Faculty members use PETAL platform to bolster teaching talents

By Kelly Montoya and Amanda M. Perez

Faculty members use PETAL platform to bolster teaching talents

By Kelly Montoya and Amanda M. Perez
The University of Miami is elevating the art of teaching by launching the Platform for Excellence in Teaching and Learning website, which makes new resources available to all faculty members looking to refresh their skills.

University of Miami faculty members from all schools and disciplines are mastering their craft by becoming exemplary teachers. 

The Platform for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (PETAL) is helping educators take their teaching to the next level by offering an academy for faculty members to learn and practice pedagogical innovation by providing access to innovative approaches to teaching and learning, convening thought leaders for teaching and learning, and recognizing faculty members’ excellence at the University. 

Now, the newly launched PETAL website provides a centralized repository for teaching resources across the University. This includes PETAL activities, opportunities available through the Division of Continuing and International Education and Academic Technologies, programs, and activities and resources across the schools and colleges. 

Laura Kohn-Wood, dean of the School of Education and Human Development explained that research expertise does not always translate into excellence in teaching disciplinary or academic subject matter or for understanding the best way for students to learn. “Beyond learning how to be a good teacher in the classroom, faculty face the challenge of being rewarded primarily for research productivity and are not recognized nor rewarded for teaching excellence,” she said. 

Ashley Falcon, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing and Health Studies, decided to take part in a PETAL program to learn effective strategies on how to approach challenging conversations with students in public health. 

“As an educator, I am always looking for new and better ways of teaching that excites students about the learning process. I found that taking part in the PETAL program was very useful because I was able to connect with a diverse group of colleagues, which allowed me to hear and see things I haven’t before that I can implement in the classroom,” said Falcon. 

Kohn-Wood said that she believes that exceptional teaching should be valued and recognized and we should all be concerned with optimizing student learning in higher education. 

“PETAL is a platform for advancing the very best practices in teaching by providing and coalescing training opportunities for faculty. In addition to existing teaching-related resources and programming, we started the Institutional Academy for Teaching Excellence, designed as a series of pedagogy workshops for new and current faculty,” she said. 

Allan Gyorke, assistant provost for educational innovation, explains that the program is structured in a way that gives faculty members the help they need to fulfill challenges they face in the classroom. 

“We identify these needs by talking with faculty from different schools to learn what obstacles they’re facing and create programs around those [needs] in order to ensure that we have the resources available to support faculty to become outstanding teachers,” he said. 

Last year PETAL initiated their Course Mentors program, which is a peer-based program for faculty members interested in improving a particular aspect of their teaching. 

“Faculty members meet regularly throughout the semester in small groups led by a faculty mentor and an instructional designer,” explained Kohn-Wood. “Topics have ranged from ‘incorporating technology’ to ‘difficult conversations’ to ‘teaching large lectures more effectively.’ ” 

This year the Course Mentors program has expanded and now offers seven different topics of interest and is seeking to involve all faculty members, particularly those who can benefit from reflectively refreshing their teaching skills, regardless of experience or seniority. 

“We have hosted a range of speakers who have addressed topics such as ‘Teaching Gen Z’ We hope to add future opportunities to advance the concept of teaching as intellectual work, across all campuses and all faculty lines,” Kohn-Wood noted.

PETAL is a key initiative in the University’s strategic plan to shape and lead the educational revolution by advancing the art of teaching and the science of learning in partnership with students, alumni, and others across the entire adult learning life cycle and by investing in academic technology, new pedagogical approaches, and educational outcomes research. 

Noting the importance of creating a comprehensive PETAL resource website, Kohn-Wood said that she is excited that “faculty will have a one-stop shop for registering for events; finding curated information, including the library’s new LibGuide for PETAL related resources; and for finding assistance for teaching needs, questions, and concerns.”

Visit the PETAL website for more information.