The Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine Teaching Academy was one of the main reasons Dr. Susan Matthew decided to leave her home in Australia and cross the Pacific Ocean.
“I was drawn to the fact that there was such a focus on high quality teaching and learning,” said Matthew. “The College’s Teaching Academy is a truly rare resource, and it seemed like a fantastic opportunity to continue my lifelong learning as an educator, as well as a chance to connect with other like-minded, passionate educators to make a positive impact have on student learning.”
Now, nearly seven years since she took up her faculty position at WSU, Matthew leads the program. In the short space of time since she took over the leadership of the Teaching Academy in November, she has revived the program, which had been relatively quiet since the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the spring semester, the Teaching Academy called in teachers almost every week to improve education and promote career development. In seven brown bag sessions, best practices were explored and disseminated to help educators teach students effectively and efficiently in both classroom and clinical settings. In addition, the academy organized a discussion series focused on small educational initiatives that can be implemented in the classroom in no more than 5 to 15 minutes. The series was re-released this summer, with the final two sessions slated for July 7 and July 14.
Matthew has also made it a priority to expand the academy’s peer-observation program, which provides teachers with peer feedback on their teaching. In the past six months, a new co-lead has been appointed – Dr. Jeff Abbott, who along with Dr. Phil Mixter will lead the program – and there have been three training workshops and two panel discussions.
“This is incredibly valuable for teacher development because it gives a teacher feedback on their teaching from the eyes of their peers,” said Matthew. “Their peers can provide supportive and critical feedback based on their experience and knowledge that the educators can then weave into their practice and then get more feedback from their peers – it’s an ongoing development cycle.”
Another priority for Matthew is educational research and science. The Teaching Academy offers scholarships and encourages college faculty to apply for academic scholarships to explore how teaching methods improve learning and teaching in the college.
“We want to help students become actively involved in their learning because they learn and remember more when they are actively involved rather than just passively receiving information,” she said.
Matthew also said the Teaching Academy helps keep teachers excited about their work.
“Passion and enthusiasm make a huge difference, and being a part of the Teaching Academy allows you to maintain your enthusiasm for teaching when there are so many other demands of your time and attention,” she said.
Matthew received her veterinary degree, a Doctor of Philosophy in Veterinary Medicine and a Diploma in Educational Studies from the University of Sydney. She was appointed the Berger Keatts Distinguished Professor in January and is also one of the Associate Chairs of Veterinary Medical Education of the College of Veterinary Medicine overseeing veterinary education. She is a founding member of the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges Council on Outcomes-based Veterinary Education and an active member of the Teaching Academy of the Consortium of West Region Colleges of Veterinary Medicine.