Kentucky Pedagogicon: How We Did It

For the past few years we (Rusty, Hal, and I) have argued that the traditional three-part list of faculty responsibilities—teaching, scholarship, and service—needs to be a tetrad. Underlying the traditional trio should be professional development, and to push PD, the past two years we have facilitated a state-wide PD conference for higher education instructors that we call the Kentucky Pedagogicon.

Creating A Brand That Speaks to Teaching and Learning

Higher education in Kentucky is overseen by the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE), and years ago it created the Faculty Development Workgroup, whose purpose was to provide Kentucky’s college and universities (private and public, two-year and four-year) with PD guidance. Some years ago the PD and IT groups merged their annual conferences, but the result soon became more IT and less PD.

The FDW, of which we are a member, decided to start over by separating the groups into two conferences. In our way of thinking the old Chinese proverb that “The beginning of wisdom is learning to call things by their right name” took on new importance. The merged conference had been called the Kentucky Convergence Conference, a name that meant little. Taking our cue from a group whose name immediately announces their audience, the [insert city] Comicon, we decided to relaunch the annual meeting as the Kentucky Pedagogicon. Yes, the name called attention to itself, but it left no doubt that the emphasis would be on teaching and learning.

Related Reading: Makings of Pedagogicon Conference Via Nifty-Nine Strategies

Selecting A Time and Location for Optimal Attendance

Next, as Kentucky is large, taking eight hours to make the southwest to northeast corner drive from Paducah to Ashland, we volunteered to hold the conference in Richmond as Eastern Kentucky University, despite its geographical name, sits close to the commonwealth’s center. We also decided that to save money we would condense the conference to a single day. That way, even attendees from our far corners would have to foot the bill for only one night’s stay. Running the conference from (:00-4:00 also made it possible for folks to attend the day-long conference and still make it home that night.

When to hold the conference was another key choice. The school year was busy enough, and we knew faculty wanted their summers for research and travel, so we picked the Friday after most state graduations. While no time was perfect, the Pedagogicon was held right after faculty turned in their spring semester grades and before they departed for the summer.

Collaborating to Ensure Attendee Engagement

Every June the CPE Faculty Development Workgroup holds a retreat, so we used the retreat to plan the conference theme (e.g., Closing the Achievement Gap, Practicing Creative and Scholarly Teaching) and establish a schedule. The Call For Proposals goes out on 1 November, and a committee of the FDW meets in mid-February to select 30+ proposals (six rounds with six sessions each round-sponsors’ sessions) plus posters (participants are given box lunches and encouraged to interact with the poster creators). One of our reps serves as a liaison with the CPE, helping us with a theme and finding us a speaker from the CPE to open the Conference with a plenary session.

Obviously we have a central location for the conference, the EKU library, and a steering committee that starts with the three of us. Monthly meetings we block out rooms and figure out how much food and beverage to order. The committee also solicits sponsorships (this year, for instance, we had four). For Kentucky Pedagogicon II (KPII), New Forums Press served as our headline sponsor, and its publisher, Doug Dollar, was our special guest. With Doug, the three of us presented a Conference session on writing a book proposal.

Related Reading: Sign-up to receive new stories directly to your email inbox! 

Observing Conference Performance

So far we feel successful. In each of the past two, the Pedagogicon has drawn over two hundred conferees, a mixture of mostly faculty and a few students. Surveys indicate a high level of satisfaction with the Conference. The low $50 conference registration fee ($25 for students), the convenience of a one-day conference in a fairly close location, and quality of the presentations rank as the major positives.

Where do we go from here? Perhaps national. Later this week, less than two weeks after KPII, we have our annual FDW retreat to start the process over. Remember those old 1930’s musicals where Our Gang, Mickey Rooney, or Laurel & Hardy uttered that famous phrase, “Hey gang, let’s put on a show?” We did and it worked well.



Author Charlie Sweet EKUCharlie Sweet is currently Co-Director of the Teaching & Learning Center (2007+) at Eastern Kentucky University. Before going over to the dark side of administration, for 37 years he taught American Lit and Creative Writing in EKU’s Department of English & Theatre, where he also served as chair (2003-2006). Collabo-writing with Hal Blythe, he has published well over 1000 items, including 15 books; of his 11 books with New Forums. Meet Charlie.