Faculty Spotlight: “Anime to Zen”, a Team-Based Learning Adventure

History of Art 392: “Anime to Zen” has provided multiple opportunities for collaboration between Professor Kevin Carr and LSA Technology Services in our Active Learning Learning classrooms.
by Elizabeth Fomin, Instructional Consultant and Ana Lucena, Technology Experience Specialist

Kevin Carr, associate professor in the Department of the History of Art, taught a course in the winter 2024 term titled “Anime to Zen: Japanese Art through Contemporary Popular Culture” (History of Art 392). It was taught in the Classroom in the Round in the Central Campus Classroom Building (CCCB 2420). He, alongside co-instructors GSIs Allison Grenda and Róisín Lacey-McCormac, led around 75 students through a novel learning experience. The class has provided multiple opportunities for collaboration with LSA Technology Services over the years.

Kevin Carr practices techniques with his colleagues before the winter 2020 semester.

This collaboration began before the winter 2020 term when Professor Carr invited several consultants from LSA Technology Services and eleven of his colleagues to participate in a short, mock class to familiarize himself and his team with the technology and pacing of the class, which was then held in the Biological Sciences Building (BSB 1060). This particular classroom has advanced sound and lighting, and includes tables and hidden screens that can be raised when students are working in groups. Each team table can accommodate six students.

Professor Carr prepared his students right away for a new style of teaching and learning. He provided some context for his students during the lecture by explaining what an Active Learning Classroom is. “The classroom looks different. You will be sitting with a small team of your classmates from your discussion section. Though you will be graded individually, a lot of your time in the general class meetings will be spent talking to your classmates in your group. This is part of the reason it is called a ‘flipped’ classroom.” He also highlighted the unknown territory the instructors were embarking on. “This kind of learning environment may be new to many of you, and it is certainly for us. So, this class will be inherently experimental (hello, guinea pigs), but we are convinced the long-term rewards are worth stepping out of our pedagogical and hierarchical comfort zones.”

Professor Kevin Carr

Professor Carr was interested in moving away from the “sage on the stage” style teaching by being in an Active Learning classroom. “In previous incarnations of this class, the ‘lecture’ meetings were really just that: 80 minutes of me talking, barraging the class with images, ideas, and occasionally getting minor input from students. Trust me. No one should have to sit through that for a whole semester. Not only is it often boring, but it is not conducive to learning. We feel there is another way of teaching that is both more enjoyable and more effective than this: team-based learning.” This is no small feat, as “Anime to Zen” consistently has a high number of students enrolled.

Elizabeth Fomin, a Senior Instructional Consultant, worked with Professor Carr in March 2023 to do a classroom study of “Anime to Zen”. It was taught in CCCB Classroom in the Round (CCCB 2420), and again this winter 2024 semester. Professor Carr’s class was used as an example for a seminar series put on by the Learning & Teaching Consultants in LSA Technology Services titled “Building a Culture of Care”. Fomin believes Professor Carr is a great educator and says, “He is very well-liked by students [and] is very well-spoken.” She also believes the course makes use of the special features of a TBL classroom by having students get up and self-organize.

There were three different sessions for the “Building a Culture of Care” series. It discussed how to create a supportive learning environment where students had a sense of trust and belonging, which has been shown to increase investment in learning. The second session was titled “Caring Course Activities” and featured active learning in “Anime to Zen”. This included having students split up in groups of six to prepare answers for discussion questions before sharing them in class. The questions were projected onto circular screens above the students in the CCCB Classroom in the Round. Another element of a culture of care in the course is how Professor Carr encourages students to be part of the greater community, including outside the university. An example was Professor Carr talking to his students about the GEO strike, how it could impact the class, and how they could support their GSIs.

Active Learning classrooms, Team-Based Learning classrooms, and the Classroom in the Round have become increasingly requested by faculty as they provide more opportunities for active learning. With the support of the LSA Technology Services Learning & Teaching Consultants, the scope of new activities that can be used in the classroom can only grow.

Release Date: 05/06/2024
Category: Innovate Newsletter
Tags: Technology Services
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