The rapid changes in teaching practices and teaching modalities during the last few years have provided challenges for both academics and the professional developers that support them. In this episode, Judie Littlejohn, Jessamyn Neuhaus, and Chris Price join us to discuss ways of moving toward more sustainable models of professional development.
Judie is the Director of Online Learning, an Instructional Designer, and an adjunct instructor of history at Genesee Community College. She is also the Chair of the SUNY Faculty Advisory Council on Teaching and Technology, or FACT2. Jessamyn is the Director of the SUNY Plattsburgh Center for Teaching Excellence and a Professor in the History Department at SUNY Plattsburgh. She is the author of Geeky Pedagogy: a Guide for Intellectuals, Introverts, and Nerds Who Want to be Effective Teachers. She is the editor of Picture a Professor: Interrupting Biases about Faculty and Increasing Student Learning. Chris is the Academic Programs Manager for the SUNY Center for Professional Development. He coordinates and leads system-wide professional development in the SUNY system. Before moving to this position, Chris served as the Director of the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at SUNY Brockport. Chris is also a member of the POD Core Committee. POD is the Professional and Organizational Development Network serving those who work in educational development.
- SUNY CIT
- Neuhaus, J. (2019). Geeky Pedagogy: A guide for intellectuals, introverts, and nerds who want to be effective teachers. Morgantown, WV, USA: West Virginia University Press.
- Neuhaus, J. (2022). Picture a Professor: Interrupting Biases about Faculty and Increasing Student Learning. West Virginia University Press.
- SUNY CPD
- POD Network
- SUNY Innovative Instructional Technology Grant (IITG) program
- SUNY New Faculty Mentoring Program (the open mic sessions that Chris refers to)
- Lumen Circles
- Harlow, R. (2003). “Race doesn’t matter, but…”: The effect of race on professors’ experiences and emotion management in the undergraduate college classroom. Social psychology quarterly, 348-363.
- Flower Darby (2023). The Road Forward. Tea for Teaching podcast. Episode 297. July 12.
- Achieving the Dream
- Guided Pathways
- Kevin Gannon (2022). Higher Ed’s Next Chapter. Tea for Teaching podcast. Episode 245. June 22, 2022. (The reference to not being able to “pedagogy our way out of…”)
- Inside Higher Ed
- SUNY CPD videos
- Vanderbilt Center for Teaching
- Carnegie Mellon Eberly Center
John: The rapid changes in teaching practices and teaching modalities during the last few years have provided challenges for both academics and the professional developers that support them. In this episode, we discuss ways of moving toward more sustainable models of professional development.
John: Thanks for joining us for Tea for Teaching, an informal discussion of innovative and effective practices in teaching and learning.
Rebecca: This podcast series is hosted by John Kane, an economist…
John: …and Rebecca Mushtare, a graphic designer…
Rebecca: …and features guests doing important research and advocacy work to make higher education more inclusive and supportive of all learners.
John: Welcome to this live podcast recording session at the SUNY Conference on Instruction and Technology. The topic of this panel session is “sustainable professional development.” Our panelists are: Judie Littlejohn, Jessamyn Neuhaus, and Chris Price.
Rebecca: Judie is the Director of Online Learning, an Instructional Designer, and an adjunct instructor of history at Genesee Community College. She is also the Chair of the SUNY Faculty Advisory Council on Teaching and Technology, or FACT2.
John: Jessamyn is the Director of the SUNY Plattsburgh Center for Teaching Excellence and a Professor in the History Department at SUNY Plattsburgh. She is the author of Geeky Pedagogy: a Guide for Intellectuals, Introverts, and Nerds Who Want to be Effective Teachers. She is the editor of Picture a Professor: Interrupting Biases about Faculty and Increasing Student Learning. (Jessamyn will be joining us as soon as she finishes a presentation in a nearby room.)
Rebecca: Chris Price is the Academic Programs Manager for the SUNY Center for Professional Development. He coordinates and leads system-wide professional development in the SUNY system. Before moving to this position, Chris served as the Director of the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at SUNY Brockport. Chris is also a member of the POD Core Committee. POD is the Professional and Organizational Development Network serving those who work in educational development.
John: Judie, Jessamyn, and Chris have all been extremely active in helping faculty navigate the challenges of the last few years. Welcome, Judie, Jessamyn, and Chris.
Rebecca: This wouldn’t be a complete episode of Tea for Teaching if we didn’t ask about tea, so, our teas today are: … Chris, are you drinking tea?
Chris: English afternoon.
Rebecca: Well, you’ve made the correct choice.How about you, Judie?
Judie: And I have Darjeeling, which is my current favorite.
John: And I have a Tea Forte black currant tea today.
Rebecca: And I have Irish breakfast.
John: Jessamyn, you’ve arrived just in time to be asked about your tea.
Jessamyn: Well, I specifically arranged to have to be somewhere else when I was supposed to be here so as to demonstrate in this meta way, unsustainable faculty development [LAUGHTER] where you’re in two places at the same time.
John: During the past three years, faculty have engaged in professional development at unprecedented levels in response to the global pandemic, and here in SUNY, with the SUNY-wide transition to a new learning management system. From what you have observed in your roles, how has this changed instructional practices? We’ll start with Chris.
Chris: Yeah, so prior to the pandemic, online learning was was more optional. You were either an online instructor or a college had online instruction as part of its mission, but it was a choice. And so after the pandemic, the whole “Should I do online?” just went away and it became “How am I going to do it?” or “How are we as a campus going to move things online? And so the validity of online instruction, that question, just kind of went away. We know, though, that during a pandemic, it wasn’t the ideal time to transition to online instruction, it was just everybody doing it all at once by the seat of their pants, and instructional designers and everybody that supports online instruction were definitely stressed out. So it wasn’t an ideal situation. But I think where it’s left us now, is that we don’t have to have those debates anymore about whether or not online is a valid mode of instruction or not. And so it’s allowed us to take a step back and be a little bit more creative with how we incorporate online instruction into our courses, our programs, our colleges and universities. And so, for example, if you think about HyFlex instruction, before the pandemic, I had never heard of HyFlex instruction, and it really kind of has emerged since then as being something that many colleges and universities are considering as an integral part of their instructional plans. If you would have told me before the pandemic that folks were teaching courses asynchronously online, online synchronously via videoconference, but also face to face, I would have really questioned whether or not that was even possible, and now campuses are doing it all over the place. We just presented today about a Tools for HyFlex courses project that we’ve been looking at, investigating the different types of video conferencing tools that faculty are using in their courses. And so, just to sum up, yes, the pandemic definitely, a lot of residual trauma that folks have from it, but I do think that overall that now the acceptance of online as a mode of instruction has definitely been a positive.
Rebecca: How about you, Judie?
Judie: I do agree with what Chris said, we’ve seen a huge growth in HyFlex courses on our campus as well, and the exponential use of Zoom. But I think these changes are not finished. At the beginning, just before the pandemic really sent us all home, we started training everybody in Zoom on our campus. We were fortunate that that final week, we were on spring break, so we were able to literally herd everybody into computer labs. And each day, we were allowed fewer chairs in the lab as people had to start to spread out a bit. At that time, the focus really was on Zoom, and on using our LMS for the faculty who weren’t using it yet. But then, I think, as people became more comfortable with Zoom, and also we knew we were changing LMSs, the focus really shifted to the LMS training. On our campus, we don’t have the dedicated lab space and personnel to teach all of our faculty a new LMS at the same time, so we took advantage of all the SUNY trainings that were offered. We were in the first cohort onboarding to the system-wide Brightspace digital learning environment, and a lot of our faculty attended every virtual workshop that SUNY offered, and thank goodness that we had those opportunities for the faculty because we could not have recreated them all ourselves. So there was a huge growth, I think, in faculty participating in webinars and trainings offered by SUNY. And it all translates, I believe, into course quality. I think, as far as instructional practices go, the students are having better learning experiences because of the way the content is arranged in the new LMS. But along with that, though, I feel like most of the faculty are more open to engaging with students in Zoom, even if they are in 100% asynchronous courses. They have more virtual availability, I’ll say, than they would have had previously in their face-to-face office hours. So those are the two big things, the course quality, and the virtual availability, that have really increased through all this.
Rebecca: How about you, Jessamyn?
Jessamyn: I guess I’m thinking of something a little less tangible than the other two, which I totally agree with what was just said. I would say the awareness of students’ life circumstances, and how life circumstances can impact learning. I remember very clearly, my first semester after the emergency pivot and a faculty member saying to me, like it was just percolating through his head, and he said, “But what if my student doesn’t have access to wi-fi?” …like he was thinking it through. I saw it happening and the change happening, really thinking about how life circumstances impact student’s ability to engage in the courses. And I would say that it was a good shift, that awareness, but it’s also been very overwhelming. Because once you start down that road, it piles up fast, all the ways, and all the challenges that individual students might be facing.
Rebecca: The tremendous pressures of the pandemic broke down silos between faculty, departments, disciplines, and institutions to initially support the transition to remote teaching and to support the increased interest in inclusive teaching practices. How do we sustain this culture of sharing and prevent the silos from being rebuilt? Judie?
Judie: First, I think the way the silos were breaking down just as SUNY was working on new, updated general education requirements, is really helpful as far as sustaining this, because, with the DEISJ requirements, which are Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice, they help us maintain this level of empathy and concern. I don’t want it to sound like the faculty didn’t care about the students before, but I think the level of empathy really increased throughout COVID and the new general educational requirements will help to maintain that. Faculty will continue discussing how they are meeting all these updated requirements in our current programs, and they’re sharing ways to incorporate the DEISJ requirements into different fields that may not have overtly considered those topics previously. So, yes, I think it’s fortuitous timing with SUNY’s shifts in DEISJ requirements, as far as keeping those silo walls broken down so that people can continue having conversations and sharing.
Rebecca: So what I was observing when I was hearing both Jessamyn and Chris is that in professional development we should be implementing the good pedagogy that we’re trying to have our faculty also implement in the classroom.
John: So faculty have become more aware of the challenges that our students face in terms of mental health and wellness, access, and family and community resources, resulting in more interest in inclusive teaching practices. How do we sustain interest in these issues while faculty, staff, and students all feel overwhelmed, and overworked?
Rebecca: You don’t feel that, do you John? [LAUGHTER]
Jessamyn: Well, I would never underestimate the power of acknowledging the situation, acknowledging the reality. So I started both of my sessions by saying, “I know this is a tough time, I know that you are tired, I know that we are all tired.” I also have been taking care to frame and remind people that I would never recommend anything to you that’s not going to make your teaching life, working life, better, I would never tell you to do something just for the sake of checking a box or because I think it’s the right way. But this will make your life easier, your working life better. And finally, I’m really leaning into cut down on content, as much as you possibly can. That’s sort of an underlying advice I’m giving, is talk less and listen more, for me as well, but for faculty. And it’s not that creating more student-centered course design is less work, per se, but it definitely changes the energy in the room and feeds our teacher souls in a different way than nonstop lecturing does. Those are just a few ideas.
Chris: So, I’m gonna take a little bit of a different track here. One piece of advice that I would give is that you got to figure out ways to let things go, things have to go, we can’t burn the candle at both ends, but that, of course, is easier said than done. I’ve been privileged to be involved with, the last few years, online groups of tenure-track faculty throughout SUNY. These are sessions that are open to anyone in SUNY. They take place every couple of weeks. They’re about an hour. They’re not recorded. They’re in Zoom. But we just call them open mic sessions. And I do it with two colleagues at Empire State University. Alan Mandel and Shantih Clemans came to me and the three of us kind of put this together. And, and one of the things we keep hearing from new tenure-track faculty is that as the issue of service comes up again, and again, and again, they’re not really sure how to navigate that. And I think we know this, and I think the research bears this out, that women, minoritized folks, bear a disproportionate service burden on campuses. And so how do we get around that? We need everybody doing service, our colleges and universities just cease to exist if folks weren’t doing service. So I think what we need to do is do a better job of recognizing and rewarding service and distributing it more equally across campuses. Again, I know, that’s probably easier said than done, but I think that that might alleviate some of that disproportionate burden on many of our faculty. The other thing too, is I think, we need to encourage more of a team-based approach to instruction. So that, there are some things like you got to let go. And you got to say, okay, you know, maybe I don’t need to be tweaking every single thing in my course. And now I know instructional technologists and designers are also overwhelmed. But, I think they would all appreciate it if faculty didn’t come to them in an emergency and they came to them more proactively to figure out how to troubleshoot things in their courses. So those are two just very practical suggestions.
Judie: For me, on my campus, as far as sustaining interest in maintaining that level of empathy with the students when I’m overworked and overstressed… we’re short staffed right now, so I do a lot of things in a day and the day is long, and I also teach, but I teach as an adjunct, so I can’t grade or give feedback during my working hours, and I share this with faculty too. So when I what I do every single day when I get home, I go right to my computer, which sounds counterintuitive, but I just keep my day going and I sit right down and I grade all three classes for whatever the people did in the last 24 hours. So I grade every single day, all three courses, because I’m in that place, right? I’m home from work. This is what our students do. They’re working all day, they’re taking care of their kids, they’re doing whatever. And then they get home and they have to sit down at their asynchronous course, and try to rewatch the video, read the lecture, take the quiz, and do all of that. So I feel more connected with the student in that way. Because I do it every day, there’s not that much to grade. If I have classes of 25 students and they don’t all do their work on the same day, it’s spread out throughout the week. I’m real forgiving of deadlines and things like that, I suggest deadlines to keep them on track to finish on time, but I never penalize late work. And I don’t want to their I don’t want to judge their excuses, either. Because I always feel like, I end up being the judge of the best excuse if somebody needs an extension. So everyone has their extension out front. And I grade their work as it comes in and give them their feedback. And it just helps me keep my empathy that way, I think, because sometimes you’ll look and start to read a response or an essay and think, “oh, here we go… this again,” or you know [LAUGHTER] and then I always think, somehow, in my home space like that, it’s easier for me to take a step back and say, “I don’t know what their day is.” I always say “I’m not wearing their shoes…” Who knows what the students have had to go through throughout the day. And one thing that helped me a lot early on in the pandemic was we have a respiratory care program on our campus, and our respiratory care faculty were right there on the frontlines of COVID, like nobody else. And they’d never taught online. And they didn’t use the LMS. So I was constantly helping them get their materials online and their grading online and their announcements and so forth. And I could see the announcements that these people were writing to their students, and just how powerful they were, and they’d start off with, “Please take care of yourself. Please get some rest. We understand you have to take time…” and just how much concern and true love for their students that they were able to demonstrate in these announcements. And some of them I kept as just examples of how to show empathy towards your students. And I think having that sort of an example for me, as an adjunct, helped me set my own daily practice to be able to keep that empathy for my students. So I think just finding a good example like that and being able to share it, is how we can help keep it going forward.
Rebecca: So along the lines of resources, budgets and resources for professional development are limited, I hear. Where should professional developers place their focus, and their efforts?
Judie: So for me…we did assign these by the way, we don’t just randomly know when to talk… [LAUGHTER] I take a project management approach to a lot of these things, just because I like to keep records and details and know who’s done what and where we stand. So definitely, from that perspective, I start with a needs analysis, and who has what, who needs to know what, and where are the gaps, and how can we fill the gaps? So I don’t think there’s a way to identify that one key thing that all faculty need right now, aside from entire LMS training. So, we are in cohort one, so this summer, everybody’s teaching their courses for the second time. So we’re kind of over that hurdle. I tell them, we climbed the mountain and our sliding down the back side and able to focus more on course improvement than how does the LMS work. But beyond that, I’m still trying to get some of our own training materials that existed in our former LMS. we have to Brightspace-a-size things. So, [LAUGHTER], we have to Brightspace-a-size, for example, the RSI, the regular and substantive interaction training, and bring that up to the right standards in Brightspace, so that I can identify who wasn’t able to complete it before and things like that. But by and large, though, it definitely is a needs analysis, that we can’t throw all of our professional development energy into one bucket. We got to figure out what are all the buckets and who needs who needs a ladle full from each?
Jessamyn: Yeah, I’m gonna piggyback on that because I think campus culture really is key to answering this question. The campus culture around faculty development efforts, really has an impact on what’s going to land and what’s not. I’d also add to that, that we, as professional educational developers, should be keeping track better track of where our time goes, where our efforts go, when we make a yearly action plan. We should also be doing monthly activity reports just for ourselves, and to save us time at the end of the year, compiling everything we did, and that can help us see where our time and energy and hours are going and if it’s unsustainable. So if you’re spending… well, I know I can say 100% certainty… what’s your biggest time suck, audience? I bet it starts with E…
Rebecca: …and ends with mail.
Jessamyn: [LAUGHTER] and ends with mail… and ends with “oh my god, another three hours doing email.” So really sort of self reflecting and reporting on that, I think is important. But the last thing I would say… just I’m going to put a plug in for where professional developers should focus their efforts on inequitable teaching labor, and systemic discrimination facing historically minoritized faculty in the academy, and faculty with… a term I learned… invisible and visible disabilities, because we might have some power to move the needle there. Like, for example, student evaluations of teaching do professional and personal harm to faculty every single semester, or every single trimester. There might be a way that, in our role as professional faculty developers, we can mitigate that, change some policies or provide people with actual actionable strategies for lessening that impact. That’s on the top of my list right now.
Chris: Yeah, I’m gonna pick back up what Jessamyn said, because I think the most important resource a campus has for professional development, are the people who work in professional development on the campus. You may have no budget, but at least there’s someone, and hopefully it’s a full-time person, or someone with a significant course release to do that work on your campus. So, that is a resource, and so doing needs analysis is important. And knowing what you’re doing is important, because it helps figure out what is it that you can do most effectively. The Center for Professional Development, now that I’m there, I do a lot more program planning a lot less working directly with faculty. And we don’t really have a budget, like a lot of the things that we do are things where we find people to deliver programs, and then we charge a fee for the program, so that, you know, we can pay the people who do the do the programs. But we do a lot of other things that are free, and they’re mostly relying upon folks giving their labor for free to do it, because mostly they enjoy doing it. So I mentioned that new faculty open mic series for new tenure-track faculty, and that everyone who’s involved with doing that does it because they’d love to do it. And it really energizes them as well as the participants. And so, I think, having those groups of folks coming together… Yes, people do want resources, they do want curated things… to learn how to use Brightspace, and that’s really important, and I think it’s also important to bring faculty together whenever you can, just to talk about a topic… any kind of opportunity you can have them critically reflecting with one another and doing it in a way that’s meaningfully tied to things that they’re constantly focused on in their teaching. I think that’s low hanging fruit, frankly, just when you get faculty together. It’s helpful if you have a budget for food and that sort of thing, but that’s not always possible. It’s even better if you have stipends to incentivize them to do that, but that’s usually not the case. And so, I think that that, mostly when you bring folks together and talk about things that really matter to them, usually has good results and doesn’t usually cost much.
John: On campuses, there has always been some differences in the degree to which faculty participate in professional development: some faculty will go to every possible workshop or training program, others you only see if there happens to be a global pandemic and they need to learn how to use Zoom or their gradebook in the LMS. What are some of the major barriers to professional development and to faculty engagement with professional development?
Chris: It’s just not valued, recognized, and rewarded enough, right? And let’s face it… not as much on community college campuses. I have an example I’m gonna talk about in a minute, on one of the community colleges where it is recognized, valued, and rewarded, and what a significant impact that’s having on that campus. But, and I’m not going to call any campuses out, but on many of the four-year campuses, it’s kind of folks who do it, actively do it because they feel like they need to do it and they do it because they care about their students. Not that the others don’t care, but that’s front of mind for them, they really know that they need to be continually improving to reach their students, to engage their students, especially those who are hard to engage. And, they they do it on their own time, and they burn the candle at both ends, because they have to do the other things that are recognized and rewarded. So that’s the first thing. One of the things when I first thought about with the last question is rather than just strategies for developers to do that don’t cost much, we’re advocates as well. Jessamyn, you alluded to this, I think we have to be advocates with administration, with faculty leaders, for the value of professional development, professional learning, and you need the folks at the very top level to buy into it. So the campus I was thinking of, Rockland Community College, has a Provost Faculty Scholars Program, where they’re incentivizing their faculty to go through the Lumen Circles program, which SUNY invests in and makes freely available to campuses, which are critical reflective practice groups, and they give them a small stipend to do it. They have them report back on campus. And again, the Provost is actively involved in the development of the program, the promotion of the program, and it goes into their tenure and promotion dossiers, and it’s recognizes you are doing the thing that we want you to do. And they have a lot of folks on campus doing it. So it gets back to that critical point of tipping the campus in favor of being a learning organization and not just everybody for themselves.
Rebecca: Juide, how about you?
Judie: The major barriers to faculty engagement with professional development, I’d say, as I am on a community college campus, and we don’t have Teaching and Learning Center, we don’t have any faculty developers full time. So we are a really lean ship, I guess, on our campus. Faculty development happens in pockets in different disciplines or out of my office, basically. And it comes down to time and money. Community colleges are broke right now. Our funding is FTE based, and as we see the enrollment go down, or the population decline in the northeast, or enrollment goes down, every enrollment we lose is money we don’t have. And we can’t offer… I mean, we could give them a sandwich maybe… [LAUGHTER] but we can’t give people money for engaging in anything. And to be totally honest with you, that always baffled me that people expect to be paid to learn something, when usually, we expect our students to pay to learn and here we’re offering training, but you don’t want to do it unless we pay you to learn it. Like it’s wrong to me, it’s an ethical dilemma, maybe for me. But we also on our faculty… I’m certainly not slamming them or saying that they’re all greedy, and they won’t do anything if they don’t have any money for it. They teach five and five, and they are on Senate, and they’re on search committees and they’re club advisors. And nothing happens if they don’t do it. They’re a huge driving force on our campus, and they have just as many responsibilities as all the rest of us and then to try to pile you got to come to this training, and you got to finish this project. And if you do this, and you do that, like there just aren’t the hours in the day. So, untill something traumatic or tremendous happens like COVID or like an LMS change, it’s very hard for them to find the time and when they do find the time like you said, Chris, they’re burning the candle at both ends. So we have to balance burning out faculty versus helping them improve their practice. And we just try to do that by being available all the time and having drop-in hours all the time and troubleshooting where we can and offering consistent programs so they can come when they are able to attend.
Jessamyn: I think one major barrier is actually I’m just going to echo what Chris said about it being acknowledged and valued. And following up on Judie’s point about the financial compensation, I would say and not being rewarded, but not necessarily financial, like rewarded in the sense of being acknowledged as a vital part of one’s job as a college instructor, and therefore, part and parcel of how you’re evaluated and reviewed. And there’s even some kind of professional development that should be considered important campus and department service. So like the department delegate program I mentioned earlier, where one member of a department comes in, does some stuff at the Center for Teaching Excellence and takes it back to their department, that is valuable service, it needs to be in people’s employment review and their tenure file, not as a individual extra thing they did for their own pedagogical fun, but as service contributing to the betterment of the department and the campus and for students. So that’s a sort of top-down barrier to faculty engagement. And I think we also need to own, as faculty developers, something Flower Darby mentioned in her podcast with you that faculty development and advice to people about teaching can’t be a one-size-fits-all framework, that teaching contexts are very different, impacted by social identities and embodied identity. So that’s on us, on the people providing faculty development and advice about teaching, to better acknowledge disparate teaching realities. That’s Roxanna Harlow’s phrase: “disparate teaching realities,” inequities facing our instructors. So I guess that’s like the top-down, bottom-up and then sort of in the middle academic culture generally, academic culture that tends to not value pedagogical learning the same way it values research insights or knowledge production. It should be part and parcel. I mean, we’re a bunch of smarty pants academics, right? Like, we love knowledge, that’s why we’re here, it’s that this should be part of that. This should be respected and seen as part of the work we do, as knowledge creators in this world.
Chris: I just want to address the whole issue of if you’re lucky enough to have a budget or a grant to pay people to do professional development. So I’m totally of two minds on this. On the one hand, I totally agree with Judie, in that there is an ethical issue here, you’re being paid to do something that you should be doing anyway, just as part and parcel of your job. And yet, in many cases, campuses are investing in the resources that you’re taking advantage of. And that just added cost and makes it less sustainable over time, and more expensive, and it creates that culture of I’m not going to do it unless I get paid. And so there is a real, I guess, hazard there when you introduce the piece around paying people to do things that they ought to be doing anyway. But on the other hand, I’ve kind of come to see it as a way to help people be accountable for doing that work and whenever I’ve been in a situation where we’ve paid people to do professional learning, it’s usually not compensation for their time. It’s more just a way to kind of say, “Hey, here’s just a little sweetener to make it more of a priority and to remember, “Oh, yeah, I’m getting that money, I better do the thing I said I was gonna do. When we have the grants that we have through system, we gave everybody a stipend for participating. And, we had almost everybody complete all the surveys and give us all the data that we wanted for it. And so, I think it’s,, used correctly and used very judiciously, it can be effective, but it’s a problem that I think many of us would be lucky to have and most of the campuses that are using it are usually using grant funds and not just their budgetary state funds to do that sort of thing.
Jessamyn: One thing I’ve done for the department delegates which was a big investment of time, so it wasn’t like they came to one workshop, it was this big thing they did all semester. I was able to offer an honorarium. So honorarium sort of in the sense of like, what it really means. It was a miniscule amount of money. But it was symbolic of that I wanted to try to acknowledge in some way and honor the time and effort that they’ve made.
Rebecca: So now we’re gonna move to audience questions. There was a question early on, before we actually started recording about strategies to reach hard to reach students. And so I’m wondering what you all might be able to offer to that question.
Judie: On our campus, we have an early intervention system. And we have different departments that are involved in that, and they work together to create reports that can be disseminated between our success coaches who work with all students and our online specialists who work with what we call the truly distant students. And so if I can’t reach somebody in one of my classes, or another faculty member isn’t getting a response from a student, we can turn to these other resources, and ask other people to try to help us connect with the students to find out what’s going on. Sometimes that helps a lot when you reach out and say,” Hey, can you just check in with me? I want to know how you are.” But some you just never reach and they have different reasons of their own for just stepping away. And unfortunately, that happens sometimes.
Chris: I think this is where the siloing is the worst on campuses, between folks who work in the academic side of the house, and those who work in student supports, student affairs. That’s where I like to see student success initiatives. There’s a recent report by Achieving the Dream and it was about professional learning as essential for any student success initiatives. And those of you don’t know Achieving the Dream, they do a lot of work with Guided Pathways and they work in a lot of community college campuses. And so, that was the gist of the report is that, if you’re going to have a student success initiative, you have to involve the faculty and the faculty have to see their participation in those initiatives as part of their own professional learning, because they’re working with students daily in different capacities, they see students, you know, whole students, not just the student in my section, and those are the things that we said, faculty are doing more and more of now, trying to see their students as whole people and not just when they see them three days a week or whatever.
Jessamyn: Yeah, I really agree with both of you that there has to be a systemic response. And like, Kevin Gannon, I think on your podcast, I heard him say there are things we can pedagogy our way out of, and student success is one of those things that the broader system needs to support as well. I would just add one, one thing, and the only reason it’s on my mind is because I this semester was added to what was called as called the Student Success Consortium on my campus, and at the end of one meeting, they turned to me and said, ”So, if you could do one thing, what should we do?” I was like, “Oh, no pressure,” but I did think of something, and that is: if, on an individual basis, what instructors can ensure that students have numerous on-ramps when they get off track, and that a lot of students disappearing and ghosting is because they flub something, or they’ve made one misstep or they’ve missed one assignment. And if it’s not drilled into their heads: “there’s a way back, there’s a way back, there’s a way back,” then, it’s really easy to spiral into, “I’m done, I failed, I can’t. So I’m just going to avoid it.” So I ended up saying, ”that was one thing I could change was to ensure every class offered students clear, consistent, and repeated reminders about the ways to get back on track when you stumble.
Rebecca: Lots to think about for sure. There is one question that’s come in, and it’s an anonymous question, it says: “To the best of your knowledge, is it against the state rules to lobby vendors to provide professional learning programs to various colleges, or maybe even your take on doing that?”
Chris: So we just did these two projects, Tools for HyFlex courses and Tools for Large Courses, and we also work with Lumen Learning to do the Lumen Circles. So, I’m no expert on procurement, [LAUGHTER] but my understanding is that if whatever is spent is within a certain threshold, it’s acceptable to engage with vendors to try to meet needs that you have, and the POD organization actually, a few years ago, had in EDUCAUSE a guide for faculty development folks, for educational developers, to working with vendors, because when I first started doing this work, I tried to keep them at arm’s length, and like, we could do this in house, and I had this kind of can do attitude. But as I’ve gotten a fewer years under my belt, I have a different attitude now, and that we can certainly work productively with partners who are working in a space where they’re trying to make money off of whatever they’re doing, be it educational technology, or a faculty development kind of thing. And you just have to, as Jassamyn said earlier, do it within the context of your institution and what you need it for. You shouldn’t just think you’re gonna buy something off the shelf, and just think “I’m just gonna plop it in here, it’s just going to work.” I’ll bring Rockland up again, they’re incorporating the Lumen Circles in their campus with already pre-existing programs, they hired somebody to coordinate the faculty going through it. And so it just needs to be mindfully incorporated into the things that you’re doing. And so that applies, like I said, to either faculty development, educational technology, or anything beyond the LMS that you want to bring on your campus to help faculty work with students.
Rebecca: Sounds like a way to extend some sustainability to the work that you all do by leaning on some other resources.
John: We have a second question, which is, “Is there a repository that lists free webinars for faculty development?” and the person submitting said they pass out a list of those through email on their campus. How can you find free webinars?
Judie: Oh, I think lists like the POD listserv. I’ve been to so many AI webinars lately, and I haven’t paid for anything and then once you become familiar with who offers them, you get on their mailing list. For example, I did the Project Management Conference at Arizona State University, and those people are awesome. And they run all kinds of programs, and they’ve never charged anything to me. Oh wait, let me rephrase that. [LAUGHTER] They don’t say we like that, Judie Littlejohn, she’s free. though. They advertise their free offerings externally. And so I take advantage of those. But, once you start to discover these, it feels like they just lead to more and you can see like on LinkedIn, the different social media outlets, and even reading different articles. In Inside Higher Ed, you’ll read articles about different opportunities that are free. And that’s where I find them. I don’t try to assemble them in a list though. That’s an interesting idea. So, every Friday, I send an email out to all our faculty, it’s just our Brightspace update (that’s what I call it), but it’s not always Brightspace related what I list under there, but it generally is. But I will if I find things, especially the SUNY offerings, I always list exactly what faculty are welcome to take advantage of that they don’t have to go through us for, they can do that on their own. A lot of people are very appreciative of those. So it’s helpful, but I do like that idea of trying to put a list together to share or have posted on a site that people could go and look at when they want to.
Jessamyn: I’m gonna add a cautionary note, though, I do think people appreciate resources, but you can also overwhelm them with resources, when people are stressed and cognitive, you know, have a cognitive overload. And here comes Jessamyn like, here’s just five books you should read and two webinars you should attend and come to my workshop next week. I’ll have people that are like, “Uhhhh, guess what, I’m gonna ghost you now [LAUGHTER] and I’m gonna just avoid the whole thing, because it looks too overwhelming.” So, it’s an overused word, but I curate, like I really, really carefully curate before I send out any recommendations. I’ve cut way back, even on providing things through my site to people, because it got overwhelming. Again, campus culture really matters, but I would curate carefully.
Chris: Yeah, we have just at the Center for Professional Development, we do have a faculty development playlist on our YouTube channel. So if you just look up SUNY Center for Professional Development on YouTube, and faculty development playlists, we do have a bunch there, everything that we do gets tagged that way. The POD google group is a good thing. What I usually do when I’m looking for something is I do a Google search for whatever I’m looking for and then I look to see if it’s on a Teaching and Learning Center website. There are some that are really good, Vanderbilt is good. I know that there was maybe some issue of some of those resources being taken down. I hope they’re not. Carnegie Mellon, I know, has a lot of great resources. So there are a few teaching and learning centers that put a lot of time and effort and energy into curating great faculty development resources. So that’s what I would do. That’s what I do. [LAUGHTER]
Jessamyn: I’m gonna throw out another kind of maybe radical idea for the attendees here at CIT. I think webinars can be very valuable, but I also have seen and in my personal experience, building our pedagogical toolkit often happens conversation by conversation, or seeing somebody do something. So at a conference that we’re at right now, a lot of the presentations, sometimes it’s the content, and sometimes it’s just what somebody did while they were presenting the content, or the conversation I had with you… it could be via Zoom or it could be an email, but an interaction that flips a switch, “Oh, I could do that.” It seems like a lot of pedagogical learning, like all learning happens incrementally, it takes a lot of practice and hearing it many times and trying it out. Webinars definitely have a place for sure, especially for Brightspace-a-zation… [LAUGHTER] Brightspace-a-size, yes and LMS stuff for sure. But some of the things that we do in our classroom, it’s less about being buried under content and more about connecting with someone else talking about what’s working, what’s not working, repeat.
Rebecca: Well, thank you so much for wonderful advice throughout our panel today. But we always wrap up by asking: what’s next?
Judie: Well, I can answer that one. Jessamyn said some phrases that I’ve never heard on our campus such as yearly action plan, and monthly activity reports. And I thought, “Oh, my goodness, this is a thing.” So maybe we could, as we’re trying to add more staff into the Online Learning Office this fall, I’d like to try to come up with things like that and have a more predictable approach, perhaps for the, you know, from the faculty side, of what sort of professional development opportunities we might be aiming for. And when they can expect them to happen. I like that idea.
Chris: And I’m always thinking about how to connect folks across SUNY who do this work so that they can share with each other because I do think there are unique things about working within SUNY that would make it so worthwhile for folks in SUNY to connect to our supporting faculty. POD is great. It’s an national and international network, but I do think there’s lots of affordances of just talking occasionally amongst ourselves.
Jessamyn: Well, I knew this question was coming. And I am going to take this opportunity to give the world premiere of my working title for my next book project that I am working on this summer. It’s called Snafu edu:Teaching and learning when things go wrong in the college classroom, and I’m working on a manuscript, it’s for West Virginia University Press in their teaching and learning in higher ed series. And I know nobody in this room, nothing ever goes wrong in your classroom, but for the rest of the people who teach, things go wrong.
Jessamyn: Snafu edu.
Rebecca: I like it. I like
John: Have you grabbed the web address yet?
Jessamyn: I have. [LAUGHTER]
Jessamyn: I have.
Rebecca: Well, thank you, everyone. We appreciate you participating today.
Jessamyn: Thank you, John. Thank you, Rebecca.
John: If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe and leave a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast service. To continue the conversation, join us on our Tea for Teaching Facebook page.
Rebecca: You can find show notes, transcripts and other materials on teaforteaching.com. Music by Michael Gary Brewer.