"Excellence through Innovation" featuring Jenny Baumgartner

Jennifer Baumgartner

What does “Excellence through Innovation” mean to you in regards to teaching practices?

Innovation is really about bringing about positive change. At its core, it is solving problems or challenges. When we think about innovation and teaching- this means we are findings new ways to better meet the needs of our students. And when we find better ways to do this- we help our students excel.

How do you believe you portray these practices in your everyday teaching instruction?

I am always looking for ways to approach learning. To me, this search for new ideas is a big part of what makes teaching fun - it's the creative process. I love to do this through community. When I came to LSU, I sought out a community of faculty who were also interested in teaching, immediately plugging in with my wonderful colleagues in Communication across the Curriculum, service learning and the knowledgeable folks at the Faculty Technology Center. When I started teaching, I was concerned that my knowledge of tech wasn't very strong, so each semester I would go to Faculty Technology Center and find something new to try like a new tool in Moodle or a new approach. I am always building my tool box. I also have benefited from other experts. One of my favorite resources is the "Teaching in Higher Ed" podcast. You can find resources to help address almost any teaching question. And more recently, I am finding wonderful support from the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity which is available to every faculty member at LSU. I wish I had had these resources when I was a new faculty member.

How do you bring your research practices into your teaching pedagogy? 

My research is invested in story- learning from others’ stories. This is a natural fit with teaching and learning. For example, my students are currently helping to build a collection of early childhood teachers oral histories in Louisiana. While we learn about asking and listening, we are also all learning from these teachers’ wisdom. And hopefully future generations will continue to learn from these interviews.

What is one piece of advice you would give to your colleagues to advance their own innovation in the classroom?

I think that all successful work is grounded in a sense of wonder and marvel and it is moved forward in community. Wonder about something. Start there. “I wonder how using more storytelling would help with learning?” and then find others to help you explore that question. 

How can instructors ensure they are offering an inclusive and diverse atmosphere in the classroom?

It really is the same thing isn’t it? It begins with awareness, wonder, interest, and joy in diversity and then is pressed forward in our practices of engaging each other respectfully, lovingly.