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Oxford hosts conference on art of teaching

OXFORD -- Teachers from Newton High School, Georgia Perimeter College, Oxford College, Emory University and other post-secondary institutions from across the state convened on the Oxford campus last week to study pedagogy, or the art of teaching.

For the fourth year, Oxford College sponsored a free conference, the Institute for Pedagogy in the Liberal Arts.

"It's meant to showcase Oxford College as a place where teaching and learning is a primary focus," said Jeff Galle, an English professor and director of the Center of Academic Excellence at Oxford College that presents the event. "We also want to provide time ... when faculty can come together to share best practices."

When the institute originally started four years ago, it only was open to Oxford College staff, but this is the second year the college has invited educators from other institutions to its campus. This year also included educators from Georgia Southern University, Georgia Gwinnett College, Dalton State University and the University of West Georgia.

This year, the college received 140 applications to the program but only could accept 56, after originally expecting 35 individuals.

For several hours for four days this past week, groups of educators participated in sessions regarding inquiry-based learning, to get students to think deeper and outside of the box; team-based learning; and blended learning, to incorporate technologies into the classroom.

Florian Pohl, assistant professor of religion at Oxford College, has participated in the conference several times and said that it still helps him in his classroom.

"I enjoy being around people who care about teaching, and that's motivating," he said. "It spotlights certain aspects of teaching to focus and explore them from different angles."

And although most of the educators who attended the conference came from post-secondary institutions, it also included several teachers from Newton High School's Academy of Liberal Arts, which is a partnership with Oxford College that increases academic rigor and expectations for certain students who apply to the program.

Shelbie Dixon, a biology teacher at Newton who will teach in the ALANHS program next year, attended parts of the conference with a few other Academy teachers this past week.

"I think it will help me as a teacher, and it's something I can go back and share with my colleagues," she said Friday. "It's a remarkable experience to connect and work with college-level professors."

Dixon said it especially introduced her to more technology options for her students and ways to implement them in a cost-effective manner.

"It takes it to a new level of teaching," she said. "This allowed me to get skills and information to go and modify my teaching strategies."

The application period for the institute generally opens up in January or February, and it is held each May the week after Oxford College's graduation.