Faculty Summer Institute
Blair strategically invests in its faculty, helping them to become the best teachers they can be by supporting their education and professional development. During school breaks, Blair provides funding for faculty to attend professional conferences, complete continuing education courses, enroll in graduate programs, travel, conduct research and collaborate with colleagues on projects that inform their work in the classroom.
Gwyneth Connell, Dean of teaching & learning
To maximize the number of teachers benefiting from such professional development opportunities, Blair created a Faculty Summer Institute in 2017. During two week-long, on-campus programs focused on project-based learning, collaborative work and innovation, faculty members created more than 10 projects to be incorporated into the curriculum across disciplines.
Fifteen-plus teachers and administrators participated in the pedagogy-focused Institute during its first year, all with the goal of designing individually or in teams curricular projects that benefit students—important but time-consuming collaborative work that is often difficult to accomplish during the busy school year. Teachers at all junctures of their careers attended the inaugural Summer Institute, from a music instructor just a few years out of college to a veteran PhD scientist with decades of professional experience.
Projects Across the Curriculum
The resulting projects range from a history-course content analysis of local New Jersey news coverage of Nazism in pre-World War II Germany to a cross-disciplinary fine-and-performing-arts effort to teach video-studies students how to act for film and educate theatre students about the art of filming. Faculty members who attended the inaugural Summer Institute plan to incorporate their projects into Blair's curriculum in during the 2017-2018 school year. But their value will extend far beyond the current academic year by serving as a resource to the faculty as a whole: Blair's academic office will encourage other teachers interested in tackling similar work to consider adding these project-based course plans to their own future curriculum design.
Honing the Art & Craft of Teaching
Meaningful relationships have always been central to the Blair experience, and fostering connections among students and faculty members remains among Blair’s highest priorities. We place an equally high value on teachers honing their art and craft, exposing them to new pedagogies and encouraging them to incorporate into their “toolboxes” approaches that meaningfully impact students and lead to lasting learning. That’s why the annual Summer Faculty Institute emphasizes different methods and gives teachers dedicated and protected time to experiment with them when school is not in session. The collaborative nature of the institute allows Blair teachers to learn from each other and deepen connections among different academic disciplines.
Hands-On Training in New Pedagogies
The Institute includes a mix of guest speakers, feedback sessions, one-on-one instruction and attendee presentations. One 2017 session trains teachers to use equipment available in Blair’s Center for Innovation and Collaboration’s maker space and media production suite, while another focuses more on general practices of project-based learning curriculum design. Going forward, administrators will determine the Institute’s focus each winter and encourage faculty members to engage with colleagues in on-campus collaborative work the following summer. Project-based learning will no doubt continue to be a major focus of Institute programming as other pedagogies are introduced and incorporated across academic departments.