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TH!NK initiative proves boon to educators

Transforming the classroom starts with the faculty. Transforming the faculty starts with the TH!NK initiative at NC State.

Faculty looking to take the initiative and strengthen their teaching skills need look no further; the TH!NK initiative encourages NC State faculty to enhance students’ critical and creative thinking skills by fostering engagement in a faculty learning community and providing mentoring and feedback on pedagogical innovations. More than 130 NC State faculty members have transformed their classroom by becoming “TH!NK faculty members”. These educators gain access to professional development workshops providing the tools to  shift their classroom from educator-centered focus instruction methods to evidence-based, student-centered instruction methods that enhance higher-order thinking.

Those TH!NK faculty members who have transformed their classrooms into a TH!NK classroom have seen no shortage of success.

“It follows related models for metacognition,” said Paul Fyfe, associate professor in the Department of English at NC State, “Thus, teaching students to think about thinking—at which courses on reading or comparative textual media can excel—can profoundly impact their educational career.”

For TH!NK, the primary outcome is to give educators the tools they need to steer students to apply critical and creative thinking skills through comprehensive professional development opportunities for faculty. This promotes higher-order thinking, which is followed up with rigorous outcomes assessment to provide means for continual improvement.

“Motivating students helps them to realize that they can learn a great deal, and inspiring them can help them to achieve more than they thought possible,” said Melissa Pasquinelli, associate dept. head, director of graduate programs, and professor in the Textile Engineering department at NC State. Pasquinelli is using her training from the TH!NK program to guide her students into a deeper level of thinking. “One way that I have done that is through the incorporation of an open-ended (but instructor-guided) team project in TE 303,” she said, “where the students choose a textile and they analyze all of the inputs and outputs and then use course topics and their own creativity to propose ideas for making the process more sustainable.”

Becoming a TH!NK Faculty Member

Each year, select NC State Faculty members are chosen to serve as THINK Faculty. This means they’ll receive extensive training in teaching strategies to enhance students’ critical and creative thinking skills. Training includes:

  • Intensive workshops in teaching strategies
  • Support in developing targeted activities and course revisions
  • A workshop for TH!NK Faculty to report on course revisions and innovations
  • Assistance with course implementation
  • Unique opportunities to share pedagogical innovations
  • Funding support to present teaching innovations at national conferences

“The faculty who have come through the program are true innovators in teaching,” said Sue Carson, director of TH!NK, “They are the embodiment of the Think and Do mentality at NC State – striving to enhance their teaching skills through self-reflective thought and then doing just that.”

TH!NK Faculty selected for the program must teach the TH!NK course they implement for a minimum of two consecutive Fall or Spring semesters, and must integrate programmatic assessments into their course; the assessments are designed to also be formative for students. TH!NK Faculty receive a stipend of $2,500, divided over two years.

“It was very exciting, lots of new ideas, high energy, a very collaborative and inspiring environment,” said Maria Gallardo-Williams, director organic chemistry labs in the Department of Chemistry at NC State, “It gave me an opportunity to develop comprehensive assignments for my classes, and I got lots of feedback and suggestions prior to and during implementation.”

How to Apply

If you are interested in joining the TH!NK Faculty, please contact Dr. Sue Carson at sdcarson@ncsu.edu or visit https://think.dasa.ncsu.edu/.

The TH!NK Program is especially interested in engaging cohorts of two or more faculty members who are teaching sections of the same course, as well as cohorts of faculty interested in integrating TH!NK into multiple courses within a major.

“We all can benefit from an opportunity to reflect on our teaching and learn new strategies to make it successful,” said Gallardo-Williams.