Existing educational development programming revised and strengthened (MacEwan University 2011-16)
Since starting at MacEwan University in 2011, I have worked to assess and strengthen existing programming and to build new programming that addresses gaps in previous offering and sets a new vision for MacEwan’s Faculty Development Programming.
1) Faculty Development Day, New Faculty Orientation, Chair Workshops
The mainstays of our existing programming include three annual events that take place in late August: Faculty Development Day, New Faculty Orientation, and Chair Networking Day, each of which I ran for the first time less than two months after my first day on the job. Despite that short time frame, I was able to implement changes to each of these events that year that, in the years that have followed, have significantly increased the rates of faculty participation and satisfaction. During my first few weeks at MacEwan, I met with as many members of the faculty and the administration as possible. I learned that many saw Faculty Development offerings such as Faculty Development Day as lightweight “feel-good” events that were of limited value to them in their work. In developing the program for my first Faculty Development Day, I made sure that the sessions were more focused on areas of academic interest faculty had expressed to me. By offering sessions on topics like Open-Access publishing, designing effective writing assignments, “the truth about student evaluations,” and creating inclusive learning opportunities, and by communicating to faculty the new focus of Faculty Development Day, attendance has risen significantly during rose from 143 in 2010 to 234 in 2011, a 64% increase over the previous year. With Faculty Development Day attendance hitting a record 360 faculty members in 2016, that event’s attendance has risen by 152% since 2010.
These increases in year over year attendance have mostly been the result better programming decisions, different event themes each year, bringing in more outside speakers, and making the closing event a lively celebration of faculty engagement that included door prizes and live music. These initiatives added to the event’s budget, but the opportunity to have over three hundred faculty celebrating professional development as a new year gets underway has paid enormous dividends in faculty attitudes toward the work of the Faculty Development office.
By being responsive to the needs and opinions of attendees, I have achieved similar outcomes with our New Faculty Orientation and the three different chair events we run each year, each of which has seen an increase in attendance and participant enthusiasm. In the case of the annual Chair Networking Day, I decided that one event per year was inadequate for the professional development and networking needs of Chairs. In 2012-13, I created two new events that would supplement the annual August networking event. In May of that year, my colleague Carolyn Ives and I ran the first annual Chair Professional Development Day, which included a keynote address from a local expert on academic leadership and concurrent sessions catering to the needs of Department and Program Chairs from different parts of campus. Then, in August we transitioned our traditional “Chair Networking Day” to a Chair Meeting Day in which the Provost and other key administrators met with Chairs to discuss academic planning and ongoing changes to MacEwan’s governance structure. Finally, to give Chairs a chance to network and meet with one another on a less formal basis, we ran a Chair Networking Breakfast in December. These three annual events work to support Chairs far more effectively than the previous single annual event and, of equal importance, give us a chance to communicate with them more regularly about how they can help to advance educational development efforts with their own faculty.
2) The National Great Teachers Seminar in the Canadian Rockies and the MacEwan Book of the Year
Two other significant annual events are the National Great Teachers Seminar in the Canadian Rockies and the MacEwan Book of the Year program. The National Great Teachers Seminar in the Canadian Rockies is an annual workshop that we run at the Banff Centre (canadagreatteachers.macewan.ca). Now in its 31st year, Great Teachers attracts around 40 participants each year from MacEwan and universities from across Canada and around the world. I am the main organizer of this event, and I also serve as one of the three to four facilitators who assist the workshop’s director over the course of the four-day workshop. Since 2011, the event has grown in reputation, particularly with universities outside of Canada. At our 2016 seminar, for instance, we welcomed participants from the United States, China, and Australia.
The MacEwan Book of the Year (macewan.ca/macewanbook) is a campus-wide event funded by Faculty Development. Unlike prior Faculty Development Coordinators, I have taken a significant role in organizing this event, including chairing the Book of the Year committee. Innovations that I helped develop, such as new forms of advertising, new community partnerships, and an extensive social media campaign, has seen our program reach far more faculty, students, and members of the Edmonton community than ever before. The event has also developed a significant reputation across Canada as an important literary award and our annual gala reading and on-stage author interview event typically attracts audiences of over 400 people. Former recipients of this award tell me that writers and publishers from throughout the country are asking about it and hoping to have the chance to become involved.
New programming initiatives (MacEwan University 2011-16)
New areas of focus that I have brought to our programming include new workshops on designing effective writing assignments, the creation of a faculty writing community that meets weekly in our centre, a Faculty Development breakfast book club, and, starting in Fall 2013, a new faculty learning community focused on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.
1) Teaching Triangles and the Teaching Excellence Program
The most important new programming initiatives I have led are our new Teaching Triangles Program and our Teaching Effectiveness Program, both of which are set to launch in September 2013 after a long process of consultation and development. The Teaching Triangles Program brings faculty together in groups of three to observe each other’s teaching and addresses a real need and desire among our faculty to learn from each other. By making the focus of visit what the visitor can learn from their colleague at the front of the room rather than the opposite arrangement typically found in peer evaluation or consultation models, the teaching triangle can be much less intimidating for faculty members who are hesitant to be observed by their colleagues. The Teaching Triangles program makes up one of the core components of our new Teaching Excellence Program. This program, designed in consultation with our Faculty Development Committee, brings together many of our program offerings into a more cohesive curriculum drawing from many of the portfolios in MacEwan’s teaching and learning centre, the Centre for the Advancement of Faculty Excellence (CAFÉ). The result, a more robust initiative to develop teaching excellence at MacEwan, will be something the university can point to as a key example of its commitment to scholarly teaching.
The core components of the Teaching Excellence Program are as follows:
- Instructional Skills Workshop (4 days)
- Participation in Teaching Triangles program for at least one semester
- Course (Re)Design Institute (5 days) OR Teaching with Technology Summer Institute (5 days)
- At least twelve hours of courses or workshops from Faculty Commons, with coverage in at least four of the following areas: Student Engagement and Active Learning; Teaching with Technology; Academic Integrity and Information literacy; Curriculum and course design; Assessment and Evaluation; Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
- Creation or Revision of a Teaching Portfolio
- Capstone course: National Great Teachers Seminar in the Canadian Rockies (4 days; seminar fee covered by Faculty Development)
2) A new mission and vision for Faculty Development at MacEwan University
One of my most important accomplishments early on in my time as Faculty Development Coordinator was to lead the Faculty Development Committee through the process of creating new mission and vision statements. The statements that I drafted from our committee’s long conversations about this topic have guided our committee in decisions about future programming and have helped us to communicate who we are to the MacEwan University community. They also reflect my own views of what Educational Development is all about.
VISION: To be at the heart of MacEwan University’s international reputation for teaching excellence.
MISSION: The MacEwan University Faculty Development Program holds a leadership role in the university community’s commitment to excellence and innovation in teaching and learning. Through responsive programming, the promotion of evidence-based practice, and professional development funding, we support faculty in their continuous pursuit of teaching excellence. By helping faculty throughout their careers to enhance and expand their skills, we work to improve student learning and success.
3) Teaching Innovation Fund
In order to help support innovative teaching projects, I created the CAFÉ Teaching Innovation Fund in 2014. This fund supports faculty who wish to develop and/or implement new tools or techniques in the classroom in order to improve student learning. I have been able to set aside $20 000 from the annual Faculty Development budget to cover the costs of this initiative. Faculty can apply for up to $5000 and the applications are adjudicated by a subcommittee made up of members of the Faculty Development Committee and CAFÉ’s Academic Technology Coordinator. In our first three years, we have funded some important and interesting projects, several of which have resulted in awards and publications.
4) Launch of Faculty Learning Communities
In the fall of 2011, drawing on what I perceived to be a need for ongoing faculty-led interest groups, we launched the first of what has now become a strong array of faculty learning communities. This began with a faculty learning community on academic writing and has grown to include learning communities on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Internationalization, and Digital Humanities, among other topics. Faculty Learning Communities are widely used in teaching and learning centres throughout North America and are an evidence-based practice that drives faculty engagement and research.