Forum showcases creative
teaching and captivating web sites
custom-built costume-cutting table with 24 drawers to hold student
projects, a departmental web site where students post their research,
and a video of a speech-impaired teenager learning to use a computer
to communicate are among 31 projects sponsored by University
Teaching Initiative grants to develop innovations that help
in teaching, a dozen of which were presented at a forum Oct. 1.
a relatively small amount of money, all of these new ideas are
flourishing," said Economics professor William R. Johnson,
who chairs the Faculty Senate's academic affairs committee, which
developed the teaching enhancement program two years ago.
Vice President and
Provost's Office sponsored the pilot program with $100,000
per year in grants of up to $5,000. Applications for the program's
third year are due Feb 1.
"We're going to be looking for projects that link research
and teaching [the Faculty Senate's theme this year], but we'll
also be interested in other projects,² Johnson said, encouraging
faculty who have already gotten grants to apply again if their
work remains unfinished.
Among the projects presented at this month's forum, sponsored
by the Teaching Resource Center and the Faculty
Senate, were a virtual wetland herbarium, a web site for biology
majors teaching in local middle schools and a web site for a seminar
to train religious studies teaching assistants.
and real wetland herbarium
architecture students have typically turned to texts that
offer taxonomic information, but give insufficient physical descriptions
of plants and their requirements.
(Sagittaria graminae): One of the plants that will be described
and illustrated in Kathy Poole's Wetland Herbarium database.
address this problem, Landscape Architecture professor Kathy Poole
is creating "A Physical and Virtual Herbarium of Middle Atlantic
Wetland Plants" -- a web site, as well as a real herbarium
to be housed in Campbell Hall.
site is designed for people creating a wetland," said graduate
student Adriane Fowler, who is assisting with the project. "There's
a lot of interest in wetlands right now, as a strategy for dealing
with storm water retention. They used to just build a big concrete
retention pond, but using a planted wetland filters the water
and looks a lot better."
web site, which is 80 percent finished, offers images of plants,
as well as information about where they grow and what types of
soil they prefer.
is also creating an herbarium at the Architecture School that
includes dried plant samples.
will be "extremely useful" for landscape architecture
students studying plant identification, Fowler said. "They
need to know about plants that aren't available around here."
conversations with his daughter, who teaches at Walker Middle
professor Fred Diehl learned that local science teachers could
use some help, and he saw a way for his students to learn biology
by teaching it.
created a program to put U.Va. biology majors in front of the
class. Supported in part by a $1.2 million Howard Hughes Medical
Institute grant to the biology Department, the program enables
his students to develop lessons in areas required by the Virginia
Standards of Learning, and they earn course credit in the process.
Local teachers are eager to have U.Va. students teach some of
"We generally don't give students the opportunity to make
decisions and put things together in their own way," he said.
"Even if it's a simple concept, you learn a lot about it
when you have to present it."
The UTI grant is being used to create a course web site, which
will help manage the course and facilitate the exchange of ideas.
Teachers in Central Virginia will be able to copy lessons prepared
and tested by the undergraduates and use them in their classes.
Since Diehl started the program in 1997, 12 to 15 students have
participated each semester, and 25 will participate next semester.
dream is for students to replace teachers two days a week and
for the teachers to come over here and take courses in the areas
where they are weak," he said.
assistants in Religious
Studies have often complained that they were thrown into the
classroom ill-prepared," said the department's lead T.A.,
and Religious Studies professor Ben Ray have addressed the problem
by creating a seminar to train T.A.s. The course, which meets
one night a week, covers such topics as teaching the first day,
leading effective discussions, grading, teaching outside one's
subject area, creating a teaching portfolio and finding a job
outside of academe.
before students can teach, the course is designed to be run by
the department's lead T.A. Two faculty members and two or three
experienced T.A.s attend every class, and staff from the Teaching
Resource Center and Office of Career Planning and Placement are
UTI grant is being used to develop a web site for the course.
"Right now it's a glorified syllabus with a lot of links,"
Thomas said, but he plans to add material on topics like the challenge
of teaching course material that conflicts with a student's faith.