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GENERAL EDUC UNIVERSITY p00 glean ould Fase 721257 Ornce oF Gases EoucaTion| ELL Cre Curie phone 61-4506183 for BISA 6150 TION April 22, 2010 Dear Committee Members, Serving as Ms. Angela Smith's mentor during her year-long residency at Belmont University hhas been an absolute pleasure, and has given students here a unique and rewarding experience in engaging the historical enterprise with a level of depth and creativity that we all wish would happen much more often. ‘Throughout the year, I have had the opportunity not only to offer her my assistance in approaching her classes with an eye toward experiential learning, but also to have learned a great deal in the process myself with respect to locating effective strategies to motivate undergraduate students to engage the study of history in an active way. When Ms. Smith approached me about the idea of a resideney, | was quite excited about the prospects for her to work in our general education program, specifically in the Junior ‘Cornerstone Seminar, an upper-level course required of all students at Belmont, rooted in Problem-Based and Experiential Learning. Ms. Smith’s approach to teaching, and the nature ‘of her own work, seemed to be an ideal fit for this class, and the results have been exceptional At the beginning of the residency, Ms. Smith brought to me a number of general possible approaches to teaching her courses. While it was clear that she was bringing a considerable amount of expertise, both technical and historical, to bear on her teaching, it became evident that some immersion into Problem-Based Learning pedagogy would be an appropriate and rewarding point of departure for the year. In our meetings, we covered all aspects of Problem-Based Learning—question and problem framing, the importance of authenticity in developing student assignments, and particularly, the need for ongoing and formative assessment of student collaboration. Ms. Smith approached all of this with her Usual sense of commitment and energy. and launched into her courses equipped to conn her own experience and passions with a new approach to teaching. As anyone who has a background in education knows, this is no small task—the development of new methods of teaching may bring into play uncertainty and, at times, a lack of confidence that can undermine student leaning. We met regularly throughout the courses, taking time to evaluate successes and setbacks and to connect her teaching zoals with the intended outcomes, of Junior Comerstone Seminar. ‘The measure of teaching effectiveness, of course, is rooted directly in student outcomes; that is, to ascertain what exactly students have been able to accomplish as a result of taking a particular course. In Ms, Smith's courses at Belmont, these outcomes are quite clear. First, the products of the students themselves must be considered. The documentary films that students completed in her courses are of excellent quality, particularly for undergraduate students and especially for students who are not pursuing a degree in history. Moreover, Ms. \mw.belmont.edulgened ‘Smith's approach to assessment, rooted in Problem-Based Learning, also has ensured that these students also had the important experience of evaluating theit own work, and that of their peers, in an ongoing and formative manner—a set of skills that seldom is required in the undergraduate classroom. In terms of historical content, it seems clear from the student work that these students have engaged historical topics at a level of depth quite rare for a general education history course. Her course evaluations, which I have reviewed, also indicate that students have seen the usefulness of the course and have come away from it with a positive attitude. In short, Ms. Smith's teaching was superb, and Belmont has benefited from her work here. nally, there is the question of how this innovative approach to teaching, sharpens the skills of an historian—not only in terms of teaching, but in terms of historical knowledge. While a Problem-Based Learning course may appear to be one that is “light on content,” nothing could be further from the truth In point of fact, historians who approach education in a experiential, problem-oriented manner most often discover that one’s knowledge base is stretched to the limit. Without a set of lecture notes, without a clear roadmap, the teacher in the experiential classroom must be prepared to adapt to the interests, and discoveries, of the students. Moreover, the time commitment involved can oftentimes be overwhelming. Not only must an instructor cover content in a course, but also must be serious about teaching research skills, creativity, critical thinking, and also be prepared to get students out of the classroom and into the field,” so to speak. My view is that Ms, Smith met these challenges, excelled, and also came away from the experience a better teacher and a better historian, 1 know, without question, that the experience has offered me a chance to revisit my approach to teaching and also recent American history, This has been an excellent experience, I think, for all involved Y 2). Ch~ Jeffrey W. Coker, Ph.D. Assistant Provost Associate Professor of F Belmont University story