice law, you will continue to learn the law, everyday," Stewart said. "That is why they call it the practice of law. You won't learn it from some fat guy yammering at you about ‘here's the answer,' while you sit passively and look at ESPN or whatever. You will learn it by engaging the material yourself, doing your own research, collaborating with your fellow associates in your firm ... So, that's the ownership I wanted to give the apprentice lawyers in this room."

The pioneering and creative ways that faculty engage and empower students in their learning as a result of their time in the Learning Studio continues. The next call for applications will go out in early September 2013, with Fellowship applications due on Oct. 2. More details will be posted on the CTTL website in late August 2013.

The following faculty members have been selected for Innovative Teaching Fellowships for fall 2013 and spring 2014:

  • For fall 2013, Palash Bera (business/decision sciences and information technology management), Dan Bustillos (Center for Health Care Ethics), Mary Gould (communication), Nathaniel Rivers (English), Thomas Stewart (law) and Alyssa Wilson (social work).
  • For spring 2014, Robert Cole (education), Ajlina Karamehic-Muratovic (sociology and anthropology), Shawn Nordell (biology) and Bobbi Shatto (nursing).

Learn more about the Learning Studio or the Innovative Teaching Fellowship program online at the CTTL website.

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