New Center for Teaching and Learning opens

A series of workshops and a gala will celebrate the new center

How often do professors from disciplines as disparate as Philosophy, Biology, Business, and French get together to talk about teaching and learning? For a group at Brandeis, about every two weeks.

This year, professors from those disciplines have started meeting in the new Center for Teaching and Learning to share ideas about teaching: Designing courses, methods for helping students prepare for class, planning class activities and motivating students. They also drink some tea.

“We’ve all had different teaching training and a different culture that we’ve been trained in,” said Rachel Woodruff, a biology professor who arranges the informal tea times. “It turns out many of the methods we’re familiar with can be used in other teaching cultures, too.”

Hosting the “teaching teas,” as they’ve become known, is just one small example of how the center can help teachers improve the learning experience.

Directed by Dan Perlman, associate provost of innovation in education, the center provides one-on-one consultation, sponsors peer group discussions (such as the teaching teas), coordinates visits to classrooms and links educators with resources from Library & Technology Services, Academic Services, Experiential Learning and other campus services. The center aims to support all instructors, both experienced and new, in their teaching.

"The Brandeis faculty is full of talented and skillful teachers who are passionate about their students’ learning," Perlman said. "At the center, professors, post-docs, and graduate students can exchange expertise and ideas about teaching."

Perlman saw the power of such exchanges among instructors as he facilitated the Davis Teaching and Learning Fellows program for two years. Before that, he co-taught a full-year conservation biology course for nine years.

“My co-instructor and I challenged each other to explore a wide range of methods for helping our students learn,” he said. “The center aims to generate rich conversations like those among colleagues.”

The center was formed by the Office of the Provost to achieve a key goal of the university's strategic plan: To focus on intensive learning experiences of enduring impact.

A gala opening will be held Monday Oct. 6 from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the center, and nationally recognized scholar of teaching and learning Dr. Craig Nelson of Indiana University will hold a series of workshops from Oct. 6 to 8.

A complete list of events can be found on the center's website. Anyone interested in utilizing the center’s services is encouraged to visit the office in Farber Library or contact the center at or 6-TEACH (6-8322).

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