Simmons School’s Michael Harris named director of SMU’s Center for Teaching Excellence

Michael Harris, Simmons School of Education and Human Development, SMUMichael Harris, associate professor in the Department of Education Policy and Leadership of SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, has been named director of the University’s Center for Teaching Excellence. He began his new duties on Friday, Aug. 1, 2014.

Harris worked with previous CTE director Beth Thornburg throughout the summer to become familiar with the CTE’s operations. Thornburg returns to full-time teaching in Dedman School of Law in Fall 2014.

“Professor Harris takes over a Center that has grown and thrived under the exceptional leadership of Professor Thornburg. During her time as Director, the CTE has sponsored Faculty Learning Communities, initiated the New Faculty Teaching Excellence (NFTE) workshop series, and spearheaded an effort to recognize the excellent teaching performed by our lecturers,” wrote Provost Paul Ludden in an e-mail message to the SMU community dated Friday, July 11, 2014.

“But more than developing programs and events, Professor Thornburg has underscored the importance of teaching to our academic mission. Please join me in extending our thanks and best wishes to Professor Thornburg and in welcoming Professor Harris to his new role.”

Harris came to SMU in August 2012 from the University of Alabama’s Department of Educational Leadership, Policy and Technology Studies. He earned his B.A. degree in history from the University of North Carolina and his M.S.Ed and Ed.D in higher education administration from the University of Pennsylvania. He has published extensively in peer-reviewed journals on issues facing higher education and has made numerous presentations to academic groups on such subjects as “Balancing the Demands of a New Faculty Position” and “Why Businesses Should Work Like a University.”

Professor Harris is a Council Member-at-Large of the American Educational Research Association, Division J, and has consulted with universities on various subjects including program planning for undergraduate general education curriculum.

> Visit SMU’s Center for Teaching Excellence online

CTE to discuss ‘Higher Ed in the Crosshairs’ Feb. 22, 2013

Concerns about the costs and value of higher education are rising to the top of debate from the kitchen table to Capitol Hill.

In response, SMU’s Center for Teaching Excellence has organized a symposium to explore questions of government support, online competition and the perceived marketability of a university degree.

“Higher Ed in the Crosshairs” takes place from 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22 in the Hughes-Trigg Lower Level. The symposium will examine the extent to which high-quality teaching – especially at a place like SMU – can answer critiques about the costs and benefits associated with a bachelor’s degree.

Register online at SMU’s Center for Teaching Excellence homepage

Participants will also explore the questions of what and how colleges and universities should be teaching students, and how they can demonstrate the results of what happens in the classroom and on campus.

CTE Director Beth Thornburg will provide opening and closing remarks. Speakers and topics include:

  • Dean Albert Niemi, Cox School of Business, on “Valuing Higher Education”
  • Dean William Tsutsui, Dedman College of Humanities & Sciences, on “Preserving the American Character Through Liberal Education”
  • Associate Provost Linda Eads on “Responding to How People Learn,” with panelists including Professors Stephanie Al Otaiba, Teaching and Learning; Miguel Quiñones, Organizational Behavior; Maria Dixon Hall, Communication Studies; and Patty Wisian-Neilson, Chemistry
  • Dean ad interim Marc Christensen, Lyle School of Engineering, on “Using Technology to Enhance Learning,” with panelists including Professors Paul Krueger, Mechanical Engineering; Lynne Stokes, Statistical Science; Scott Norris, Mathematics; and Jake Batsell, Journalism
  • Dean José Bowen, Meadows School of the Arts, on “Demonstrating Our Value,” with panelists including Professors Michael McLendon, Education Policy and Leadership; and Paige Ware, Teaching and Education; and Assistant Provost Tony Tillman

The CTE has created an Xtranormal text-to-movie animated video about the symposium and the issues it tackles. Click the YouTube screen to watch it, or visit this link to see “Henny Penny & Ducky Lucky Discuss Challenges to Academia” in a new windowvideo

> Get a mobile guide to the “Higher Ed in the Crosshairs” program

Center for Teaching Excellence unveils new site, new programs

SMU CTE website artSMU’s Center for Teaching Excellence has entered its 20th year with a new director, new website, and new programs to help faculty members connect across campus.

The New Faculty Teaching Excellence Program, or NFTE (pronounced “Nifty”), is a year-long workshop series for new faculty members in their first 3 years of full-time teaching. The CTE plans to offer 3 or 4 NFTE programs per term, says Law Professor Beth Thornburg, who became CTE director in June.

The NFTE Program will also provide a support system for these new teachers, Thornburg says. “NFTE participants will network with their fellow faculty ‘class members’ across every school and field of study,” she says. “It will be a great way to help build community and enhance our interdisciplinary culture.” The next NFTE event, “How Can I Promote Active Learning?,” will take place Wednesday, Sept. 26.

Another new initiative, Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs), creates peer-led groups of 8 to 12 faculty members who take on one-year collaborations “structured to provide encouragement, support, and reflection” and to help faculty members make connections across campus. Each FLC focuses on a question, topic or set of problems with the goal of deepening faculty members’ knowledge through their interaction with each other.

“They’re called communities, not committees, and we did that on purpose,” Thornburg says. The FLCs are designed to create an environment that promotes innovation and ultimately helps to improve teaching and learning across campus, she adds.

The Center also boasts a redesigned website that makes it easier to find resources, register for events, and connect with other faculty members. A “What’s New” section on the top page will allow faculty members to share news, links and other useful information, says Barbara Whitehead, CTE assistant director, who helped steer the new design.

The CTE has its roots in a 1992 Faculty Senate committee’s work to create the University’s first Teaching Effectiveness Symposium, held before the beginning of fall classes in 1993. The enthusiasm of the response led to the 1994 appointment of SMU’s Commission on Teaching and Learning, which continued the Symposium and added several additional faculty development programs. The Center for Teaching Excellence was created in 1997 to provide structure and support for the Commission’s efforts.

> Visit SMU’s Center for Teaching Excellence online