Faculty Conversations: 2012-2013

Fall 2012

September 18. Bridging the Classroom and Career: The new Harry C. Piper Center for Vocation and Career. Branden Grimmett, Director, Piper Center; Nate Jacobi, Associate Director for Civic Engagement; and Sandy Malecha, Associate Director for Internships.

Intended learning outcomes for students have been a focus for much useful and important conversation among St. Olaf faculty and administration. These learning outcomes, however, have previously been considered almost entirely for learning in the academic realm. What would the intended learning outcomes related to experiential learning be, and how might we begin to answer that question? How would they be related to academic learning outcomes?

Branden Grimmett, Nate Jacobi, and Sandy Malecha will lead a conversation to help answer these questions.

Suggested reading:
Raising The Bar: Employers’ Views on College Learning In The Wake Of The Economic Downturn (AACU) http://www.aacu.org/leap/documents/2009_EmployerSurvey.pdf 

September 26. On-Line Lectures: a Strategy to Liberate Class Time for Active Learning. Greg Muth, Chemistry.

Increasing class size, demands on student time and the desire to implement “high impact practices” in the classroom have all brought about recent changes in the approach to teaching 300-level biochemistry classes at St. Olaf College. One innovation that satisfies both student expectations for lecture and the instructor’s desire to present material quickly is the “On-line Lecture,” a video podcast that allows students to receive a digital lecture outside of class, focus their textbook reading and review as frequently as they wish. By moving lecture outside of class time, alternative activities can be implemented in-class with the goal of improving student’s problem solving skills, fostering independence and promoting confidence in a supportive environment. Details on preparing and using the On-Line Lectures, examples of in-class activities and results from assessment of student learning will be presented. 

October 2. Team-Based Learning (TBL): An Effective Strategy for Increasing Student Engagement and Learning. Rick Goedde, Economics and Management Studies.

Concerned that lecturing may be losing some of its effectiveness in reaching today’s students? Looking for ways to improve student engagement and learning? Team-Based Learning (TBL) focuses on students’ sharing the responsibility for their learning with the instructor and each other. Almost all lecturing is replaced with in-class teamwork and class discussion. TBL addresses problems normally associated with student group work, such as the free-rider problem, fair evaluation procedures, and finding time to meet. Research on TBL shows that well-functioning learning teams can accomplish more than even the best student can accomplish alone. In addition, more and more work in both the public and private sectors takes place in teams, and TBL helps students learn the skills necessary for that model. Come prepared to experience in this session some of what a student in a TBL class would encounter. You will take an iRAT, a gRAT, and participate in a team application activity. Don’t miss this chance to learn about a dramatically different way to teach and learn!

For additional information about team-based learning, see http://www.teambasedlearning.org 

October 10. Environmental Conversations In and Out of Class. Jim Farrell, History; Matt Rohn, Art and Art History; Andi Gomoll '13.

All across the world, most conversations are environmental conversations. What have we got to eat? What will we wear today? How will we get from one place to another? What pollutants are we exposed to? How should we raise children for the world of their adulthood? What’s the connection between the supernatural and the natural world?

At St. Olaf, we’re engaged in all those conversations and others as well, and this panel on Environmental Conversations in and out of class will describe some of the ways we do it now, and brainstorm better ways to do it in the future. Together, we’ll talk about the environmental values of first-year students, the new SustainAbilities program in the residence halls, the ways we include the environment in our curriculum, and a few ideas for an Environmental Conversations program here at the college.

Some useful links:
Tom Kelly, “Designing a Sustainable Learning Community at the University of New Hampshire”  http://www.vink.helsinki.fi/files/Theoria_building.html
Paul Raskin, “Scenes from the Great Transition”  http://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/node/1140
“SustainAbilities at St. Olaf”  http://sustainabilities.stolaf.edu/ 

October 24. Strategies for Supporting our Students. Bob Hanson, Chemistry; DeAne Lagerquist, Religion; Becca Richards, English; Tom Williamson, Sociology & Anthropology; and Mary Cisar, Registrar, Director of the Academic Support Center.

Students come to St. Olaf today with an increasing range and diversity of preparedness, abilities and needs. How can we, as faculty, best support the students in our classes? How do we decide when and where to send them for additional support? What should we expect as a result? Our panelists will discuss their experiences with working with students in and out of the classroom, and with helping them make use of the college’s array of resources for support of their academic efforts.

For more information: http://www.stolaf.edu/services/asc/ 

October 30. Popcorn Pedagogy: A Time for Sharing Ideas in Teaching.

As faculty committed to excellent teaching, we are constantly engaged in thinking about how we can best educate our students in meaningful and creative ways. Unfortunately, we frequently do not share the interesting things we are doing in our courses with other faculty, even within our departments.This CILA lunch will provide a time and space for faculty to share experiences and engage in a campus-wide conversation around teaching ideas. Please come ready to briefly share one thing you have been doing in your teaching that worked (or didn’t work) – for example, a particular assignment, a classroom technique, a way to manage a discussion – or even just the kernel of an idea that you are excited about, and we can all learn from the lively conversation that “pops” up as a result. 

November 7. Laptops in the Classroom: Boon or Bane for Student Learning? Nancy Aarsvold, Asst Director of Instructional Technology, IIT; Brian Conlan, Reference and Instruction Librarian, St. Olaf Libraries; and Gary Muir, Psychology and Neuroscience, and CILA Director.

The current students in our classrooms are “Digital Natives” – the technological advances of the 21st century have been available to them for the majority of their lives and have shaped their ideas about technology’s role in learning in fundamental ways that often differ from how faculty – “Digital Immigrants” – see the role of technology in learning. One place where these differences are becoming increasingly apparent is in the classroom. Students are now able to bring technology into the classroom and utilize it more easily than ever before in the form of smartphones, tablets and laptops. But how students use this technology in the classroom presents both challenges and opportunities.

How are students using these technologies in your classrooms? Is it facilitating their learning or detracting from it? Should we prohibit the use of such technology in our classes or allow students the freedom to choose for themselves how they utilize their classroom time? The presenters will facilitate what promises to be a lively conversation around student use (and misuse) of technology in the classroom.

Related reading:

Marc Prensky, “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants,” from On the Horizon (MCB University Press, Vol. 9 No. 5, October 2001) – attached
“Why I Ban Laptops in My Classroom” – David Cole, Georgetown University Law School  http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2008/10/why-i-ban-laptops-in-my-classroom/
“Why I Encourage Laptop Use in the Classroom” – Musings from the Academy blog (AStevens)  http://musingsfromtheacademy.wordpress.com/2008/10/24/why-i-encourage-laptop-use-in-the-classroom/ (in response to “Why I Ban Laptops in My Classroom”) 

November 13. What Can GIS Do for You and Your Students in the Liberal Arts? Jason Menard, GIS Instructional Technologist, IIT.

What is GIS? GIS is a geographic information system that integrates hardware, software, and data to allow us to display, analyze and manage any form of spatially referenced information. At its core, GIS helps users view the relationships between places and promotes awareness of connectivity between represented features. GIS encourages users to exercise problem solving, pattern prediction and critical thinking skills. Most importantly, GIS can serve as a catalyst for interdisciplinary research, creating linkages between disciplines though the study of place and space.

What does GIS do? While GIS is certainly a visualization tool, it is most importantly a decision making tool, bringing many sources of data into a coherent whole that can be analyzed, queried and manipulated to create a data-driven, defensible analysis for complex spatial problems. GIS is a major research component in fields from environmental science to the social sciences and the humanities, and potentially informs any research with a spatial component.

GIS can help your research by allowing you to work with enormous amounts of data easily, create meaningful and compelling visualizations, apply your ideas to real-world data to see the outcome, and develop defensible, data-driven solutions to complex problems. While St. Olaf College has yet to see the full potential of GIS in its curriculum, there is a broad and robust GIS infrastructure within the State of Minnesota to support our efforts. There has never been a better time to embrace GIS!

Jason is a recent addition to the St. Olaf College IIT staff, and he welcomes the opportunity to talk GIS with programs and departments across campus. He brings a wealth of experience to campus, having applied GIS to projects in archaeology, cartography, municipal public works, and water resources. In 2011 Jason received a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Archaeological Studies from the University of Minnesota. Prior to that he earned Masters degrees in Geographic Information Science and Industrial Archaeology. Earlier in his educational path he studied Anthropology and History at SUNY-Plattsburgh.

See the Powerpoint from the presentation: GIS in the Liberal Arts

November 20. Provost’s Sabbatical Series Luncheon. Jolene Barjasteh, Associate Professor of French; John Schade, Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies.

December 4. Exams, Essays, and End-of-Semester Evaluations: What Can They Tell Us About Our Majors? Jo Beld, Director of Evaluation and Assessment; Jolene Barjasteh, Romance Languages-French; Sharon Lane-Getaz, MSCS and Education; Paul Zorn, MSCS (PowerPoint slides).

Over the next few weeks, faculty inboxes and course Moodle sites will be filling up with papers, presentations, lab reports, and finals to grade.  When students turn in their end-of-semester work, they are doing more than meeting course requirements; they are also giving us clues about how well they are learning what we think they are teaching them.  With a little advance planning, departments can turn those piles of papers and stacks of blue books  into assessment data — systematic evidence of the extent to which students are achieving the learning outcomes the department has established for its academic programs.  During this session, colleagues from a variety of departments will describe how they used work that students were already doing (and that faculty were already grading) as “assessment artifacts.”  With assessment reports for academic majors due in 2013, and finals and course evaluations just around the corner, come for a practical primer on how to get all that end-of-semester work to do double duty for you and your colleagues.

See the Powerpoint from the presentation: Exams, Essays, and End-of-Semester Evaluations 


Spring 2013

Febuary 19. The Artist-in-Residence: Lessons learned from integrating act, dancing, playing, performing, creating, and teaching. Gary Gisselman, Theater; Anthony Roberts, Dance; Cathy Rodland, Music

St. Olaf has a number of faculty members currently employed across the campus in the category of “Special Appointment.” Of these faculty, six are “Artists-in-Residence.” These outstanding faculty balance teaching, scholarly and professional work, and service to the College in ways that provide important and unique benefits for students, while challenging students in new ways. Furthermore, these Artists-in-Residence bring an integrated perspective on their experiences that align closely with the goals of a Liberal Arts education:

“Artists are exemplary problem-solvers and life-long learners, constantly striving to improve, deepen and refine their artistic expression. They work specifically with the skills of creativity: discovery, wonder, and recombining the stuff of the world into new knowledge….Successful teaching artists help provide a tangible link between the creative process and all kinds of learning, and they make manifest in classroom and community settings the human drive to…[make]…meaning our of the world…Teaching artists are a crucial resource for the future of arts education, the arts in general, and the overall process of learning.”1

Join us for a conversation with Artists-in-Residence from Theater, Dance and Music who will share their viewpoint on their role and the influence that unique perspective has brought to their students.

1The Association of Teaching Artists <http://www.teachingartists.com/whatisaTA.htm>

March 5. Face-to-Face vs. Facebook: Studying Abroad with iPads. Mary Carlsen, Social Work and Family Studies; David Gonnerman, Marketing and Communications; and Morgan Twamley '13

Every year, St. Olaf sends hundreds of students abroad to study1. One major opportunity for growth on these abroad programs occurs when students are required to overcome the challenges of being in an unfamiliar environment. But the increasing availability of technology has the potential to affect students’ abroad experience more than ever before. How much of the unfamiliar will students choose to experience if they can bring the familiar with them in the form of Facebook2 and Skype? How can we use technology to enhance learning on study abroad programs?

The presenters will summarize results of the pilot experience that provided college iPads to students on the 2013 South Africa Interim. We will describe successes and challenges of security, iPad applications for assignments, and personal use from both a faculty and student perspective, and provide opportunity to discuss future use of this technology for study abroad.

1660 St. Olaf students studied abroad in 2011-12 <http://wp.stolaf.edu/about/files/2013/07/StOProfile.pdf>

“How Facebook can ruin study abroad” by Robert Huesca. Chronicle of Higher Education. <http://chronicle.com/article/How-Facebook-Can-Ruin-Study/136633/?cid=gn&utm_source=gn&utm_medium=en>

March 13. What does a Lutheran college have to offer contemporary society? The role of St. Olaf College in today's world. Darrell Jodock '62, Martin E. Marty Professor of Religion and the Academy

Lutheran colleges have a particular understanding of the character and purpose of higher education — an understanding that can be endorsed by persons of divergent religious backgrounds. What can education of this sort contribute to contemporary society? Our speaker will explore this broader topic; then, in light of his suggestions, participants will be invited to join him in discussing how we can characterize the particular contribution St. Olaf seeks to make.

Darrell Jodock, author of The Church’s Bible: Its Contemporary Authority and founder of the Institute for Jewish-Christian Understanding at Muhlenberg College, began his new role at St. Olaf on January 1, 2013. The Martin E. Marty chair provides opportunities to address significant religious issues and to respond in a thoughtful and faithful way to wider cultural issues. For more information about Dr. Jodock, follow the link here

March 19. Tom Angelo Visit. Tom Angelo, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia.

CILA Faculty Lunch Conversation –
Innovation in Learning and Teaching: Practical, research-based strategies

While higher education always claims to value innovation in research and scholarship, some of our everyday practices can inhibit it in teaching and learning. In this brief session, we’ll consider simple, practical strategies to promote creativity and innovation in students and ourselves – as well as ways to avoid or minimize common “innovation inhibitors.”

CILA Faculty Workshop – 
Finding Out How Well Students Are Learning What We’re Teaching: An Introduction to Formative Classroom Assessment 

By participating actively in this brief workshop, you can expect to achieve the following five objectives. First, you’ll find out what Classroom Assessment (CA) is, how it works, and how it can help your students become more independent, effective learners. Second, you’ll get hands-on practice using at least six simple, flexible CA techniques. You can adapt these techniques to assess your students’ learning and to help them assess and improve their own learning. Third, you’ll learn what experienced teachers identify as pros and cons of this approach and benefit from practical guidelines for success – dos and don’ts – based on two decades of field-testing. Fourth, you’ll receive materials and resources for follow-up. And lastly, you’ll be prepared to try at least one or two new ideas for assessing – and improving – your students’ learning.

Follow the link here for a more detailed bio-sketch of Dr. Angelo.

April 10. Thriving, Surviving, or Endangered: The Economics of the Liberal Arts Colleges. David Schodt, Economics; Robyn Ferg '14, Roderick Gui '13, Sarah Warth '13, and Katie Ziegler-Graham, Statistics.

We invite discussion of the results of an analysis we have been engaged in during the past year on the economics of the liberal arts colleges. We will describe what we have learned about the liberal arts colleges as a group, examine the different experiences of rich and poor institutions in this larger group, and situate St. Olaf College within the broader analysis.

The escalating cost of higher education—what some have described as an affordability crisis–has received increasing attention from the media, Congressional committees, and academic researchers, spurring debate within the sector about the causes of these cost increases and a search for new models.

Until recently, however, the liberal arts colleges have been largely silent bystanders to these conversations. In the spring of 2012, leaders of liberal arts colleges met to give voice to their concerns at a conference, “The Future of the Liberal Arts College in America.” Their discussions, widely reported in the higher education press, were highlighted by an acknowledgment of the unsustainability of ever growing costs at their institutions. Yet, since the publication in 1992 of David Breneman’s prescient analysis of the liberal arts colleges (from which our presentation takes its title), there has been relatively little systematic work on the economics of the sector.

April 17. Teaching Race in the Liberal Arts. Maria Kelly, Education; Jonathan Naito, English; Ted Thornhill, Sociology & Anthropology

Issues of race are of immense importance to the St. Olaf community, as the current student-led campus discussion on race demonstrates. So how might teaching about race across the curriculum be made essential to a liberal arts education? This lunch conversation brings together four faculty members who represent a range of disciplines and intellectual traditions and who have made the teaching of race part of their course design. The participants will share their pedagogical strategies to analyze race as an historical and contemporary phenomenon and to engage students through assignments intended to promote self-reflexivity and intersectional understanding.

Co-sponsored by CILA and ARMS, this event is the fifth and final installment in a yearlong series led by Mapping Ethnic Studies, a learning community supported by the provost’s academic innovation fund, exploring critical frameworks and classroom practices for the teaching of race.

May 1. MOOCs: What are they, what aren't they, and what might they mean for higher education? Gary Muir, Psychology/Neuroscience; Nancy Aarsvold, IIT; Cindy Book, Exercise Science; Lisa Bowers, Biology; Nick Davenport, Psychology; Jim Farrell, History; Tina Garrett, Mathematics; Karen Gervais, Philosophy; Olaf Hall-Holt, Computer Science; Paul Jackson, Environmental Studies/Chemistry; Karil Kucera, Asian Studies/Art History; Kari Lie, Norwegian; Bob McClure, Education; Ian Pierce, Mathematics; Mary Walczak, Chemistry.

Co-sponsored by this year’s academic theme – Innovation in the Liberal Arts: Creative Problem Solving from an Interdisciplinary Perspective

What is a MOOC? A M(assive) O(pen) O(nline) C(ourse). These are free, online courses often enrolling thousands of students at a time, and available over a wide range of disciplines….and their presence has sent a shock wave through higher education. While online courses are nothing new, the innovative involvement of such prestigious institutions as Harvard, Stanford, and MIT in these enterprises now lends a sense of credibility to online learning that was previously absent. The high profile of these free educational offerings, coupled with the current climate of growing resistance to the increasing cost of education, places the MOOC in a potentially pivotal position in the ongoing development of how we educate our students. But before we can determine the possible impact of this technology on our own institution, we need to better understand the challenges and opportunities MOOCs create, and this understanding can only occur if we learn more about these courses and spend time thinking about, discussing, and sharing this knowledge.

This spring, participants in two MOOC Learning Communities sponsored by CILA have each been taking a MOOC (sometimes in their area of expertise) from providers such as Coursera, EdX, and Udacity. The group has met regularly to discuss literature regarding MOOCs, and individuals’ MOOC experiences.

Join us for a discussion about MOOCs, what they are, what they aren’t and the potential impact of MOOCs on teaching and learning at St. Olaf and higher education more broadly.


1. “What You Need to Know About MOOCs”  (Chronicle of Higher Education)
2. Thomas Friedman, “The Professor’s Big Stage” (NY Times, March 5, 2013). 

April 25. Teaching and Technology Showcase. Thursday, April 25th. Nancy Aarsvold (IT), Kasia Gonnerman (Libraries), and Gary Muir (CILA).


  • Clickers in the Classroom (Brian Borovsky, Physics)
  • Motion Poems (Jennifer Kwon-Dobbs, English)
  • Multipurpose Blog Assignments (Diane LeBlanc, Writing Program, Interdisciplinary Studies)
  • Online Lectures: A Strategy to Liberate Time for Active Learning (Greg Muth, Chemistry)
  • Producing Campaign Ads (Henriet Hendricks, Political Science)
  • Student Vodcasts in Art History (Karil Kucera, Art, Asian Studies)
  • Web-Based Portfolios for Individual Majors (Susan Carlson, CIS)


  • Digital Map:19th Century New York City Literature and Material Culture (Mary Titus, English)
  • Following the Walls: GIS and Archaeology in Turkey (Tim Howe, History)
  • HiPerCiC Projects: Applying Powerful CS in Your Discipline (Dick Brown, MSCS)
  • Mapping the Natural Lands (Kathleen Shea, Biology, Environmental Studies)
  • Open Access of a Chinese Sacred Site (Karil Kucera, Art, Asian Studies)


  • Geocaching as Multimodal Learning (Rebecca Richards, English)
  • How to Write an iBook: Lessons Learned (Howard Thorsheim, Psychology/Neuroscience)
  • iOS in Live Performance (Todd Edwards, Theater)
  • iPads in South Africa: Friend or Foe (Mary Carlsen, Social Work & David Gonnerman, Marketing & Communication)
  • iPad & eText Learning Community (Nancy Aarsvold, IT, Kasia Gonnerman, Libraries & Faculty)
  • Technology as inspiration: iOS from a Musical Perspective (Phinehas Bynum, IT)


  • MOOC Learning Community (Gary Muir, CILA/Psychology/Neuroscience &Fellow MOOCers)
  • Teaching Applied Calculus Online, An ACM Project (Tina Garrett, MSCS)
  • Top Moodle Tips for Faculty (Kari Lie, Norwegian)


  • Accessible Technologies for Students with Disabilities (Connie Ford & Laura Knobel-Piehl, Student Accessibility Services Specialists)


  • Ask IT: Atomic Learning, Bomgar Remote Support, Moodle, Summer Institute, WordPress
  • Library Collections: Bridge Squared, Streaming Audio & Video, eBooks, &Digital Collections