Teaching Effectiveness Colloquium set for Nashville

By Mihai Banciu

The Teaching Effectiveness Colloquium will be held Nov. 13-16 in Nashville. Image © elen1 |

The Teaching Effectiveness Colloquium will be held Nov. 13-16 in Nashville. Image © elen1 |

On behalf of the INFORMS 2016 organizing committee, it is my pleasure to invite you to participate in the Teaching Effectiveness Colloquium (TEC), to be held Nov. 11-12, the Friday and Saturday preceding the INFORMS Annual Meeting in beautiful Nashville, Tenn. TEC is part of the 2016 INFORMS Combined Colloquia (together with the Doctoral Student Colloquium and the New Faculty Colloquium).

As in the previous years, TEC brings together a select number of faculty experts and interested participants, with the goal of discussing current “best practices” regarding pedagogical effectiveness and to provide an environment for networking. We particularly invite interested graduate students about to enter the academic market, as well as current faculty members in the OR/MS/analytics community who are interested in sharpening or expanding their teaching skills.

My first interaction with TEC was in my last year of graduate school when I participated in both TEC and what was then the Future Academician Colloquium. I confess that I do not remember much about the Future Academician session (except that it was impressed on us that we all need to write papers, publish them in Management Science and forget about teaching – at least until we’re tenured), but I do remember that I was engaged with TEC throughout the day. Part of this is the obvious information asymmetry: As doctoral students in high-intensity research institutions we receive plenty of mentoring about how to conduct quality research, but somehow when it comes to teaching – either a recitation session or a large introductory undergraduate class – we’re given a book and the marching orders to “go teach.”

TEC was the first time I could actually see how other people think about teaching, and I could learn from the best! Even now, after – ahem – several years, I remember from that day the Jeopardy!-style game approach to pop quizzes about O.R. concepts; how to make good use of sports data to teach probability and statistics, as well as other activities that I have adopted, refined and successfully used in some of the classes that I have taught over the years. In the end, I started working at an institution that is very serious about both teaching and scholarship. Last year, it was so rewarding to read in my tenure letter that students were extremely satisfied with my classroom performance (in the interest of full disclosure, I also did not forget the advice on publishing, either). This was possible in no small measure because of that day when I first attended TEC.

This year’s colloquium features a wide variety of high-quality speakers from business and engineering schools who will address different aspects of incorporating effective teaching techniques in any undergraduate or graduate curriculum. From active learning strategies to practical lessons on optimization, from case-based teaching to leveraging social media in the classroom, we hope that you will find something interesting and applicable!

In order to give you a better sense of the faculty participants, here is a brief synopsis of all the confirmed talks. Jeff Camm (Wake Forest University) will discuss the practical importance of exploratory optimization and scenario modeling. Laura McLay (University of Wisconsin-Madison) will address the use of blogs and social media as teaching tools. Matt Bailey (Bucknell University) will discuss his experience teaching spreadsheet-based undergraduate analytics courses with the purpose of generating insights, not necessarily focusing on the “right” answer. Prakash Mirchandani (University of Pittsburgh) and Jim Cochran (University of Alabama) will each talk about their particular classroom approaches to stimulate active learning. Amy Cohn (University of Michigan) will discuss her experiences running a multi-disciplinary/multi-“generational” lab (where both undergraduate and graduate students from different majors work together) and how to merge research with the educational mission of the academic institution. Finally, Fredrik Ødegaard (Western University) will talk about the tactical problem of organizing and delivering case-based courses, drawing from his experience at the Ivey School of Business, one of the world’s leading case-based business schools.

The last part of the colloquium is usually reserved for an activity that brings together all of the participants, presenters and audience members. In the past, depending on the audience’s interest, we have hosted open forums in a Q&A panel style, or we have had members of the audience form groups and deliver a presentation based on the insights they gathered during the day. Since this session is all about effective pedagogy, and one of the tenets of that is to know your audience, we will see what the best approach is once we have an idea about who our participants are. So, if you haven’t already, go ahead and pester your department chair for a nomination letter and send in your application.

To be eligible for consideration, an individual must be a:

  • member of INFORMS or have applied for membership at the time of the nomination; and
  • faculty member or instructor in one of INFORMS’ constituent disciplines or be within one year of completing all degree requirements for a Ph.D. in one of INFORMS’ constituent disciplines.

Faculty members who have attended a previous year’s TEC may be nominated again, but preference will be given to first-time nominees should there be a capacity constraint. A complete nomination by the department will include a:

  1. letter of recommendation from the department chair;
  2. list of OR/MS courses taught or expected to be taught by the nominee;
  3. list of INFORMS teaching effectiveness colloquia and workshops that the nominee has attended in the past; and
  4. mailing address, e-mail address and phone number of the nominee.

Send your Teaching Effectiveness Colloquium packages (electronic nominations as a single .pdf file) and requests for more information to Mihai Banciu ( I am looking forward to seeing you in November.

Mihai Banciu is an associate professor of Operations and Decision Sciences in the School of Management at Bucknell University.