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Faculty members and instructional staff at the University of Iowa have the opportunity to enhance their teaching through attending various workshops and conferences. In this periodic series, we will share the benefits instructors find in attending an array of teaching conferences and events.


This month, Renee Cole, Associate Professor of Chemistry shares her experiences attending the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) STEM Conference.


What teaching conference did you attend?

The Association of American Colleges and Universities STEM Conference in San Francisco, CA., November 2-4, 2017.


Have you attended this conference before?

This was my second year at this conference.


What do you think the value of attending this specific conference is?

One thing that makes this conference different is that it’s multidisciplinary and not just about Chemistry. So, it provides an opportunity to hear about a range of subjects like physics or math. The conference also has a spectrum of attendees including deans, provosts, Center for Teaching faculty, and other instructional professionals.


What are some key takeaways from this conference?

Themes of diversity seen across the country at a lot of different levels were really emphasized. This included sessions about creating learning spaces that are welcoming to all students – including not only minority students but also first generation and low socioeconomic students – and other factors that mediate comfort and engagement in the classroom.


The conference also included discussions about how to improve student success and retention. We explored why students drop out, and asked ourselves, “How can we intervene earlier?”


What strategies did you learn at this conference that you are going to implement in your classroom?

One session in particular looked at Gradescope, which is a program that helps with grading. A strategy I would be interested in exploring more is what we can do more to provide students better feedback in the classroom.


Why is it valuable to attend workshops and events that focus on the professional development of instructors in higher education?

We should all be in the mindset of how to improve. I recognize that I will never achieve perfection, so it’s about learning as much as I can along the way and asking myself “What do I like? What do I want to work more on?”


When I’m leading workshops or conferences, I learn from the participants. As an instructor, you usually teach however you’ve been taught. Hearing about different experiences allows me to make more sense of specific teaching techniques and align those with the goals I have for my students.







The Teaching in Higher Education Travel Award sponsored by the Council on Teaching supports faculty members (clinical, tenure-track/tenured, and instructional track) and P&S staff members who require support to attend a conference related to teaching in their discipline or in higher education in general. For more information visit: https://uiowa.edu/cot/teaching-higher-education-travel-award.