Week before last we discussed what made the morning of our January progress such a success. After an excellent lunch, we moved onto a two-hour afternoon session. Our lunch served a double-duty purpose. First, we had it catered from the local Panera with plenty of options in sandwiches, salads, and drinks (a full faculty innovator is a productive faculty innovator). Second, while most participants were eating, we sent out one faculty innovator (FI) at a time for a five-minute filmed interview with our Media Producer. Each FI’s answers to such questions as “Why did you want to be an FI?” to “What has been your most rewarding moment as an FI?” were captured by camera to be inserted on the Faculty Innovator website so as to personalize each participant.
Becoming A Faculty Consultant
Our first afternoon session dealt with their most common role, being a faculty consultant. First, we brainstormed what we considered best practices in offering faculty consultations. That list was reduced to what the group considered the five best practices. With those practices as background guidelines, we moved on to four scenarios. The re-paired teams were given a slip of paper with a scenario in which a faculty member came with a problem, and they had to supply their best response. Each team presented how they would handle the problem; afterwards, the other FIs provided some alternate ways of dealing with the situation.
For instance, one team was handed a scenario (written by the Executive Committee) in which an Associate Professor, concerned about class participation, confessed that he called on the most willing to talk, but never had 100% participation. Was 100% a good goal? How do you keep alpha students involved, yet provide an opportunity for others to talk? How do you draw out the painfully shy? How do you handle the unprepared? Should one allow the law school “I pass”? The team’s response, as well as the comments by the other FIs, was checked against our list of best practices. As a result, some best practices were modified by the experience, while other best practices had to be added. What stood out for us was the camaraderie and the compassion displayed.
Observing Faculty Peers
The second hour focused on the best practices for peer observation of teaching. Recently, we have seen an increase in the number of faculty requesting a classroom observation, a three-part process that includes a pre-conference to determine the goals of the observation (e.g., Do I build rapport? Am I organized? Do I overdo the technology), the actual observation, and the follow-up conference. Traditionally, the Teaching & Learning Center (TLC) has handled these observations because the co-directors have been trained and are very experienced, but lately more and more faculty have been in need (the Blythe-Sweet Law of Classroom Observation says that observations arise in direct proportion to promotion and tenure demands), and the TLC has needed help.
To prepare for the session, the FIs were previously provided with a notebook containing (among other things) the observation rubric we use and were asked to read an article placed in the FI Dropbox (a future post will cover how the FIs use technology). Once again, we reviewed/brainstormed the best practices for the process, and we even created a list of taboos. At that point the group was presented some scenarios and asked to come up with possible solutions. This time members worked alone, then presented their ideas to the group. A subsequent discussion refined and increased our best practices. This subject is so important for the campus that we are running a professional learning community on peer observation this spring.
Each section was designed to be facilitated by a different member of the four-person Executive Committee to offer a variety of styles. In practice what happened was that no matter who led, the other three jumped right in.
Disseminating Innovation Throughout the Institution
In the final section we covered successes and failures in disseminating innovation to the deans, colleges, and departments. FIs fessed up to things they could have done better and proudly proclaimed their successes. At the end we were able to synthesize our procedures into things we should do and things we should not do. We also rearranged our spring meetings to be every three weeks (vs. two in the fall) and set up a Doodl poll for best times.
Ultimately, two major things contributed to the success of the progress. First, we had selected excellent FIs, who were not only very good at what they do, but were also superb communicators as well as creative and critical thinkers. Second, we had spent sufficient time in preparation so that we had a three-page, single-space outline that listed even the smallest of details (e.g., how much coffee to order, materials needed, and a who-will-do-what list).
Dr. Russell Carpenter is director of the Noel Studio for Academic Creativity and Program Director of the Minor in Applied Creative Thinking at Eastern Kentucky University. He is also Assistant Professor of English. Dr. Carpenter has published on the topic of creative thinking, among other areas, including two texts by New Forums Press. In addition, he has taught courses in creative thinking in EKU’s Minor in Applied Creative Thinking, which was featured in the New York Times in February 2014. Meet Russell.