Please join us in welcoming Donna Qualters as the new Director of the Center for Learning and Teaching (CELT) at Tufts. She also will hold teaching positions as Associate Professor of Public Health and Community Medicine (pending) and Adjunct Associate Professor of Education. She comes to us with a wealth of experience in teaching and faculty development, having developed and led teaching and learning centers at other institutions.
Donna received her Bachelor’s degree in English and Education from Boston College and holds a Ph.D. in Educational Studies from Lesley University.
She is experienced in teaching and faculty development…
Donna most recently served as Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Suffolk University in Boston, as well as associate professor and Chair of the Department of Education and Human Services. She is also a founding faculty member of the Martha’s Vineyard Institute on Experiential Education sponsored by the World Association of Cooperative Education.
She has been involved in faculty development, learning assessment, and teaching research at Northeastern University where she was Associate Professor of Education and Director of the Center for Excellence in University Teaching. While at Northeastern, she was PI or Co-PI of an NSF Grant to assess learning through interactive multi-media and an NSF grant for Social and Ethical implications of Nano-manufacturing. Donna has also served as Director of Educational Initiatives and Lecturer at MIT, Director of Faculty Development and Instructor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School as well as Director of the Learning Center and Dean of Instruction at Endicott College.
She is a committed scholar…
Donna has had a long-term commitment to the scholarship of teaching and learning, and has written extensively in the field. She has published in the area of assessment, teacher identity, creating faculty community, active learning, reflective practice, ethical inquiry and the new student. Her books, Jonas Chalk: Advice from a Legendary Teacher and Experiential Education: Making the Most of Learning Outside the Classroom, are written by teachers for teachers.
She is a leader…
Donna has also taken a leadership role in the field as Vice-Chair of the Massachusetts American Council of Education National Network of Women Leaders (ACE-NNWL) and former executive board member of the New England Faculty Development Consortium.
Donna has been honored by the Professional Development and Organizational Network in Higher Education for her innovative work in faculty development. She has been recognized by Westfield State University for “Inspiring Others to Teach” and been invited as a Fellow of the Higher Education Management Institute at Vanderbilt University. Donna is a frequent presenter and speaker nationally and internationally on issues related to teaching and learning in higher education and has been a visiting professor at the University of Newcastle in Newcastle Australia.
Donna’s depth and breadth of experience in the field of teaching and learning will add to the already strong commitment of faculty to teaching here at Tufts. We are happy to have her join us at CELT, and look forward to the many talents she brings to her new role.
An Interview with Dr. Joyce Sackey – in her own words
Associate Professor of Medicine, Dean for Multicultural Affairs and Global Health at Tufts University School of Medicine (TUSM)
“I think that the more diverse the student body is, the more diverse the faculty, the more likely it is that you will be able to attain institutional excellence that you gain from all the variation of thought.”
Clinical medicine creates a compelling case for why every physician should try to be more culturally sensitive. I don’t like to use the word culturally competent because it suggests you know it all, and you are an expert on everyone’s culture. There is a fair amount in the literature about diversity and excellence, and specifically on problem solving skills. It shows that students who attend schools that have a diverse student body have been assessed upon graduation and appear to have more problem solving skills, they seem to have an ability approach problems from different perspectives, a deeper understanding of the nuances of perspectives, and many of them have shown a change in the perspective they had coming into it. If you are exposed to people who think differently, you are more likely to be able to look at different aspects of a situation rather than thinking about it in one way. Simply put, I think that the more diverse the student body is, the more diverse the faculty, the likelier it is that you will be able to attain institutional excellence that you gain from all the variation of thought.
From compositional diversity to inclusion: faculty, students, and interactions
What is generally referred to as “compositional diversity” doesn’t always translate into a climate of diversity and inclusion. You have to actually be deliberate about it. If you just throw a bunch of people who don’t know much about each other into a room, or if you don’t create a space for them to get to know each other, it can actually backfire sometimes. People might feel alienated, people might feel disrespected, feel like they don’t belong. So it is very important to create a climate for a diverse student and faculty body.
Making it real and relevant from the beginning
Some of the ways we are doing that are that right from the first week that the medical students show up here, we have an orientation for all students. One day is dedicated to diversity, and we select second year medical and MPH students to be part of a panel where they talk about their background and how that background, set of beliefs, cultural difference, have interfaced with their work as students. This past year we had a panel with a student who is a Mormon, who talked about her health beliefs as a Mormon woman in a place where she was definitely a minority from a religious stand point and how the ways that students are social in medical school are not always open to her. It was a fascinating insight into a religion that many of us don’t know a whole lot about. There was another student who was a gay student talking about his choice to live off campus in a gay community in town because he wants to have a place where he feels supported and has a network. He talked about what his life was like being in the gay community but also being a medical student and having to shuttle between the two worlds. He was funny about talking walking and dressing as a gay man when you know you have to come here and do your patient interaction – he had to think twice about whether he was going to wear something or not. There was another student who was an African American woman from New York who talked about her experience at Tufts. Every student on that panel had a compelling story. What was important was that these first year medical students were listening to second year medical student tell them about differences but also making them realize that it’s relevant. What you bring to the table is actually relevant to your growth as a medical student. It was a wonderful way to open their eyes. That’s the first week.
Continuing the conversation
Since then [orientation], we have been collaborating with the Office of Student Affairs to use learning communities, because medical students are divided into four learning communities, so we are using the learning communities as a place to continue that conversation on diversity. Our biggest strength has been the students themselves. I formed a Multicultural Fellows Council here, which is made up of representatives from all of the diversity organizations (broadly defined) here, such as the Asian American Association the Latin American Association, the Hillel group, Christian Medical Association, etc… These students are leaders on the Council. What has been amazing has been to see the level of collaboration that has been the result. Today for example, there was the inaugural interfaith conversation today. The Hillel group, the Muslim group, and the Christian Medical Dental Association group got together to have a conversation to talk about their similarities and differences. The follow up is that they will have a discussion with hospital chaplains about how religious beliefs weigh into how patients actually receive recommendations for care all the way to how they think about how different religious beliefs affect the way people think about end of life. I’m very excited about that. That came about because they were sitting across the table in the same room. One of the express goals of putting the Council together was to bring these groups together so that they could realize that they are all working on different parts of the same elephant. Jumbo if you want (she laughs). And in fact, when they pool their resources together, they will go a long way. And as they collaborate with each other, they are getting to know each other in the process. That is what we are doing to make sure there is deliberate learning that occurs once you recruit people.
Supporting faculty engagement and development
We recently introduced intramural faculty grants called IDEAS Grants – Innovations in Diversity Education Awards. (For more information, go to http://www.tufts.edu/med/about/faculty/educationalgrants/innovationsdiversityawardsoverview/index.html ) We invited faculty members to think about innovative ways to teach diversity in three areas: health care disparities, how to attract and advance diversity in the institution using evidence – based approaches, and cultural competency education – how do we train medical and public health professionals in a way that really allows them to communicate across cultures. The charge is to develop curriculum or programs or interventions that address any of these three areas, and to collaborate when possible. We have received some superb grant applications. This seed money allows faculty to start thinking about diversity in a scholarly manner, and will hopefully help their own career advancement. Getting the conversation going at the faculty level is mirroring what is happening with the medical students.The faculty are focusing on how to better teach students and residents, which means they are having conversations that will now converge.
Creating a “pipeline”
>We also have a number of programs where we try to recruit faculty to mentor students which adds another way for them to communicate with each other. We also have a lot of “pipe line” programs related to diversity. We bring high school, college and post bac students here through summer programs aimed at strengthening their academic backgrounds so that they can get into the next level of education and hopefully eventually into medical school of the MPH program. We have a program called Building Diversity in Biomedical Sciences which shores students up so they can apply for PhD programs and be competitive. These programs are all aimed at increasing diversity in the workforce. Although we take all students, there is an enriched sample of under-represented minority students. For these programs to be successful, we need faculty mentors, and the students are matched with them. Unfortunately, we do not have enough underrepresented minority faculty to do race concordance matching, but those who faculty who volunteer are those who care, and in the end, that is what matters, not what the color of your skin is. Of course, I would love to have more underrepresented minority faculty also participating in this program because there is also power in walking down the corridors and seeing somebody who looks like you.
So, with faculty developing proposals, they are beginning to generate ways to incorporate diverse ways of thinking onto the classroom and the hospital. Some of the proposals are aimed at the classroom and first or second year students, but some are aimed at second and third year students who are in hospital based programs. Some of the proposals are aimed at the community, saying that the best way you can learn about a culture is to be immersed in it.
Dr. Joyce Sackey is the Dean for Multicultural Affairs and Global Health at Tufts University School of Medicine (TUSM). She is originally from Ghana, and came to New England on her own at the age of 18 to study at Dartmouth College. This independent, focused and determined streak is a theme in her life. She followed on to medical school at Dartmouth before completing her residency at Beth Israel Deaconess where she became chief resident, and practiced primary care medicine. She was an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. Her roles at the medical school allow her to pursue her passions as a medical educator and leader in addressing global health issues. She is co-founder of the Foundation for African Relief (FAR), a Massachusetts-based non-profit organization and directed the BIDMC-based AIDS Collaborative Project and its Visiting Scholar’s Exchange Program. The program has contributed to the fight against AIDS in Ghana and Sudan by training African physicians in the forefront of providing clinical care to people living with HIV/AIDS.
This is the first interview in a new series of bi-monthly CELT website features focused on faculty reflecting on their teaching. We hope you find these interviews interesting and useful as you think about your own teaching. We thank those who participate for their openness and sharing of ideas.
Professor Roger Tobin, Physics – Astronomy
Can you summarize your philosophy of teaching?
I think teaching is a craft. We didn’t learn in school how to do this. Sometimes you have to learn the skills, you have to consciously to work at it. This seems obvious, but it’s a separate craft from our disciplines, and we need to learn from people who have researched it.
Teaching is a partnership with students. That means I have to pay attention to who my students are, what they need, what skills they have. It took me a long time to realize that they are not all like me. My interest and passion for physics is different than theirs. I realized I’m not teaching for me, I have to design my teaching around the students I have, and that’s not easy. They are younger, have different backgrounds, motivations, passions that I do.
There are really smart people out there studying, thinking about, doing research about teaching, and I need to steal as much from them as possible. I don’t have to do this myself. Even outside of physics, I can learn from others about teaching.
How would you describe your teaching style?
I’ve learned from my own experience, my students, and experts, that if you want people to learn, you need to get them engaged in the process. I began by lecturing. A lot of faculty think, “lectures worked for me,” and it’s true, it did. [In higher education] the system is designed to select people for whom the old system (lecturing) worked. So the fact that I and all of my colleagues succeeded in learning physics from that system doesn’t mean that it works for most students, or is even for the best students. It just means that the ones for whom it didn’t work didn’t become professors.
I’m always struggling to engage students in their own learning. How I do that changes depending on the size of the class. I’ve learned that students can learn more from each other than they can from me. If I explain something to them, they don’t think about it critically, since I’m the professor. But when they talk to each other, they don’t have the same power relationship, so even if they are explaining it badly, they may learn more from that than from my polished presentation. In large lecture classes, I use the Classroom Response System (clickers) to get a lot of the students engaged at some level. In a smaller class for more advanced students, often physics majors, I ask a lot more questions. It’s easy to get lost during long derivations, so I’ll pause to ask questions like “Why we are doing this?” “Where it is leading us?” and “What is it really telling us?” I also do small group activities to try to vary the class. It’s less formal [in a small class], but it’s the same goal – to get them into active learning mode.
I push pretty hard. I think I demand a lot. One student told me” The only class I’m afraid to go to is yours,” because she knew she couldn’t just sit there passively. I think Tufts students can achieve a lot, and I’m going to push them. While doing that, I strive to provide the supports (materials online, office hours, in class activities) they need to be successful.
How has your philosophy or teaching approach changed over time?
I’ve been teaching for over 20 years. I started in a traditional mode, as I had been taught. I was vaguely aware that it wasn’t working that well. I heard about things like clickers, looked at what other professors were doing, and began to read some of the educational research literature.
I’m much more experienced and confident now. I used to have pages and pages of notes for every lecture. Now, my notes are a page a day with reminders. A lot of the time, I don’t even look at my notes, I know where I want to get to. I feel freer to ad lib. I think you can only do this when you have had a lot of practice.
Certainly, the technology has changed. There’s power point, clickers, blackboard…you have to think about what they are good for, or not good for. For example, I try to avoid bullet points on slides, and pull up dynamic examples that you can’t necessarily physically demonstrate in the classroom from the internet – you couldn’t do this ten years ago. Each tool brings new capabilities, but you have to sort it all out.
What advice would you give to a new professor at Tufts?
First, recognize that teaching is a new skill, a craft, and that there is a learning process.
Second, remember that you are weird – your students are not what you are like. Most of us try to emulate the teachers who had the most impact on us – and we should probably not.
Third, take advantage of resources that are there – workshops in your field, CELT, articles in your professional journals. And take advantage of people in your department. Talk to them, look at their syllabi and ask why they make the choices they do.
Fourth, be protective of your time as there are lots of things that will east up your time. Look for efficient ways to improve your teaching for now, that don’t take up all of your time.
Lastly, you have to like your students. The 3% that take up 30% of your time are not the norm. The vast majority of students here are great. We all complain about the “grade grubbing” students, but remember they did not create the system, they only learned how to be successful in it. Their grades do matter, and it’s not their fault that they matter.
How would you want your students to remember you or describe you after they have left Tufts?
I hope they never think about their physical word in the same way. I hope they think about this stuff when they turn on a light, when they walk down the street, in their every day activities. I hope they begin to see the “meta.’ My goal is to give them an intellectual tool kit rather than simply teach them the subject matter.
Professor Roger Tobin is currently the physics-astronomy department chair, and was awarded the Lillian and Joseph Leibner Award for Excellence in Teaching and Advising of Students in the spring of 2010. For more information about his work at Tufts, click here: http://ase.tufts.edu/faculty-guide/fac/rtobin.astrophys.htm or here http://www.tufts.edu/~rtobin/
For more information about other teaching awards and award recipients from AS&E, click here:http://ase.tufts.edu/faculty-info/facultyAwards.htm