Center for Innovation in the Liberal Arts

A campus locus for conversations about learning and teaching in the liberal arts.

In recent years, there have been dramatic changes in the ways we structure knowledge, in what we have come to understand about effective teaching and learning, and in the possibilities afforded by new technologies for improving teaching and learning. The Center for Innovation in the Liberal Arts (CILA) was founded in 2000 to provide support for faculty working to meet the challenges posed by these changes. On the premise that the liberal arts colleges are ideal laboratories for pedagogical innovation and reform, CILA seeks to provide time and space for conversations and collaboration among faculty about learning, teaching and scholarship.

Coming up in CILA

Spring 2015 Faculty Lunch Conversations

Join your colleagues for a lunch discussion around interesting topics in teaching and learning. Unless otherwise noted, all lunches are in the Valhalla Dining Room, 11:45-1:15, with the main presentation/discussion planned from noon-1:00. Topics and presenters are announced by email, along with a request for RSVPs. See past topics here.

Spring 2015 dates

Tuesdays: 

March 24. Claiming Our Callings: Readings and Discussion

Fourteen St. Olaf professors each published an essay in Claiming Our Callings: Toward a New Understanding of Vocation in the Liberal Arts, edited by DeAne Lagerquist and Kaethe Schwehn (Oxford University Press, 2014). These colleagues reflect on both their calling as professors and their practices for fostering students’ ability to identify their own vocations. At this luncheon, John Barbour, Kaethe Schwehn, Kathleen Shea, and Tom Williamson will each read a page or two from their essay and briefly describe some of the issues they explore. 

April 21. 'Practice makes perfect.': Approaches to 'productive practice' in teaching and learning

Our daily language includes any number of cliches about practice: “practice makes perfect;” “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice;” “if you don’t use it, you lose it;” etc. Practice is central to learning in so many fields, from the arts to athletics, from nursing to creative writing, from the lab sciences to foreign languages. Yet teachers in these fields rarely discuss their approaches to “practice” with each other, and even more rarely share teaching methods with colleagues outside of practice-centered disciplines. In this CILA lunch, faculty from several Fine Arts departments talk about how they encourage productive practice among their students and lead a discussion to generate ideas for applying artistic practice techniques in other disciplines.

Wednesdays: 

March 11. Is it necessary to be uncomfortable?: Embracing cognitive dissonance in the classroom. Kristina Medina Vilariño, Romance Languages

In this workshop and round table we will discuss ways to address “uncomfortable” topics in the classroom and why this is necessary from a pedagogical perspective. First, we will present some of the arguments discussed by students in a Cultural Conversation sponsored by the Office for Multicultural Affairs regarding this topic, and their experiences in the classroom (from a student perspective). Then, we will briefly discuss some pedagogical theories on the subject, and share practical activities to efficiently analyze “sensitive” and/or controversial subjects in the classroom.

Thursdays: 

March 19. Provost's Sabbatical Luncheon. SUN BALLROOM

The Provost‘s Sabbatical Series recognizes excellence among the wide range of sabbatical projects in which our faculty are engaged. Each semester, two faculty members are selected by the Provost to give short presentations based on their sabbatical scholarly/professional work. The presenters will also share how they planned for their leaves and managed the transition back to the classroom, including ways in which they have integrated their sabbatical work with their teaching.

Spring 2015 Presenters:  Anne Groton, Professor of Classics, and Robert Hanson, Larsen Anderson Professor of Chemistry.

April 30.  Teaching & Technology Showcase, co-sponsored with IT.  BLACK/GOLD BALLROOM