Wednesday, April 17, 2024

The University of Iowa College of Education hosted the first Connecting K-12 and Higher Education Conference at The Kirkwood Regional Center at the University of Iowa on April 5-6 to collaborate with different area educators.  

“We've got all this stuff going on at the university, we've got all these great activities and initiatives going on at the university, in the K-12 school systems in the area and at Kirkwood. We have lots of partners that are working together, and we need to talk with and among ourselves a lot more,” says Mark McDermott, UI College of Education associate dean of teacher education and student services. “And I'm hoping that this is going to be an opportunity for us to do this somewhat consistently.”

He says this conference served as an informal way to make formal connections, and allow educators at a variety of teaching levels to learn from each other. An estimated 50 people attended the conference, representing several colleges across campus and several K-12 partners from local districts including Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, West Liberty and Mid-Prairie.

One of the major goals was to bring together local stakeholders from K-12 education and the University of Iowa to discuss and disseminate knowledge related to student learning, effective teaching, and innovative and inclusive educational practices.

Other conference partners included the Center for Teaching, the Office of the Provost, the Office of the Vice President for Research, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Graduate College, the Tippie College of Business, and the College of Engineering. 

The conference was co-planned by McDermott and Anna Flaming, director of the UI Center for Teaching.  

UI Graduate College Dean Amanda Thein, associate provost for graduate and professional education and professor of English education, gave the keynote address on Friday. 

“Everything I needed to know about being a higher education teacher and leader, I learned teaching high school English,” says Thein. 

She shared how teaching in the high school environment taught her the importance of being authentic and actively investing in the community by being involved beyond the classroom. 

“My experience in K-12 schools taught me that I never just want to work at the University of Iowa” says Thein. “Instead, I know that I will always be the most effective as a teacher or leader and scholar when I work for and in community with the University of Iowa.” 

She also says teaching in high schools taught her to see beyond the myths about students being sortable into categories.

“Every student comes to education with good intentions and every student wants to do well,” Thein says. “I try to begin my relationships with students with that assumption and no others.” 

Over the weekend, participants were able attended collaborative workshops and breakout sessions that discussed incorporating key principals into curriculums, bridging gaps between K-12 and higher education, innovative teaching practices and more. 

“This was a great initial conference bringing together a very enthusiastic group interested in continuing to learn more about each other's work, build new partnerships, and explore new ways to build effective learning opportunities for students,” McDermott says. “I am very much looking forward to continuing this conference, but also finding more avenues for sharing and working together.”