RCC's administration took the request to heart. Lynda Parlett, director of grants at RCC, sought and secured external funding from the Perkins Foundation to invite Dr. Linda B. Nilson, founding director for the Office of Teaching Effectiveness and Innovation at Clemson State University in Clemson, S.C., to conduct professional development sessions for faculty members.
Nilson, who has more than 35 years of experience in research, planning and implementing instructional programs, was a good match to address the noted deficiencies reflected in the RCC faculty/staff survey. RCC, like many campuses, serves a growing and diverse student body: students, both traditional and non-traditional; a growing Latino population; and students enrolled in the Robeson Early College. Many of the college’s faculty members recognize the need to learn more about contemporary teaching methodologies and innovations to better reach this diverse pool of students.
During the three-day workshop, Nilson concentrated on four areas: classroom assessment technique; student assessment techniques; classroom and laboratory organization and management; and student incivility in the classroom.
Sheila Regan, chair for Math, Science and the Social Sciences at RCC, participated in the three-day workshop.
“The workshops emphasized that student engagement in the classroom promotes student taking responsibility for their own learning,” she said. “Additionally, a fully engaged student will decrease side conversations and other classroom disruptions, and incivilities that greatly interfere with teaching and learning.
“Dr. Nilson provided examples of classroom assessment techniques that encourage active learning and student engagement,” Regan added. “The sessions provided me more insight on how to make my classroom more student centered and less teacher centered.”
Participants learned more about various methods of assessing student performance, how to help students help each other by better understanding peer feedback, how to motivate and teach students to take good lecture notes, and how to create an instructor persona that commands respect in the classroom. Additionally, faculty learned more about creating a more secure and safe learning environment.
Participants received learning materials and supplies to use for future reference. Post conference assessments given to participating faculty indicated that the sessions greatly impacted their knowledge base on the subjects discussed in the workshop.
“Comments from the workshop evaluations were very favorable. More than 18 percent of the faculty indicated that they are better skilled to engage in student learning and 14 percent of the faculty noted they are better equipped in responding to student incivility in the classroom as a result of Dr. Nilson’s instruction”, said Parlett. “It is imperative that our faculty engage in activities that will improve instructional effectiveness in the classroom. Professional development not only enhances our faculty and staff’s skills, but will ultimately ensure our student’s success.”
— Lisa O. Hunt is the Public Information Officer at Robeson Community College and the project coordinator for the Robeson Regional Biotech Education.