This April, Yale professors will be going back to school.
The Yale Center for Teaching and Learning has organized the first Faculty Bulldog Days — a weeklong initiative from April 6 to 10 that invites professors to attend courses taught by their colleagues. More than 100 professors have opened their courses for the event, and many faculty interviewed said they see the initiative as an opportunity to reignite dialogues about teaching while exploring interesting topics outside of their academic field.
“Faculty spend a lot of time only in their own classroom, and they do not enjoy the breadth of study the undergraduate students have,” said Scott Strobel, deputy provost for teaching and learning. “This event is an effort to create an environment that lets faculty see what is going on academically in different parts of Yale.”
Strobel and Jennifer Frederick, executive director at the Center for Teaching and Learning, drew inspiration for the event from Yale College’s Bulldog Days event for admitted students, as well as a teaching week for faculty at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Frederick said the event will remove the barriers between faculty members and their fields of interest, and promote conversations about intriguing teaching pedagogies and techniques.
Frederick added that the event will also show students that Yale professors are interested in many areas of study. While some professors have signed up to attend classes in familiar academic fields, many have chosen courses in radically different areas of study, she said.
Economics professor Doug McKee will be attending an English course titled “Shakespeare: Comedies and Romances,” which he said will “exercise his softer side.” Art history professor Diana Kleiner, on the other hand, said she plans to attend “ The Scientific Revolution,” a course taught by history and history of medicine professor Paola Bertucci that explores the changing relationship between the natural world and the arts.
English professor Catherine Nicholson said she chose to balance “novelty with a touch of familiarity,” opting to visit film and social psychology classes, rather than a STEM course.
“I’m so delighted to have the chance to return briefly to my own days as a liberal arts undergrad, when the pleasures of learning were open-ended,” she said, adding that her job as a professor has made her learning more targeted and research-oriented.
While the Faculty Bulldog Days will allow faculty members to explore intriguing topics taught at Yale, all seven professors interviewed stressed that the event will more importantly broaden their understanding of teaching. Professor of psychology and cognitive science Laurie Santos said she is particularly excited about the diversity of great lecturers and innovative educational techniques, while Kleiner said she is interested in the effectiveness of lectures, which have come under scrutiny in the teaching community.
At Yale, Strobel said, the culture often makes teaching a private exercise between individual professors and their students. Because of this, he said, many experiments of pedagogy are not shared among faculty members.
Nicholson agreed, adding that she has rarely seen her colleagues teach. This is her first term teaching a lecture course and she said she hopes to pick up a few techniques through the event.
Following the event, the CTL will encourage professors and their visitors to meet informally and share their thoughts on the class. Since this event is the first of its kind at Yale, Frederick said the center is more focused on the logistical planning this year, and will turn its attention to the follow-up conversations as the program grows. Nevertheless, she hopes to host several roundtable discussions for interested faculty members.
The CTL was created in July 2014.