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Faculty Profile: Hoekstra tackles teacher training

By Sally Jongsma

Barb Hoekstra

Barb Hoekstra

Dr. Barb Hoekstra, Dordt’s new coordinator for instruction, describes her office as “a revolving door of information for professors.” Hoekstra, who also helps assess student learning, is a resource for faculty looking to improve their teaching. Sometimes ideas leave her office within minutes of when they come in. It’s happened that a faculty member shared an idea that Hoekstra thought the next person might be able to use, so she passed it on in her next meeting.

Hoekstra, who has taught both in junior high and in Dordt’s education department, loves teaching and thought she’d miss the classroom more than she does. But she’s finding her new work exciting.

“Anytime I can talk about teaching, that’s a good day,” she says. And in many ways she is still teaching.

Hoekstra’s schedule has increased dramatically since she began in September. As more people learn what she’s doing and as she talks to more individual faculty members, others come to share ideas or glean them. So far she’s spent considerable time consulting individually with newer faculty, going over student evaluations with them to find areas to focus on, reviewing course syllabi and giving suggestions for constructing them, and discussing ideas for classroom activities that might be effective for a particular discipline or teaching style.

She also finds other ways to assist faculty in their work: she sends out articles or other information of pedagogical interest via e-mail; she joins the weekly New Faculty Orientation Seminar to better understand the pedagogical issues and concerns of new faculty; she conducted a faculty needs assessment to learn what issues and ideas faculty want help with; she’s offered “short courses” like the one this fall on understanding and administering student evaluation-of-teaching forms; and she’s planning a faculty workshop for January.

“Most college professors are not trained in teaching, they’re trained in their discipline,” says Dr. Rockne McCarthy, vice president for academic affairs. Hoekstra’s new position provides an easy way for faculty to get information about current pedagogical practice and, if they wish, help in how they can improve individually. The student evaluation forms provide information about what teachers do well and also about what they can do to improve.

“There’s much more information available than just the percentages listed,” says McCarthy, who adds that it takes some understanding and time to get at all of the helpful information available. Part of Hoekstra’s job is to help faculty use and benefit from these evaluations.

As Hoekstra looks ahead, the ways to assist faculty keep multiplying in her mind. She believes that one-on-one conversations will continue to be important. Borrowing from the Habitat for Humanity slogan, she’s working with “One teacher at a time” to help faculty think about the way they teach, listen to their concerns, and offer suggestions they can use. She also hopes to get faculty talking together more about how they teach, to set up books discussions that a variety of people could benefit from, and to formalize a mentoring program.

“Dordt faculty want to be the best teachers they can be. Hoekstra’s work can help them achieve that goal,” says McCarthy.