Visiting teacher sparks curiosity

February 19, 2014

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Ramsey Musallam

PLATTEVILLE­­­, Wis. — Dr. Ramsey Musallam visited the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Monday to talk about sparking curiosity. Judging by the turnout at the three sessions, he piqued many interests.

Musallam, a high school chemistry teacher at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory in San Francisco, Calif. is nationally recognized for his innovative teaching techniques. His TED talk on the subject has drawn more than 50,000 viewers online. 

He was the first presenter in UW-Platteville’s “Road to Excellence” speaker series, meant to open discussions about the university’s strategic plan, a five-year plan drafted by the campus community that includes new vision and mission statements.

“His talk fit in really well,” said Associate Professor Dr. Irfan Ul-Haq, who chairs one of four strategic plan subcommittees. “We are looking at different ways to entertain the question of how to provide an outstanding education. We want to bring in people who understand how to think about education in a different way.”

Musallam, a Google certified teacher, presented an open session in the morning, a workshop to the faculty in the afternoon and an open discussion with students in the evening. His teaching methods involve the flipped classroom, in which students watch lectures online on their own time and then spend classroom time in labs with hands-on learning.

 “I don’t have a book,” he said. “We write the book together as we go.”

Musallam challenges his students to experiment first, before learning the lessons, because “we learn best after we have already made an attempt or made a mistake.”

He offered his advice to the faculty and staff on how to spark their curiosity. “Delay direct instruction,” he said. “Try and ignite students’ questions first, even if it’s just for five minutes. Prime students to learn. Make them want to ask the questions.”

Dr. Matthew Roberts, special assistant to the vice chancellor for Administrative Services, said Musallam’s talks were well received. “He was very thought-provoking,” Roberts said. “Some of the things he touched on, I’ve always wanted to try.”

Roberts coordinates the university’s strategic plan, which features four tenants: provide an outstanding education, foster a community of achievement and respect, enrich the tri-states and control our own destiny. Each group meets on a bi-weekly basis to advance these goals through various activities, including the “Road to Excellence” series.

“We’re hoping to engage campus about the different aspects of the strategic plan through these speakers,” Roberts said.

For more on the university strategic plan, see http://www3.uwplatt.edu/university-planning/strategic-planning

Written by: Paul Erickson, UW-Platteville University Information and Communications, (608) 342-1194, ericksop@uwplatt.edu

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