Eat. Talk. Teach. Run! A professional program changing teaching one Bánh Mì and Fro-Yo at a time.

Jan. 22, 2013 - “If the most innovative teaching on campus comes from those who are experimenting most in the classroom, then it might be logical to look to graduate students. They are, after all, experimenting by necessity as they teach for the first time.” 

This premise led graduate student Howard Chiou (MD/PhD, Anthropology) and Brian Croxall (Digital Humanities Strategist, Woodruff Library; Lecturer, English) to design and implement the innovative Eat. Teach. Talk. Run! program with support from the Laney Graduate School. The program uses a unique structure to bring students from across disciplines together, engage them in peer-to-peer learning through lightning talks, and keep them talking once the presentations have concluded. 

So how does it work?

Eat.

Like many well-attended events at Emory, the lure of food often draws in the crowds, especially hardworking, hungry graduate students. Substitute regular campus fare such as veggie wraps and cookies with Vietnamese sandwiches and frozen yogurt, and you most certainly receive some student attention.

Teach.

The spontaneity of flash mobs keeps onlookers captivated for a brief period of time and talking for a while afterward. Four-minute flashtalks by graduate students do the same. Discussing practical tips for teaching, innovative assignments that they’ve designed, and even epic failures in the classroom, presenters grab their peers’ attention and inspire discussion about their own approaches to teaching.

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Left: Michael Altman (Graduate Division of Religion) discusses his use of Twitter in the classroom. Right: Laura Mariani (Neuroscience - Graduate Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences) conducts mock grant-funding exercises with her students.

Talk. 

Foregoing the traditional Q&A session that normally follows a presentation, ETTR organizers encourage attendants to discuss their work and what they’ve learned while waiting in line for sandwiches and dessert. The room layout and cafeteria-style tables are arranged purposefully to require waiting and, consequently, conversations with fellow students from disciplines other than their own. Discussion is also facilitated through an innovative audience-chosen award. Students are asked to vote for the most useful talk, emphasizing pedagogical content over style. However, there is only one vote for every four students—each table votes by consensus. This process not only encourages speakers to develop talks that are useful for other graduate students but also increases audience engagement and focuses discussions on teaching.

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The room and table layout are purposefully arranged to promote discussion amongst students. 

Run!

The ETTR format develops students’ presentation skills. Presenters must synthesize discussion of their work and teaching approaches to meet the four-minute requirement. Because presentations are kept to four minutes, the audience does not lose interest and, in fact, likely wants to know more. The entire event is kept to one hour and is held in a location that is convenient to students from every corner of campus, drawing students equally from the sciences, social sciences, and the humanities. 

The Results Are In

In its first year (2011-12), ETTR drew a total of 180 student participants over 4 events, with a 70% response rate for e-mailed evaluations. Students indicated the events were useful (95.3%) and facilitate discussions (96.0%) for teaching, while encouraging conversations with others from outside their own field (90%). Most importantly, students find the events both pragmatic and fun.

Evaluations suggest that the event simultaneously facilitates the pedagogical development of graduate students as well as the dissemination of novel teaching innovations in a highly efficient, cost-effective, and adaptable manner. Student enthusiasm for the program resulted in an invitation to deliver a “Best of ETTR!” as one of the campus-wide plenary sessions in the mandatory three-day TATTO training course, with over 300 participating students. The event has also received attention from outside Emory. Chiou and Croxall recently presented on the program at the Higher Education Teaching & Learning conference, and they were finalists for the biannual POD Innovation Award

The Laney Graduate School has also renewed its commitment to sponsor ETTR, acknowledging its effectiveness in generating student enthusiasm at a cost far below traditional programs.

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ETTR co-founder Brian Croxall

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