My philosophy of educational development, one which has developed over the course of my career and underlies all my current work, rests on four fundamental principles:
1) Student learning comes first
The fundamental objective of educational development work is the improvement of student learning. This focus helps faculty members to prioritize what they wish to achieve through professional development activities and it also helps guide educational developers when making decisions about programming and other means of supporting faculty. Moreover, in an era in which students, parents, and society are increasingly questioning the value of a traditional university education, the most important thing a university can do to navigate these challenges is to invest heavily in developing and supporting a culture of teaching excellence and innovation. Educational development, then, is not only work that makes a real difference in the lives of faculty and students, but it is also work that can help ensure the future success of our educational institutions.
2) Relationships are as important as expertise
One of the factors most vital to the success of any center for teaching and learning is the development of relationships between educational developers and other members of the university community. By reaching out to members of the faculty and administration throughout the university, developers can help build an audience for a center’s programming and, equally crucial, build programming for its audience. Without a rich understanding of their main clientele and the needs and strategic directions of the university they serve, educational developers will fall short of achieving a significant positive impact. The knowledge, skills, and abilities of educational developers are crucial to a center’s success, but so are their team’s networking and social skills.
3) Mind your story
Stories are incredibly powerful; they shape how we and others see the world. The two types of stories to which educational developers must pay careful attention are the stories we tell faculty (and ourselves) about the purpose of educational development and the stories that participants at our events tell after they go back to their departments. In the latter case, one of the crucial ways we can work to ensure that positive stories are told about us is to deliver on what we promise. By making sure that our events and our consultations provide excellent value to faculty, we can harness the power of positive stories to increase our reach across campus. Following up with faculty and ensuring that we are constantly working to improve our programming can ensure that these stories get better and better as time goes on.
4) The best way to inspire others is first to be inspired by them
Just as we try to do with our students in the classroom, as educational developers we want to inspire the faculty with whom we work. We want to engage faculty in such a way that they come to see improving their teaching as an ongoing process that will help them better serve their students and enjoy teaching more as well. We never want faculty to see participating in a single workshop with us as a lifelong vaccination against ineffective teaching. Rather, we want to draw faculty into a continuous conversation on how to improve teaching and learning in their own classes as well as throughout the university. We can achieve this by listening carefully and compassionately to what faculty tell us and by celebrating both their successes and also the opportunities for growth presented by their challenges. When faculty members realize they have unique insights to offer in these conversations and that they can assist in the improvement of teaching and learning throughout the institution, they are much more likely to participate in and help promote the work of a teaching and learning center.