The new Teaching + Learning Commons officially opened on Monday morning at a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by Chancellor Pradeep Khosla, University Librarian Brian Schoettlaender and several other university administrators. Located on the lower floor in the northwest corner of Geisel Library, the Teaching + Learning Commons provides students and faculty with resources to become more engaged in their respective roles.
Among the services provided by the Teaching + Learning Commons are syllabus guidance and faculty development for educators, writing consultations for graduate students, course-specific active learning support for teaching assistants, tutoring and supplemental instruction for undergraduate students and many other programs for each group. The goals of the facility include gathering data to examine the state of teaching and learning at UCSD and assisting educators in becoming more effective.
During his remarks at the ribbon cutting ceremony, Chancellor Khosla noted that the university has historically been concerned with research, its reputation and recruiting great faculty, and asserted that it should have focused on improving undergraduate resources as well.
“Going forward, [UCSD] cannot just be focused on masters and PhDs and research because as time goes on…[undergraduates] are the young men and women who are going to make a big impact out there, and they have to own a piece of us,” Khosla said
However, Khosla declared, the Teaching + Learning Commons is a demonstration of the university’s intention to increase its dedication to undergraduates.
“They have to own us emotionally…intellectually… with their resources, so this Teaching and Learning Commons is just one step at stepping up our commitment to undergraduate education, stepping up our commitment to undergraduates in general and making sure that undergraduate education is at least on par [with], if not [better than] … graduate education and research,” Khosla stated.
Many at the ceremony attributed the Teaching + Learning Commons to Executive Vice Chancellor Suresh Subramani, who explained to the Guardian that the idea to create the Commons stemmed from his desire to expand the reach of the Center for Teaching Development to all campus educators.
“We had a Center for Teaching Development, and that started off as a TA training place and workshop… out of that, through the CAPE reports, when some faculty had some deficiency in teaching or perceived deficiency in teaching, they would get sent to the Center for Teaching Development, almost like remedial school,” Subramani stated. “This really ignored the fact that even as teachers we are learning from our students, and we give out distinguished teaching awards, so I felt why can’t we take the best teachers and let them show other faculty what outstanding teaching looks like, because none of us were really taught how to teach.”
Schottlaender told the Guardian that Subramani initially approached him about placing the Commons on the eighth floor. However, those heading the project eventually decided that the bottom floor contained a much better space, as it is larger with a more continuous floor plan for the facility.
Although the Teaching and Learning Commons only recently opened its doors, those involved are already forming ideas for how to expand the Commons in the future.
Schottlaender predicted that due to the numerous similarities in programs and spaces offered by Geisel Library and the Teaching + Learning Commons, the two facilities may work together in the future to combine their resources.
“Both spaces that we have […] are similar. They have classroom space, and we have classroom space. Services that we have are similar. They have peer advisors. We have peer advisors,” Schottlaender said. “I anticipate, once they get settled in and sort of figure out what they’re doing in the next year or so, that we will begin to use each other’s spaces to deliver similar kinds of services.”
Getting the Teaching + Learning Commons off the ground will not be without its difficulties, Faculty Director Gabriele Wienhausen explained. Several steps that are part of the opening process still need to be finished.
“This is brand new, and that means you have to start hiring people; you have to develop programs; you have to find spaces for the programs, so each step is a challenge,” Wienhausen told the Guardian. “Building a team is a challenge, but then [there is] also expanding and finding a space for offering all the great stuff we are doing.”
Despite these current obstacles, Wienhausen’s vision of a successful Teaching + Learning Commons is a facility in which “all students can be successful and all faculty feel that they are the best teachers that they can be.”