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Finding the right fit for student focused learning

As part of UFV’s initiative to bring enhanced learning opportunities to students, the Fund for Innovative Teaching (FIT) has been created to support faculty in creating or facilitating unique curriculum designs.

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As part of UFV’s initiative to bring enhanced learning opportunities to students, the Fund for Innovative Teaching (FIT) has been created to support faculty in creating or facilitating unique curriculum designs. The fund, a maximum of $10,000 for any single project, will assist with additional investment costs associated with learning experiences considered to be innovative that extend beyond the typical sphere of curriculum development.

Projects that may receive funding include inter-disciplinary, cross-faculty, technology-enhanced, and experiential learning opportunities; and while not necessarily limited to these teaching and learning practices, projects are expected to enhance student success and experiences. Examples of these innovative teaching opportunities might incorporate the joining of a visual arts faculty member with a welding instructor to “team teach” a class on metal art or encouraging students to engage with their community rather than in a traditional classroom.

Funded projects will last for a term of one year but may result in a renewed position if successful in their outlined goals.

FIT in part, comes out of the 2016-20 UFV education plan in which student focused learning is strongly emphasized and acknowledged to be in need of diversification.

Passionately engaged in the development of FIT, Dr. Eric Davis, provost and vice president, academic commented on the fund saying, “We need to be aware of how learners are changing and how learning is changing in a rapidly changing world.”

Although developing new ways of teaching is part of an instructor’s job, some projects take more time and resources to implement, especially those so innovative and new to the faculty that additional education technology or time is required. FIT is expected to encourage faculty members to get excited about upgrading and developing professionally as educators.

“The need to innovate and be aware of innovations in teaching and learning is only going to grow,” said Davis. “There’s been a revolution in cognitive science over the past three decades so we know so much more about how the brain works, how people learn, and we also know that learners are very different than they were when I was going to university.”

Despite the research that has gone into improving educational environments, many faculty members at a lot of different institutions haven’t begun to embrace newer techniques better suited for the contemporary learner. The typical classroom format, while effective in some applications may not lend itself to best education in all disciplines.

“If you’re playing World of Warcraft or League of Legends … you’ve got to collaborate,” said Davis. “It’s a much more active form of learning, so if someone who’s spent the past 10, 12, 15 years learning that way comes into a traditional university classroom with 500 seats and they’re all faced forward to hear one person lecture … for this generation, that’s not necessarily the best way to learn.”

As learning and teaching techniques change, Eric Davis expects to see UFV not only engage students with innovative and effective teaching methods, but to begin to emerge as a pioneer in developing them.

“We’re an institution that I think is well placed to be innovated because we are located in a region that is rapidly growing, we are very connected to our communities,” said Davis. “I think we are positioned to be a cutting-edge institution.”

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