Eighteen instructor on the Knoxville campus of the University of Tennessee updating teaching techniques for their classes and departments. They are the first participants in the Volunteer Experience Faculty Fellows Program, a new academic partnership between the Office of the Provost, the Student Success Division and the Office of Learning Innovation.
“The goal is really just as a campus to slowly evolve our culture to where we all go about our own wellbeing practices,” said Krystyne Savarese, assistant vice chancellor and head of strategy in the Student Success Division.
The Student Success Division runs programs for first-year, freshman and veteran students, while the Office of Teaching and Learning provides professional development for instructors, and the Office of the Provost oversees all academic activities on campus.
After the Oversight Board approved the new strategic vision in October 2021the program started as part of the first of five goals – “Cultivate the Volunteer Experience”.
A 50-member council consisting of half faculty and half staff and students looked at various ways to address the entire campus and decided on apositive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and achievement models of well-beingcreated by psychology professor Martin Seligman.
UT also uses the CliftonStrengths framework, which is an assessment that students can do through the Academic Success Center. Sally Hunter, Volunteer Experience Faculty Director, explained the uniqueness of UT in using class-based programs.
“We want to make sure we have a complete team to really help us think about what is the best intervention,” said Hunter. “If you look at the best practices that make the most sense for each unit, for each field, for each type of classroom.”
Hunter also notes that several staff units are already using the model.
“(It) tries to get us to use more consistent language,” said Hunter. “So that when a student switches from biology class to English, and then afterwards they go to theater class, that student can have professors and faculty members speaking the same language about how they want to support their students. .”
18 instructors completed online certification at PERMA in January. Now, they are meeting with Hunter to plan a specific approach to filling out their colleagues and planning classroom changes that will begin in the fall of 2023. Students are responsible for leading workshops, consultations, and discussions in their respective departments and contributing to a library of resources.
Renee D’Elia-Zunino, distinguished lecturer in Italian studies and a member of the Faculty Fellows, said the program is fully in line with its aims.
“I’m excited because, in recent years, I’ve been working on positive psychology insights and tools and redesigning my courses to focus on student motivation, self-reflection, and strengths,” says D’Elia-Zunino.
D’Elia-Zunino has made changes since the program’s January start date.
“I’m working on assessment methods, such as applying grades yet to aural exams, using reflection assignments that help students focus on what is working and how to improve what isn’t, adopting strengths-based assessments to encourage and motivate those who are successful. a bit behind,” said D’Elia-Zunino.
Hunter revealed that one way to encourage support and equity is to provide various opportunities for students to present their knowledge.
“For example, one student might prefer writing papers … another student, a different student in the same class might have a preference for doing a Google slide show and a third student might want to create a podcast to demonstrate their knowledge,” said Hunter. “So they all demonstrate what they learn in class, but students can represent their knowledge back to the instructor in a way that makes sense to them as unique learners.”
D’Elia-Zunino agrees with this statement, explaining that concern for students’ needs does not always mean that professors have to be present in one-on-one situations. He believes that change can be made on a broader level in many campus classrooms.
D’Elia-Zunino noted that he could already see a difference in his peers after working on the teaching staff.
“My colleagues in world languages and cultures have been very receptive to my work as a teaching staff,” says D’Elia-Zunino. “I will be presenting workshops and have been working closely with my Italian program.”
D’Elia-Zunino looks forward to joining colleagues across campus and providing more student and faculty support.
Program designations run from January to December, with additional departments being added in 2024.
Fellows of 2023 are Betsy Chesnutt from engineering fundamentals, Mark Collins from marketing, Eva Cowell from management and entrepreneurship, April Conner from mathematics, Elizabeth Cooley from England, Renee D’Elia-Zunino from Italy, Jennifer Fowler from mathematics, Jessica Frampton from studies communications, Rob Hardin of kinesiology, Heather Coker Hawkins of time-based art/cinema, Hojung Kim of architecture, Laura Knight of industrial and systems engineering, Cheryl Kojima of zoology, Elizabeth MacTavish of teacher education, Casey Norris of nursing, Ashley Pennell social work, Andrew Pulte of plant science and Nora Vines of child and family studies.