Auburn University’s College of Education recently welcomed more than 60 faculty members from the U.S. Air Force’s Squadron Officer School, or SOS, for Convergence 2022. The college’s Applied Learning Center coordinated the first-of-its-kind professional development workshop for military instructors who previously served in other roles, including as pilots, weapons specialists, logistics and intelligence officers.
Auburn faculty provided customized modules for the military cadre—stationed at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery—who have extensive training backgrounds, but not necessarily experience in teaching.
“Convergence 2022 represents what we hope is the beginning of a long partnership with SOS,” said Jeffrey T. Fairbrother, dean of Auburn’s College of Education and Wayne T. Smith Distinguished Professor. “We know teaching is leading, and leading is teaching. This event emphasized that principle and symbolized a connection between the military and higher education, a shared goal of service and a commitment to advancing society.”
A collaborative and multidisciplinary project, the workshop was supported financially and logistically by Dean George Flowers and Auburn’s Graduate School and the College of Education’s Department of Education Foundations, Leadership and Technology. Modules featured presenters from units across campus, including the College of Education, Graduate School, College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment and Biggio Center. Subject matter experts shared conceptual and practical information on a variety of topics such as mentoring, instructional design, learning communities, motivation, feedback and professionalism.
“Our faculty can often have anxiety about their roles because they’re used to being the subject matter experts in their fields,” said Lt. Col. Klifford Mosley, dean of the Squadron Officer School. “Being a teacher is new and different.”
Military faculty members encounter unique challenges, including frequent transitions. Mosley is committed to mitigating these challenges by ensuring the school’s instructor preparation is robust with the latest teaching science. That’s why he turned to Auburn. He is not only the SOS dean, but also a graduate of Auburn’s College of Education, earning a doctorate in adult education in 2019.
“I know firsthand how this content can shape these officers as leaders and instructors,” Mosley said. “Auburn provided experienced educators to share teaching science and show these new faculty members that they don’t have to be the content experts, they just need to facilitate conversations with their students to help them solve problems and take ownership of their learning.”
Sheena Stewart, director of the Applied Learning Center and assistant clinical professor in the College of Education, forged the collaborative relationship with Mosley and SOS after receiving a contract to evaluate the immersive learning technology the Air Force school uses in its curriculum. The workshop developed from her work with the school and is just the beginning of what Mosley and Stewart hope will be a long-term partnership.
“Convergence 2022 was a wonderful opportunity to strengthen the relationship between the Air Force and Auburn University,” Stewart said. “We are so grateful to have been entrusted with this inaugural event and with the opportunity to expand the teaching and learning initiatives SOS currently supports. Our goal is to empower educators at every level, and for us, that begins with serving the SOS faculty and staff professional development needs.”
Jeff Reese, professor and head of the Department of Special Education, Rehabilitation and Counseling in the College of Education, delivers the keynote address to more than 60 military faculty members from the U.S. Air Force’s Squadron Officer School, during Convergence 2022.
College of Education Dean Jeffrey Fairbrother, left, and Lt. Col. Klifford Mosley, dean of the U.S. Air Force Squadron Officer School, compare notes on teaching science during Convergence 2022, a first-of-its-kind professional development workshop for military faculty members.