The Organization is the Solution

We’ve explained how our CTL is guided by a principle we call the law of organizational entropy—when everybody is in charge, nobody is in charge. The obvious foundation for such a law is another law about the importance of organization in itself.

Several years ago, AT&T built an advertising campaign around the slogan “The system is the solution.” We have revised that law to state “The organization is the solution.”

But is the organization really the solution? The events of the past few days provide an example of how effective organization can work . . . quickly.

Read our story and the steps we applied to go from problem at 8:00 am to solution by 4:00 pm.

Identify Problems and Solutions

Every Tuesday morning the three of us regularly meet. We each bring an agenda of three or four things that have come up and problems we have to solve. Once a month, the Chief Faculty Innovator joins us during this hour and a half, and with the full Executive Committee in session, we focus on our Faculty Innovator program.

Last Tuesday Rusty brought up something that troubled him. Our on-demand program of faculty development, DEEP (which we have discussed in previous posts), had hit a snag.

We finally had the content ready to go on a basic course we had written called Foundations of Pedagogy, but we were being held up in production.

To explain, each new course needs to have two videos. One, the promo video, introduces the new course to the faculty as publicity, and the second, the explanatory video, pops up when someone enrolls in the course.

The problem was that our fairly new Media Coordinator was caught in a logjam. Because Paul was very successful, combining a technical expertise with an artistic flair, his videos took longer than we thought to shoot. Moreover, Paul’s success had put him in great demand.

On top of that situation, we had published a schedule that promised the faculty—and served to prod us—that the new Foundations of Pedagogy course would be ready a month or so ago.

Our problem, then, was that we needed to get the two videos conceptualized, scripted, shot, and embedded in the course. Immediately.

Recommended Next Step: Dedicate a time every week or two weeks to discuss challenges and solutions. Keep each other responsible for progress in your assigned tasks.

Take Action

We decided on a spokesperson to star in the video. Our colleagues Lisa was doing a presentation later that morning on an introduction to the DEEP system, we decided to ask her to be spokesperson just before her presentation.

Rather than try to free up Paul, we decided on an alternate route.

As part of our organization we have a Technology Coordinator, and this semester Jason ambitiously assembled a group of students into a group he calls the Media Consultants. In fact, our DEEP presentation at 11:00 was being Facebook lived and Instagrammed by two of them. Perhaps one of them could shoot the two simple videos?

But we also needed some concepts for the two intros. Sometimes we have to script them out, but both of these were deemed short enough so that our host could ad-lib—if we had two viable concepts.

The rest of the morning we brainstormed—see our nifty nine strategies for creativity—competing with the rear beep-beeping of vehicles and the pounding of girders into place next door.

Our breakthrough was turning a negative into a positive. Gazing into the Tinkertoy-like assemblage of girders, we began to see a metaphor (another nifty-nine strategy) for one video.

Recommended Next Steps: Identify all of your resources, including people who would be good additions to the projects. Apply these nine strategies to be more effective and creative in your execution.

Recommended Reading: Introduction to Applied Creative Thinking

Achieve The Desired Solution or Product

Shortly before 11:00 we approached Lisa as she prepared her DEEP presentation. Lisa was happy to do the videos and was even available that afternoon. The two media consultants shooting the DEEP presentation overheard us. They volunteered that another student who often did videography was downstairs eating lunch. We sent one consultant to get to get the videography student, and the other consultant coordinated a second video-shoot time with Lisa.

By 3:00 that afternoon Lisa shot an intro to the Foundations of Pedagogy course, using the construction site behind her to talk about “foundations.”

Lisa and the student videographer moved into the quad, where Lisa, clad in a gown and mortar board, announced the latest addition to our DEEP courses, tossing her mortarboard in the air and declaring that if faculty took the new course, “They might just make it after all.” (R.I. P. Mary Tyler Moore.)

Recommended Next Steps: Receive more strategies for faculty development, innovation and execution. Sign-up for your online subscription of the Journal of Faculty Development.

Your department will also receive three free books of choice when your university subscribes to our online The Journal of Faculty Development. Read more now. 



Russell CarpenterDr. 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.

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The Law of Organizational Entropy and Faculty Innovators

Periodically we run across, in various fields from religion to education, a principle from organizational psychology that while often rendered in slightly different form states, “When everybody is in charge, no one is in charge.” Since we can find no attribution or source, we have dubbed it the Law of Organizational Entropy.

An Explanation

What does such a fancy name as the Law of Organizational Entropy mean? In simple terms, the law is a call for leadership—in any group somebody must be in charge. That person might be a facilitator or CFO, an alpha or beta, but someone has to take the ultimate responsibility for the group, running it and its actions. While admittedly some groups seem to run themselves, we’ve never seen a team achieve great and lasting success without a field leader, a coach, a captain, or such.

Why? Without a central focus, a quarterback, each of the eleven members of a football team could be running a different play. The strength of a team is its unity of purpose in striving to reach its goal. The opposite effect is entropy, a gradual decline into disorder. Organizations should be known for their accomplishments, not their chaos.

Example #1: Group Work

With the advent of active learning in the 1990s, group work became a predominant sight in the P-20 classroom. Instructors broke the class into small groups, assigning them the same or different projects, turning them loose, and periodically checking up on the various groups. In theory, collaboration works well. In books such as our Introduction to Applied Creative Thinking (2012), we have cited studies that show ideational levels can increase up to 600-700% in such groups. Unfortunately, just having a lot of good ideas is rarely enough. The ideas chosen by a group must be well thought out and eventually applied to attain a sought goal. The proof of a good idea is in the product and what the product itself accomplishes.

The main problem with groups, though, is inequity. Not everybody contributes the same amount. Like Puritan “lie-a-beds,” some group members lurk on the fringe, offering little, while alphas, usually driven by a desire to excel, perform the bulk of the work. Haven’t you ever closely observed group work in your classes and noticed how the alphas and others shake out? To combat this deleterious effect, we, as faculty developers, have tried to stress the importance of two principles:

  1. Every person in the group should be assigned a distinct job. One functions as facilitator, another acts as scribe, one serves as the reporter to the class, etc.
  2. When the group work is over, each member of the group receives an evaluation and rates each other member’s participation. A set of three or four questions is asked, and one of those questions always deals with an assessment of each member’s assigned duty.

Specific Assignments for Faculty Innovators

Wea culpa. When we created our system of Faculty Innovators (FIs), we made the very mistake we just described in poorly run group work.

Related Reading: Faculty Innovators: The Key to the Future of Faculty Development

To review, Faculty Innovators is our program in which we select the very best faculty, train them in various subjects (e.g., facilitating meetings, classroom observations, help), and send them back to their individual colleges and departments to provide faculty development. A year and a half into our FI program, we realized that we had done a good job with the teaching and sending back part, but when it came to the FI organization itself, we had struck out. Periodically, we hold FI meetings and retreats (we call them “progresses”). We started by having each member report on his/her activities since the past meeting, but the FIs did little to run the organization. That task fell on the four-person FI Executive Committee, but as the FIs became more and more successful, continually adding programs and new members, we found the Executive Committee could not — and should not — handle all the old and new tasks.

Rather than having the FIs devolve into chaos or entropy because of overload, we adopted a plan similar to the one we used to run group work in the classroom. Each FI would henceforth be placed on a group or subcommittee. To start, we devised four committees (plus the Executive Committee):

  1. Awards: This committee’s charge was to establish a series of awards for campus instructors, devise the rubrics and methodology for the awards, and even search for funding sources.
  2. DEEP: This committee provided new courses and mentors for our online professional development system, Developing Excellence in Eastern’s Professors.
  3. Outreach: This committee was in charge of publicity—creating notices for all our Teaching & Learning Innovations Series as well as our Dialogues and Professional Learning Communities. They also produced our bi-weekly tip series, “FYI from Your FI.”
  4. Events: This committee developed all the events in the aforementioned series.

Each committee meets outside the FI regular meetings and progresses as often as the members deem necessary to get the job done. Every FI on every committee has an individual assignment.

And the best news? So far no chaos or entropy.



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.

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A Quick Review of The Slow Professor

In our favorite film comedy of all time, Back to School (1986), a classroom scene highlights the difference between an ivory-tower econ instructor and Rodney Dangerfield’s street-wise and realistic non-traditional student. After describing a theoretical construct, Professor Barbay asks his class where do we build this factory, and Dangerfield’s Thornton Melon wryly responds, “How about fantasyland?”

Dangerfield’s commentary pretty much sums up our reaction to reading Berg and Seeber’s The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy (2016). We agree for the most part with Berg and Seeber’s description of the major problem with today’s university as the “corporatization” of the academy that demands faculty must do more with less, but we disagree with their solution—“the premise of this book is that an approach influenced by the Slow movement” (p. 56) is necessary to combat the stress caused by “the corporate university.”

Recommended Reading: The Journal of Faculty Development

Observing Higher Ed Professorial Productivity

This self-admittedly “idealistic” call to action, furthermore, is buttressed more on anecdotal evidence, examples from fiction, and pronouncements from academic self-help experts than studies or data. Berg and Seeber ardently believe that to increase student learning and produce greater quantities of quality scholarship, professors need more time to think. We are reminded of a departmental discussion years ago on merit points where one faculty member demanded his points merely for thinking deeply for twenty minutes per day (it would be cruel to point out that professor’s lack of scholarship over the years).

In fantasyland, Professor Barbay and our former colleague would have a point, but as the accountabiity movement grows and state legislatures scrutinize faculty productivity in terms of retention, graduation rates, and measures of student learning, giving more “slow” time would necessarily demand smaller teaching loads, which in term would mean administrators and legislators are getting less faculty teaching time to generate the same amount of student credit hours. Less bang for the buck—how many legislators line up behind that one?

So, as Thornton Melon observes, who pays for ideal-world theory in the real world?

Yes, while reassigned time (never say “released” time) is nice for research and creativity, it is not necessary. Consider the current sorry state of professorial productivity. According to Boice, twenty years ago about one in seven professors was a practicing productive scholar. At our university, promotion and tenure rubrics from assistant to associate professor can be satisfied with a single peer-reviewed article or single book, and advancement to the next rank demands merely an additional article/book.

Setting A Higher Scholarly Production Bar

The scholarly production bar is already so low that to lower it more would be a disgrace. Arum and Roksa’s Academically Adrift (2011) makes it clear that professors aren’t teaching their students much either.

A study of over 2300 students at 24 institutions revealed 45% of the students demonstrated no significant improvement in skills such as writing, complex thinking, and critical thinking in their first two years; 36% showed no significant gain in four years.

While these students lack the rigor necessary and have more social than academic engagement, the real culprit is the higher education professor who assigns less than 40 pages of reading per week, requires under 20 pages of writing, and places these snowflakes in study groups rather than promoting studying on one’s own. Impersonal online courses don’t help a lot either.

Standards for Other Higher Ed Activities

Permit us to utilize a sports analogy. When high school athletes move up to the college level or college athletes to the pro level, they often complain the game is moving too fast for them. If they whine or give up, they are gone. If they learn, gain some experience, and develop expertise, they are able to adjust to the faster pace. Perhaps if the one-half of one percent who earn Ph.D.s learned from the likewise small percentage of professional players, they would have a higher success rate.

Check out the mirror of academia’s soul, The Chronicle of Higher Education. Once dominated by articles on student learning, scholarship, and research, recent Chronicle articles trend toward politics, administration, and leadership. Politics dominates the CHE home page, rather than teaching and learning, faculty affairs, or leading research in higher education. Visitors have to dig deeply for an academic book review or recent update on higher education research. Scholarship and research seem to be buried among the other priorities of higher education.


When Charlie and I taught full-time, they still managed to publish an average of twenty items per year over the last thirty years of their four-four-load teaching careers. Last year as half-timers, they published six books, not to mention columns, articles, and blog posts. Rusty, who also serves as Director for the Noel Studio for Academic Creativity and editor of the Journal of Faculty Development, is nipping on their productive heels. Our point is not to crow but to count; if they are extremely disciplined and hard-working, professors can still produce as teachers and scholars without additional “slow” time.

Nothing ages the academy like a fine whine, and nothing so alienates it from real-world number-crunchers like asking for more so they (professors) can do less. Would “slow” time produce better quality teaching and scholarship?

Let’s fight fire with fire to respond to these English professors. At the end of Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises (1926), Lady Brett Ashley claims, “Oh, Jake, we could have such a damned good time together,” and Jake Barnes replies, “Yes. Isn’t it pretty to think so?” (p. 251).


Arum, R. & Roksa, J. (2011). Academically adrift: Limited learning on college campuses.

Chicago: University of Chicago.

Berg, M. & Seeber, B. (2016). The slow professor: Challenging the culture of speed in the

            academy. Toronto: University of Toronto.

Hemingway, E. (1926). The sun also rises. New York: Scribner.



author Hal BlythePh.D Hal Blythe writes literary criticism to mystery stories. In addition to the eleven books he’s published with New Forums, Hal has collaborated on four books on a variety of subjects, over 1000 pieces of fiction/nonfiction, and a host of television scripts and interactive mysteries performed by their repertory company. He is currently co-director of the Teaching and Learning Center for Eastern Kentucky University. Meet Hal Blythe.

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Expanding Your Center of Teaching and Learning Services

When should a CTL take on additional duties? Throughout this blog’s history we have continually addressed the subject of what responsibilities should register on a CTL’s strategic plan. To sum up, a CTL’s duties:

  • Should reflect the university’s strategic plan.
  • Should be aligned with the wishes of the administrator directly up the chain of command—i.e., the boss.
  • Should be doable in terms of a CTL’s budget.
  • Should be doable in terms of the CTL’s administrator and staff’s skill sets.
  • Should not overwhelm the CTL so that it’s doing many things poorly instead of a few things well.


If you are interested in what services are the most frequently offered, you can check out POD or the appendices in Faculty Development in the Age of Reason (2016). As Beach, Sorcinelli, Austin, and Rivard’s research suggests, faculty leadership is a growing priority among academic institutions, including those at regional comprehensive universities. While teaching and scholarship receive a great deal of attention, service is a pillar of the academic institution that requires faculty time. Beyond serving on committees, faculty members are often called upon to lead major initiatives. These service opportunities often become leadership opportunities and a chance for faculty to shape the long-term vision of the college or university.

Many academic institutions around the country offer faculty leadership development opportunities as part of their CTL or faculty development programming. As the paragraphs below describe, the inaugural Faculty Leadership Institute at our institution went exceedingly well and has drawn praise from across campus.

Related Reading: Showcasing A Higher Ed Professional Learning Community

Faculty Leadership Institute

As a guideline, the spine of our operations is something we call Milestone Events. While certainly not all our services, these are the big events we use to tie the year together. Milestone Events are spaced out throughout the year so that we run from New Faculty Orientation in August, the Provost Speaker Series, Scholar’s Week in mid-Spring, and the Pedagogicon in May. All our other programs—such as our Teaching & Learning Innovations Series, our PLCs, and DEEP (our online professional development series of courses)—support the Milestones.

Last year when reviewing our Milestones, we realized a serious gap in our programming. If you follow the Chronicle of Higher Education, you may have noticed that since the beginning of the new year, the journal has been featuring stories about the lack of ways to develop future leaders in academia, especially those coming up through the ranks.

So in January, just before the new semester began, we offered through our parent organization, the Noel Studio for Academic Creativity in collaboration with the newly formed College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences (CLASS). This two-day workshop focused on practical skills than can enhance leadership across campus. Sessions covered leadership assessment, communication, ethics, and conflict management. Various campus leaders, faculty and administrators, served as session facilitators. Twenty-six faculty members of various ranks and departments participated.

The institution will continue to support faculty leadership development and to examine the priorities, needs, opportunities, and expectations of our faculty, including leaders and those aspiring to leadership roles.

Related Reading: Re-Inventing New Higher Ed Faculty Orientation

Suicide Awareness and Focus on Education (SAFE)

Nowhere on the 39-member list of CTL services listed in Faculty Development in the Age of Evidence can you locate our next addition. A major problem for today’s college students is their increasing suicide rate. Recently our university received a suicide prevention grant and wished to develop a campus advisory group to establish a campus network and create some policies for preventing the problem, helping students, and offering gatekeeper training for students, faculty, and staff aimed at increasing competency in the entire university community to identify and manage those at risk.

We partnered with the grant-receivers to create and meet with this advisory group. Since funding was in place, what did we have to offer? We identified four services we could provide:

  • A meeting place
  • Professional Development (PD) expertise
  • Tech help
  • Assessment

We hosted the first meeting of the advisory group earlier this month, and we will continue to help with the quarterly meetings as well as the other support listed.

Why did we do it? A better answer might be, “How can we not do it?” While we’re very cognizant that university services are being asked to do more with less, we’re also aware that sometimes we have to go the extra mile for valuable services. Can we continue to take on additional responsibilities like these two discussed? Probably not, but we jump in when and where we can.


Beach, A., Sorcinelli, M., Austin, A., & Rivard, J. (2016). Faculty development in the age of

            evidence: Current practices, Future Imperatives. Sterling, VA: Stylus.



Russell CarpenterDr. 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.

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Are Academic Blogs Scholarship?

While blogging has certainly matured, the concept of academic blogging still conjures up, in the eyes of some, images of professors in pajamas whining about early classes, unprepared students, inattentive administrators, and the cold and cruel world of publishing. Yet, in an era of increased academic accountability, higher education bloggers are looking to promotion and tenure committees for respect and publication credit.

Are academic blogs scholarship? Yes and no, depending on the post.

Recommended Reading: Why the Academic Blog? 

Perspectives on Scholarship

Clearly, academic blogging has its supporters. Maitzen (2012) argues, “academic blogging can and should have an acknowledged place in the overall ecology of scholarship. It does contribute—and should be recognized as contributing—to both the intellectual and the institutional goals of our universities” (p. 348). Keener claims simply, “Blogging advances an idea or argument, and that is the ultimate goal of scholarship.” Weller (2012) believes “that the answer to the first question above, as to whether new approaches such as blogging constitute scholarly activity, is an emphatic yes.” In a discussion of legal blogging, Lindgren(2006) focuses on saturation: “the power of blogs to focus attention and advance public intellectual debate about legal issues is rivaled only by the top segment of traditional mass media.” Yet, as early critics of blogging pointed out, the very fact that bloggers are posting proves they are not out researching.

Key Definitions for Scholarship

To discuss blogging as scholarship without first defining scholarship is impossible. While it would be great to turn to the acknowledged authority of scholarship, we must recognize that Boyer’s Scholarship Reconsidered was published in 1990, before blogging existed. Moreover, Boyer basically established a typology of the four major types rather than a pure definition, and that typology itself is flawed because 1) what Boyer called “the scholarship of teaching” (p. 23) is never distinguished from scholarly teaching or what we now call SoTL, the scholarship of teaching and learning; and 2) Boyer never considered emerging form of scholarship such as the scholarship of creative endeavor (see our forthcoming Scaling the Scholarship Mountain for a longer explanation).

In “Is Blogging Scholarship?” Alpers (2014), before calling for the “need to establish generally accepted professional standards for the acceptance of blogging,” describes some characteristics of traditional research (e.g., a conference paper, an essay, or a book):

  • Accuracy
  • Significance
  • Some combination or original research and original work
  • Part of a scholarly conversation, and
  • Stand up to the scrutiny of scholars.

In short, if a particular post is to be deemed scholarship, it should exhibit these traits.


Does “Are Academic Blogs Scholarship?” display the basic criteria for academic scholarship?

Accuracy. As far as we know, the post is accurate (though with the changing standards, our References section could be off, especially since for a cross-section of readers we strive for clarity more than rigid accuracy).

Significance. As the concept of digital scholarship enters the higher ed publications arena and more and more professors blog, the question of its value grows more important daily.

Combination of Original Research and Original Work. As the Research section of this post below demonstrates, other writers have been discussing this subject, so the topic itself is not really original. In addition, the bulk of this post has been a focusing and a summation on blogging with little original material other than the organization. Also, you have doubtlessly noticed we have no real original research study/project, though some of our insights might be categorized as original.

Scholarly Conversation. Yes, we have joined a community of scholars commenting on this subject.

Stand up to the Scrutiny of Scholars. Obviously, this post was reviewed both by the three of us plus our editor before it was published, but that process does not constitute prior peer-review. Is peer-review the gold standard that can be equally applied to all scholarly potential publications? That’s a discussion for another post.


Should this post be considered scholarship? As an original contribution to the discussion, we would suggest turning to the field of SoTL. In Enhancing Scholarly Work on Teaching & Learning (2006), Weimer points out that SoTL, or “pedagogical scholarship,” exists on a long continuum from published “practitioner pedagogical scholarship” (p.21) to pure educational research. Likewise, some blog posts are pure descriptions of practitioner work, while others are farther down the continuum toward educational research.

This post, for instance, would probably be scored as resting around the midpoint.

Finally, how does the blog relate to faculty development? As part of contemporary academic credentials, blogging is a practice we should encourage, publicize, and help it and its practitioners gain credit for it.



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.


  • Boyer, E. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Keener, M. (2010, July 8). Blogging as scholarship [Blog post]. Retrieved from
  • Lindgren, J. (2006). Is blogging scholarship? Why do you want to know? Washington University Law Review, 84(5), 1105-1108.
  • Maitzen, R. (2012). Scholarship 2.0: Blogging and/as academic practice. Journal of Victorian Culture, 17(3), 348-354.
  • Weimer, M. (2006). Enhancing scholarly work on teaching & learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Weller, M. (2012). The virtues of blogging as scholarly activity [Blog post]. Retrieved from


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Why the Academic Blog?

Over the past decade blogs have proliferated on the Internet. Among those are the academic blog, which has all kinds of subgenres. We have a colleague, for instance, who regularly posts items about the political forces involved in our state’s higher education institutions—e.g., individual institutions, the Commonwealth’s legislature and its committees, the working of the state school board, and even things happening on the various campuses. Another colleague writes a very personal blog about his growth in academia—e.g., the books and articles he reads, the adjustments he makes to his courses, and the conferences he attends.

Martin Weller in “The Virtues of Blogging as a Scholarly Activity” sees the blog as a key aspect of the digital revolution and a part of the modern academic’s identity: “now you might want to reference not only your publications, but also a set of videos, presentations, blog posts, curated collections, and maybe even your social network.”

And, of course, we have been writing an-almost weekly blog for New Forums on the general topic of innovating faculty development. This week we’d like to discuss why academics blog and follow it up in part two by addressing the key question: is academic blogging scholarship?

The Diary Approach

Some people blog as a contemporary form of the diary. They like to keep an ongoing record of what they are doing throughout the year. Good classes and bad, successful and poor strategies, as well as ideas and students confronted provide daily or weekly fodder. But whereas traditional diaries were personal and once kept under lock and key, today’s posters go public because they wish to share. They want to belong to that great social media universe where the biggest phobia is FOMO, the Fear Of Missing Out. Such people remind us of Whitman’s “Noiseless, Patient Spider” continuously launching filaments out of itself, hoping to connect. The blog becomes the virtual coffee house.

Conveying Scholarship

Weller points out that in the past “if I wanted to convey an idea or research finding, my choices were limited to a conference paper or journal article, or, if I could work it up, a book.” Now one can use a blog, Twitter, or perhaps Facebook. “Institutional reputation,” he concludes, “is largely created through the faculty’s online identity, and many institutions are now making it a priority to develop, recognize, and encourage practices such as blogging.”

Other Motivations

Some post for the sheer fun of it. Some post to see if they can do it. One of our colleagues writes his blog the same way he watches Netflix—in binges. Some blog because they feel they must, either personally or professionally. Some do it, like us, as a way of participating in a larger conversation than we can find at our institution. In the old days, one read a paper as a first step in developing an idea, using the feedback to craft a more complete and complex paper for publication. Now, of course, every post invites immediate (and PRINTED) reaction that can be quickly incorporated into developing an idea or project.

Our Primary Motivation

The three of us come from the writing as discovery school. We don’t really know exactly what we think about anything from literary theory to our feelings about the latest Star Wars movie until we write it down. Sometime we write fiction to express our feelings. Sometimes we write a complex article or a column to figure out what and why we believe a certain idea.

Take this blog as an example. It all began because at dinner one night our publisher, Doug Dollar, noted that we had two major bodies of writing—those about innovation and those about faculty development. He wondered if we had ever thought about a possible relationship between the two subjects. One hundred posts later we’re still exploring that relationship. Along the way, though, the blog has helped us figure out numerous relationships. For instance, our whole theory of using milestone events to tie together every program we offer came about because we discovered its importance while writing these posts. Other posts have suggested to us that we need to take a very scholarly and comprehensive approach to a topic as in our upcoming Scaling the Scholarship Mountain book. Sometimes a reaction to something we have written has caused us to explore the topic in greater depth—e.g., do you guys have an application process for your Faculty Innovators program?

But the ultimate evidence that writing is discovery is this blog itself. In 2012 we published Introduction to Applied Creative Thinking (Stillwater: New Forums) in which we posited series of creative strategies that we dubbed “The Nifty Nine.” It looks like our nonet has become a dectet with the addition of writing.

But do any of these motivations make our academic blogging scholarship? See you next time.



author Hal BlythePh.D Hal Blythe writes literary criticism to mystery stories. In addition to the eleven books he’s published with New Forums, Hal has collaborated on four books on a variety of subjects, over 1000 pieces of fiction/nonfiction, and a host of television scripts and interactive mysteries performed by their repertory company. He is currently co-director of the Teaching and Learning Center for Eastern Kentucky University. Meet Hal Blythe.

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Showcasing A Higher Ed Professional Learning Community

Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) already play a large part in our faculty development program. Usually the semester after they finish, PLCs are invited to present a workshop in our Teaching & Learning Center wherein they provide faculty with some of their discoveries from the previous semester. In a normal semester we sponsor a minimum of three PLCs, but we find one of them gets shorted in the process. Our Creative Community (something we wrote about in a post called “A Third Type of Community”) has taken it upon itself to produce a published novel twice a year, but since most of the campus isn’t interested in becoming creative writers, how do we offer them a platform for publicizing their huge accomplishments?

A second problem is a way of publicizing one our newest services. A couple of years ago our parent organization, the Noel Studio for Academic Creativity, hired a Technology Coordinator. While the position came with many responsibilities—e.g., maintaining our unit’s website, repairing and purchasing need technology, and helping others set up technology for presentations—our new hiree was ambitious and started a program with student help he called Media Consultants. Over the past year, Jason helped numerous faculty with technological solutions to their problems. However, while we knew of what the Media Consultants accomplished, the rest of the campus didn’t, so how could we publicize this valuable service?

Related Reading: How to Assess Professional Learning Communities

Using Milestone Events to Unify Faculty Development

A while back in our posts we explained how we created a unified faculty development program through a series of milestone events. Milestone events are regular occurrences spaced throughout the year on which faculty can depend. In that original post, we listed our major four events—orientations (new faculty, part-time, and teaching assistants) in August, the Provost’s Speaker Series in the fall, Scholars Week (nee Scholarship Week) in April, and the Pedagogicon in May. Typically we create and develop a theme—e.g., deep learning, high-impact practices—that runs throughout the events. Iteration serves as the reinforcing agent.

Our basic solution, then, was to create a new milestone event that highlighted the excellent work performed by Jason and his media consultants as well as the creative community. Earlier this month for the first time we sponsored our annual Showcase of Teaching and Learning Innovations.

The Showcase publicized and celebrated the accomplishments of all participants in our three PLCs, presentations from our Teaching & Learning Innovations Series, and the projects aided by the Media Consultants. In our Faculty Center, we set up stations for each group to present. Some groups merely set up posters detailing their work, while other groups elected to have a “live” poster with someone there to explain over a two-hour period what work the group performed and what results were achieved. As a result, we had presenters on everything from active learning to a pedagogical application of a new software program.

Related Reading: Creating Unified Higher Ed Faculty Development Programming

Creative Community Poster

The Creative Community poster posed quite a challenge for us. Since folks might not be interested in the intricacies of writing fiction (something hard for us to imagine), we asked ourselves what about the production of a novel might stimulate their curiosity? The answer was the process of creativity involved. As we had written both Introduction to Applied Creative Thinking (2012) and Teaching Applied Creative Thinking (2013), we were quite aware, as the titles themselves suggest, that the key was the transference of knowledge. What might interest our audience were the basic strategies of creative thinking that the creative community applied to the successful writing and publication of five novels over a two-and-a-half-year duration.

First, for the Annual Showcase, we used for a poster the cover of the group’s latest novel, Where There’s Fire (2016). Beside the poster stood an explanation of the process used to create, emphasizing values (e.g., discipline, passion, organization) and strategies (e.g., brainstorming, collaboration, perception shifting, piggybacking, glimmer-catching) necessary for five people to write between 400-500 pages in a semester. You can also find an elaborated discussion on how to emulate the create community in our Options: Constructing Your House of Fiction (2014).


Creating new milestone events is a method of capitalizing on a proven success through adding more iteration. In fact, while we were creating our Annual Showcase of Teaching and Learning Innovations, we decided to add a January event, the Faculty Leadership Institute, but that’s the subject of another post.



Russell CarpenterDr. 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.

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Re-Inventing New Higher Ed Faculty Orientation

According to Beach, Sorcinelli, Austin, and Rivard in Faculty Development in the Age of Evidence (2016), at the top of their list of “Directors [of CTLs] Signature Series by Institutional Type” is New Faculty Orientation [NFO] with 36% of institutions (p. 60), yet on their list of “Top Issues Faculty Development Should Address in the Next Five Years,” NFO falls to number 21. We disagree.

Rationale for New Faculty Orientation’s Importance

In our Innovating Faculty Development (2016), we have a section devoted to NFO. Actually, we believe that NFO is the singular most important service that a CTL renders. Why? Without going over all the clichés on first impressions, we’ll just say that NFO is the new faculty member’s gateway to the university. It introduces the new hires to the way the university thinks. It’s an embodiment of the institution’s core values. As such, all new faculty at our university are bombarded with letters from the provost, emails from us, and constant signs that “Excellence in Teaching Is Job One,” which is Strategic Goal #1 in the University’s 2020 Strategic Plan.

Second, new faculty are a university’s greatest investment. Not only should you check out your university budget to see the importance of personnel, but consider this. Hiring a new faculty member at the bottom of the nation-wide scale of faculty salaries still over a career represents a million-dollar investment. At some schools, that figure triples. Just as you spend the greatest amount of time with your largest personal investments, so should a university shepherd the new flock through the process to protect that major investment.

Third, as every institution constantly inaugurates culture shifts, small and large, the easiest group to affect is new faculty. Every five years most schools issue a new strategic plan that starts with its institutional values. Transmitting those immediately is the best way to proceed.

Related Reading: What Theory of Deliberate Practice Tells Us about Faculty Development

The Times They Are A-Changing

We are doing more than just quoting America’s Nobel Prize winner in Literature. Higher education is always undergoing change. Our state, for instance, is going to a performance-based funding system, and as a regional institution we will be affected. At our Pedagogicon 2016 last May, Kentucky State University president Aaron Thompson gave an address about the changing demographics of our students as we say goodbye to the Millennials and welcome Generation Z, a different animal. Funding is being cut back nationally, and no one knows what changes the Trump administration will make to the federal view, including grants. Faculty demographics differ from yesterday as more and more new faculty view the professoriate as a nine-to-five job.

Obviously, then, while retaining our core values, we must change new faculty orientation to address these differences. For us, one change is paramount. The state group that controls higher education, in putting forward their performance-based funding model, emphasizes retention rates and graduation rates, especially among minorities and low-income populations. Such metrics impose responsibilities on us for New Faculty Orientation.

Related Reading: What’s on a Higher Ed Faculty Developer’s Bookshelf?

Changes to New Faculty Orientation

The truth is that as we have demonstrated in previous posts on NFO we make changes every year to improve our process. This coming fall we will once again concentrate on the strategies of effective teaching, but we will be adding a new section on the demographics of the typical student. In preparation for this occasion, we have started by doing research on Generation Z-ers in general and the makeup of our student population that comes essentially from a 22-county, poverty-stricken region in our state. In addition, we have launched a research project into our students’ perceptions of effective teaching both for learning and likeability. We have created a survey that will be going out across the student body as soon as the spring semester begins. And, because we want to see if the student trends hold around the state, we have enlisted a CTL on the other side of the state to give the same survey to his student body.

For years we have discussed the strategies that higher ed faculty believe to be the most effective in promoting deep learning. What fascinates us now is a research question: do students believe in the same pedagogical strategies that we value? In addition, we are trying to factor in what traits make students “like” a professor in a slightly more scientific manner than Rate My Professor.

What will our program look like in August? The results of the survey get us part way there. Figuring out how to workshop this material is necessary to bring the project home from second base.



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.

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Making Mid-Course Corrections

As long as we’ve been writing blog posts on faculty development, we’ve been stressing the importance of innovating on the fly, of being willing to use the design thinking process of creating low-resolution solutions or implementing an idea before it’s fully fleshed out.

One constant to which we often return is the Faculty Innovators (FIs), our select group of higher education faculty members who take professional development right back to the colleges and departments. Another such creation is our DEEP system for any-time, any-place online professional development.

A problem with our and our administration’s willingness to go with not-fully-formed projects is that things will go wrong. While we usually tout the success of innovation, we admit to failures. Our LEAF (Learning Environment for Academia’s Future) project, for instance, was halted because 1) the administration was not willing to commit any more money to an ideal classroom (including technology) and 2) we didn’t have the assessments to prove its worth.

In short, a willingness to spot and address problems with on-going innovations is just as important as the actual on-the-fly implementations of not-fully-formed ideas.

Related Reading: How Collaborative Innovative Thinking Led to the DEEP System

Formalizing the Faculty Innovators

In less than two years, our Faculty Innovators program seems successful. When we started it, however, we gave ourselves two years for phase one, in which we launched the program and started sailing forward. When the three of us assessed our current situation, we knew that by the upcoming fall we needed to develop two things for our FI program—an organizational chart and an application process.

One principle we applied to the Faculty Innovators came from research into group work. After all, the FIs are a group, and the same principles should hold. Instructors employing groups in class know that a key problem with group work is that the alphas tend to do all the work, while the students at the opposite end of the spectrum often become free-riders. Two solutions come to mind. One, keep your groups small and provide each member of the group with an assigned (and rotating) responsibility. Someone can act as facilitator, someone as secretary, someone as spokesperson when groups report out, and someone is chief writer/organizer. Two, hand out assessments so that each member of the group evaluates the efforts of every other member.

Utilizing this philosophy, we created an organizational chart for our current FIs that looks approximately like the following:

Faculty Innovators Organizational Chart

  • Executive Committee (Directors of Noel Studio and Teaching & Learning Center)
  • Leadership Team
    1. FI Coordinator
    2. Outreach & Publicity Coordinator
    3. DEEP Coordinator
    4. Program Coordinator (TLI Series, PLCs, B&Bs, & Dialogues)
  • Faculty Innovators
  • FI Consulting Scholars (e.g., Bev Hart, Doris Pierce, Tim Forde)

As you can see, the Faculty Innovators’ program now has four distinct levels—the Executive Committee, the Leadership Team, the Faculty Innovators themselves, and the FI Consulting Scholars (essentially the first class of FIs, some of whom have gone to part-time status). And we’re not done. In the future we would like to provide each of the remaining FIs with a duty. One, for instance, could be Recruiting Coordinator of the next class of FIs, while still another might be in charge of our most important function as faculty developers, New Faculty Orientation. Still another might handle our annual assessments.

Formalization goes slower than the original idea, but it is just as important to lock down and define responsibilities as we figure them out. Truthfully, when we first came up with the FI concept, we could not have imagined all the intricacies with which we have had to work.

Related Reading: Behind the Scenes with The Wizards Behind the Faculty Innovators

Application Blank

In our first year we actively recruited the FIs from those on campus who most attended our functions and sought us out. In the second phase, starting this spring, we want faculty able to self-nominate as well as have a system that allows faculty, deans, and chairs to nominate prospective FIs.

So, recently we created an online application for all these groups that contained the following fields to fill in:

  • Name
  • Department
  • Rank
  • Years at the Institution
  • Does your chair/program supervisor support your application?
  • Does your dean support your application?
  • Explain in 250 words or less why you would like to be a Faculty Innovator.

As you can tell from the application, essentially we are looking for full-time, tenure-track faculty with sufficient experience who are recognized by administrators as worthy and who want to contribute. In short, we want passionate leaders.


Formalization of an idea is a never-ending struggle. No matter what you create, you will always feel you can create more. And in truth, the act of creating is for us much easier than the acts of management and formalization.



author Hal BlythePh.D Hal Blythe writes literary criticism to mystery stories. In addition to the eleven books he’s published with New Forums, Hal has collaborated on four books on a variety of subjects, over 1000 pieces of fiction/nonfiction, and a host of television scripts and interactive mysteries performed by their repertory company. He is currently co-director of the Teaching and Learning Center for Eastern Kentucky University. Meet Hal Blythe.

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The Genesis of Scaling the Scholarship Mountain

In the past few years we have found ourselves writing about a book per semester. This semester, however, we’ve done at least two. We say at least because we’ve always got more than one going, and whereas the semester has a definitive end when you are faculty, for writers it never does. When the fall semester started, for instance, we were finishing up a novel as Quinn MacHollister, one of our collabo-writing configurations, and just last week Where There’s Fire appeared on Amazon. On October 3 we started writing our sixth novel in the Clement County Saga, something we hope to finish for the holidays. And we sent out a Call for Submissions for the tenth book in our “It Works for Me” series, It Works for Me with SoTL, which we will finish in the early spring.

Scaling the Scholarship Mountain

And in the second week of the fall semester, our frequent collaborator, Bill Phillips—see Achieving Excellence in Teaching (AET) (2014)—dropped into our office and suddenly announced he’d like to write another book with the three of us (Charlie, Hal, and I). Since stepping down as dean of our College of Education, Bill has returned to teaching. In fact, he uses the aforementioned AET as the textbook in his EDL 830 College Teaching course. His college had been discussing the possibility of creating a certificate program in higher education and needed another course. Last semester I had facilitated a professional learning community on SoTL, so we immediately suggested the college’s course pick up on the second of the professorial trinity—teaching, scholarship, and service. But, Bill pointed out, such a course wouldn’t have a natural text. Easy, we said, as we had with AET, we could just write the textbook for the class.

Isn’t it amazing how the ideas just pop out of our mouths with no thought about how much work writing such a book would be or how many irons we have in the fire? In fact, with all the irons we have in the fire, we probably ought to be blacksmiths. A few years ago Hal and Charlie had done two books in the “It Works for Me” series on scholarship—It Works for Me as a Scholar-Teacher (2008) and It Works for Me: Becoming a Publishing Scholar/Researcher (2010)—so, after the initial impulse simply to write, they were a bit hesitant te retrace the same path.

Related Reading: “It Works for Me” Series

Developing the Idea

The more the four of us (Charlie, Hal, Bill, and I) discussed the potential for a book on scholarship, the more we began to see the possibilities. For one, the two books in the “It Works for Me” had offered random tips without seeing the whole scholarly process as a journey with definite steps. Our first attempt at a title to focus our thoughts was Climbing the Scholarly Staircase. As you can tell from our blacksmith analogy a paragraph ago, we love metaphors to guide our thinking and writing, and, in fact, in our Introduction to Applied Creative Thinking (2012), we had devoted an entire chapter to metaphor as one of our so-called “nifty nine” creative strategies.

The problem with the staircase metaphor was that while it suggested the process of scholarship, it didn’t indicate the tremendous amount of effort becoming a scholar takes. But every project needs a working title, so we went with it, even developing a temporary Table of Contents.

The next step in our project was to write an introduction that captured the essence of what we want to say. After a brainstorming session (another nifty nine creative strategy), we took a two-pronged approach. From our notes Bill would write a “Preface” and Charlie would tackle the “Introduction.” When those two documents were drafted, we looked them over. In his “Preface” Bill had begun very personally, describing his twin related hobbies of hiking and mountain-climbing.

Still, we ended up constructing two more chapters before we noticed a pattern emerging (you guessed it—recognizing pattern is still another of our nifty nine creative strategies). We kept coming back to mountain climbing.

Related Reading: One Activity To Develop 9 Creative Thinking Strategies


At that point we stepped in and rewrote everything to conform to our scaling the mountain metaphor. Why did that metaphor work? To be a mountain climber takes preparation, training, starting with small hills, and mostly hard work. We had our metaphor, and we have as of this date 81 pages written.

Will we finish before our holiday deadline? We thought that an easy mark to hit, but then Bill told us before Thanksgiving he had to go . . . you guessed it . . . mountain climbing. Hopefully he comes down that mountain not with tablets a la Moses, but two chapters would be nice.



Russell CarpenterDr. 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.


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