The Teaching Challenge

By Mike Thorn, Communications & Marketing Assistant at the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning

Organized by the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, the Teaching Challenge is a community hub, offering a series of online activities that serve as prompts for educators to explore techniques and to gather feedback from peers, connecting an interdisciplinary community of educators. Geared towards an interest in innovative teaching and learning methods, the initiative’s “challenges” range from incorporating student reflective writing exercises to creating podcasts or screencasts for classroom use.

Andrea Freeman, an associate professor in the department of Anthropology and Archaeology, stumbled upon the Teaching Challenge while browsing the Taylor Institute’s website. After deciding to participate in the challenge, she soon discovered that it had much to offer. Not only does it allow instructors to post about their experiences online, but it also encourages educators to provide one another with feedback. “It encourages cross-campus dialogue about what works well and what doesn’t work so well and in what contexts new methods are best applied,” she reflects.

She characterizes her own experience with the Challenge as a positive one, citing the exposure to new ideas and interdisciplinary exchange of information. She says, “The experiences and expectations of the generation of students I’m teaching are much different than my experiences as a learner, so I want to know how to better connect with them and get them as excited as I was about learning.”

For Freeman, the initiative involved research and discovery. “When I first found the Teaching Challenge, I spent time looking at what others had posted,” she recalls. “I was excited to learn about new methods that others had employed in their classrooms and the value they found in these new devices. It’s a great way of getting new ideas for engaging students and delivering knowledge in a meaningful and productive way. The success of this initiative relies on the participation of similar-minded instructors who are willing to share their ideas and provide feedback to those who have already shared.”

The Teaching Challenge has also had a positive impact on Andrea Freeman’s career as an instructor. “Lifelong learning is about more than just increasing knowledge,” she emphasizes. “It is about becoming the best you can be. This type of peer-to-peer sharing provides insight that cannot be obtained from teaching evaluations and reinforces excellent teaching strategies. I came to the University with a strong research focus, but teaching is so much a part of our lives and the future of the University. The Teaching Challenge is a simple way for me to find better ways of engaging my students, so that I can be a more effective contributor to learning on this campus.”

Andrea Freeman’s experience highlights the Teaching Challenge’s main focus, and it is embedded in the initiative’s very name – this is all about teaching and learning. The Challenge enriches and strengthens educational experiences across campus. This program is continually developing, with new challenges being added this fall.

For more information, visit the Teaching Challenge website.

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