Collaborative Founding Chair and Executive Director Lucinda Presley was recently presented the Adjunct Excellence in Teaching award (Adjunct Professor of the Year) by the college where she has taught part-time for 18 years. The college, Tyler Junior College, is one of the largest community colleges in Texas with an enrollment of 12,000 credit students and 20,000 continuing education students. Ms. Presley teaches art appreciation to 60-90 college and high school early college students per semester. She has been using these classes to study the effectiveness of the Collaborative’s criteria in getting students to think creatively and innovatively.
The Collaborative newsletter Managing Editor Juliana Texley interviewed Ms. Presley about this award and its relevance to the Collaborative.
Q: You’ve been honored as a great instructor. How does it relate to the Collaborative?
A: The Adjunct Faculty Teaching Excellence Award recognizes that getting students to think in addition to learn is important. It acknowledges that the thinking skills we are the Collaborative is promoting (thinking skills) are important to students. We must help students of all ages realize that these thinking skills will help not only with learning required information but also with their daily lives. When I integrate these process skills, they students become much better at learning the required content. Since they are analyzing the material better than before, they are also able to apply their information to solve problems. These skills dovetail with thinking skills the college is fostering in the students such as problem-solving, collaboration, and communication. Since I’ve been using these skills, I’ve seen a marked increase in my college students’ engagement and use of the required concepts and information in ways that transfer from project to project. In using these skills, I integrate the science process skills with other creative and innovative thinking skills. These science thinking skills were a result of my work with our science Research Thought Leader Hubert Dyasi, PhD. So, throughout the semester, students are learning to work in a team, clarify a problem, observe with deep visual analysis, question, brainstorm solutions, investigate by changing perspectives, compare and contrast, then synthesizing information. They also analyze the pertinent information and communicate their evidence-based conclusions as a group. These are new skills for many students, but it’s gratifying to see their growth by the end of the semester.
Q: Tell us how you came to this group and to the Collaborative at this point in your career.
A: I began with an interdisciplinary Masters degree in arts, social studies and sciences art, history, literature, and science. The degree didn’t really exist then, but the college supported a unique degree. Working at an art museum, I integrated science with art for K-12 classrooms and in was recruited to a science museum where I integrated arts with science for K-12. I was also a journalist, so Since I also have a degree in journalism, writing curriculum is natural as well. I had taught art appreciation at a community college (the largest in Texas) using science process skills modeled on work from Hubert Dyasi.
I was also then asked by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab to work on NASA’s take their out-of-school Imagine Mars arts/science program, and took the ideas from this program into K-12 education. This feeds into what I do now. I founded my own institute, ICEE Success Foundation, to carry out this work. The NASA project is now in year 10, conducting research with a grant from NASA Headquarters. I also am testing the Collaborative’s criteria and rubric in this project. We are finding a high correlation between the arts/science/humanities intersections and creative and innovative thinking. The same investigations are being done in the Canadian Philip Beesley Living Architecture arts/science project, with which I have worked for a number of years. Last year I was nominated for an award, and was amazed that the process involved in completing the applicaton involved a lot of metacognitive analysis of what we do as instructors. It was the process that I thought was important. I found that Tyler Junior College’s Adjunct Faculty Teaching Excellence Award was a great way to think about what we do. It This work has confirmed my believe belief that teachers, in addition to students, need to be able to given opportunities to think creatively, innovatively, and collaboratively.
Q: How did the Innovation Collaborative begin?
A: The Collaborative is an outcome of NSF-funded SEAD (Science and Engineering Arts Design Project). I was a chair of the SEAD Learning and Education team. in that process, and When it the grant ended, we my team and I wanted to take that SEAD concept into K-12 and particularly in informal out-of-school settings. Members of the SEAD project are an important part of the Collaborative and we continue to dovetail with their impressive work. (There is more information on that history elsewhere in our newsletter.)
Q: What are Collaborative personal goals?
A: My Our goal in everything I do is to help teachers and students think creatively and innovatively as they interact with content. collaboratively. They Everyone need needs these thinking skills in life. This became apparent in my work with my college students. My personal goals are to It also is important to enrich learning STEM, arts and humanities teachers’ abilities to collaborate and communicate and teach across disciplines using common language and common processes. This can be accomplished in through professional development. Even though. Though sciences, arts, and humanities teachers in each area bring their own perspectives to the learning problems we encounter, teachers use have a lot many of the same process skills
We also need a strong deep and firm research base for the STEAM movement. That’s what the Collaborative will provide. With a sound basis in research-based data, it the movement becomes sustainable and not just a passing fad. Policymakers also need this background. Groups like the Congressional STEAM Caucus are very interested in the data we will provide.
My own personal goals are all related to thinking. To get teachers to think creatively and collaboratively is important. We can help them use syntheses of research and models to solve problems.
Q: Where does the Collaborative go from here?
A: We have focused on identifying best practice effective practices at the arts/sciences/humanities intersections. We hope plan to take what we’ve learned from identifying top lessons and testing them in classrooms into teacher professional development and into curriculum development, and eventually into professional development. We will hope to make these tools widely available.
For more information on the Collaboratives’ Effective Practices projects and thinking skills go to the Collaborative website: www.innovationcollaborative.org.