This fall Western Carolina University pioneered a new P5 course designed as a large section lecture/experiential learning course that engages students in not only the fundamentals of the arts but actual art experiences. Over the course of the semester, students attend and participate in music, theater, and visual arts events across the college. Part of its learning focus is on self-awareness, specifically how an individual’s experiences intersect with the arts and how the arts help to inform those experiences. At the heart of this initiative is the work of Dr. Tyler Kinnear in his third year of teaching at WCU.
Born and raised in Cullowhee, Kinnear has always been interested in music and art, but he became fascinated with soundscape when attending British Columbia University. Now that his journey of education has brought him back to his hometown, he has found the opportunity to take his passion outside of the classroom inviting the community to participate in exhibits, soundwalks, and more with the Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center. The resource that Kinnear is most excited about it is the outstanding campus. He is a true believer in applied learning and believes that you can find anything on campus to relate to, “We have this laboratory right on campus!”
Kinnear’s goal for all his students is to grow, obtain self-awareness, and gain confidence. When asked what the most rewarding part in his teaching career has been, he replied when a smile on his face and said, “every day is a reward!” But more specifically, he finds himself most enjoying teaching students how to play gamelan, which is an Indonesian traditional instrument. In addition to helping his students think outside of their own culture, the most rewarding part this teaching is seeing the light come to the face of a student who has never touched an instrument before, when they suddenly realize, “I can do this!”
Dr. Kinnear has discovered that his true passion is to encourage students to “wake up to their potential” and tap into their creative side. “We all have it whether we recognize it or not,” he says. One of the ways students discover this is through engagement, not only with each other but with the things around them. After participating in a campus event, students will work together to create online video responses using a software called Panopto, which is one of many tools the Coulter Faculty Commons (CFC) offers the faculty at Western Carolina University.
To help facilitate teaching and learning with such a large class, Kinnear depends on support from technology. He said he came to the CFC asking for help with a few technological challenges and left with not only clarity, but more amazing ideas: “JD Hawes at the CFC told me about Poll Everywhere“ and now it is used regularly to make the classroom more interactive. In addition to this, the Quick Course Diagnostic helped to show what aspects of the experimental classroom design were working and where students wanted to see improvement.
Kinnear believes that the CFC is a very valuable resource that not only helps you with practical situations, such as but also helps you have a personal connection with others on campus by offering different workshops and guest speakers. The CFC is not only a problem-solving resource on campus, but it is a partnership for excellence in teaching and learning. And like all great teachers, Tyler Kinnear says, “we are always learning.”