Transformative Teachers

As members of the Baylor Fellows program, Dr. Michael Stroope (above) and Dr. Andy Arterbury are honored for their teaching abilities while also seeking continual improvement of their craft.

Transformative Teachers

Truett Seminary faculty are often recognized for the significant research they contribute to their fields. Many are seen as experts in their given subject-matter and are sought out for their knowledge and experience. However, Truett faculty are more than great researchers. They are also great teachers, and they strive to create an environment where their students can flourish and grow.  

“Truett is about the formation of people — their skills, their souls, their spiritual life. We must do that in the classroom,” said Dr. Michael Stroope, professor and holder of the M.C. Shook Chair of Christian Missions. “I think it’s imperative here at Truett that we give attention, not just to research, but to nurturing ministers that they might be whole people who have a view of the whole world.”

Dr. Andy Arterbury
Dr. Andy Arterbury

In September 2019, Dr. Andy Arterbury, associate professor of Christian Scriptures, along with Dr. Stroope were announced as members of the University’s Baylor Fellows program. 

“Dr. Arterbury and Dr. Stroope bring to the program a passion for transforming student lives through teaching that is rooted in their Christian faith and commitment to the Church,” said Dr. Lenore Wright, Director of the Academy for Teaching and Learning, which oversees the program. “Their respect and care for students, and their recognition that student needs change over time, drives them to engage in ongoing teaching development. They give the Baylor Fellows an elevated and expansive vision of students — students as learners and children of God.”

The fellowship program was launched in 2011 to recognize outstanding teachers across disciplines and provide them the opportunity to implement new teaching methods. Selected faculty members receive an award of $1,845 in honor of the year of Baylor’s founding. There were 10 Baylor Fellows positions for 2019-2020, with Arterbury and Stroope claiming two positions and Arterbury serving as the Senior Fellow and leader for the cohort as a second-term Baylor Fellow.

In addition to the award and distinguished title, members of the program must implement a specific theme into their teaching and meet together monthly to discuss their progress and planning. The 2019-2020 theme was “Education for Global Engagement.”

“Truett is about the formation of people — their skills, their souls, their spiritual life. We must do that in the classroom.”  –Dr. Michael Stroope

The Baylor Fellows observe one another’s classrooms and report back to the group, offering encouraging feedback for their peers. Each Baylor Fellow also is required to experiment with an innovative teaching method in one of his or her classes in line with that year’s theme. For the previous year’s Baylor Fellows cohort, the goal of the experiments was to integrate research into teaching. So, as a member of the 2018-2019 group, Arterbury replaced a textbook and added 10 new short reading clips to the syllabus in one of his classes.

“At the end of the semester, my students commented more favorably on the new reading assignments than any other aspect of the course,” he said. “We also report back to the other Baylor Fellows about whether our experiment works or not, so it’s like we’re benefiting from 10 different experiments, rather than just our own.” 

One of the unique aspects of the Baylor Fellows program is its interdisciplinary nature. In addition to Truett, faculty in the 2019-2020 cohort represent the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core, communication studies, human science and design, social work, classics, higher education leadership and policy, nursing, and biology.

“We’re all busy people and so we can become very insular. We serve on committees with people from around campus, but this is one of the only places where we get extended time talking about transformational teaching with other units, and inevitably, it causes us to look at our own culture and to ask if we’re doing the best we can. It causes us to tweak things, even if it’s subtle,” Arterbury said.

Arterbury and Stroope both recall a presentation by Baylor Fellow Dr. Jane Damron, senior lecturer of communication studies, about sending her students to the grocery store to observe behavior since she is not able to offer international travel opportunities. They share how Damron’s work opened their minds to new ideas and innovative ways of approaching the subject of global awareness.

“We’re all asking the same questions. We’re teachers and we want to be better teachers,” Stroope said. “Even though our topics and our research are different, we have common questions. To hear how the other Baylor Fellows are trying to answer those questions in their own classrooms and in their own disciplines has been valuable to me.”

Stroope and Arterbury’s involvement with the Academy for Teaching and Learning’s Baylor Fellows program is just one example of Truett faculty’s investment in the practice of teaching, but it is representative of the Seminary’s overall commitment to an impactful educational experience.

“At Truett, we’re setting up learning opportunities, so if students engage then they can be transformed. It’s not that we’re doing it. We’re just setting up the opportunity for God to work in their lives.”  –Dr. Andy Arterbury

“Baylor has talked about ‘transformational teaching’ for the last seven to eight years. It’s the language that we’ve used to talk about what we hope happens in the classroom,” Arterbury said. “In Christianity, if you don’t focus on transformation then you’re left with just platitudes. In my mind, teaching is not talking about a topic. Teaching is when learning happens. And in order for learning to happen, something has to be transformed, a change has to happen. At Truett, we’re setting up learning opportunities, so if students engage then they can be transformed. It’s not that we’re doing it. We’re just setting up the opportunity for God to work in their lives.”

“Someone told me a long time ago that good teaching is not good talking. Good teaching is knowing how to catalyze learning, whether it’s through questions or discussion or through listening well or just setting up the classroom well,” Stroope added. “Creating a sacred, safe space where people are catalyzed to be transformed is our task.” 

From its founding until today, Truett Seminary conjoins rigorous academic instruction with intentional spiritual formation in order to prepare students thoroughly for their post-seminary callings. The Seminary offers a robust theological education that encourages and cultivates intellectual, spiritual, and ministerial growth, even as it equips students for the joys and challenges of a life devoted to sacrificial Christian service.