At its most basic meaning, praxis is the combination of theory and practice. As we delve into educational literature, we find a deeper meaning that combines reflection and action. And, as we then connect with Ignatian pedagogy, praxis is the intersection of experience, reflection, and action in teaching and learning contexts.
All certificates in the Certificate in University Teaching Skills Program require participants to attend several Praxis Workshops. Designed specifically with the objectives of the certificate program in mind, the Reinert Center's Praxis Workshops are interactive sessions during which an expert facilitator designs a learning experience around a particular pedagogical topic that creates the opportunity for participants to explore a new idea, or an established idea in a new way, and reflect on its implications for concrete interactions, approaches, and/or projects for their own specific teaching and learning situations (courses, labs, clinics, etc.) at the university level.
Several Praxis Workshops are offered each fall and spring semester. Please visit the Reinert Center's Events page to see upcoming offerings.
Participants enrolled in the Principles Certificate are required to take three online courses (also referred to as online seminars) in the following sequence:
- Teaching Philosophy- This online course leads participants through a set of writing exercises that culminate in a working draft of a statement of teaching philosophy.
- Course Design- This online course offers a starting point for principles of effective course design.
- Learning Technologies- In this online course participants will uncover how technology fits into their personal philosophy of teaching and will design course activities using learning technologies accordingly.
The sequencing of the online courses is an intentional scaffold and serves as a foundation for a statement of teaching philosophy, syllabus development, and the creation of course projects and assessments. The course sequence is offered once each semester and once over the summer. Participants are not required to take the courses in a single semester. For example, a participant could take Teaching Philosophy in the fall semester and Course Design and Learning Technologies in the spring. Registration for these seminars is required and can be found on the Events page when registration is open.
Participants enrolled in the Principles Certificate are required to select a faculty mentor from their home discipline or department and to meet with that person to discuss specific aspects of teaching. The purpose of the faculty mentor is to provide the Certificate participant with a person with whom he/she can openly discuss discipline or like-discipline perspectives on teaching. A full, detailed description of the expectations for the mentor/mentee relationship can be found in the Faculty Mentor Information and Guidelines PDF.
Each workshop in this series presents a fundamental teaching strategy or technique that could be in any teacher's toolbox. After a brief introduction about the why's and how's of the teaching strategy, participants will draft a lesson plan, assignment, or project that will put the tool to work immediately. This series is especially beneficial for those who are new to teaching or who want to refresh their teaching essentials.
Independent Studies in the Certificate Program are defined as guided long term study of a particular teaching method. Currently, we offer one independent study credit, Service Learning, which requires the participant to meet with Leah Sweetman from the Center for Social Action and create or redesign a course as a service learning course.
Institutes are multi-session and/or multi-day hands-on learning experiences, on topics of interest to a broad range of educators. Sessions are structured sequentially, and involve both structured learning time and unstructured work time, so that participants can learn from one another, not just from Center staff or facilitators. Currently, Certificate program participants may earn up to two Effective Teaching Credits for participating in any of the following institutes: Winter Institute, Ignatian Pedagogy Institute, and the May Event. Other Reinert Center institutes may be eligible for credit with permission.
Classroom Observation + Consultation
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, 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. NB: In order to earn Effective Teaching Credit the participant must complete the post-observation meeting with the Reinert Center staff member who conducted the observation.
Small Group Instructional Feedback Sessions
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. For more on SGIFs, please see the SGIF Frequently Asked Questions page.
NB: In order to earn Effective Teaching Credit the participant must complete a post-SGIF meeting with the Reinert Center staff member who conducted the session.
Special events and programs designated by the Reinert Center as earning credit.
In some cases, Certificate participants may wish to attend a seminar and/or workshop (e.g., at a conference, etc.) offered outside the Reinet Center offerings that would help them to meet one or more of the Certificate program objectives and for which they may be able to receive Effective Teaching Credit. In addition, some academic departments maintain agreements with the Reinert Center through which students who successfully complete a departmental course on teaching at the university level may receive up to two credits.
The maximum number of all such substitutions (course, workshop or seminar) is two for either certificate. All substitution credits must be reviewed and approved by the Reinert Center prior to a participant attending. Please see the Substitution Policy for additional details.
Approved conferences are multi-session events that primarily are focused on a pedagogical theme and/or topics. Currently, the only approved conference to earn Effective Teaching Credits is the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) Focus on Teaching and Technology Conference.
The creation of a teaching portfolio is the culminating project for the Certificate in University Teaching Skills; participants completing the Foundations Certificate are not required to complete a teaching portfolio, though they are required to complete a reflection essay.