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New Center for Teaching & Learning Supports Faculty

Thursday, February 6, 2014 - 3:57pm

Center for Teaching and Learning Director Harold Henson (left) and Dr. Karen Novak.

Harold Henson, RDH, MEd directs the new Center for Teaching and Learning, a service of the Office of Professional Development and Faculty Affairs, led by Dr. Karen Novak. Photo by Rhonda Whitmeyer.

The University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston has become one of the first dental schools in the country to establish a Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) to help dental and science professionals become skilled, effective educators.

This is unique at the School of Dentistry, according to Karen F. Novak, DDS, PhD, professor and associate dean for professional development and faculty affairs.

“Most dental schools don’t offer comprehensive in-house professional development in the areas of teaching and learning. Not only are these opportunities available for our faculty and alumni, but long-term we want to expand with local, regional and national initiatives,” she said.

CTL Director and Associate Professor Harold A. Henson, RDH, MEd, said the center will also help the many dental professionals joining the faculty after being in private practice.  “They need classes and opportunities for development as they teach the curriculum to the students,” he said.

The center will offer seminars on topics such as developing your scholarly portfolio, clinical and didactic teaching, preparing educational grants, writing abstracts, case reports and more. 

A five-session series “Classroom Teaching: The Fundamentals” began Feb. 6 and continues Feb. 13, 20, 27 and March 6 in Room 4320 at the School of Dentistry, covering course preparation, teaching academically diverse students, effective teaching strategies, assessment and analysis, and evaluating your teaching effectiveness.  The programs are free and open to any UTSD faculty member.

“This school has always been forward-thinking with professional development of faculty,” said Novak. “This center takes it to another level.

The CTL held its first seminar series in fall 2013 to promote faculty development in clinical teaching. The series began with a review of the characteristics of today’s students and continued with an investigation of the essential aspects and dimensions of clinical teaching, followed by clinical teaching strategies and techniques, and the methodologies used in the student evaluation process.

Endodontics Professor Peter DiFiore, DDS, said Henson and Novak gave excellent presentations supported with evidence-based references.

“Both presenters engaged the participants and solicited their experiences. Personally and professionally, I found the entire course to be very informative and helpful in reinforcing and advancing methodologies for improving the process of teaching, learning and evaluating our dental students,” DiFiore said.

The CTL is about creating connections, transforming teaching and leading change, Henson said. “The groundwork has been established to enhance the skills of current faculty and create the next generation of outstanding educators and researchers.”

For more information about the Center for Teaching and Learning and the services offered, contact Henson at or 713-486-4395 or Novak at, 713-486-4019.