Teaching Consultant Seeks Volunteers

Dr. Christopher Knapper, professor emeritus of psychology at Queen's University, Kingston, Canada, visited Bilkent last week to discuss ideas for the university's new initiative on teaching development. Knapper explained that he was making a preliminary visit to plan a Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). The CTL would offer resources and support to current faculty with the aim of developing new and effective ways of enhancing student learning.

Knapper visited Bilkent in June to deliver several daylong workshops for teaching staff. Bilkenters showed up in such good numbers and gave such positive feedback that Knapper was invited back to investigate the feasibility of establishing a permanent office to conduct professional teaching development.

The university Senate has recently added a course requirement on university teaching methods for graduating doctoral students in a program requiring a thesis, and Knapper will teach the first course, beginning this November. The administration also believes that all Bilkent faculty should have the opportunity to discuss teaching and share ideas with their peers, and the CTL is intended to help with this process.

The CTL would draw from faculty volunteers who have demonstrated teaching excellence and are interested in working with colleagues to enhance teaching and to explore alternative teaching approaches with the aim of improving the quality of student learning. The CLT would offer, among other things, workshops and short courses, print and web-based resources on university teaching, and opportunities for individual consultations on teaching methods and problems.

During last week's visit, Knapper commented that, as Turkey's leading research university, Bilkent has also demonstrated a concern for teaching quality through such initiatives as awards for excellent teachers, student course evaluation, and regular workshops and seminars on teaching and learning issues.  He would like to build on these ideas with the aim of promoting "more conversations about teaching" and schedule events that allow faculty "to discuss and try new teaching approaches in a non-threatening environment." He emphasizes that such professional development would be strictly voluntary and envisages helping Bilkent build an interdisciplinary "peer consultation network" that would facilitate class visits and discussions of innovative teaching techniques.

Knapper has written extensively on university teaching and served as director of teaching and learning centers at several major Canadian universities.  He has worked as a consultant to universities in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australasia. Professor Knapper will return to Bilkent for six weeks in the second week of November to explore in more detail the work of the CTL. He would like to hear from anyone who is interested in being involved in the new center by writing to knapper@queensu.ca.