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K-State Today

July 8, 2016

Architecture professor presents pedagogical research at two international teaching and learning conferences

Submitted by Mick Charney

Mick Charney, associate professor of architecture and university distinguished teaching scholar, conducted the workshop "Decoding Disney: Translating Imagineering Tricks into Teaching Strategies" at the Teaching Professor Conference, June 3-5, in Washington, D.C.

Charney is an honorary Walt Disney Imagineer. His workshop demonstrated a comprehensive approach to reflective teaching by borrowing the practices of the Walt Disney Co. and then finding parallels to best practices in the classroom. Charney initiated his discussion with the observation that, as Walt Disney himself once philosophized, there is great enchantment in the discovery of knowledge and, conversely, some grain of wisdom in any entertainment.

The magic of Disney entertainment, conjured up through unobtrusive deployments of imaginatively engineered contrivances, cloaks an indomitable enterprise so masterfully structured that its operational practices are readily adaptable to many other workaday situations, including the classroom. Charney enumerated an array of clever Imagineering tricks — from "plussing," to hidden Mickeys, to cross-utilization — and then guided workshop participants in the translation of those tricks into a variety of pedagogical strategies that would be applicable across all disciplines and suitable for any teaching format.

Charney also has been invited to present "The End of Lectures: Interpreting Students' Positive Perceptions of Large Classes" at the International Conference on Learning, July 13-15, at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

While the time-honored large lecture teaching format remains the signature pedagogy of so many introductory courses in so many disciplines precisely because it facilitates massive information transfers to multitudes of students, it has nevertheless been roundly condemned for its passivity in contrast to more constructivist or active learning pedagogies.

Indeed, large lecture may be perceived as a meme for everything that is wrong with higher education but a recent 2015 survey of more than 500 K-State undergraduates finds that they are not as averse to lecturing as one might suspect. Although strongly opinionated about what constitutes good lecturing, students generally believe that such classes can be effective and that listening to a competently delivered lecture can be valued as much as any form of more active engagement.

Additionally, the survey found that large amounts of integrated technologies and classroom activities are significantly less important to students than the instructor's passion, expertise and organizational skills. Based on survey data, Charney will suggest ways by which instructors can achieve the true end goals of lecturing and thereby reclaim the art of lecturing for a new age.

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