by Deborah Keene, Department of Geological Sciences
The Teaching Hub inspired me to start something similar for my own department. I teach GEO 101 every semester for the Department of Geological Sciences. The other faculty kindly share information and resources with one another, but I found that a departmental “teaching hub” could solve several problems with mass emails and individual sharing:
- These are not always the most efficient ways to circulate resources.
- They don’t help people who aren’t teaching that particular semester.
- They are not seen by new faculty who haven’t arrived on campus yet.
- New faculty don’t know who to contact to get these sorts of emails.
To help address these issues, I created a UA Box folder for all instructors who teach any of our 100-level classes. Geology is a discipline that must rely heavily on visual aids in order to teach core concepts. The UA Box folder I set up reflects this, with folders for
- test banks
- open-source photos
- Powerpoint slides
- syllabi from different faculty members
- links to important university or college guidelines
All members of the folder have the ability to upload new content. Each of these resources has been used by multiple faculty, and the new faculty have been very appreciative of these resources as they build their new classes.
The most ambitious item in our UA Box folder is a test bank composed of questions written by all of the GEO 101 instructors. We all realize that despite our best efforts, our tests do make it to various online repositories. Now, each GEO 101 instructor has access to nearly 1500 questions written by fellow faculty members.
In order to make the database user-friendly, I used exam preparation software that came with our textbook. The questions are organized by subject matter and type. The most labor-intensive part of the process was formatting the questions so that they could be uploaded into the software program. One of our office assistants did the formatting over the summer, and I uploaded the questions and formatted all of the figures and diagrams. Now, all faculty members can create a test by selecting the topic they want to test and choose between types of questions, such as multiple choice, matching, true/false, and diagrams and pictures.
One unexpected benefit of having access to all those questions is that I have learned how to make better tests. As a result of studying my colleague’s tests, I have begun incorporating more figures and diagrams into my own tests, and I changed the way I word certain kinds of questions. In the end, I think that creating a UA Box of teaching resources was worth the time and effort that went into it as I see the success of our new instructors and continue to learn from my colleagues.
Deborah Keene is an assistant professor in the Department of Geological Sciences and a senior fellow for the Blount Scholars Program.