CETL-trained professors offer different learning experience

Have you ever sat through a boring lecture wondering, “Does this professor know how to teach?” If the answer is no, then you might also be wondering, “How are they going to improve?” CETL, the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning, is asking the same questions.

If you have filled out a CIOS course survey, you have already contributed to CETL. Although you might not have realized it, CETL has been in operation since 1986, collecting surveys, storing results and analyzing the data which can be extracted from those bright yellow screens.

Sure, all of that is great, but the question is where those surveys are going and what good they are doing. This is where CETL becomes relevant.

CETL offers a plethora of resources to faculty, including individual consultations, development seminars and New Faculty Orientation (NFO). Faculty who choose to take advantage of these resources open themselves to observation and evaluation for the purpose of improving their teaching strategies.

CETL also promotes many types of information systems, all aimed at finding solutions to Tech’s most common information challenges. Since one of the biggest challenges has been professors’ ability to communicate with students, T-Square has been implemented as a means of making that communication much easier.

Furthermore, if you have taken a course that utilizes PRS clickers, you have experienced CETL’s attempt to help students more effectively communicate their learning progress to their professors.

By taking various classes, many students have already experienced CETL’s learning strategies—some of them obviously beneficial while some are not as useful.

Taking T-Square and PRS clickers as the example, T-Square has been very well received, whereas PRS clickers are only used when students are bribed with extra credit.

The difference between the two, of course, is not necessarily the utility in the systems but rather the obviousness of their benefit. And that brings up the question, what other strategies have students become testers for by landing in a course where the professor is involved with CETL?

Some say the main things that CETL-trained professors offer are different amounts and types of work. “It will be less lecturing and a lot more group work,” said Will Morgan, fourth-year CE major. “There are more little assignments.” But at the same time, these are given “so that you will be more prepared when you come to class,” Morgan said.

If you have ever taken a course with “mini quizzes” or “check-ups,” you might have CETL to thank for that. But the extra work may not always be a bad thing.

“In my experience, CETL professors make an effort to teach in a more dynamic way,” said Tauhira Hoossainy, fifth-year ME major. “They’re willing to use a greater variety of [teaching] methods within their classes. This can be a great help to students because everyone learns in a different way.”

Ultimately, CETL professors seem to offer more structure in their classes than non-CETL professors. For some people, more structure is preferable, but an important thing to consider when signing up for a CETL professor’s class is how much time you can devote to it. “If I was setting up a schedule, I wouldn’t sign up for more than one or two CETL professors,” Morgan said.

If your learning style is less independent, you should definitely check out some classes that have been influenced by CETL. However, if you would rather figure the material out for yourself, you might want to avoid those classes.

While the jury may still be out on whether CETL trains better teachers, the important thing to remember is that many professors on campus have a desire to improve their teaching, and CETL offers them the support to do that.