I received a number of stimulating responses. Several readers have pointed out that changing structures is as important as motivating people. In other words, when incentives and rewards change, behavior follows. If you ask or expect people to change on their own, you are more dependent on their intrinsic sense of motivation.
“For me, more and more, and especially in my new role, the problem is not: ‘Why don’t the instructors change the practices?’ but, “Why aren’t institutions transforming to create conditions of possibility to support a greater focus on teaching?” wrote Jody Greene, associate vice provost for teaching and learning. at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who was recently appointed a Special Advisor in Academic Equity and Academic Achievement. In a phone call, I asked Greene to elaborate. Here are some of his ideas, in brief.
Start early: Support new hires and graduate students as they design their first courses, so you don’t have to come back later and redesign them, when changing habits can be harder to do. “We have to get them to the gates,” Greene said, pointing to Santa Cruz New Faculty Teaching Academy.
Train faculty members to act on data: As more colleges use dashboards to help professors see which students are struggling, it’s important to provide training in effective teaching practices to help resolve any issues they find. “If you’re not telling someone how to close an equity gap,” Greene asks, “why are you pointing it out?”
Greene notes that determining why students are struggling is less important, which is a common question she receives from professors. Indeed, evidence-based strategies such as inclusive teaching, universal design for learning, and early interventions can address a multiplicity of issues and benefit all students. “You don’t need to know why the gap is there. The same movements will close the gaps.
Maximize use of instructor time: Greene calls faculty time the elephant in the room. It’s not that teachers don’t care about teaching; it’s just that they can’t add one more thing to their plate without something else falling off. This is why course development institutes, for example, are useful, as they distribute the work, allowing peers and professional developers to help with the process of redesigning your course.
“We don’t need everyone to research effective teaching practices,” says Greene. “We need to conduct research in a way that can be metabolized by our colleagues. And we have to do it in a way that doesn’t take too long.
How can colleges do this? Here are some approaches shared by other readers.
Purdue University Polytechnic Institute is piloting a program for new faculty members leading to tenure and clinical teaching called the Teaching Excellence Collaborative. The idea is to create a community where instructors can feel supported as they tackle classroom challenges and try new teaching strategies, says Abrar Hammoud, clinical assistant professor who leads the initiative with Greg Strimel, assistant professor. Veteran teachers known for their excellent teaching serve as mentors, and the group is encouraged to visit each other’s classrooms to see how they are implementing new strategies. Throughout the year, participating faculty members develop their teaching portfolios, using a modified version of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s University Teaching Career Framework. They could include, for example, participation in Purdue’s Impact course transformation program.
Through the collaboration, Strimel says, they hope to define and elevate the value of teaching excellence across the polytechnic and open participation to all interested faculty members.
The Center for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education at the University of Alberta is developing a professional development program called Spark-Eng (Engineering Education and Research Fellowship). Outreach Projects Manager Kerry Rose says the impetus for the program was to increase retention and diversity among students enrolled in the university’s undergraduate engineering program.
“Our set of 12 mini-course modules each includes readings, podcasts, videos, and interactive activities (all online and asynchronously) with synchronous community of practice meetings where faculty discuss their “difficulty” products. ‘workplace learning’ and other learning from each module with one another. Rose writes. “This work is sponsored by the Faculty of Engineering, but most of the development is done by researchers and education experts from across Canada.
Rose hopes that the fact that the program spans two years, with participants working asynchronously and coming together for a total of 12 meetings, will make it manageable. Each module should take approximately 10 hours to complete. The plan is to start with new hires and then eventually roll it out to all engineering faculty members.
Talk about teaching
The first event in our new virtual series, Talking About Teaching, will take place tomorrow, Friday, January 28. We’ll bring together a panel of experts to talk about the changing teacher-student dynamic and answer your questions. You can also share tips and ideas. Interested? Register here.
If you miss it, you can watch the on-demand recording later, or look for the series’ next event on February 25. I hope to see you there.
- In this Twitter feedViji Sathy lists the works she and her co-authors turned to when writing their the Chronicle advice, “How to give our students the grace we all need.”
- Lindsay Masland started a lively life Twitter chat when she asked for examples of student-centered practices that instructors regretted because they were unsustainable.
- “Let us not lose sight of the joy of general education”, writes Leonard Cassuto in this the Chronicle council, weighing in on the debate over the value of great book courses.
Learn more about our teaching newsletter, including how to contact us, at Educational Bulletin Archive Page.