IPLA highlights value of liberal arts experience

Faculty from a wide array of institutions assembled on the Oxford College campus for the 11th annual Institute for Pedagogy in the Liberal Arts.

Every aspect of this year’s Institute for Pedagogy in the Liberal Arts (IPLA) program focused on teaching undergraduate students and learning about their experiences at a liberal arts college.

Faculty from a wide array of institutions assembled on the Oxford College campus for the 11th annual gathering of this four-day professional development conference. A cornerstone of Oxford's Center for Academic Excellence (CAE), the IPLA aims to inspire creativity and foster effective teaching.

“Faculty across the liberal arts can go deep in pedagogies that can transform their courses and frequently shape the programs that their institutions offer,” says Jeffery Galle, Oxford associate professor of English and CAE director.

Approximately 70 participants collected ideas during successive two-day sessions ranging from project-based learning, team-based learning, innovative course design, and leadership development, among many others. Events also included a keynote by Oxford Dean Douglas A. Hicks and a lunch talk exploring inclusivity.

An Inclusivity Luncheon led by faculty from Emory University and Emory’s Center for Faculty Development and Excellence (CFDE) was held on IPLA’s first day. The luncheon explored a number of important topics including microaggressions, implicit bias, and inclusive classroom strategies. 

Eladio Abreu, lecturer in biology, Donna Troka, associate director of the CFDE, and Sarah McDonald, a CFDE teaching fellow and doctoral candidate at Candler, led the program. Besides providing the introduction for the luncheon, Oxford’s Associate Dean Catherine Chastain-Elliott supported planning of the event, along with Oxford’s Director of Experiential Learning Jill Adams.

On the institute’s second day, Hicks gave a presentation on “The Value and Values of the Liberal Arts.” Framing the presentation around the twin concepts of intrinsic and instrumental goods, Hicks suggested that undergraduate preparation in the liberal arts offered students a number of both kinds of goods.

“Liberal arts colleges everywhere are asked to defend the liberal arts to many audiences, and of course the question many have is about the return on investment and job readiness,” Hicks said during his keynote. “I was transformed by professors who taught me to love ideas—liberal arts are called that because they free the mind,” added Hicks, who went to a liberal arts college.

“Our society requires goods that make the well-lived life possible, and education is fundamental to that,” he continued. “Our classrooms prepare students to live the well-lived life.”

The IPLA impacts not only individuals, but teams. Each year, IPLA organizers receive applications from groups of faculty from institutions. This year, a team from Brescia University in Kentucky selected the IPLA as the venue for their faculty development efforts. They studied together across multiple sessions to take back innovative ideas and strategies to their campus.

Also emerging out of the dialogue from annual IPLA sessions came a book of essays “Teaching, Pedagogy, and Learning” (May 2017). Other releases are planned for the summer.

IPLA organizers did a lot of work to benchmark and explore the best of the established pedagogies and to inquire into new methods. New this year, the IPLA introduced project-based learning and leadership development.  Also new this year, a team of library professionals led by Courtney Baron provided another new and very well-received two-day program this year. Baron, Oxford’s assistant college librarian for teaching and learning, was one of several participants who both led a session and participated in another, taking full advantage of what IPLA offers.

The conference contained nine sessions in total. One session taught by Oxford staff, “Teaching and Learning with Technology,” was offered both two-days. Due to its popularity, “Team-Based Learning” led by Oxford College’s Henry Bayerle, associate professor of classics, had been offered the previous year and was again offered this year. 

“Having a program that consistently teaches and informs across a number of issues and strategies carries an impact that can represent a significant contribution from Oxford College to institutions in higher education,” Galle says.

 For more information about IPLA, visit oxford.emory.edu/ipla.