More than 180 Virginia Tech faculty and staff representing every academic collage and several administrative units gathered recently for the Summer Institute: Professional Development for Undergraduate Education 2018.

The institute was sponsored by the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost and an Inclusive Excellence Grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).

The two-day institute involved a diverse group of faculty, staff, and administrators who are engaged in teaching courses for Virginia Tech’s First-Year Experience (FYE) program, Pathways to General Education, and the HHMI Inclusive Excellence Grant. It featured a shared program of plenaries, workshops, and large poster sessions designed to focus discussion and collaborative thinking on such topics as ethics integration, best practices in FYE, outcome assessment, the future of the Virginia Tech Common Book Project, and inclusive pedagogy.

“The Summer Institute enabled us to facilitate a variety of professional development needs in one place at one time to support anyone involved with foundational undergraduate education,” said Stephen Biscotte, director of general education for Virginia Tech. “It also provided a space for campus-wide networking, sharing, and collaboration among our faculty and staff, and showcased the innovative approaches to teaching and learning taking place in classrooms across Virginia Tech and beyond.”

According to the post-event feedback, Biscotte said the greatest benefit to attendees was having the space and time to share best practices and tackle real challenges in teaching and learning with their peers.

“This opportunity to connect is something that comes at a premium during the busy academic year,” Biscotte said. “From what I saw, there were meaningful discussions happening in sessions, over lunch, during coffee breaks, and even on the way out the door at the end of the day.”

Group workshops, such as “The Art of Teaching: Using Acting Techniques in the Teaching and Learning Process” and “Students in Distress and How to Help,” opened the Summer Institute and were supported by break-out sessions that focused on discussions ranging from active learning in digital environments to project-based learning to improve inclusivity and student engagement to goal-setting and leadership skills in the classroom.

Biscotte hopes that attendees came away from the experience inspired to improve the learning experience for their students and with the tools to make it happen.

“As one faculty participant put it, 'It's nice to know we're not alone in thinking about teaching and caring about students.'”

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