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Teaching together, learning together

DCAL opens its doors in new Baker-Berry location

At a festive ceremony on Sept. 23, the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning (DCAL) was formally dedicated in its new space in the Baker-Berry Library. A symposium the following day, "Teaching Scholars: The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at Dartmouth," offered current thinking on pedagogy, comments from faculty members across the campus and a deeper look into how the Center will play a role in the continual rejuvenation of Dartmouth's teaching and learning environment.

The staff of DCAL
The staff of DCAL, l-r: Vicki May, Associate Director for Math and Science; Susan Fliss, Director of Education and Outreach, Library; Thomas Luxon, Cheheyl Professor, Director of DCAL; Sarah Horton, Instructional Technologist, Curricular Computing; Diane Chamberlain, Administrative Assistant; David Abbott, Senior Lecturer in Physics and Astronomy and Special Assistant for Graduate Teaching Assistants; Karen Gocsik, Executive Director, Writing Program. (Photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

Symposium participants included Thomas Luxon, DCAL Director and Dartmouth's first Cheheyl Professor; Lee Shulman, President of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching; Barry Scherr, Provost and Mandel Family Professor of Russian; G. Christian Jernstedt, Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences and Adjunct Professor of Community and Family Medicine at Dartmouth Medical School (DMS); Steve Swayne, Associate Professor of Music; and Martha McDaniel, Professor and Chair of Anatomy and Surgery and of Community and Family Medicine, DMS.

Established in July 2004, DCAL provides and coordinates services in support of effective teaching, encourages research about teaching and sponsors fellowships for faculty members to pursue pedagogical applications of information technology. The Center's location in Baker-Berry gives it easy access to its major campus partners: the Library, Computing Services, and the Writing Program. "In this new space," said Luxon, "we hope to host many programs, showcase teaching ideas and use telecommunications and information technology to foster at Dartmouth a community of conversation and scholarship about teaching and learning."

Introducing Shulman, Luxon noted that his work as the first Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education and Professor of Psychology at Stanford and his later collaboration with the American Association for Higher Education "laid the conceptual foundations for a reconsideration of the nature of teacher knowledge." Shulman has written about the importance of "teaching as community property," and how the scholarship of teaching fosters a healthy process of change in the higher education culture.

"Men and women who advance the frontiers of knowledge in their disciplines," said Luxon, "are uniquely prepared to teach, not because they possess that knowledge-once it is published, anyone can possess that knowledge-but because they can help others learn how they do what they do." 

Jernstedt, who is also Director of the Dartmouth Center for Educational Outcomes, described emerging research on the brain and on the cognitive processes that occur in real classrooms. "These new insights are raising profound questions about the best roles for teachers and learners," he said. "I think the most exciting frontier confronting us lies within each learner's brain."  For McDaniel, the use of technology in the teaching process has resulted in an innovative Web site on human anatomy, which provides students and others the opportunity to watch videos of muscles, tendons, nerves, ligaments and other body structures. "We and Dartmouth College as a whole believe strongly in creating an 'open-source' product," she said. "We view ourselves and our work as a resource for the worldwide community."

Swayne, who teaches courses in art music from 1700 to the present day, opera, American musical theater, Russian music and American music, described the role technology plays in his classes. "I ask myself," he said. "Am I a good teacher because of the technology I deploy...or in spite of [the technology] I deploy?  I believe that empathy is the conduit for the discoveries I hope my students and I will make together."

Making discoveries together about teaching and learning is a hallmark of the Dartmouth experience and "DCAL's overarching goal," said Luxon, "is to nurture a continuing conversation about teaching and learning-a conversation that connects Dartmouth teachers with each other and with the international conversation that connects Dartmouth around the world. Our students expect us to teach them how to be scholars themselves; learning the best habits of careful scholarship prepares [them] for whatever they pursue after college."

Principal funding for DCAL comes from a gift from Gordon W. Russell '55, establishing the Gordon W. Russell Endowment for the Advancement of Learning, and from R. Stephen Cheheyl '67, endowing the position of the Center's director, the Cheheyl Professor.

By LAUREL STAVIS

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Last Updated: 12/17/08