Iona College, June 2020
Pedagogy Innovation Master Classes for Professors
Designed for Provost Darrell Wheeler’s Pedagogy Innovation Initiative
Provost Darrell Wheeler invited me to present two 3-hour master classes to a group of Iona faculty, whose proposals for new educational programs had recently been accepted into his Iona innovation initiative. Their proposals are both interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary; integrating 21st Century concerns into the classroom and the community.
The online Master Classes covered two topic areas:
- A Creative Toolbox to Improve Classroom Dynamics
- Design Methodologies for the Modern Classroom
The first master class explores classroom dynamics, both in the “soon-to-be past” and the “soon-to-be future”. Participants reflected on their motivations for educational change and what roles they imagined taking in their newly designed classroom experiences.
The second master class turned a focus to design methodologies for pedagogical innovation, and how these methods can also be combined to lead new classroom experiences and collaborations. Participants were introduced to:
- design context – an evolution of design methods in the last century
- design thinking
- futures thinking (and design fiction)
- problem framing
Participant Results & Insights
Throughout both master classes the professors actively participated in creative sprints, individual reflections, and small group activities.
In the first session they developed personal super heroes to express the impact they were hoping to make with the development of their new programs. Colleagues shared their superpowers with one another and learned how to cross-pollinate their expertise to contribute to multi-disciplinary curriculum development.
With a new understanding of their various roles in the classroom, professors reflected on ways to create new spaces for creativity to take place. They imagined physical spaces as well as the materials and tools that would motivate students.
In the second session they worked in small groups to develop the future of education. The future looks bright! Here are some of their future ideas for education:
- Grades no longer exist with a portfolio model of reflections on the higher education experience as a source for learning outcomes.
- In the 2030’s a mind interface tool exists, which is capable of downloading content directly into human brains. The role of the educator then shifts to one of skills development: critical thinking, ethical, and soft skills. The group designed “TEACH” Technology Enabled Access to Communal History. Since robots have knowledge, too, the future of education becomes about how we use what we know.
They also met in small groups to reframe problems, which resulted in a deeper question from one professor, “How do we negotiate applying these techniques to students at a variety of levels?”
This was my first experience guiding fellow educators who are outside of the design space. It was thrilling to see that universities are actively making shifts in how we build education, and that such passion for education still exists at the higher education level. The Provost’s dedication to a project to engage faculty in pedagogy innovation is both inspiring and motivating.
In the master classes themselves I observed some of the challenges that academics face when presenting new ideas and methods. One of the most obvious barriers is related to the limits we educators give ourselves based on the repeated [failed] efforts within systems, and also with our unmet expectations of the prerequisites of our students. One professor stated, while others nodded agreeing, “…I find that I have to teach my students how to read…through an academic or critical lens.”
Regarding creativity and imagination, I witnessed the group thrive as they activated their creative muscles, and the joy they had sharing with other professors.