Collaboration. Creativity. Coffee.

Monthly faculty meetup encourages innovation in the classroom

Photo: CollabratoryBy Erica Techo

Dressing up as characters from the Wizard of Oz. A board game covering social determinants of health. Tossing squishy balls labeled with germs. All of these are innovative teaching practices implemented by faculty at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing.

A monthly meetup among faculty centered on innovation, inspiration and encouragement aims to expand this type of creativity in the classroom.

“These innovative teaching methods are important and help keep students engaged throughout longer lectures and classes,” said Assistant Professor and Director of Instructional Innovation Nancy Wingo, PhD, MA. “We wanted to create a safe space for faculty to discuss and develop new ideas for teaching.”

Wingo, along with Assistant Professor Cathy Roche, PhD, RN, organize and host Coffee in the Collaboratory, an initiative that introduces faculty to new technology within the School, alternative lesson plans and more.

“We found ourselves discussing innovative strategies when we left undergraduate faculty meetings,” Roche said. “Nancy and I saw an opportunity, an opening, for a designated spot centered on collaboration.”

Each monthly the Coffee in the Collaboratory meetup starts with an ice breaker to encourage conversation, followed by a brief presentation on equipment or a successful teaching strategy.

“We structure these meetups in a way where faculty are encouraged to participate. It’s not a lecture, it’s a discussion,” Roche said. “We thought the School’s new Innovation Collaboratory would be a great venue because of the technology it has and the collaborative atmosphere.”

After a brief, and typically interactive presentation, faculty are encouraged to ask questions. This leads to further brainstorming and new ideas, Roche said.

“What typically happens is people realize how easy it is to implement these ideas,” Roche said. “We can see a shift away from innovation being a burdensome task and instead see people opening up to the change. Nurses are very resourceful by nature, and these discussions and ideas are a natural extension of that.”

In addition to holding discussions, Coffee in the Collaboratory also offers a safe space to learn, practice and, sometimes, make mistakes.

“Innovation can be messy because it requires some trial and error,” Wingo said. “By providing a safe environment to try out these strategies and offer support, we can encourage the practice of innovation. What we don’t want is just a few innovators. We want to make this a pervasive culture.”

Last modified on August 17, 2019

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