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Team-teaching concepts increase on Oconee Campus

2019-09-04-Bardsley-Cabaniss-Learning Communities
Dr. Lance Bardsley, right, is collaborating with colleague Dan Cabaniss to teach students about the history and politics of the Civil War and how those interpretations have evolved over time in films through an interdisciplinary learning community this fall on the Oconee Campus. The team-teaching approach is funded by the Liberal Education and America's Promise into Action projects.

As a way to teach University of North Georgia (UNG) students about the history and politics of wars and how those interpretations have evolved over time in films, Dr. Lance Bardsley and Dan Cabaniss are collaborating to present the topic through an interdisciplinary learning community.

This team-teaching approach with students has proven successful for Bardsley, associate professor of political science, and Cabaniss, associate professor of English and journalism. The duo, who are on UNG's Oconee Campus, taught the Cold War and the Vietnam War last academic year through incorporation of lectures, films, question-and-answer sessions, and discussions in back-to-back classes. Both courses were supported through Presidential Innovation Incentive Awards.

"By the end of the class, the students are bringing their own insights to this," said Cabaniss, explaining the class structure encourages critical-thinking skills.

Based on the results, the duo is teaching the Vietnam course again this fall and the Civil War in spring 2020.

"Dr. Bardsley will lecture about the politics of the Civil War to give students a fresher and deeper understanding of the politics that divided the U.S. in the first place," Cabaniss said. "Then I will show films from the 20th century to show how the politics shifted over the course of time and the way politics were reflected in the films."

This team-teaching approach with students has proven successful for Bardsley and Cabaniss.

The pair also aren't the only ones teaching with an interdisciplinary learning community.

Lindsay Bailey, director of student involvement, Dr. Laura Ng, associate professor of English and assistant dean of College of Arts and Letters, and Shane Toepfer, assistant professor of communication, media and journalism, are using the same technique for their "Active Citizenship Learning Community."

The trio are combining the English composition class and communication media class of culture and society to explore active citizenship through pop culture media and writing. By working together during a two-hour time frame three days a week, they can demonstrate how classroom lessons can apply to their lives.

The trio are using Hermione Granger from the "Harry Potter" books as an example. She becomes an active citizen for the protection of elves.

"She is a great character to look at because she is the voice of right and wrong in the books," Ng said.

All three are looking forward to the newest high-impact practice this fall, especially since it generates a bond among the students.

"A learning community helps keep students engaged and helps them find friends," Bailey said.

Toepfer said if the class is a success, he hopes it will be a recurring program on the Oconee Campus.

"I hope the students will follow our lead and see how friendly the faculty and staff work together," he said. "I want them to realize they can collaborate."

Both interdisciplinary learning communities this fall are funded by the Liberal Education and America's Promise (LEAP) into Action projects approved earlier this year. LEAP is an Association of American Colleges and Universities initiative designed to provide institutions of higher education with a practical framework for delivering an inclusive liberal arts education in a complex and diverse world.

UNG faculty and staff may apply for LEAP into Action grants, which allow faculty and staff the time, space and resources to support a small-scale yet impactful creative use of LEAP in their work without the burden of an extensive project, said Jennifer Graff, associate professor of art and LEAP initiative chair.

"Faculty and staff are re-energized in their interactions with students when given the opportunity to change and introduce new things; especially when the institution supports that effort," she said.

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