International Professional Development Consultant Leads Faculty Workshop on Campus

Dr. Skip Downing
Dr. Skip Downing

Neumann University faculty recently had the benefit of attending an On Course workshop on campus with Dr. Skip Downing, an international consultant in the field of faculty development and student success strategies. Downing was brought to campus as part of a five year, $1.9 million Title III grant, partly focused on faculty development.

His book, On Course: Strategies for Creating Success in College and In Life (Wadsworth/Cengage Learning), is used in student success courses, FYE programs, and college writing courses at more than 500 colleges and universities. The On Course workshop is a learner centered professional development course designed to provide faculty with innovative strategies for empowering students to become active, responsible and successful learners.

Lori Kaczenski, director of developmental education at Neumann, was familiar with Dr. Downing’s teachings and just how beneficial they can be in the classroom. “I had attended a national conference for developmental education and picked up a guide about the On Course programs. I tried some of the strategies, without any formal training, and the students really responded to it. I talked to Jim KAin about applying it in all of our INT 101 courses. We attended a conference and it grew from there,” she said.

The On Course way of teaching is a philosophy of student engagement that promotes student responsibility and accountability for their own education. Downing uses case studies as a basis for discussion.  This allows students to confront and discuss issues they may be experiencing themselves, but can be somewhat removed from the issue by discussing it through a character in a case study.  Downing structures activities so that students have to make arguments that support the students’ position and choices.  

“Students become very passionate in their discussions and are often called upon to defend and even persuade others of their viewpoint.  This builds critical thinking, communication and presentation skills, not to mention great classroom energy!” said Kaczenski. “Since I started using his approach five years ago, I have seen a totally different classroom. When we got the Title III grant funding, I immediately thought of Dr. Downing,” she said.

“I love that when you leave his presentations you leave with strategies and techniques that you can use in the classroom the next day. Faculty can adapt this strategy in their classrooms and his website even has a breakdown of how to apply the ideas across different subjects,” said Kaczenski.

Downing has earned degrees from Princeton University, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Santa Monica, and Carnegie Mellon University. He was professor of English at Baltimore City Community College (BCCC) for 32 years.  Some of his many honors include being recognized by The American Community College Trustees as its Northeast Region Teacher of the Year and being named in USA Today as one of the 50 best community college instructors in the United States and Canada.

“I am really grateful that Title III grant funding allowed us to bring such a sought after person to campus. I’m excited our faculty has been so open to attending and hearing what Dr. Downing had to say and looking at their own teaching strategies. I’m hoping to continue our faculty development opportunities so we are always improving our quality of instruction,” said Kaczenski.


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