Gordon State College Returns In-Person to Host Its 20th Anniversary of Teaching Matters Conference

(L-R) Top row: Chrislenn Kight, Natalie Hunter and Anna Higgins-Harrell  Bottom row: Ashley Travis, Simonia Blassingame and Julie Little
(L-R) Top row: Chrislenn Kight, Natalie Hunter and Anna Higgins-Harrell Bottom row: Ashley Travis, Simonia Blassingame and Julie Little

By Karolina Philmon, GSC Marketing Manager

Gordon State College hosted the 20th anniversary of its annual Teaching Matters conference on Thursday, March 10 and Friday, March 11 at the GSC Instructional Complex (IC) building.

Teaching Matters is an interdisciplinary teaching and learning Higher Ed conference hosted by GSC at the Barnesville campus. Individual presentations, panel sessions, workshops and posters focus on innovative and creative pedagogical methods, issues surrounding teaching and learning and educational theories.

This year’s conference not only celebrated its historic moment of 20 years, but it was the first in-person gathering since the start of the pandemic. Anna Higgins-Harrell, GSC professor of English and conference coordinator, said at no other time have peers in higher education looked forward to a regional conference.

“It’s such a joy to serve a conference that pulls so many educators for whom teaching matters so much,” Higgins-Harrell said.

The event consisted of 29 presentation sessions, a Poster session with a dozen entries and a keynote address. Nearly 80 presenters represented dozens of institutions out-of-state and across Georgia. Members from several HBCUs presented such as Fort Valley State University and Albany State University. Event registration numbers exceeded 130.

Teaching Matters 2022 Keynote speaker included Dr. Susan Hrach from Columbus State University. Hrach’s areas of scholarly specialization include early modern literature, world literature and translation studies. The University System of Georgia recognized her commitment to increasing global awareness among her students with the Regents’ Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award in 2013.

Hrach talked of the effects of movement, physical spaces and sensory objects on teaching and learning from the research in her recent book, “Minding Bodies.” Her book aims to help

instructors improve their student’s knowledge and skills through movement and sensitivity to humans as more than “brains on sticks.” It shifts the focus of adult learning from an exclusively mental effort toward an embodied, sensory-rich experience offering new strategies to maximize the effectiveness of time spent learning together on campus as well as remotely.

“I loved having the conference participants jump into action with me to experience embodied learning activities. The walls of windows in the dining hall at Gordon provided a perfect setting for noticing how natural light and views of nature wake up the brain,” Hrach said.

GSC Teaching Matters event marks Hrach’s first keynote appearance.

Out of 29 presentations, three paid homage to popular past conference themes. The three session topics included: Tradition and Innovation: Pandemic Takeaways, Discovering What Works: New Strategies for the 21st Century Classroom, and The Inclusive Academic: Strategies for Maintaining Balance in a Changing Academic World.

Higgins-Harrell recalled the moment a faculty member from the GSC English Department had the idea to create a regional interdisciplinary teaching and learning conference in 2001. It was Dr. Jason Horn who called for papers that would seek presentations on “theoretical approaches and practical application of methods.” Horn coordinated the conference from its beginning until its tenth anniversary.

“He said to me all those years ago, ‘It will be a conference focused on teaching matters and on the fact that teaching matters.’ Little did Dr. Horn know what a success it has become and that annually it draws one to two hundred educators to our small campus,” Higgins-Harrell said.