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CIRTL Network Exchange Experience
As a former Michigan State University FAST (Future Academic Scholars in Teaching) Fellow, I got the opportunity to participate in the CIRTL Network Exchange Program. Here is a summary of my CIRTL Network Exchange from my home campus to UW Madison on November 16th -19th 2010:
One of the most valuable lessons I took from my CIRTL network exchange was the amount of preparation that it takes to organize and arrange for a visit. The weeks before my network exchange I got very little sleep, partly because of my disciplinary research, on the plant circadian clock, which had me up at odd hours, and also because I was preparing for the talks I was going to be giving during the exchange. I gave several practice talks, one on my teaching-as-research (TAR) to the current MSU Fast Fellows, and two on my disciplinary research. I’ve given talks on the MSU campus before, and I’ve gone through a grueling comprehensive exam, but I didn’t want to embarrass myself or my PI, so I made sure I prepared for every possible question I could think of for my disciplinary research. I read at least one recent paper from each of the faculty members that I had scheduled to meet one-on-one with. I also got more familiar with recent papers on teaching-as-research, a ‘CIRTL pillar’ I’ve been involved with through my Fast Fellowship for about a year and a half. Because of these strenuous hours leading up to my UW Madison visit, the actual exchange almost felt like a vacation. I had done the prep work and there wasn’t much I could change once I arrived at the Concourse Hotel in Madison.
I had my disciplinary talk on November 17th, in a set weekly Arabidopsis seminar series in Biochemistry. I think the talk went well overall. I got several questions during the talk and continued the discussion with my host lab during lunch. I met with three faculty members after the lab lunch. My first faculty meeting was a little rough since we tried to discuss my teaching as research project without the visuals of the actual teaching module. The second and third meetings went much smoother; they too wanted to discuss my teaching-as-research but I immediately pulled out my teaching-module for visual aids. I had great dinner with CIRTL Faculty and Delta interns and I returned to the hotel by 8pm to practice my TAR talk a few times before bed.
The next day I had breakfast with Delta Faculty before my TAR talk at 10am. I thought my TAR talk (on a teaching module I developed on the plant circadian clock as an ecology focused model for gene regulation) went well overall, I had several questions during my talk and it seemed to generate a lot of discussion following. I then did a CIRTL Coffee hour at the Science house (I was surprised that it was actually a house) then met with the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center’s Education and Outreach, two more faculty members, and then attended a Plant Biology seminar talk.
The CIRTL network exchange was an extremely valuable experience. I’m going to take a lot of the suggestions made during my TAR talk to improve my teaching module when I use it again during spring semester 2011. I now feel more comfortable with a lot of the literature associated with both TAR and my own disciplinary research, which probably helped during a recent committee meeting. The exchange also solidified my interest in continuing teaching-as-research and I hope to keep in contact with many of the people I met during my stay at UW Madison.
-Malia A. Dong