The basic idea of a Food for Thought session is simple.  We trade a catered lunch for an hour of a group of faculty members' thought time.  Faculty have nothing to prepare in advance--they discuss together a particular problem or issue of general significance to their teaching.

February 25, 2009
Topic: "Small Group Work"
Small groups are a very effective way to increase the amount of work that any one individual student will accomplish during a class period.  When you lecture or even when you hold a whole class discussion, individual students may or may not be fully engaged.  When students are asked to do small group work with good instructions and a precise and pertinent work project, they will be much more engaged and on task.

The group talked about when small group work is optimal, about the goals that are appropriate to small group work, about how to establish groups (depending upon the desired outcome), what kinds of rules to create, how to trouble shoot group activities, and even how to assess the effectiveness of group work.

February 4, 2009
Topic: "Being a Student of Color"
A chance to talk with some students of color to hear what it is like being a student of color at PLNU.  General issues were disucssed, but most about life in the classroom, in the cafeteria and in the dorm.

November 19, 2008
Topic: "Class in the Classroom"
Linda Beail, Professor of Political Science, led this fascinating discussion.  Hidden behind the apparent sameness of our students there is a surprising diversity of class.  We have students whose parents and grandparents have all graduated from college.  We have others who are the very first from either side of their family to get a degree.  We have students whose parents can pay for a year's tuition with a personal check and others who struggle each semester just to buy their books.  How does this diversity impact the work we do with students?  What particular challenges do we face when addressing the needs of our students?  Are there differences that the students themselves are having problems negotiating, where faculty can help model gracious inclusion of all? 

April 23, 2008
Topic: "Who are Our Students?"
PLNU Resident Directors were invited to share about students.  Faculty learned first hand how much important information was gleaned from those who see students in their living environment and who have observed how students spend their time. Learning this has helped faculty understand students better and get a better idea how to support and encourage them in developing academically.

February 20, 2008
Topic: Grading
Obviously grading serves to measure student achievement, but even this is not uncomplicated.  Questions discussed were:  Do faculty measure against an objective benchmark or or relative to others in the class, or measure the amount of change during a course?  Grading can serve as a tool for teaching and motivating.  How can faculty create a grading system that will encourage the kind of learning that is successful? 

November 28, 2007
Topic: "Collaborative Teaching"
Rob Gailey, Director of the Armenian Center, and Jamie Gates, Associate Professor of Sociology, and Director of the Center for Justice and Reconciliation, spoke about a truly ingenious model that they have used--one that brings together two related courses in a significant way for students with a minimal amount of extra work for the two professors.

October 10, 2007
Topic: "How to get the best results out of assigning speeches or oral presentations"
Kathleen Czech, Associate Professor of the Communication and Theater Department, spoke about what students are taught in COM100 about doing presentations as well as sharing various forms that can be used for evaluating student presentations.