CELT's mission remains unchanged for two decades

Editors' note: Look for future stories in Inside Iowa State about innovative teaching practices faculty are implementing across campus. This story introduces CELT, The Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, a catalyst for creative teaching methods.

The Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) hits the 20-year mark this year. And while teaching practices and methods have evolved since 1993, the center's primary focus -- to positively impact student learning by helping faculty and graduate students become effective teachers -- never has wavered.

The mission of CELT

For 20 years, CELT's mission has been to:

  • Support, promote and enhance teaching effectiveness and student learning
  • Encourage scholarship of teaching and learning
  • Communicate the importance of teaching and learning to both internal and external audiences
  • Serve as a catalyst for learning-centered education

CELT accomplishes its mission through various workshops, including those focused on general faculty development, graduate student teaching, online education and effective use of learning technology.

Contact CELT

"Where we are today is a result of how we've changed and responded to what faculty and graduate students need in order to be successful in the classroom," said Ann Marie VanDerZanden, CELT director. "Initially, we were more focused on workshops, but as web tools have developed, our online resources have developed as well."

Advances in technology during the past two decades certainly have impacted CELT's focus. But VanDerZanden cautions that technology doesn't replace effective teaching.

"Technology is just a tool. If you don't have good pedagogy and an understanding of what you want to do in your teaching, then it doesn't matter what tool you're using, be it an app or a chalkboard," she said.

Help for new faculty

If you're a new ISU faculty member, you'll want to tap into CELT's workshops and online resources.

"We can provide a way to put some structure around a class, to organize it in a way to help faculty be efficient and create ways to document what they've done, what has been successful, and to put that into their annual review and promotion and tenure materials," VanDerZanden said.

That initial contact often leads to additional brainstorming sessions.

"What we find is that we'll get faculty who come back after their second or third time teaching the class, and we help them figure out what they want to do next. How do they want to grow? What worked, what didn't?" VanDerZanden said. "I see that as a really exciting opportunity because if we show faculty the value of CELT, then they can be a returning client."

CELT assists experienced faculty, too

Faculty with several years of teaching experience also may benefit from CELT through learning about new and innovative teaching methods. For example, a faculty member who usually engages in lecture-based teaching may find that other teaching approaches, such as team-based learning, could enhance the students' learning experience.

VanDerZanden said one of the new challenges experienced faculty also face is a changing student body.

"The changing demographics of our student population creates a series of different experiences that need to be addressed, whether it's language or cultural or other issues. We can help experienced faculty address those," she said.

Increased enrollment presents new challenges as well. VanDerZanden foresees more blended learning -- online learning coupled with class time -- to free up lecture halls for more classes.

"There's some really great conversations going on between our administration and facilities management," she said. "We have some strong leadership, and people are thinking in unique and innovative ways."

Teaching methods will continue to change, but one constant remains, according to VanDerZanden.

"CELT has changed and adapted as the teaching field has grown, but with that said, our end focus is still the same: Helping faculty be effective in the classroom to positively impact student learning."