Faculty Center Helps Teachers Cope With a More Modern Classroom

The ultimate goal of the Faculty Center here at Western is to improve the learning experience of the students by improving the teaching abilities of the faculty. The new head of the Faculty Center, Dr. Alan Altany, has set out to do this with a few new ideas in mind. “Teaching is the central reason why the university exists,” says Altany. “We are trying to increase the quality of teaching through the Faculty Center.” Altany intends to orient the Faculty Center around the shifts that are taking place in the teaching environment. This is attained by working with teachers one-on-one and helping them to cope and adapt with the changes taking place. “This could be a shift from the way they’ve done things in the past,” says Altany. “Ultimately, that is where our work becomes manifested.” Recently, the focus of the classroom has shifted from passive learning, based predominantly on lecture and note taking, to active learning, in which students are encouraged to participate in their own learning experience. To help facilitate this shift, the Faculty Center will help teachers to move away from a purely lecture-based classroom to a more interactive one. “We absorb ten percent of what we hear, eighty percent of what we participate in,” says Altany. This newer method of teaching is designed to help the students become more effective learners by making learning enjoyable. Another one of the points the Faculty Center wishes to emphasize to the faculty is the growing necessity of technology. “Somewhere along the line, it became an important thing to integrate technologies into the learning process,” says Altany. A few ways in which the Faculty Center provides this information is through the “Sandbox” and the CATA. The Sandbox is a place for the faculty to come and “play around” with computers and learn some of the basics, such as setting up web pages. The CATA, or Collaborative Advanced Technology Area, is a place for faculty to work together or with groups of students on multiple computers to acquire more advanced computer skills, such as Video Streaming. WCU has the oldest faculty center in the state, founded in 1988. However, the idea of a Faculty Center is relatively new, though the concept has been gaining popularity. This is mostly attributed to the fact that more attention is being paid to teachers who are teaching with very little prior experience. “It doesn’t happen by accident,” says Altany. “Teaching is something that requires reflection. The Faculty Center tries to encourage faculty to engage in an ongoing dialogue of teaching and learning.” Altany demonstrates the importance of educating teachers with his analogy of medicine. After someone gets their medical degree, they are exposed to doctor of higher degree and experience, always learning more and more before they begin to operate. “I wouldn’t want to be a patient who went into the operating room with a doctor who’d only seen the surgery done from far away. I’d want a doctor who had been there up close to see what he should be doing.” Altany invites all faculty to reap the benefits of the Faculty Center through the scheduled workshops, individual consultation by appointment, or to just drop in. The Faculty Center is even able to come out and meet with faculty wherever it is most convenient for them. The Faculty Center is located on the first floor in Hunter Library, and is open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday.