Announcing Candidacy – HEP Teaching as a Profession Forum Executive Committee

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    Mary Ann Tobin
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    @matobin

    Dear Colleagues,

    I’m honored to have been nominated to serve on the HEP Teaching as a Profession Forum Executive Committee, and I write to introduce myself and my qualifications beyond the information that you’ll find in my MLA Commons Profile or at my personal web site. In brief, as a member of the executive committee, I’d like to expand my efforts helping those who teach today’s students in higher education beyond my work with my clients at Penn State.

    My interest in joining the forum’s executive committee is largely founded in a deep desire to help prepare future and recent PhDs for their careers in higher education, as well as to help those with deeper teaching experience to improve upon their current methods. Although I received pedagogical training in the art of teaching English composition, that preparation was based more on wishful thinking than on reality, and my efforts to improve upon that training were based in trial and error after reading about it, watching others do it, and then testing it out. Twenty years and several faculty and administrative positions later, my current expertise is founded upon evidence- and research-based practices, particularly involving Student Engagement Techniques, outcomes-based course and curriculum design, and Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

    In particular, I’ve taught English composition and literature in face-to-face, online, and blended learning environments for public, private, four-year, two-year, traditional, and online institutions, as a teaching assistant, adjunct faculty member, and as an administrator. In each role, I sought out and implemented the best practices of each type of learning. Besides conducting a deep and thorough curricular alignment, which really gets my cognitive gears going, implementing UDL has been a constant source of “A-ha” and “Why didn’t I think of that before?!” moments for me because it addresses many of the barriers to learning associated with the various physical, cognitive, emotional, psychological, or intellectual impairments that our students encounter. Those are the barriers we often associate with students, because we receive requests for accommodation about them. Only sometimes do we consider the barriers of time, distance, and competing priorities, like work or family obligations. I certainly faced both time and distance barriers as a non-traditional student myself, as well as when working from abroad last year. However, the time management and organizational skills, the frequent and varied means of communication with my colleagues, and, of course, the technology that made it possible for me to work from abroad were essential in overcoming those barriers. The UDL Framework points to many of those means and methods in order to help us craft effective, inclusive learning environments for all of our students, regardless of where or how we teach them.

    Additionally, a very real barrier many of our students face are what Joan Middendorf, David Pace, and Leah Shopkow refer to as bottlenecks to learning, resulting from our students’ difficulty in thinking about things from a particular disciplinary perspective and from their beliefs about what they can and can’t learn to do. When combined, these two learning frameworks (UDL and Decoding the Disciplines) deliver powerful methods that enable us to reach and teach students who previously would not have attained their educational goals. I hope to share these and other strategies with the members of this forum.

    To vote, log into the MLA web site, using your usual username and password.

    Feel free to contact me either by replying to this post, sending a private message through MLA Commons, or by email to matobin@psu.edu.

    Sincerely,

    M A Tobin

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