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Center for Teaching Excellence

East Tennessee State University

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Welcome to the Center for Teaching Excellence

The purpose of the Center for Teaching Excellence is to promote excellence in teaching at ETSU by providing instructional development opportunities for faculty, serving as a "one-stop shop" for teaching resources, and creating communities of practice among faculty. I invite you to read more about the goals for the center and to get involved in our work.  Please  if you have ideas about programming, want to nominate a teacher to be featured on our website, or if you want to contribute the resources available on the site.  We're looking forward to a great inaugural year and to growing the instructional development services we offer.

The Center is located in room 441 in the Sherrod Library. The faculty lounge and book collection is open weekdays during business hours.

Featured Teacher: Patrick Brown

Patrick BrownThe CTE is happy to feature Dr. Patrick Brown and welcome him as a new CTE Faculty Fellow. An East Tennessee native, PhD. in Cellular Biology from the University of Georgia, recipient of many teaching awards and honors including the ETSU Distinguished Faculty Award in Teaching , Dr. Brown is Associate Professor of Health Sciences with the College of Public Health at ETSU. Much of his scholarly work focuses on the application of student-centered active-learning pedagogies in undergraduate science curricula. 

With his sparkling quick wit and matching bow tie, Brown is a familiar and welcome presence to students and faculty in the College of Public Health where he teaches several courses on biology and anatomy and physiology. His infectious enthusiasm for cellular biology is matched only by his passion for teaching. He brings the diligence of a laboratory scientist to bear on the scholarship of teaching and learning. Also, he just plain loves teaching and cannot imagine doing anything else. 
If you were one of the hundreds of students who have taken anatomy and physiology or clinical parasitology with Dr. Brown, you would know there is never a dull moment in his class. This is because Brown is a master of making students take control of their own learning. One of the first activities students do in the lab section is write out descriptions of the various organs and tissues in the human body using analogies and descriptive phrases that are familiar to them. This simple practice illustrates one of the key tenants that drives the way he teaches. “All students come to me with diverse life experiences, unique perspectives, and previous knowledge that varies widely from student to student,” says Brown who explains that students don’t speak “nerd”. Not yet. But once they can view a concept through the lens of their own knowledge and experience, they can incorporate that concept into their fund of knowledge and make it their own. “Then you give them the ‘nerdy’ words and definitions,” he says with a grin.
Using POGIL (that’s Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning) the teacher sets up and facilitates the learning environment and guides students through by asking them questions and forcing them to figure out how to solve problems without necessarily having all the knowledge they need. While this may not always be easy, it mirrors the way scientists actually acquire new knowledge. “What better way to teach science, than to have students using the very cognitive processes that scientists use to do science?” The entire course works from this principle. Each new topic approached like a strange new city students explore with the aid of only a few hints and landmarks. By proceeding this way and articulating what they see in a way that makes sense to them, they get to know their way around the city very well by the end of the semester.
Brown is convinced this kind of inquiry-based approach is the best way to design courses for optimal student learning and persistence, especially in STEM fields and especially for traditionally underrepresented students. There is good evidence to support this, some of which Brown himself has published. Part of the reason may well be in the “process oriented” part of POGIL. Here students practice many of the core skills educators and employers alike expect from well-rounded graduates: they help each process large amounts of information, they problem solve, they work together and communicate and overcome differences, they encourage each other, they see they are in this together and they can do it. 
“Teaching is not my job, it is my vocation.” Says Brown, “There is no joy like hearing two students argue over a concept, figure it out, and say to one another ‘that makes sense’.” Makes sense indeed!

 By Phil Smith

The Center for Teaching Excellence will feature a different faculty member each month.  If you'd like to nominate a teacher to be featured on the site, contact .

See past featured teachers here.

Teaching Essentials Workshop Series Fall 2019

This four-part workshop series is designed to offer faculty basic tools for university teaching. Each essential was developed from an extensive literature review of the scholarship of teaching and learning. Faculty who complete all four parts of the series will receive a certificate and a digital badge. This series may be particularly useful for new or junior faculty. Registration is required.

Community of Learners, Sept 9 @2:00 pm

Respect for Students, Sept 23 @2:00 pm

Feedback Early and Often, Oct 22 @2:00 pm

Active and Collaborative Learning, Nov 5 @2:00 pm




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