Faculty retreat stresses creativity, collaboration

At the 2010 annual faculty retreat, University staff discussed the importance of bringing creativity and collaboration into the classroom to prepare the next generation of thinkers.

“Our ability to contribute to society and the problems it faces are dependent on excellence but also sustainable creativity,” said Interim Provost and Chancellor Robert Easter.

The event took place Friday at the Illini Union, where about 230 faculty members from departments across campus gathered for the retreat, said Cheelan Bo-Linn, event coordinator and head of instructional development at the Center for Teaching Excellence.

“This is a wonderful example of the commitment on campus to teaching excellence,” Bo-Linn said in her introductory remarks at the event.

The retreat was co-sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the Center for Teaching Excellence and the Office of Continuing Education and featured introductions by Easter, Bo-Linn and Professor Keith Sawyer from Washington University in St. Louis as the keynote speaker.

“We are all here because the world is changing,” Sawyer said. “We need students and graduates to come out of school being creative. They need to be able to solve global, pressing problems. Creativity is more important than ever before in history.”

Sawyer also stressed the need for collaboration in higher-level education.

“The problems students are dealing with are too much to handle on their own,” he said. “Solving these problems is going to be difficult.”

Gloriana Gonzalez, professor in Education, said she agreed with Sawyer’s emphasis on ingenuity, but said she felt the University is already putting some of his ideas in place.

“We are working on new ways to support our students and face challenges of the new world,” she said. “His suggestions are supporting current actions to support problem-based learning.”

Assistant Provost Fellow Peter Mortensen focused on the Undergraduate Research Symposium as one example of how faculty can work with students to integrate innovative learning.

“Any undergraduate on campus can propose or present a poster on different topics of their choosing,” Mortensen said.

Physics professor Tim Stelzer, who was honored as the Distinguished Teacher-Scholar of the year for his role in inventing the i-clicker, said he appreciated the emphasis on collaboration as well as originality in teaching.

“It’s fun talking to a variety of people in different departments about education,” Stelzer said.

Bo-Linn said she hoped to use the momentum generated by the retreat to explore new teaching and learning methods in the future.

The University is planning post-retreat activities such as faculty speakers and workshops, Bo-Linn said.

“The goal is to sustain the momentum of the event beyond one day,” she added.