We all want to be more effective teachers, but face increased demands on our time. What can colleges and universities do to efficiently support faculty development? In this episode, we discuss these issues with Chris Price, the Academic Program Manager at the Center for Professional Development at the State University of New York. Before joining the Center for Professional Development, Chris was the Director of the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at SUNY Brockport. While at Brockport, Chris also taught classes in Political Science and in the online Masters of Arts in Liberal Studies program.
- Faculty Learning Communities at SUNY-Brockport
- Monday Morning Mentors – The Monday Morning Mentor Program, offered by Magna Communications, that is used at Suffolk County Community College.
- SUNY Center for Professional Development (CPD)
- Academic Programs – A listing of the professional development programs offered by SUNY CPD
- SUNY Conference on Instruction and Technology (CIT)
Rebecca: We all want to be more effective teachers, but face increased demands on our time. What can colleges and universities do to efficiently support faculty development? In this episode, we’ll discuss how teaching and learning centers in the State University of New York system are tackling these issues.
John: Our guest today is Chris Price. Chris is the Academic Program Manager at the Center for Professional Development at the State University of New York. Before joining the Center for Professional Development, Chris was the Director of the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at SUNY Brockport. While at Brockport, he also taught classes in Political Science and in the online Masters of Arts in Liberal Studies program. Welcome, Chris.
Chris: Thanks, John. Good to be here.
Rebecca: Today our teas are:
Chris: I just finished my coffee.
Rebecca: It’s really an epidemic.
Chris: …but. if I was having tea, I’d be having Earl Grey.
John: Okay. Rebecca?
Rebecca: Jasmine green tea.
John: …and I am drinking Harry and David’s Bing Cherry Black Tea.
Chris: Mmmm. That sounds good, I’ll have to check it out.
Rebecca: So Chris, your role at SUNY is somewhat unique. Can you talk a little bit about what you do?
Chris: Yeah, sure. My role is kind of twofold. First thing that I try to do is keep abreast of what is going on in faculty professional development across the system and I do that primarily through talking with and networking with all the people in the system who do faculty professional development… and that runs the gamut from people who are directors of teaching and learning centers to those who work in instructional design and support online courses and hybrid courses and that sort of thing. So, that’s part of my job… and just keeping that group together. I like to say it’s like herding feral cats, because people do faculty development tend to wear a lot of hats and they are usually doing a million things at once. So trying to keep up to date with what they’re doing is kind of a challenge. The other thing I do is develop and deliver our academic programs… there’s the title: academic programs manager. Our academic programs really just service everybody who is involved with teaching and learning in the system. Our programs aren’t really meant to replace… or be the only thing a campus will utilize for their professional development for their faculty. They’re more supplemental. We have online certificate programs for new instructors in teaching and learning. We have programs that are for those to learn about assessment of student learning and institutional effectiveness… So, again a lot of them are really meant to supplement what campuses are doing. I just started in this role about three and a half years ago. I joined the staff of CPD permanently in July, leaving my position at Brockport. So, we’re really starting to ramp up the number of programs that we are offering.
John: You’ve been conducting focus group meetings at a variety of SUNY campuses on professional development needs of faculty. What have you found to be some of the most pressing concerns and needs?
Chris: Yeah, so let me just back up a second… just explain why I’m doing it. Back in July, as part of our program development, we sent out a survey to people work in faculty professional development and asked them what their interests and needs and concerns were… and we learned a little bit from that survey. We learned that the most pressing concerns are in three areas. Number one, helping faculty adopt innovative teaching and learning practices. Over sixty percent of the people who answered the survey indicated that that was something they were very concerned with. And then coming in number two, with just over fifty percent of the respondents, they were looking to help faculty instructors better design courses using sort of data and best practices to improve teaching and learning, and then third, we found that faculty developing folks across the system are really interested in increasing faculty and staff knowledge and participation in their professional development programs. So, those are the concerns but how can we address those concerns, and what is behind those concern? And so we came up with the idea of doing some focus groups across the system. We have 64 campuses, so we didn’t think we could do them at every campus, that would take it a little too long. We looked at the regions where people answered the survey so we wanted to first go out to the places where a number of people had answered the survey and clustered around there. So, so far I’ve done five of them in Plattsburgh, Purchase, Stony Brook, Genesee Community College and Buff State. I have another one scheduled in March at the CPD in Syracuse and I might do another one in Albany later in the spring, and so far I’ve had about a third of the 64 campuses represented in these focus groups. Most of them have been anywhere between five and 12 people and they all been pretty much nice and balanced between those at the community colleges, those at the comprehensives and those at the university centers. So, like I said I’ve been doing them over the last few months and I’ve learned a number of things.
We were joking before we started talking about this that resources are a top concern for many who do faculty professional development, but you’ll find though that it’s not the case…. and those who don’t have a lot of resources probably don’t want to hear this necessarily…. but there are some campuses where faculty professional development is really well resourced and there are a lot of funds that campuses are extending towards faculty professional development. The one thing I found consistent across the campuses, while some campuses don’t have a lot of resources for faculty professional development, you’ll find that the resources kind of followed trends. Many campuses, especially those that have online teaching and learning as a strategic priority, are investing money in supporting faculty professional development and online teaching. Lately we’ve seen a lot of resources follow other trends. Innovation… innovative teaching and learning… so you are seeing a lot of funds now expanded towards that. A lot of the campuses do follow what the system is doing and system does provide money for professional development for innovative things. So, one example would be the open educational resource initiative that’s going on now, where there is some money for that.
The second concern that faculty development folks seem to have is the fact that the folks they’re working with, the faculty, the instructors, teachers, professors… their needs and motivations for participating in faculty professional development vary… widely. Many that they work with are ahead of the curve in terms of adopting innovative teaching and learning practices and highly motivated to participate in their programs. These are the folks that come to all our programs, come to all our workshops, come to our professional development days. They’re the folks that are excited about what we do… and they’re the students that sit in the front row of the classroom, right? and they’re great and we love to work with them, and they give us great feedback on our programs and help inspire us to do what we do. However others, and I would say the majority of faculty, need incentives to participate in our programs like this… and so those are the folks that I think we spend a lot of our time thinking about.
What sort of incentives should we provide folks? Obviously, where resources are somewhat limited, we can’t just pay people to participate in faculty professional development. We have to be a little bit more creative in the incentives that we provide to folks.
The other thing about instructors is that, and again because they kind of are a heterogeneous group, some are very skeptical about what we do, and about innovation in general in teaching and learning. I think most professors tend to teach as they were taught. Typically, if you get a PhD or you advanced to this level of your career, you will be probably been successful no matter what others did to you… but, we have to face the fact that our students are not us. Most of our students will not end up as faculty as professors, and so the things that work for us aren’t necessarily going to work for them, and so the skeptical folk…. I mean again some of them are skeptical for a very good reason. There are a lot of innovative teaching learning practices that don’t bear fruit in the end. I won’t point anything out specifically. I don’t to alienate anybody from their favorite pedagogical technique… but if you look at the literature, there are certain things that just don’t work out in the end. So some of the skepticism is worthwhile listening to, while other skeptical attitude, you just gonna have to ignore, and figuring out which is which is a tough thing for these folks to do.
The other concern that faculty development folks have is that… and this is a concern I’m sure for everyone is that there’s limited time for professional development. One of the we’ve seen in higher education over the last couple decades, is the decreased number of tenured and tenure-track faculty, and what that essentially has done is increase the burden on those who are tenured and tenure track faculty in terms of service, especially. They are required to do more and more than their colleagues 20-30 years had to do, because they’re just fewer of them to share the load. There’s also just more going on on colleges and universities than 20 or 30 years ago. I mean there are just the programs and things that we have to keep afloat, are just increasing year after year… and then, of course, the fact that there are fewer tenured and tenure-track faculty means that more classes are taught on many campuses by adjunct part-time contingent faculty… and they don’t necessarily have time for professional development, because they’re either teaching five… six… seven… eight… classes or they’re working full-time in addition to the classes they teach. So all the folks that we would like to participate in faculty professional development, just don’t necessarily have the time to do it…. and so, trying to figure out ways to do just-in-time kind of professional development preoccupies a lot of folks who do faculty development. So, we had folks on campuses talk about going to departments and framing the professional development activities in the ways they think in their disciplines is one successful strategy.
Another challenge, and I have three more that I’ll mention, is we have folks who do this work who are directors of centers for teaching and learning….but not all campuses have centers for teaching and learning. Only about half have them ….about 30 to roughly 32 of 64 campuses, so those folks kind of do their work in the guise of a center… some of this work happens where faculty get release time to do professional development work or to lead faculty development sessions and that sort of thing and so that’s another population. A lot of this work is being done by instructional designers who are initially hired to just support online faculty, but they’re also not going to turn away faculty who aren’t teaching online if they ask for help…. and, in many cases, librarians are helping faculty with their teaching and so we have a heterogeneous group, and that kind of makes it hard to sort of say, okay… this practice will work for you… because you’re in a totally different department reporting to a different line than someone else… and then another challenge is the choice of whether or not to go deep with professional development… so… go and meet people one-on-one and do consultations, or go wide and schedule workshops… come up with online resources for folks to take advantage of on their own time…. and so this is a choice that folks have to make all the time, and the challenge behind this…. and the thing that I think compounds this challenge… is that we don’t really have a lot of good assessment data, impact data, about what works in faculty development. There’s some out there, but on the campuses, what most people look to to judge success are the numbers of people served. So, I know, for years at Brockport, when I would do my annual report, I would just count how many people we helped or we served through events or consultations, and of course the big events so that lots of people came, were the ones that Jack our numbers up… but that didn’t really say whether or not the folks who came to those events got anything out of them necessarily. I think we have a lot of work to do around assessing what works and what doesn’t in faculty professional development, and that’s going to help us in the long run hopefully improve the type of things that we do in the campuses… and the last thing… the last kind of concern… the thing that a lot of folks said that they tried to do and they struggle to do, was to look at faculty on a continuum, that faculty are a heterogeneous group. Some folks come and they are ahead of the curve… early adopters… on top of the literature of teaching and learning… and they are the ones that like I said are easy to serve and are very eager to learn from us and and to participate in our workshops and activities and that sort of thing. But many faculty, because they’ve got so many other things to do… their own research… many courses to teach…. lots of service… aren’t really on top of what works in the classroom, and it’s not always the best approach to pitch programs that are way ahead of where they’re at. You have to meet faculty where they’re at… so what’s innovative for someone is what you kind of have to define as innovative to that person. It not be innovative to you to say… I don’t know use clickers or something like that… but it may be innovative that person… and you alienate them if you try to make them think that they have to adopt techniques that are beyond where they’re at.
The problem is, this isn’t the most efficient approach and when you’re looking at every individual as a unique case, you can get bogged down and not really be able to create these programs that you could pitch to a general audience.
So the other challenge is that there are a lot of administrative and organizational churn. At Brockport, when I was there we had five Provosts in ten years… and with each Provost comes a new set of priorities and a new organizational structure to report to, and other people that we need to work with…. and so that also compounds the challenges. So I’ve been talking for a while, I bet you have other questions, but as you could see there are a lot of concerns that faculty development folks have… and they’ve been very generous and sharing with me so far.
Rebecca: So when you’re looking at the concerns and in these discussions, did some of these folks provide some information about innovative things that they’re doing to address some of the concerns that you just summarized for us?
Chris: Yes. Definitely, and I think a lot of them fall into a few categories. So I’ve talked before about either going deep or going wide. So most of them all do, and value, the one-to-one consultations they do with faculty, and so they are all still doing those. That’s where they really are able to have an impact I think, but others are trying to reach you know wider audiences through a variety of methods. For example, in Suffolk, they subscribe to this program called Monday Morning Mentors, and so all faculty, regardless of status…part-time, tenured, tenure track… they get an email on Monday morning with some kind of teaching tip directed at maybe something at that point of the semester… and they all get that, and it’s kind of low-hanging fruit for them. I think it’s easy enough for them to do it, and I think they subscribe to a service that gives them those tips. Other campuses are doing a lot with…. those are lucky to have some resources…are doing a lot around grants. So we talked about incentives and the need for incentives… and some faculty need that, and so some campuses are providing incentives to their faculty for… adopt a technique or redesign a course around something. For example, Farmingdale does this. They’ve had one around hybrid teaching and learning and other programs. Buff State has a program where they give instructors some money and some support to redesign a course around an innovative teaching technique.
Campuses are still doing day-long traditional professional development events with speakers and facilitators. Those are still popular… maybe not the most innovative things in the world, but I think they work really well… Some of the more kind of unique approaches I heard about related to regional collaboration. So, I know you guys at Oswego had that book club in which you invited folks from other campuses to participate. That to me is something that I hope to facilitate a little bit more within the system… because there’s something to be said for working with others on other campuses, to get your juices flowing and to hear about other things that others are doing. I think especially for those that are on campuses for a long time, you start to hear the same things over and over… and it’s helpful to sometimes sort of talk to folks outside of your campus… especially for faculty that teach the same discipline on other campuses….and that’s sometimes that’s a good way to think differently about your teaching…. and then the last thing I’ll say I’d like to see more of that I don’t see as much of… although Buff State just recently has been doing this.. and are planning on doing more of that is supporting the scholarship of teaching and learning through very informal ways, so providing incentives for faculty to take the time to do scholarship around their teaching… and supporting that… and rewarding that on the campus.
John: How have you seen the needs for professional development change since you’ve been involved with professional development?
Chris: Yeah, so it’s interesting, so I’ve been doing this work for about 13… 14 years… and when I started, there was a real hard boundary between those technology training and then those who do sort of teaching and learning professional development…. and so I’ve seen that slowly break down. The people that have attended the focus groups I’ve conducted so far have been both reporting to CIOs on campuses but also those who report to Provosts and so those boundaries…. they are slowly breaking down in which those who are using technology in their teaching… that’s not considered really separate from classroom based teaching. It’s all kind of mixing together and I see that as a very positive development because I think that we can’t avoid technology. now in teaching and learning…. and not that everybody has to utilize every single piece of technology that’s out there, but considering how it impacts learning… everyone should consider how it impacts learning, and I think we need to have all our tools in our toolbox to help folks do that. The other thing I’ve seen change is that innovation narrative, as I spoke about earlier, is really driving professional development conversation, and everybody seems like innovation and being innovative in higher ed is what everybody wants. I don’t think everybody knows exactly what they mean by that, I think some campuses using that term and not really I think defining what it means for that campus to be innovative… I think it’s a good thing that we’re considering what’s the latest and greatest out there in micro-credentialing or think of all these sort of innovative practices, I think campuses really need to think about what that means for them and teaching and learning centers are actually ideally positioned to help facilitate that conversation. Another change over the last 15 years or so is that active learning is no longer openly questioned by folks, When I first started I heard faculty say all the time: “Well, I learned great when I was in lots of lecture based classes and why can’t our students learn through lecture?” and now I think folks are recognizing the value of active learning techniques and we don’t have to throw away lecture… and I think there are a lot of good articles and research out there that shows that some lecture is valuable, but I think everybody, for the most part at least, now doesn’t openly question the value of active learning techniques. One thing I haven’t seen as much of, that I was hoping at this point we would see more of is assessment of student learning, scholarship of teaching and learning in classroom research being more widely adopted. I still don’t see a lot of that going on. There’s lots of educational research out there by people who are in the fields of Education, but for faculty to be doing their own research is something that I would like to see more of and I was hoping to see more of.
Rebecca: Over time, have you seen any changes in faculty doing more evidence-based practices?
Chris: This kind of goes back to the idea of innovation driving the narrative now. I think faculty do care that what they’re doing maybe has some basis in literature, but I don’t know that they’re actually diving in and doing the research themselves and sort of: “oh, this I saw this, I read this article… and there’s some research on this, and this worked… and I’m gonna adopt it.” I don’t necessarily see that that much, because I think once you start doing that I think you’re gonna start down that road of maybe doing some basic research yourself in your classes. I’d like to think that that’s the case…. but this is just an opinion, I don’t have any research to back this up… but my guess is that most fact that he still choose to do what they do in the class because their colleagues are doing it or they hear about it offhand. They’re not doing exhaustive literature reviews to make those decisions about what they do in the classroom.
John: But that does open up a bit of a lever for introducing new techniques, so that professional development centers don’t necessarily need to reach all the faculty… if they can reach some influential faculty member in the department and help them introduce more effective practices… quite often other people will adopt it… especially with the growing culture of assessment. If they see the results are a bit stronger or sometimes if someone introduces something more effective and students can see that it’s made the class more effective, they’ll often ask other faculty in the department to perhaps try something similar. I know that’s happened quite a bit here in a number of departments.
Chris: Yeah, I didn’t mean to suggest that hearing it from colleagues was not a good way to go. We have to leverage that, as you’re saying, John. I think we have to figure out ways to make those connections that faculty make with others a little bit more… almost intentional… and leverage that. I think it’s great when that goes well…. when someone hears something from a colleague and then they adopt it and they improve upon it and then they talk to their colleague about: “how here’s what you did… here’s how I did it… and then… oh…” and you listen…. It’s this iterative process… where that good expands out like that, but, as we all know, I mean we can also have bad expend that way as well, right?
Chris: So if they’re not being critically reflective about what they’re doing….. you could imagine a scenario where folks latch onto something and it doesn’t really work well, but everybody’s doing it, so I guess I should too. So I’d like to see us leverage that and then there’s different ways we could do that.
John: …and those conversations don’t always take place in departments. I know here, periodically…. at least in my division in arts and sciences, the Deans have sometimes encouraged departments to have retreats where they discuss effective practices, and have these discussions… but they don’t always take place.
Chris: Yeah, and that was actually something that I would like to see more of campuses doing…. to put these discussions at the center of all their initiatives when something comes down, especially…. say…for a general education program reform. Finger Lakes Community College recently went through a general education program reform and they put faculty development at the center of that, and so… not only did they rethink how to deliver their curriculum, but they also thought simultaneously how can we help faculty improve their practice to meet the needs of this new curriculum… and I heard that again and again in the focus groups… that, the programs that faculty got the most excited about were the ones that were really tied very directly to what the college was doing strategically, and so they kind of went hand in hand. This is where administration plays a big role… and developers recommending this to their administrators is, I think, a good thing to do…. because… sometimes, they understand that faculty development is important… but they’re not faculty developers… they don’t do that… so they don’t know exactly how to build that into initiatives on the campus so that it works well. A lot of times, it’s just tacked on like: “okay, we’re gonna have this initiative to do this… and… oh yeah, we’ll have to have some professional development, so we’ll figure that out later. That’s not the way to do it. You kind of have to think about at the beginning for it to work well.
Rebecca: In addition to teaching and learning centers or professional development centers on campuses, what are some other ways faculty members can expand their professional development?
Chris: Yeah, so I think networking is probably the best way to do that. Try to find others… not necessarily on your campus, but in your discipline. All disciplines, for the most part, have either conferences or journals that relate to teaching in that discipline… and this is the way faculty think, right? They think first as whatever they teach….you’re a political scientist… you’re a psychologist… you’re a biologist… that’s how you think first. So, trying to find others who think in those terms… and think about teaching in those terms… I think is the first step for everybody to make. But, obviously, I think teaching learning centers are important, and I think all campuses should have them… because it’s nice to have that place where everybody, can congregate around teaching and learning… and have something for these initiatives to revolve around… Beyond those two things, I think teaching conferences are great… But, I think teaching and learning conferences are great mostly as venues for faculty to present their work… giving them an opportunity to present scholarship on their teaching. They can be good for learning as well, but I think learning in this area happens best when you’re really, again doing the research in your classes themselves first.
John: We’ve been doing reading groups here for the last three years… and one of the things that really surprised a lot of the participants…. because we had people coming in from all across campus… in very diverse areas…. is how common the problems that they were having were… and how many solutions people in very different disciplines had… because they wouldn’t have thought to look at that first… and your point about working first within the discipline is a very good one. Because, people are more comfortable if they hear it from other people teaching the same courses or very similar classes.
Chris: It’s funny… because that advice that I would give… going to your discipline first… it does run contrary to the idea that, as you just said, John, It is true that teaching and learning is teaching and learning… and the obstacles that people face are very similar even in very diverse subjects… but, like you said, you have to bring people along where they’re at… first.. and it’s good to see something a little bit familiar first…. and then kind of move on… and then maybe learn from others and other disciplines. So, yeah… it’s one of those things I always get pushback from folks a little bit… we know that you could learn from folks in other disciplines….and, in fact, it’s good to do that… but I think, for many people, it’s good to maybe start off looking in their discipline.
John: …Because when people try something new they have to move outside their comfort zone…. and making it a little more comfortable initially can often help.
Rebecca: I think we saw that a little bit in our reading groups as well… when you’re reading an example or something and it’s not in your discipline and you can’t quite envision how it might apply to your content area. So that’s where I think it’s really valuable to find people in your discipline who can bring some expertise to the table.
John: …and even just the comfort of knowing that other people have done these things and it’s worked… and they can provide you with examples and sometimes a more packaged solution that directly applies to your discipline.
Chris:Yeah, that’s actually one of the innovative practices that… actually they’re talking about this at Buff State…. and they have folks get together and and share resources and repositories, They’ll create some kind of learning activity and then they’ll put it in a repository and then you could adopt that… you could amend that… and I think having those resources in your discipline leads to that culture of sharing first…. and once you start down that path you can, like I said, look to other disciplines to learn from and adopt practices from. It’s like I said a way of moving along a continuum. You have to start where you’re most comfortable and then push yourself gradually to other areas where you’re not as familiar.
Rebecca: What about faculty who are those early adopters? …or who might be a little ahead of the curve? How do we make sure that we continue to engage them?
Chris: That’s a great point. I think those are the folks that you need to have on your advisory board for your Center. Those are the folks that you’re going to bring in to do workshops… but you also have to mentor them a little bit… because I think, like in a class where you have those advanced learners, they can sometimes turn off those who are more novice… because they appear to be know-it-alls… or “I never can know what that person knows.” So, with some careful mentoring, I think those are your folks that you could turn to to help deliver programs and workshops…. maybe facilitate learning communities or reading groups…. really try to harness their enthusiasm. They’re also the folks that you turn to when you want to have folks meet with administrators, and broker or at least advocate for your programs because administrators always like the examples of faculty who are doing innovative things… and so those are folks that we want to send to meetings or advocate for resources for your Center.
John: You mentioned learning communities. One of the things I’ve heard from many people at Brockport was how effective the learning communities were at Brockport. Could you tell us a little bit about how you arrange them? …how they work? …and what sort of incentives were provided to faculty to participate in those?
Chris: Yeah, sure. The way the faculty learning community program worked at Brockport was, it was very faculty centered. We would solicit applications from those who are interested in facilitating a learning community on a topic. We did not restrict the topics to just teaching and learning… We opened it up to, say, research methods types of learning community topics. So we had a couple run on qualitative research methods… quantitative research methods… so we didn’t provide a lot of guidelines around what topic we were interested in learning about. Which is a little bit unique. There are many colleges and universities that organize them around themes and they come up with the themes in advance. So we decided, well… let’s see what the faculty want to learn about… let’s get that full list to put out there.
After that step, we would advertise the proposed topics to the faculty, and even before they ran, we asked them to sign up, so that it would help us decide which ones we would select and run based on how many folks would sign up for them. In an average year, we’d usually have maybe six to ten proposals…. and of those six to ten maybe only five to eight had enough people for them to run. We would usually require at least like eight people to sign up for them to be considered. Then we would look at them and then we would make the decisions. Part of my advisory groups role was to make those decisions about which ones we would fund.
The person who proposed it would be paid as a facilitator to make sure that FLC [faculty learning community] would accomplish what it had proposed to accomplish throughout the year… and mostly that just they would meet every couple of weeks… and then I would meet with those facilitators as a kind of mini-learning community once a month, just to check in and see what they needed… and basically just talk together collectively about their progress during the year.
They would run for an academic year. We’d actually start working over the summer. I’d have a full-day orientation for the new facilitators usually in June, before the year they would run… and then the FLCs would meet every couple weeks. One of the things I always stressed with the FLCs, and I think one of the things that made them work well, is that the goal of FLCs was the professional development of the members. They weren’t really required to come up with a collective deliverable… that’s the job of a committee… and I want to stress that FLCs, if they work well, can’t be seen as committees. They have to be seen as a group of folks who are looking to learn together… and really learn something… and a benefit to their own practice… At the end, some of the FLCs would pursue group projects, but that was their decision. It wasn’t something we would impose upon them… and my other concern with that is I didn’t want the FLC program to be seen as a vehicle to accomplish initiatives on the campus…that say, the administration wanted to accomplish and sort of co-opt them. …and there were occasions where we would get applications for FLCs, where a clearly a Dean had put the bug in the ear of a faculty member and said: “Hey, propose an FLC on this topic.” …but faculty would never sign up for those.
So they would never run anyway… but, yeah…. it was a great program. They did have a little bit of a budget… a few hundred dollars per member… that they would pool collectively… sometimes to send someone to a conference, or a couple people to a conference or buy us some materials or buy a piece of hardware or software to help what they do.
If you go to the Brockport website and search Brockport faculty learning communities, you’ll find all the ones that we did… and their end-of-the-year reports we would put on our website, so that we would share their learning with the entire community. My favorite part of the program was at the end of the academic year, we would have a end-of-year luncheon. We invited all the FLC members… usually the Provost would come… and then we would invite the people that were going to facilitate and/or be part of the next year’s FLCs to hand the baton off to them, and so they can hear about what those FLC accomplished and what those folks accomplished and then inspire them to do their work the following year.
John: That’s a very nice structure.
Chris: Yeah, it worked really well. Thing that was great about it was that it kind of helped me do my work. There were topics that faculty were concerned about,… say: “Hey, propose a FLC on that topic.” ….and it would really start to generate this momentum around faculty developments in those areas… that they would take the ball and run with that. I was a center essentially of one, we had one other full-time staff member, an administrative support person, so there was only so much I could do, by myself and with only a couple of people, so these were ways for faculty to own their professional development… faculty centered professional development is the way I would always look at.
Rebecca: So what are you gonna do next?
Chris: One of the things that I would really like to do… on the top of my wish list for the system, is to take almost that FLC model… and apply it in the system. Now, I don’t think it makes sense to do it exactly the way we did at Brockport and just sort of say: “Hey, we’ll have system-wide FLCs.” I don’t think that necessarily would work, but I would like to have some kind of a network of faculty who are involved in teaching and learning projects… maybe scholarship of teaching and learning projects… or action research projects. Something where they’re doing a investigation of a teaching and learning method…almost like SUNY teaching and learning scholars… or something like SUNY teaching scholars…. or something like that… where they collectively work together… most of its going to have to be virtually… online… where they’re working together… supporting one another… getting support from the system somehow…. and at the end presenting their work maybe at CIT [a SUNY Conference on Instruction and Technology] or another sort of system-wide program, and then we can gradually build this cohort of SUNY teaching scholars and have maybe them be recognized by their campus somehow. I haven’t figured how we’re gonna do that yet, but I’ve been putting bugs in the ear of anybody they will listen about that. I think that we should do something like this.
Rebecca: Sounds pretty exciting. I think there’s desires on individual campuses for a cohort like that, but maybe there’s not always enough of a cohort on an individual campus… so having something system-wide could be really beneficial.
Chris: Yeah, exactly and again I think just that benefit of hearing from people on different campuses… just these focus groups I’ve been having… they’re just one shot, two hour deals, but having folks come together regionally, and really facilitating that regional conversation… I think they’ve been sort of saying: “Oh, this is great… we should do this more often.” So, like I said, I’m hoping this to spur those connections and I see this as just another opportunity to do that.
Rebecca: Great. Well, thanks for spending some time with us today and sharing your expertise and getting us all thinking a little bit more about our own professional development.
Chris: My pleasure, yeah.
John: Thank you, Chris.
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Rebecca: You can find show notes, transcripts, and other materials on teaforteaching.com. Music by Michael Gary Brewer.