Faculty Stories

CTL Faculty Stories: James Woglom

Teaching like a Jazz Musician

Dr. James Woglom, Art Department
Teaching, crafting significant learning experiences is like jazz. Faculty create structures that guide student learning. They organize content, craft curriculum, and choose engagement methods and tools, yet implementing these choices is much more complex. Dr. James Woglom describes the intersection of structure with its actualization as improvisation is to jazz.

There is a performative act to teaching. We create general structures (i.e. curriculum), but in caring for students we engage those structures in dynamic ways in response to learner needs. We ask questions based on those needs: How can I make this more interesting? How can I make this more beautiful? Dr. Woglom argues that to teach well, we must embrace the humanity in the complexity of our learning environments. We must cultivate trust so that students are willing to be intellectually playful, intellectually flexible and open-minded, within the rigorous structures we have set forth. That is jazz: complex, playful, and demanding.  

Dr. Woglom works with HSU students who wish to be art educators. He built a learning system that utilizes cohorts of learners who collaborate to develop lessons that they, individually, must implement within local schools and community centers. It is a problem solving approach that challenges students to collectively develop structures and standards that engage others in creative and dynamic ways. It can be messy, as all teaching is, but to teach like a jazz musician we must fail forward.

Another example of the excellence that characterizes educators at Humboldt State.


CTL Faculty Stories: Eileen Cashman

Equity of Voice, Empowering Students to Ask Questions

Dr. Eileen Cashman, Environmental Resources Engineering
One slight change in the way an instructor interacts with students can dramatically change student thinking, learning, and engagement for the better. Teaching presence can span the gap between student transformation and the often hidden or unrecognized personal transformation that we undergo as instructors. 

There is a sense in which the quality of our questions reflects the quality of our thinking. One could argue that the questioning mind is an active mind, an engaged mind, a critical mind. Dr. Eileen Cashman recognized the intimate relationship between questioning and intellectual engagement. She hypothesized that if she maximizes opportunities for more students to ask questions, then more students would be explicitly engaged in the material and grades would improve. Her hypothesis has proved correct. Students of color, who’s grades had been lower on average than their non-URG peers, began to exhibit more regularly the type of thinking that she expects of a high quality engineering students. An additional pleasant consequence was a positive shift in the classroom culture. 

Dr. Cashman took an informed approach to her teaching that has mounted a new pedagogical focus that she calls the “equity of voice.” It has become a new mission; a passion that acts as a lens by which she investigates her work, herself, and her students. She values the questioning mind, and figured out how to cultivate it in her daily classroom.  

Another example of the excellence that characterizes educators at Humboldt State.