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Photographs Give Professors New View on Teaching

4/24/2014 —

Photographer and Educator Martin Springborg visited the classrooms of four Penn State Mont Alto professors – Lauraine Hawkins, assistant professor of biology; Freya Qually, senior instructor in art; David Seitz, assistant professor of communication arts and sciences; and Kimberly Herrmann, assistant professor of physics – on April 24, taking their photographs as part of “Teaching and Learning through the Lens of Photography.”

Sponsored by The Penn State University Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence, the initiative will give faculty an opportunity to look at their teaching in a different way, according to Schreyer’s Executive Director Angela Linse. She and Springborg will visit four Penn State campuses – Berks, Harrisburg, Mont Alto, and York – to complete the project, which will culminate in an exhibit at the Schreyer Institute in University Park, Pa. In addition, Springborg, who teaches photography and art history in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, will consult with each professor about how the photographs capture their unique teaching and communication styles.

“Hopefully, each campus will also do an exhibit,” said Linse, who sees the project as an opportunity to build relationships with the Schreyer Institute among Penn State campuses. Furthermore, the photography will be used in university publications.

Teaching and Learning” is part of Springborg’s ongoing, national photo-documentary project on teaching and learning in higher education. He started the project in 2005 while teaching a beginning photography course. He and his students documented their lives outside of the classroom, and the project revealed the daily challenges both students and faculty face in teaching and learning, and balancing it with the rest of their lives. From there, the project grew as he moved to other positions and institutions, broadening the scope of the project.

Photographs are an effective way to communicate the full spectrum of work faculty do, and can generate a greater understanding of their profession, according to Springborg. “The focus of this phase is to photograph faculty in their classrooms and offices, prepping for class, teaching, conducting office hours,” said Springborg, “showing the full picture of what faculty members do in their working lives.”

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