DUE’s Strategic Themes: Advance from Teaching to Learning in the Classroom

By Elizabeth Reed, Senior Associate Dean

The Teaching to Learning (T2L) theme’s primary objective is to shift the focus of the MIT instructional staff (i.e., faculty, instructors, teaching assistants) from teaching to learning. This implies a shift in the classroom from what instructors do or put in, to what students absorb and take away from the experience. T2L initiatives aim for classroom approaches that revolve not only around what topics the instructor covers, her or his lecturing skill and the ability to impart a set of facts, but also on helping students understand important ideas, master crucial skills and be motivated to learn.

Dr. Lori Breslow, Director of the Teaching and Learning Lab, leads this theme and her office’s established programs and services play a key role in furthering it. TLL staff are working closely with faculty from all five Schools who are valuable allies in moving the theme goals forward. Janet Rankin, Associate Director of TLL, will lead the T2L theme while Lori is on sabbatical during Spring semester 2008.

Activities that support the T2L theme have been categorized as strategic innovation and focused dissemination. Many of these activities take place through existing TLL programs and services, including the office’s assessment efforts.

T2L initiatives include:

  • Collaboration with d’Arbeloff award-winning faculty on projects in which they developed innovative curricula, materials, methods, and assessment techniques from the perspective of student learning

  • Collaboration with faculty on Curriculum Integration Project to strengthen connections between math and physics GIRs and downstream engineering subjects

  • Development of an enhanced New and Junior Faculty Orientation Program to enable participants to use the most current research in learning as they plan their courses, develop assessments that reinforce student learning and bolster new faculty’s confidence in their ability to educate MIT students

  • Creation of video loops highlighting learning and teaching, which are projected continuously on a screen outside of the TLL offices in Building 5.

The Teaching to Learning theme is particularly important in the current climate, when learning in higher education and improvements in STEM education are high on the national agenda. The success of T2L initiatives has great potential to help students and faculty realize their aspirations as learners and teachers.