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Director’s Welcome – Fall 2014

Welcome to what I trust will be a successful year in the classroom! Whether you are new or returning faculty, full or part time instructor, or graduate teaching assistant, I take this opportunity to introduce you to the Teaching Matters and Assessment Center (TMAC), our website (tmac.camden.rutgers.edu), and monthly newsletter.

In 2012, Dean Lindenmeyer invited me to develop a new center whose mission is to foster excellence in teaching and promote a culture of continuous improvement in the College of Arts and Sciences and our campus as a whole. I am pleased to continue in my third year as TMAC director working with departments and individual faculty to identify and communicate best practices in teaching, testing, mentoring, responding to student work, and documenting learning. I hope you will frequently visit–and contribute to–our TMAC website and its ever expanding resources. Read more

Faculty Spotlight: James Brown, Jr.

Welcome to our continuing series of conversations with Rutgers Camden faculty on teaching and learning. This month, TMAC sat down with James Brown, Jr., Assistant Professor of English and Director of the Digital Studies Center, to discuss his plans for the center as they relate to teaching.

TMAC: We speak for the whole campus in expressing excitement about a new Digital Studies Center taking root at Rutgers-Camden. In addition to being a hub for research and innovation, what can you tell us about the DSC as a site for teaching?

James: The Digital Studies Center’s mission statement was written before I arrived, but it’s one of the main reasons I was so interested in coming to Rutgers-Camden. It explicitly mentions teaching and education, meaning that the DSC has always been envisioned as a place where digital research and pedagogy could be linked together. That’s one of the most exciting things about the DSC to me.

TMAC: And how does the Digital Studies Center advance its pedagogical mission?

James: The Digital Humanities Certificate is 18 credits, and it allows students to take courses from across the University. In addition, students take a capstone seminar in which they work on a Digital Humanities project of some sort. This could be anything from a videogame (incidentally, our first DH Certificate student will be doing just this in the spring) to an extended piece of writing that examines some digital technology from a humanistic perspective. Students in the certificate program will also be required to teach a workshop on some component of their research. If they used a digital tool, they’ll teach a workshop on that, and if they used a specific theoretical approach that allowed them to study digital technology in a novel way, the workshop could address that approach. Workshops will be open to students and faculty, and we think this will offer students a great opportunity to both showcase and solidify what they’ve learned. As any teacher knows, the best way to really get to understand something is to teach it.

TMAC: That’s absolutely true. So how might a teacher work with the Digital Studies Center to advance his or her scholarship and teaching? Read more

Call for Assignments

TMAC is adding to its website an assignment gallery. This curated collection will celebrate excellent teaching at Rutgers-Camden and allow all to benefit from imaginative and well-constructed assignments–projects, papers, and other learning activities–across the curriculum. Each assignment will be introduced by a brief teacher’s note describing the context, the thinking behind the design, and the positive outcomes of the assignment. TMAC will work with contributors to format submissions.

Our hope is to expand the gallery by several assignments each month and to represent the full range of disciplines, levels, and teaching practices. We look for contributions that, among other things, encourage effective reading and time management, foster strong research habits and skills, sponsor successful writing and speaking, help students study well, promote academic integrity and social responsibility, stimulate critical thinking and reflective practice, and lead students toward deeper engagement as scholars and citizens.

Have an assignment to contribute? Contact teaching.matters@camden.rutgers.edu

Faculty Spotlight: James Genone

Welcome to our continuing series of conversations with Rutgers Camden faculty on teaching and learning. This month, TMAC sat down with James Genone, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, to discuss the value of taking the pulse of student learning mid-semester.

James: In the past, students in my classes would report that they didn’t know where they stood with respect to participation and overall performance. Initially, I responded by giving mid-semester participation grades, but some claimed they didn’t understand why grades were low, even though expectations were outlined on the syllabus and discussed in class. To prompt greater reflection, I have instituted a mid-semester self-evaluation in which students report how much time and effort they are putting into class and rate themselves on participation (whose criteria were reproduced on the self-evaluation sheet). Now, I return this evaluation with feedback, particularly if I disagree with their assessment. However, I find most students are fairly realistic about their performance.

TMAC: And what would you say is the most tangible benefit to this self-evaluation exercise?

James: I notice that this self-assessment stimulates considerably more improvement in participation than if I just provide feedback myself. In the past few years, since incorporating learning goals in my syllabi, I ask students to assess their progress with respect to each goal both mid-semester and again at the end of the semester. Most report significant progress, and I think that the exercise has helped them keep in mind the goals of the course at times when the material can be very abstract. Read more