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Senate Retreat: Teaching 2030

Other articles in the October newsletter:

Academic Senate’s August 16, 2017 Fall Planning Retreat included a panel of speakers on teaching at USC, followed by breakout groups, and then reports back to the larger group. Tracy Poon Tambascia (Rossier), the moderator for the afternoon session, kicked off the session with a powerful video by educator Michael Wesch depicting important characteristics of students and their educational experience. She then provided context for the afternoon session and established the goal of the session: To examine education and teaching in the future, in the year 2030.

Henry Jenkins (Annenberg) was the first panelist to speak. He began with a discussion of youth who come of age when digital and mobile media are ubiquitous and part of the media landscape. Jenkins suggested that referring to these youth as “digital natives” is somewhat misguided given the uneven distribution of access to technology, resources, and mentorship. He further suggested that the uneven distribution has resulted in varying degrees of access to opportunities, cultural capital, and political involvement. Jenkins also discussed possible implications of the divide for students’ educational experiences, particularly informal experiences that take place outside the classroom and online. Up next was Darnell Cole (Rossier), who discussed the demographics, needs and motivations of students. Cole provided data on enrollment in U.S. colleges and universities. He also examined characteristics of USC students and trends in education over the past 30 years—including trends related to technology and online education, non-traditional students, and international students—and needs of tomorrow’s college students. In her capacity as Assistance Vice Provost for Academic and Faculty Affairs and the Director of the Center for Excellence and Teaching (CET), Ginger Clark (Rossier) discussed the need to change the teaching culture at USC and to strengthen infrastructure to support teaching on campus. In response to these needs, Clark described a “top-down and bottom-up” approach characterizing new efforts coming out of the Provost’s Office and the CET. Additionally, Clark discussed future plans to define “excellence in teaching,” develop evidence-based trainings, and increase teaching impact. The final panelist, Allen Munro (Rossier), reflected on the evolution of educational technologies, from educational television, to computer-based page turning, to graphical animations and simulations. He fast-forwarded to a discussion of educational technologies that could characterize teaching in the year 2030—virtual reality, augmented reality, and augmented virtuality. Munro emphasized that although new technologies may make learning experiences more affordable, safer, and faster, no technology by itself makes a big difference in learning. More important, he suggested, is how the technology is applied. To that end, Munro presented a learning model developed by Clark, Yates, Early & Moulton that emphasizes guided experiential learning.

After the panel presentations, participants returned to the breakout groups they were in during the morning session to address one overarching question: What should teaching at USC look like in 2030?  Representatives from each breakout group then shared major themes or questions with the panel and large group. Those themes and questions revolved generally around (a) student characteristics and the learning environment; (b) the culture of teaching and teaching; (c) diversity; (d) technology and online learning; (e) faculty hiring, training and support; (f) infrastructure and support; and (g) items needing additional information, consideration and discussion.

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Devon Brooks
Associate Professor
USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work