Tag Archive for Center for Pedagogical Innovation

Ryan’s Courses Teach Effective Communication with Diverse Audiences

Sarah Ryan

Sarah Ryan

Sarah Ryan is Wesleyan’s first associate professor of the practice in oral communication. She is an interdisciplinary scholar and attorney whose research explores public deliberation, civic participation, and criminal justice reform. We spoke to her about her distinctive interdisciplinary background and why learning communication skills is important for students’ future success.

Your position, associate professor of the practice in oral communication, is a new one at Wesleyan. Can you please explain the genesis of this position, and what it adds to the Wesleyan curriculum?

Sarah Ryan: In 2017, Wesleyan received a Davis Educational Foundation grant to create a regional consortium on best practices in the teaching of oral communication skills. Discussions during that initial one-year planning grant led to the development of my position. I was hired in 2019 to teach undergraduate courses in oral communication and to serve as a resource to faculty and staff who want to teach debate, group discussion, interpersonal communication, public speaking, etc.

What did you teach this past year?

SR: This past year, I taught [courses titled] Diffusion of Innovation, Communicate for Good, and From Litigation to Restorative Justice. In Diffusion, students learned how to spread pro-social practices and technologies through planned communication. In Communicate for Good, students learned how to promote public good through storytelling, informational messaging, and persuasion. In From Litigation, students learned to negotiate for their own interests and collective gain.

You have quite an interesting background as an interdisciplinary scholar and attorney. Can you fill us in on your career path?

SR: As an undergrad at Capital University, I joined the debate team. My first topic was “more severe punishment for violent crime.” To win debates, we had to research policy, law, and ethics, and develop recommendations for change. I was hooked immediately. After graduation, I became an assistant debate coach and started graduate school at Ohio University. My master’s and doctoral work were on welfare policy and perceptions of women receiving government assistance.

One summer, I taught at a high school debate camp in Vermont and became close with my debaters. They urged me to come to their tournaments. They debated for the New York Urban Debate League (NYUDL). So, my college debaters and I started driving to New York City to NYUDL tournaments. Two years later, the NYUDL needed someone to run its after-school center. I landed the job, promised my PhD advisor that I would write a dissertation someday, and moved to the Bronx. During my time at the center, my students won the state championships and we traveled to Belarus on an international debate exchange. On the side, I wrote a public affairs curriculum for Baruch College.

Love of Language Learning Lies behind Upcoming Symposium

Jessica Chen '20, who can speak Engligh, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean and Italian, is co-organizing a language symposium titled "The Power of Language" to be held April 6–7 at the Fries Center for Global Studies. At this two-day symposium, participants will discuss language and culture, language and identity, second-language acquisition, language and technology, and other topics. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Jessica Chen ’20 is co-organizing a language symposium titled “The Power of Language,” to be held April 6–7 at the Fries Center for Global Studies. At this two-day symposium, participants will discuss language and culture, language and identity, second-language acquisition, language and technology, and other topics. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Jessica Chen ’20 is fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese, which is often spoken in her home city of Shenzhen, China. She started learning English before she entered Kindergarten.

She taught herself Korean in high school, speaks a local Chinese dialect common in her mother’s native area and is studying Italian at Wesleyan. She is not yet fluent in the latter, but hopes to be so before she graduates and possibly to pick up some other Romance languages as well.

Dierker, Mukerji Honored as Women of Innovation

Lisa Dierker

Lisa Dierker

Lisa Dierker, professor of psychology, director of pilot programs for the Center for Pedagogical Innovation, and Ishita Mukerji, the Fisk Professor of Natural Science, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, professor of integrative sciences, were both honored at the 12th annual Women of Innovation Awards. Presented by the Connecticut Technology Council, the awards celebrate the energy, creativity and success of women and students from Connecticut’s science and technology community.

Both professors were honored in the category of Academic Innovation and Leadership. The celebration was held April 6 in Plantsville, Conn.

Dierker was honored for her work developing a curriculum to introduce students to a passion-driven, project-based course in applied statistics, data analysis and programming. Through a growing network of high schools, community colleges, and universities as well as a massive open online course (MOOC), she is dedicated to creating real access for women and other underserved populations, both locally and across the globe.

Ishita Mukerji

Ishita Mukerji

Mukerji was recognized for her research focused on the study of protein-DNA interactions to understand the mechanisms of gene expression, DNA replication and DNA repair. She previously served as dean of science and mathematics at Wesleyan, where she helped to establish the Wesleyan Math and Science Scholars program and the College of Integrative Sciences.

Wesleyan MOOCs Topic of Academic (Technology) Roundtable

On Oct. 29, the Academic Technology Roundtable (AtR) focused on Wesleyan's Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), from design to implementation.

On Oct. 29, the Academic (Technology) Roundtable (A(t)R) focused on Wesleyan’s Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), from design to implementation. A(t)R lunches are designed to promote conversation, cooperation and the sharing of information, ideas and resources among faculty members, librarians, graduate students and staff.

Speakers included Jennifer Rose, professor of the practice and research professor of psychology, and Dan Mercier, instructional design director for the Center for Pedagogical Innovation.

Speakers included, at left, Dan Mercier, instructional design director for the Center for Pedagogical Innovation, and Jennifer Rose, professor of the practice and research professor of psychology.

Center for Pedagogical Innovation Creates Academy for Project-Based Teaching and Learning

Chris Othon, assistant professor of physics, is teaching a project-based teaching and learning course. (Photo by Rebecca Goldfarb Terry '19)

Chris Othon, assistant professor of physics, is teaching a project-based teaching and learning course. (Photo by Rebecca Goldfarb Terry ’19)

A new Academy for Project-Based Teaching and Learning will encourage students and faculty to build knowledge and skills by investigating and responding to complex questions, problems and challenges within and across disciplines.

Hosted by Wesleyan’s Center for Pedagogical Innovation, the Academy’s project-based approach includes teaching significant content at the heart of each academic discipline, and cutting edge competencies in problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity/innovation.

“The Academy will help us build capacity to increase the number of courses in the undergraduate curriculum that incorporate project-based teaching and learning methods,” said Lisa Dierker, professor of psychology and director of pilot programs at the Center for Pedagogical Innovation. “We hope that this initiative will further our efforts to provide students with a pragmatic liberal education that will serve them well beyond their four years at Wesleyan.”

Long Thanh Bui, visiting assistant professor of American studies, is teaching Asian American History, one of five project-based teaching and learning courses at Wesleyan this fall. 

Long Thanh Bui, visiting assistant professor of American studies, is teaching Asian American History, one of five project-based teaching and learning courses offered at Wesleyan this fall. (Photo by Will Barr ’18)

As part of the Academy, six Wesleyan faculty are teaching introductory project-based courses this fall, including Bill Johnston (HIST 381, Japan and the Atomic Bomb); Chris Othon (Physics 113, General Physics); Brian Stewart (Physics 115, Newtonian Mechanics); Kim Diver (E&ES 332, Introduction to GIS); Roger Grant (MUSC103, Materials and Design) and Long Bui (AMST 231, Asian American History).

Wesleyan’s commitment to project-based learning stems from its demonstrated effectiveness and opportunities for transformative education, Dierker said.

Davis Foundation Supports Academy for Project-Based Learning

Lisa Dierker, professor of psychology and director of pilot programs for the Center for Pedagogical Innovation, received a grant from the Davis Educational Foundation in July. The three-year grant worth $300,000 will support the new Academy for Project-Based Teaching and Learning.

The Academy for Project-Based Teaching and Learning, which is under development, will encourage students and faculty to build knowledge and skills by investigating and responding to complex questions, problems, and challenges within and across disciplines. The cornerstones of the project-based approach include significant content at the heart of each academic discipline, and cutting edge competencies in problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity/innovation.

Dierker will oversee this program and work with Wesleyan faculty, faculty at collaborating institutions, educational consultants, and supporting staff, to coordinate pedagogical and curricular development efforts. The Academy will be housed within and supported by Wesleyan’s new Center for Pedagogical Innovation and Life Long Learning Center.

The Davis Educational Foundation grant will support faculty stipends, course relief or course overload pay in the academic year for faculty participants, honoraria and travel support for outside consultants, travel support for faculty and collaborators, evaluation and a culminating meeting of project participants.

The grant was received from the Davis Educational Foundation established by Stanton and Elisabeth Davis after Mr. Davis’ retirement as chairman of Shaw’s Supermarket.