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 as an additional way 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.
1. You’ve been honored as a great instructor. How does it relate to the Innovation Collaborative? This Adjunct Faculty Teaching Excellence Award recognizes that getting students to think in addition to learn is important. The thinking skills the college promotes, such as analysis, problem-solving, collaboration and communication, dovetail with those of the Innovation Collaborative. 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 thinking skills, my college students become much better at learning the required content. Since they are analyzing the material better than before, they also can apply their information to solve problems more effectively. 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. Students also report that these skills are helping in their daily lives. To accomplish this, throughout the semester, students are integrating supportive Collaborative concepts such as working in a team, observing with deep visual analysis, investigating by changing perspectives, comparing and contrasting and then synthesizing information. They also are analyzing the pertinent information and communicating 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.
2. Tell us how you came to the Collaborative at this point in your career. I began with an interdisciplinary Masters’ degree in art, history, literature and science. Working at an art museum, I integrated the sciences with art for K-12 classrooms for a number of years. I then was recruited to a science museum, where I integrated arts with science for K-12.
Since then, I’ve been working with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab for many years, taking their out-of-school Imagine Mars arts/science program into K-12 education. I’ve also been working on the STEAM education portion of the Philip Beesley Canadian Living Architecture project. I set up the education and program departments for the new Leonardo arts/science museum in Salt Lake City. I also have been doing STEAM K-12 teacher professional development in different locations for many years, including for the Texas Education Agency and the National Museum of Women in the Arts. At the same time, I’ve been integrating science and arts thinking in the college classes I teach. So, I was able to apply what I had learned from these many experiences in STEAM teaching, curriculum-writing, teacher professional development and programming in a variety of learning settings when I was invited to be a part of the National Science Foundation (NSF) - funded SEAD (Sciences, Engineering, Arts, Design) project.
How did the Innovation Collaborative begin?
The Innovation Collaborative is an outcome of NSF - funded SEAD (Sciences, Engineering, Arts, Design) project. I was a chair of the SEAD Learning and Education team. When the grant was completed, my team and I received permission to take the important SEAD work into K-12 and out-of-school settings through founding the Innovation Collaborative. Members of the original SEAD project still are an important part of the Collaborative and we continue to dovetail with their impressive work.
What are the Innovation Collaborative’s goals?
Our goal is to help develop the important workforce skills of creative and innovative thinking. We do this through helping educators and students learn to think creatively and innovatively as they interact with content. Everyone needs these thinking skills in life. This became apparent in my work with my college students. So, we work to enrich STEM, arts and humanities educators’ abilities to collaborate and teach across disciplines using a common language and common processes. This can be accomplished through professional development where educators see that, though sciences, arts and humanities educators bring their own perspectives to learning, these educators use many of the same process skills.
The Innovation Collaborative also is helping develop a deep and firm research base for the STEAM movement. With a sound basis in research-based data, the movement becomes sustainable and not just a passing fad. Policymakers and stakeholders also will need this data.
3. Where does the Collaborative go from here? We have been focused on identifying effective practices at the arts/sciences/humanities intersections in K-12. We now are taking what we’ve learned from identifying top lessons and studying them in K-12 classrooms into out-of-school-time settings, teacher professional development and curriculum development. We will make the tools that arise from these studies widely available. The Collaborative also will continue to develop effective collaboration across disciplines, institutions and learning settings and to use our data to advocate for the importance of this STEAM approach.