By: Joseph E. J. Habowsky and Susan E. Copeland
Founded on the principle of post-secondary student-centered learning from its outset, this organization’s name altered several times over its first thirty-three-years as it blended with, or absorbed, other societies with similar interests and aims. In 1970, the International Audio-Tutorial Congress (IATC) was born with Sam Postlethwait as the first president. Concurrently, other organizations emerged with developing methods to improve the teaching and learning process through active student involvement. The most widely known of these organizations in those years advocated such programs as Guided Design (GD), the Personal System of Instruction (PSI), and Computer-Assisted Instruction (CAI). While GD was a significant method for both the International Congress on Individualized Instruction (ICII) and the International Society on Individualized Instruction (ISII), organizations advocating PSI and CAI learning methods evolved more independently.
The Tenth Annual Conference of ICII at the University of Windsor, Canada in 1980 was a milestone in the history of the ISETL Society. At that conference, the creators of Guided Design (Charles Wales), PSI (Fred Keller), and Audio-Tutorial Instruction (Sam Postlethwait) gathered to participate in a special Honors Symposium at which they decided to merge their organizations into one. In 1982, past presidents of ISII—Charles Wales, Jean Wold, James Marlin, and Ken Klopfenstein—adopted the name ISETA, the International Society for Exploring Teaching Alternatives, for the merged organization. This name was finally altered to the International Society for Exploring Teaching and Learning (ISETL) in 2003.
Throughout the years lSETL’s conferences and publications have continued to disseminate scholarship on college-level student-centered learning. The annual conference not only supports such learning, but also encourages interactive sessions that illustrate active learning, and the annual Conference Proceedings document this focus of the organization. In addition, since its first publication in 2005, the Society’s highly competitive online journal, the International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, has developed a global readership, while its contributors range across six continents.
ISETL members, as educational reformers, continue to do research on topics relevant to the Information Age and content delivery. ISETL members also examine issues such as active learning strategies, the teaching of large classes, distance learning, the relationship between society and technology, team-teaching, teaching evaluations, teaching related to promotion and tenure, economic constraints at learning institutions, the optimal use of evolving technologies, the development of process skills, and the reassessment of standards in education. The International Society for Exploring Teaching and Learning continues to grow and act as a valuable resource for post-secondary educators who want to improve the teaching and learning process.
The ISETL tree has taken several forms over the years. The original tree design was commissioned in the late 1970’s at the University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada. It was a somewhat gnarled but leafy tree which bore fruit resembling apples. When ISETL began purchasing conference bags in the 1990’s, a more stylized tree with an umbrella-like shape was selected to grace the bags. The most recent tree appears on the ISETL polo shirts and is a cross between the fruit-bearing tree and the umbrella-shaped tree. All three trees continue to be fitting in that they bear metaphoric meanings related to ISETL: ISETL members are dedicated to the fruition of knowledge, and we enjoy an umbrella of warmth and camaraderie within the society.