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Psychology Professor's Book Published Internationally

Beth Schwartz co-wrote book aimed at helping faculty improve teaching and learning

11/25/2008 3:20:24 PM


Beth Schwartz, professor of psychology

LYNCHBURG - " Beth Schwartz remembers well the experience of becoming a new faculty member. In graduate school, she taught two courses, but did not receive extensive training in the best practices of teaching.

"You don't receive a Ph.D. in teaching," said Schwartz, a psychology professor at Randolph. "You receive it in your chosen field of study. However, most faculty complete graduate school with extensive knowledge of the content of their discipline and very little training in how to effectively teach others about that discipline, not to mention learning how to assess whether they are effectively teaching beyond the use of student evaluations."

Her newest book, Optimizing Teaching and Learning: Practicing Pedagogical Research , is designed to explore the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) in ways that allow faculty members to develop a research program that evaluates their own teaching methods or to simply develop measures to assess if students are reaching the learning goals for each class meeting or for a semester.

"This book aims to help faculty members become better at what they do," Schwartz said. Especially helpful for new faculty, the book can also be beneficial to veteran teachers because it allows them 'to take a step back' and really look at whether one's choice of teaching technique is the best way to teach that particular subject matter."

The book is the result of several years of work with co-writer Regan Gurung, chair of Human Development at the University of Wisconsin in Green Bay. The process began during her sabbatical in the fall of 2004. During the next four years, she and Gurung collaborated mainly through emails and many phone calls.

Optimizing Teaching and Learning: Practicing Pedagogical Research has already been released in the United Kingdom and will be released in the United States in January 2009.

Aimed at new faculty in higher education, the book can also be a guide for educators of all levels, Schwartz said.

The book is designed to teach the different methods of teaching and also to provide readers with the tools necessary to assess their own teaching. SoTL is one of the most dynamic areas of research in the field of higher education today, in which faculty members continuously evaluate the quality of their teaching and its affect on student learning. Faculty are held accountable for the effectiveness of their teaching, and in turn they are starting to engage more in SoTL-related intellectual exchanges, not only in their research agendas but also in the ways in which they teach the students in their classrooms. At the heart of the new movement is a simple idea: take a close look at how you teach and how your students learn, use the same methodology that you would use for formal investigations, and hold your research to the same standards, most notably peer review.

The book is designed to bridge the gap between the research and practice of SoTL, with instructions on how to design, conduct, analyze, and write-up pedagogical research. It also explores the advantages of disadvantages of various pedagogical practices and present applications of SoTL using case studies from a variety of disciplines.

Schwartz and Gurung recognized that there was no adequate resource that served to guide both to demonstrate how to conduct pedagogical research within any field of study and to provide best practices based on the existing pedagogical research findings. "We're really bridging that gap," Schwartz said.

In essence, the book guides teachers through the process of conducting research on their own teaching. They can compare different methods of teaching to see which creates the best results.

Schwartz and Gurung have conducted workshops on the book's topic at teaching and learning centers and teaching conferences across the United States and even in Canada.

"It's been a scholarly endeavor that has been incredibly rewarding and

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CONTACT: Brenda Edson, Director of College Relations


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