Jay Howard has served as dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and professor of sociology at Butler University since 2010. This year, he is adding a new title: member of the Board of Advisors for The P.A. Mack Center for Inquiry on Teaching and Learning at Indiana University.
According to its website: “The Mack Center enhances teaching by advancing the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). The center stimulates inquiry in SoTL, promotes the results of those inquiries, and fosters educational excellence at Indiana University and internationally.”
The Mack Center is administered by The Faculty Colloquium on Excellence in Teaching, a community of Indiana University faculty members who are committed to being—and helping others to be—exceptional teachers.
Howard will serve on the Mack Advisory Committee with seven others.
Howard said The Mack Center is important because, while university faculty members typically receive extensive preparation for the research-aspect of their job, they get little training on the role of actually being a teacher.
“It is appropriate that all faculty should be scholarly teachers— that they should be aware of what the research has to say about how to facilitate student learning in higher education and seek to apply that professional knowledge in their classrooms,” Howard said. “There is a need that at least some faculty conduct research on teaching and learning in higher education to build up that knowledge base. The Mack Center at Indiana University seeks to promote this work by funding fellows who are working on an SoTL project and providing mentoring and guidance to assist in the completion of those projects.”
Howard was a member of the first class of Mack Fellows (2004-2005) and worked on a project related to student participation in college classroom discussion. He studied the contribution of introductory sociology courses to general education learning goals. He has since published multiple research articles based on that work.
Howard said that, while the Mack Center has focused primarily on Indiana University faculty, there is a desire to expand the work beyond IU. That’s why he was approached to become a member of the steering committee to help the center determine how to promote its work.
“In many ways IU has been at the national and international forefront of innovative thinking about teaching and learning,” Howard said, “I am honored to have the opportunity to help bring the benefits of those efforts to other institutions, particularly smaller universities like Butler.”
Howard said he believes that, if more faculty conduct research on their own teaching and become more aware of what works (and what doesn’t), the end result will be greater student learning —“a goal we all share.”