Baylor University

Teaching and Learning Comes to Life

Dec. 8, 2008

By Casi Bowers

When you look out your Baylor window -- whether figuratively or literally -- what do you see?

Athletic facilities, academic buildings, new construction and colleagues are certainly all possibilities. But there is one common component to the picture, regardless of the location of your office or the capacity in which you serve the University, and that's students -- the heart and soul of Baylor.

To continue providing students with the best learning experience possible, the University this fall launched the Baylor Academy for Teaching and Learning (ATL). One of the strategic initiatives approved last fall by the Strategic Planning Council, the Academy has goals that include enhancing professional development for faculty, assisting in the formation of graduate students as scholar-teachers and promoting the scholarship of teaching and learning through new areas of research. In addition, the ATL will partner with other Baylor organizations such as the Electronic Library to help faculty effectively integrate information technologies into teaching and learning.

Dr. Gardner Campbell is the Academy's inaugural director, and he brings with him a vision of uniting constituencies from every part of Baylor to create a university-wide community of learning. Prior to coming to Baylor, Campbell was a professor of English at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va., where he taught literature of the English Renaissance, film studies, new media studies and writing. In addition to scholarship in each of these areas, he has many years of teaching experience, as well as particular expertise in teaching and learning technologies.

"The Academy, and the position I occupy within it, testifies to Baylor's vision and goal of becoming a tier-one university," Campbell said. "That I'm the one fortunate enough to set the program in motion is a very exciting and humbling turn of events."

Campbell's vision for the Academy resembles a variety of interlocking pieces that, when in place, should enhance the learning experiences of professors, staff and students. He believes both informal and interactive settings will play a vital role in helping to position Baylor as a leader in the important national dialogue about the roles of teaching and scholarship. He also looks forward to helping Baylor's faculty, students and staff contribute to the crucial and expanding scholarship of teaching and learning.

The planning and execution of Baylor's popular Summer Faculty Institute will be done by the ATL, with additional seminars focusing on excellence in teaching providing year-round opportunities for sharing best practices and for professional networking. Plans for the 2008-2009 academic year also include establishing an advisory board, bringing the first Graduate Fellows on board and planning for a Faculty Fellows program to begin in fall 2009. A social networking website dedicated to events hosted by the Academy and the dialogue surrounding them will also be launched.

"Educational psychologist Jerome Bruner describes school as a place for 'consciousness-raising about the possibilities of communal mental activity,'" Campbell said. "I see the Baylor Academy for Teaching and Learning as a wonderful catalyst and community for that kind of activity. My best teachers changed my life, and they continue to influence everything I do as a scholar, a teacher and a learner. The ATL is dedicated to augmenting that transformative potential for every member of the Baylor community -- inside the classroom, outside the classroom and for the rest of their lives."

Vision 2012 emphasizes that Baylor is "dedicated above all to developing and shaping students," and the ATL reflects that. In partnership with the University's excellent faculty, staff and students, it aims to help the excellent teaching at Baylor to flourish.

To learn more about the Baylor Academy for Teaching and Learning, check the Baylor faculty-staff website for future informational articles or contact Dr. Gardner Campbell at gardner_campbell@baylor.edu or at ext. 3412. He also discusses the Academy in his blog titled "Gardner Writes" at www.gardnercampbell.net.

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