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The Culture of Teaching at Bronx Community College
(December, 2008)

Harriet Shenkman, Ph.D, Director, Center for Teaching Excellence

Faculty at Bronx Community College take seriously the notions of access and opportunity.   They are dedicated to facilitating access to higher education and career mobility for a student population that has been historically underserved.    

Teaching is made social and interdisciplinary through faculty development programs, seminars, events, workshops and communities of practice initiated or co-sponsored by the Center for Teaching Excellence(CTE). New faculty members attend orientation seminars during their first semester.  They learn about college resources, share their teaching successes and explore obstacles to learning. Throughout their career at the college, full time and adjunct faculty have the opportunity to participate in programs that allow them to learn about new teaching techniques and approaches, including technology enrichment, problem-based learning, metacognitive strategies, integrated skills reinforcement, diversity training, global learning, writing-across-the-curriculum and quantitative reasoning in the disciplines.

Faculty development projects sponsored by the CTE often develop around the needs of particular disciplines.  One semester, a “Quantitative Reasoning in the Disciplines” initiative was begun.  Twelve participants from different disciplines demonstrated how they used quantitative literacy within the context of their own content area.  The next semester, a “Mathematics and Pedagogy Seminar” was sponsored. Led by two mathematics professors, mathematics faculty explored the various instructional challenges for students and continued their explorations in the Mathematics Department after the seminar series was over.

An initiative inspired by summer seminars initially funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities is the Continuum of Greatness project. Faculty from humanities and science disciplines research figures in the historic Hall of Fame for Great Americans on our campus for the purpose of stimulating intellectual inquiry and finding ways of making the national historic site an integrated part of general education.  Instructors who teach developmental reading have begun to enhance their curriculum by developing projects using the notion of historic continuum to read and write about figures in the Hall of Fame.  In the same vein, a faculty member from the Department of Art and Music has challenged students to use their newly learned skills to create a poster to represent the “Continuum of Greatness at BCC.”

Finally, the Freshman Learning Community is a critical place for faculty development.  In our model, faculty collaboration and instructional integration is central.  At weekly meetings, faculty work to resolve teaching issues relevant to a common group of students and plan for a showcase event at the end of the semester.

The challenge for the institution is to find ways of valuing a continuum of teaching practice and rewarding faculty for honing their ability to engage students and bring them deeper into their own areas of knowledge.

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