GHC professor part of exclusive program
by Cheree Dye
Jun 17, 2014 | 946 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Georgia Highlands professor Thomas Harnden, among 14 professors statewide, completed the Governor’s Teaching Fellow for the 2014 Summer Symposium Program. Held at the University of Georgia in May, the program provides higher-education instructors the opportunity to broaden skills in teaching and utilizing technology in the classroom.

The No. 1 thing I gained from the experience is that the process of teaching and learning is not universal and that the process should be contextualized to better serve the population of students who attend the various institutions all over Georgia. By applying new techniques of classroom and institutional analysis, we can increase student success,” Harnden said.

Former Gov. Zell Miller began the Governor’s Teaching Fellow in 1995 with the idea of equipping educators at both public and private higher-education institutions with the tools to remain current in their use of technology and the latest teaching techniques.

“[The] GTF program is ... an opportunity for educators to exchange ideas as well as learn new and innovative ways of teaching,” Harnden said. “The objective of the program is to have fellows go out and help ‘educate the educators’ regarding issues in higher education as well as new ways of approaching the art of instruction.

“If educators engage in reflection regarding our practice(s) as well as reflect on the biographies and lived experiences of our

students, then we can make more informed decisions that will create a meaningful learning experience.”

During the two-week symposium, most of the exercises focused on moving away from traditional lectures and using methods that encouraged higher student engagement, Harnden said.

­A popular exercise is “flipping the classroom.” GTF participants explored various ways to reverse the normal processes of the classroom.

Harnden’s application of the concept was food insecurity, which is the decreased ability to access quality food. Harnden said normally he would define food insecurity and then list the primary factors that may affect a family’s ability to access food. However, in a flipped classroom the professor would have the students research the concept before class and then in class the students would be divided into groups and have each group identify the different social, political, economic and educative dimensions that affect food insecurity in the U.S. Using this flipped method puts the onus on the students to gather information and critical analyze the meaning of the concept.

Laura Musselwhite, interim vice president for academic affairs at GHC, said, “It is important for educators to expand their experience because the sharing of concepts across different disciplines demonstrates how learning is interconnected. Everyone can learn from others with different perspectives.”

Various aspects of technology were explored during the program.

“We learned how to develop short podcasts that can be used for online classes in order to add a more human touch as well as give quick lectures on concepts that are more difficult for students to grasp. We also discussed the use of Skype, Facetime and Collaborate to reach students who may feel isolated and need help with their studies, or for advising. In essence, we discussed both current forms of offering classes as well as the various classrooms of the future,” Harnden said.

The greatest satisfaction as an educator Harden said is witnessing the personal transformation education brings.

“Over the last 22 years of teaching I have seen students increase their ability to think deeply, critically and become more productive citizens. The largest challenge I face is not being able to help 100 percent of my students recognize their full potential. I firmly believe that every single one of my students has the ability to achieve their goals and aspirations.”