Using the Deep Learning Inventory to Transform Your Campus

A few years ago, as Rusty, Hal, and I mentioned in previous posts, we ever-so-slightly changed our CTL’s motto/prime directive from “Helping Teachers Help Students Learn” to “Helping Teachers Help Students Lean Deeply” in order to reflect our commitment to deep learning. Last summer we helped our unit modify its strategic plan so that student deep learning was our chief objective. Last week at New Faculty Orientation we heard a presentation on our SACS-required QEP 2.0 on critical reading developed through metacognitive strategies, and the major reason for the theme was to develop “deeper learning in our students.”

In short, we have helped more of the University focus on the goal of deep learning. How did we reposition the importance of deep learning in such a short time?

First, before we changed our CTL’s motto, we carried out a great deal of research into deep learning. In turn, that new knowledge informed every presentation we did for various groups from the provost to our Teaching & Learning Innovations Series. We also helped the University create DEEP (Developing Excellence in Eastern’s Professors), a new online professional development system that takes participants from teaching at a basic level to teaching for deep learning.

Second, after all our research on the subject, last year at this time we talked to our publisher, Doug Dollar, about writing a book on the subject. Transforming Your Students into Deep Learners (2016) was published last spring, and a copy was provided last week to each of the 60 new hires who went through New Faculty Orientation. The book provides us with a shortcut so that every time we address a group, we can point out that while time does not allow us to cover deep learning in the depth it deserves, the book will compensate for our omissions.

This fall our Teaching & Learning Innovations Series (15-20 sessions) is themed around deep learning, and the three of us will be facilitating an early session on “Deep Learning to Engage Students in the Classroom,” which is described on our online site ( “a discussion of recent research on faculty-student deep learning.” We will also be giving out copies of Transforming Your Students into Deep Learners to the first 20 participants to register.

Suggested Reading: Transforming Your Students into Deep Learners

The Deep Learning Inventory: A Rationale

One of the most important things we have discovered while running our CTL is the typical professor’s over-inflated opinion of his/her abilities. Remember the poll wherein 90% of the professors believed they were in the top 10% of all professors? When, for instance, we were part of the team that introduced QEP 1.0, we found our greatest obstacle to implementing critical and creative thinking across the campus was our professors’ collective belief that they did not need the QEP because they were already teaching these two types of thinking. Yet, the more we visited with them and questioned them, the more we learned that their instruction was not intentional, organized, or broken down into teachable strategies. Likewise, many new faculty believe they do not need a Pedagogy Day until we begin the Day by demonstrating to them their lack of pedagogical preparation.

Therefore, for our deep learning introduction, we devised a short inventory to let faculty realistically rate their understanding of the concept. Here is the form we’re using:

“Deep Learning to Engage Students in the Classroom” Work Sheet

Two Preliminaries

  1. Choose a course and describe your primary Student Learning Outcome for it:


  1. Identify your basic instructional paradigm (e.g., lecture, active learning, mentor from

the middle): ____________________________________________________

Scoring Guide: 1=never, 2=seldom, 3=sometimes, 4=always

For this course:

_____ 1. Do you use student reflections on the course material, learning strategies, and the instructional methodology?

_____ 2. Do you employ daily quizzes/reflections?

______3. Do you use short paragraphs and essays as the predominant mode of your tests/exams?

_____ 4. Do your SLOs, in-class discussions, homework, class exercises, papers/projects and tests/exams tend to focus on students’ remembering and understanding or students’ applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating?

_____ 5. Do you intentionally teach, explain to your students, and use retrieval? Is that retrieval for you spaced out, multiple (vs. one-time)?

_____ 6. Do your students receive timely feedback on the bulk of their work for you?

_____ 7. Do you teach any critical reading skills?

_____ 8. Do you model and provide opportunities for students to use critical thinking skills?

_____ 9. Do you emphasize your discipline’s way of looking at life as well as your discipline’s fundamental and powerful concepts?

_____ 10. Do you encourage your students to transfer their knowledge from one day to the next, from your course to other disciplinary courses, and from your course to courses outside your discipline?

_____ Total (the closer your score is to 40, the greater the possibility that you are teaching for deep learning)


Feel free to try the deep learning inventory, and if you do, please let us know how you found the questions (no, you don’t have to tell us your scores). If you would like some help on the subject, of course we recommend Transforming Your Students into Deep Learners, and, no, we’re not giving any more away.



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.

Defining and Evaluating Scholarship Lite Content in Higher Education

A few years ago, a friend of ours in the University’s College of Education submitted materials to his departmental Promotion, Tenure, and Evaluation Committee, but because the bulk of his scholarship consisted of a continuing blog he wrote on K-12 education problems, the Committee found it difficult to evaluate his scholarship, for it didn’t fit conveniently into the established categories. Likewise, when we joined the technological revolution with these posts to “Welcome Scholars,” the question came up of how they would be evaluated as scholarship.

In our way of thinking, the profession needed additional terminology.

Defining The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

When Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professorate (1990) appeared because “a new vision of scholarship is required” (13), Ernest Boyer’s typology divided scholarship into four categories:

  • The Scholarship of Discovery: pure research
  • The Scholarship of Integration: “making connections across the disciplines”
  • The Scholarship of Application: “the application of knowledge”
  • The Scholarship of Teaching (16-25).

Obviously, to evaluate these types of scholarship, various disciplines constructed rubrics that allowed for idiosyncrasies in their field. For instance, in our original discipline, English, quite prominent is the scholarly note, which is basically a 1200-2000-word article that focuses on a small element in a work (e.g., the grail myth in Cheever’s “The Swimmer”) with less research than found in a 5000-word article—i.e., scholarship short.

However, because Boyer had not offered much guidance or insight into the category, the Scholarship of Teaching evolved into the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL). In fact, Maryellen Weimer stipulates that is the reason she wrote Enhancing Scholarly Works on Teaching & Learning (2006): “Virtually everyone agrees that, despite its significant contribution, Boyer’s monograph, Scholarship Reconsidered (1990), did not clearly and precisely define what is meant by the scholarship of teaching” (xviii). To fill this academic gap and to “make pedagogical scholarship more credible” (6), Weimer first defines SOTL as “published work on teaching and learning authored by college faculty in fields other than education” (19). Then, she elucidates on SOTL as “published practitioner pedagogical work [that] can be separated into two major categories: wisdom-of-practice scholarship and research scholarship” (40).

How Blogging Fits Into the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

Blogging is a category having much in common with SOTL. Some posts are basically personal narratives (to use Weimer’s language) that rely more on opinions and experiences than research. Other posts are more research-oriented, what Weimer describes as “more often an isolated inquiry than part of an organized research program” that “does not generally build on previous or related work in systematic ways” (42); most such scholarship does not involve a thorough knowledge of educational research practices.

For instance, for New Forums we have basically published a series of books whose general category “It Works For Me” suggests they are not weighty research tomes, but compendiums of teaching, scholarship, and creative thinking tips that have been utilized and found effective by a scholar or instructor in the field. Interestingly, the entries in the seven books in our series reflect both of Weimer’s SOTL poles.

Blogging as Scholarship Lite

To us, scholarship lite necessitates a scholarly component-i.e., at least a single cited source central to the post’s argument. In this sense, scholarship lite resembles a scholarly note: It is characterized by less research and exists more as an isolated inquiry than a concentrated research project.

Scholarship Lite as found in blogging often resembles Weimer’s “research-oriented” pole. Obviously, though, not all blogging is scholarship lite; some blogs focus on personal experience followed by recommendations/guidelines based on that experience.

Let’s evaluate this post against those traits, and see if it comes out as scholarship lite.

  • Uses some research. This post cites the threshold research of Ernest Boyer, a book by Maryellen Weimer, and even some of our publications.
  • Creates an argument. This post tries to construct a crucial term, scholarship lite, to fill a critical void.
  • Doesn’t claim to be educational research/concentrated project. This post merely tries to establish a new concept in the scholarly vocabulary.

We need to emphasize a key idea. Scholarship lite, despite its contemporary and popular spelling, is not a pejorative term, but rather primarily descriptive. In this sense, scholarship lite is like the concept of popular literature/pop lit in simply explaining a concept; it is up to each discipline, department, and individual to decide upon its value.

Reflecting on “The Staircase Approach to Becoming a Published Scholar”

One final point is worth noting. In our It Works For Me as a Scholar-Teacher (New Forums, 2008), we spend a chapter on “The Staircase Approach to Becoming a Published Scholar,” emphasizing four consecutive steps a scholar can use to get to the top floor, publication:

  1. Begin locally.
  2. Present at state or regional conferences.
  3. Go to national conventions with your paper.
  4. Write short notes before long articles (35-37).

What we are suggesting now is an alternative approach to publication that perhaps is actually an elevator. The aspiring scholar might begin by writing blog posts that tend toward the scholarship lite pole. Posters find they often receive immediate feedback, which in turn accelerates the elevator. In addition, scholar-teachers can demonstrate the scholarship lite approach to their students, who probably feel more comfortable in the electronic arena. Win. Win.

Should we go a step further and label each post in a blog as a scholarly post or a personal post? That could be the subject of another post.



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.

The 4 Benefits of Higher Education Scholarly Collaboration

An issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education (November 14, 2014) carries an essay that provides a rationale for the traditional role of the solitary scholar. In “Leave Me Alone,” Magdalena Kay laments the current trend toward collaborative writing in academia, arguing, “I believe the best work, particularly that dinosaur known as the single-author scholarly book or article, often gets done in solitude” (B20).

We beg to differ. Each of us began with single-authored pieces, but over the years we have come to recognize that collaboration has made us better writers. While our chief constellation involves a triad, we wrote Teaching Applied Creative Thinking (2013) as a quartet, and Hal and Charlie recently co-wrote Achieving Excellence in Teaching (2014) with two different members singing in their quartet (hey, even the Beatles changed drummers). I likewise have written with others, and recently the three of us partnered with two graduate students on an article about flipping the classroom.

Kay is right that while collaboration is becoming the norm in the hard and social sciences, the humanities still favor single authorship. The three of us came out of the traditional departments of English, but now like Whitman’s spider we constantly cast out filaments trying to connect with other writers. Why? For the long answer, check out It Works For Me, Collaboratively (2006), It Works For Me as a Scholar-Teacher (2008), It Works For Me: Becoming a Publishing Scholar/Researcher (2010), or our chapter on “Collaborating” in Introduction to Applied Creative Thinking (2012). Here, we’ll just suggest some short answers.

4 Benefits of Scholarly Collaboration

More ideas. In the old days we relied on our students, actual works of literature, and critical works to stimulate our brain cells. Now that we have transitioned into predominantly administrative roles, we find our colleagues aid us directly or indirectly in producing scholarship. Obvious, as the genesis of this piece proves, we still read the literature in the field, but we depend more on bouncing our ideas of each other. If two heads are better than one in brainstorming, what are three, four? We’ve seen the research on ideation levels improving from a single source to multiple sources an incredible 600%.

Better ideas. A major problem in single authorship is critical thinking. Book writers often have a pool of peers or an editor to guide them through the process. We learned more about writing from our former editor at Writer’s Digest than we did in graduate school. Other voices provide perspective, making us shift our commas and concepts.

Stimuli to persist. When one writes alone, it is too easy to succumb to distractions—checking the email, raiding the fridge, going for a walk—but the social-ability of writing with others means you’re stuck for the entire time period you’ve chosen to work on the task. And it’s more fun. Someone else can crack a joke, tell an anecdote, or provide that charge you need to continue when your mind is telling you a thousand other places you could be. Moreover, collaborators often provide that simple, enthusiastic “Hey, good idea” or “Atta-girl” that keeps you going better than Red Bull.

Compensate for your weaknesses. Charlie and Hal are not as technologically competent as Rusty. Rusty and Hal don’t follow pop culture as much as Charlie. Charlie and Rusty don’t understand absolute phrases and appositives as well as Hal (to this day Charlie never uses “lie” or “lay” without first consulting Hal). Charlie comes up with ideas well, Rusty synthesizes them better, and Hal organizes the thoughts best. And sometimes it takes all three of us to figure out the proper APA citation.

In the beginning we all write alone. The three of us wouldn’t have discovered the advantages and joy of collabo-writing had we not tried it. Is it for every scholar? Probably not, but you won’t know if you don’t give it a go.



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.

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.

Making It CRISP: Using Information Organization and Retrieval for Deep Learning

In Achieving Excellence in Teaching (2014) we devote a chapter to the importance of organization in instruction, especially individual class organization. To help faculty teach, we have created C.R.I.S.P., “a classroom methodology based on unity of purpose as it organizing principle [that] involves five ordered and inter-related steps” (49-50):

  • Contextualize: at the beginning announce the fundamental and powerful concepts around which the day’s instruction will revolve.
  • Review: tie the day’s concept(s) to previously discussed ideas—i.e., students learn best when new knowledge is attached to old.
  • Iterate: emphasize the key concept(s) several times throughout the class in a variety of ways.
  • Summarize: at the end of class, stop in time to go over the key concept(s) whether through reminders, student recall, or reflection papers.
  • Preview: when you assign the material for the next class, inform your students what they need to be looking for in the material.

Recently, we’ve been reading Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel’s Make It Stick (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2014)—not to be confused with a book we cite in Achieving Excellence in Teaching, the Heath’s Made to Stick (2007)—whose subtitle encapsulates its premise: The Science of Successful Learning. What we found is a text chock full of learning techniques that supplement as well as reinforce C.R.I.S.P.

Written for both instructors and students, Make It Stick begins by debunking students’ traditional learning strategies of rereading text and massed practice of a skill. Instead, to aid in learning fundamental and powerful concepts, the authors point to the research in cognitive psychology underlying retrieval practice, “recalling facts or concepts or events from memory” (3). The more familiarity students gain from retrieving learning from memory, the closer they come to what we consider the goal of higher education, deep learning, or learning that endures, even changing one’s mental model of the world. According to Make It Stick, retrieval practice has two profound benefits:

  • “One, it tells you what you know and don’t know, and therefore where to focus further study to improve the areas where you’re weak.”
  • “Two, recalling what you have learned causes your brain to reconsolidate the memory, which strengthens its connections to what you know and makes it easier for you to recall in the future” (20).

Practicing retrieval, the authors conclude, “makes learning stick far better than reexposure to the original material does” (28).

To iterate and summarize, Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel suggest several methods for the student and instructor:

  • Flashcards (they both strengthen the memory and interrupt forgetting)
  • Quizzing (after reading or at the end of class). We have always advocated giving a daily quiz that is part of the student’s grade (around 20%) so something is at stake.
  • In Achieving Excellence in Teaching, we cover this concept under “Summarize” (52).
  • Elaboration, the “process of giving new material meaning by expressing it in your own words and connecting it with what you know “(5), something we discuss under “Iterate” (51).
  • Putting new knowledge into a larger context (see our “Contextualize”).

In addition, the authors add several refinements to the retrieval strategy:

  • Spacing—rather than one large cram session, use multiple sessions so that some forgetting has taken place. For the teacher, this method means that every reference to a key concept is not contained in one five-minute block; instead, periodically return to the crux of the session.
  • Feedback—immediately after a quiz, go over the correct answer. Flashcards work on the same principle because when they are turned over, the user can tell whether the correct version was given (for that matter, always speak out loud when employing flashcards so that the user can’t simply say, “I knew that.” Our buddy Dee Fink, author of Creating Significant Learning Experiences (2003), offers a modern alternative to the traditional flashcard with the scratch-off forms that like scratch-off lottery cards provide immediate confirmation or denial of one’s answer.
  • Interleaving—although it sounds counterintuitive, practice retrieval with two or more subjects. The gains will be slower at first, but what you learn will last longer.
  • Varied practice—practice at different times, in different places, and with flashcards use different orders.

Our C.R.I.S.P., then, becomes even more effective as a class organizing methodology when instructors create questions, quizzes, and written reflections that call on the student to constantly retrieve information.



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.

Funding The Faculty Innovator’s Program

Dee Fink of Creating Significant Learning Experiences (2003) fame has championed centers for teaching and learning (CTLs) in his books, articles, and appearances at national conventions and campuses across the country. One of his key ideas is that CTLs should be funded at the rate of 1-1.5% of the total salaries of that university’s faculty, and if the CTL is charged with developing teaching assistants, part-time faculty, and other groups (e.g., first-year course instructors), their salaries should be included in the calculation. We can hear the laughter in response to Dee’s dictum from here, and we echo your scoffing.

CTLs are traditionally one of the most under-funded units on any campus. If our budget were one-tenth of Dee’s suggestion, our implementation could fulfill our imagination. The hard, cold reality is that CTLs must do more with less, for despite the pressure on colleges and universities from their accrediting agencies to demonstrate true faculty development, most of us inside the CTLs spend our lives eking out a meager existence, begging deans and provosts for money, and having to perform all the jobs we can’t pay someone else to do.

So when we (Charlie, Hal, and I) began the Faculty Innovators (FIs) program, our big worry wasn’t that we were starting before we had the whole thing figured out, but rather that while we believed we had a brilliant concept for reaching those 90% of the faculty who would not come by our CTL (but nevertheless need faculty development), we were still missing one thing—funding. How much money did we figure a program consisting of people—Faculty Innovators—and programming—the Faculty Innovation Network—would cost?

Related Reading: Is Your Center of Teaching and Learning Be A Hammer or Nail?

Personnel Costs

We began with the obvious. While we were going to have to do a lot of additional work administering the program, we were not going to see one more penny in our bi-weekly paycheck, but we were going to have to hire additional personnel. Our figures were based on our working for a 16,000-student regional comprehensive with three doctoral programs and five colleges. In terms of personnel, here’s what we projected:

  • Media Specialist
  • Instructional Designer
  • Faculty Innovator Coordinator (i.e., one release per year)
  • (9) Faculty Innovators (i.e., one release/year/person).

We have deliberately left out the actual costs as the amounts will vary a great deal depending upon the size of the school, the location, and union contracts. At our institution, we would figure that the cost of paying someone else to teach a three-hour course at approximately $2600, so all ten would cost the University $26,000. In our case we hired a full-time media specialist (to produce videos for our PD On Demand system), but we settled this first year for one-quarter of an instructional designer’s time for one semester. Moreover, other personnel costs aren’t figured in as we use a graduate assistant and two administrative assistants (AA) for a small portion of time both for our primary and our FI workload. Just this morning, for instance, we had an AA place a notice on the campus email system about a PLC to be held next semester. A guesstimate of our total personnel expenses would be around $70,000.

Related Reading: The Faculty Developer’s Most Important Question

Non-Personnel Costs

So much of what we use for the Faculty Innovators is part of the campus environment. For instance, the group met this morning in the Faculty Lounge, which is free. We utilized our unit’s projector that threw a Google Docs document upon the TLC’s white screen. We didn’t have to pay for heat or electricity, and the three of us supplied two pots of free coffee.

We have yet to subscribe to a journal, but even there we have an in. I am the incoming editor of the Journal of Faculty Development. While we have a digital repository for key FI documents and the Faculty Innovator Network, occasionally we make copies of reprinted articles or someone’s workshop to distribute to the FI notebooks (which we got free because they were left over from New Faculty Orientation).

Our big non-human expense has been for books for our Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). We run three PLCs/semester, and we encourage each PLC facilitator to choose at least one book. Last semester, for example, our How learning Works facilitator chose two, costing over $30 per paperback X 2 X n15 PLC members. Right there we spent around $3000. And occasionally we serve food as in our each-semester retreats. Sometimes we pay for travel to local, regional, or national conferences.

As you can see, the annual cost for the program might be $100,000. On the other hand, a program that reaches every faculty member . . . priceless.



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.

Is Your Center of Teaching and Learning Be A Hammer or Nail?

Years ago Paul Simon told (Hal, Rusty, and I) that “I’d rather be a hammer than a nail.” In essence, every Center of Teaching and Learning (CTL) has to decide what it wants to be. Is it a traditional nail being hammered into shape, or is it a proactive force doing the shaping?

In a previous post, we emphasized that “The Faculty Developer’s Most Important Question” is “to whom do you report” and the key to a CTL’s activities is “what matters most is what matters most to your boss.”

Ask This Second Question

But the second most important question is: into what do you want to innovate your CTL? Yes, you have a mission, but that mission is general. Administrators, technologies, and even theories of faculty development will change over the years, but what you want to be able to do is to change at least with the tide or even better, ahead of it. In our way of thinking a CTL exists to provide pedagogical development to the faculty and has nearly nothing to do with disciplines such as chemistry staying current in their field. Sure, had we funding enough, we might want to co-sponsor a noted speaker in psychology or provide a venue for a campus-wide event, but a CTL’s focus MUST be on pedagogy.

Appropriately, our CTL’s mission is intentionally pedagogical in theory and practice: “Helping teachers help students learn deeply.” And while we do exactly what our boss—actually we serve a provost and a dean—wants, we have adopted the hammer approach and try to nudge them in the direction our experience and research tell us to go.

Related Reading: Is There Really a Teaching Revival Happening Right Now?

Choose Direction

The question becomes how do you as director of your CTL know what direction to nudge them? Be deliberate—make a list of all the things that you think you could accomplish as a CTL. If you’re not sure of the possibilities, check out other CTLs or even the POD (Professional and Organizational Network in Higher Education) website. Then, given both your expertise and your unit’s budget, prioritize the list. Start small. It’s better to do a few things well and establish a good reputation than to create a mediocre unit that in its attempt to be all things does less and ruins your credibility.

Be Prepared and Overcome Missteps

Be ready for missteps. One of our original programs, for example, offered to send faculty to the famed Lilly Conference on College Teaching and Learning. What we encountered was a logistical nightmare in trying to get faculty to commit, to carpool, and arranging for their minute preferences (e.g., dietary). After a few years, we realized that so our effort was eating up almost 50% of our budget and we had no way of knowing the program’s effect on teaching and student learning. As a result, we modified the program into seven “Lillyships,” wherein we supported only those faculty who appeared on the Lilly program.

Another problem developed when we assumed control of New Faculty Orientation. As the University draws primarily from a 22-county region (we are a regional university), traditionally new faculty were sent on a bus tour of the region. While the trip may have been good P.R. for the University, it wasn’t helping our new faculty pedagogically, and it was costing us almost $3000. In fact, we inherited a New Faculty Orientation that had little to do with pedagogy (as we discussed in a previous post).

Related Reading: Applying Pedagogy As The Fifth Creative Thinking Perspective 

Back to our list. What did we convince our bosses we could do well? What would give them the biggest bang for the buck? Number one on our list was New Faculty Orientation. If the University were hiring between 50 and 60 new faculty per year—and academic churn is much greater now than when we arrived on campus—that meant every five years more than one-third of the faculty turned over. To effect a cultural change, it is much easier to start on the ground floor than with those who have settled in. In addition to new faculty, we also orient over 50 part-time faculty per year, almost 45 graduate teaching assistants, and the 60-plus cadre of instructors who teach the University’s first-year orientation class.

Two hundred instructors mentored in best pedagogical practices would be enough if that were all we did.

Next time we’ll discuss how we hammered out various other programs that reflected our primary pedagogical purpose.



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.

Is There Really a Teaching Revival Happening Now?

In Academically Adrift (2011), Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa present compelling evidence about the failure of American colleges and universities. “How much are students actually learning in contemporary higher education?” they ask. “The answer for many undergraduates, we have concluded, is not much” (34). In examining the development of critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills, Arum and Roksa find that “An astounding proportion of students are progressing through higher education today without any measurable gains in general skills as assessed by the CLA [College Learning Assessment]” (36). While much of the blame for such a shoddy performance is placed on the shoulder of students for their lack of direction, poor study habits, and even academic fraud (14), faculty are also indicted for such things as:

  • Lowering academic standards and raising course marks (7)
  • Limited preparation, teaching, and advising time—i.e., 11 hours/week average (8)
  • Lack of pedagogical training.

Turning to Pedagogy

Reacting to this lack of learning in a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Teaching Revival: Fresh Attention to the Classroom May Actually Stick this Time” (13 March 2015), Dan Berrett asserts that colleges are indeed turning their attention to pedagogy: “The quality of college teaching has been a concern for years. Change may finally be arriving, thanks to shifting student demographics, debates about the value of a degree, discoveries in the science of learning, and the influence of new technology” (B35). Unfortunately, as evidence Berrett cites improvements only at some major universities such as Harvard, the University of Michigan, and Columbia. What’s interesting is the comparison of Arum and Roksa’s use of multiple sources and wide-spread testing to expose the problem verses Berrett’s minimalist citing of basically three institutions as a solution.

Related Reading: The Faculty Developer’s Most Important Question

Performing Faculty Surveys

We would love to believe that suddenly faculty have become aware of their need for professional development, especially in pedagogical skills, but we don’t see the evidence. What is most needed now is an Arum and Roksa-size survey of not only faculty but also of advanced-degree institutions. How much training, for instance, do aspiring physics Ph.D.s receive in what current evidence says are the best practices in teaching? Are candidates for Ph.D.s in English learning as much about assessment as Aristotle’s Poetics?

Listing Faculty Responsibilities

Another good idea whose time has come is the expansion of the typical tripartite listing of faculty responsibilities of teaching, scholarship, and service to become a quartet. As we suggested in Teaching Applied Creative Thinking (2013), professional development needs to be added to create a quartet. How does the academy make such a monumental change?

Even professional development needs to be redefined. Too often, PD is conceived of as merely staying current in one’s discipline. That definition seems a half-truth to us. Faculty need to upgrade their understanding of what brain science is telling us about teaching and learning as well as advances in technology. In the Commonwealth, the governing body, the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE), has developed a faculty workgroup to coordinate such professional development in the state, and each march we put on a convention. Interested parties need only to Google Kentucky Pedagogicon 2015 to see the opportunities available, and we’d love to have you attend on 22 May 2015.


How many universities have created professional development plans for each faculty member? At some institutions such plans are as important as promotion and tenure (P&T). Some schools even write professional development plans into their P&T documents. At the very least, every faculty member should fill out such a document annually with his or her chair.

Will our academically adrift students be rescued? The expansion of professional development is just one of the possible lifelines. Ultimately, if faculty don’t develop a disposition for what education researcher George Kuh calls “positive restlessness” or a desire to continually improve (Berrett, B37), our students may be beyond saving.



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.

The Faculty Developer’s Most Important Question

To write Creating the Future of Faculty Development (2006), Sorcinelli et al sent out an 18-question survey to a host of faculty developers—e.g., what kind of institution is yours, what are your program goals and purposes, and what services do you currently offer? To our way of thinking, the surveyors omitted the key question.

If you are a director of a center for teaching and learning (CTL) at your institution, what would you consider the single most important question to ask in your position? And for bonus points, to whom would you address this question? Actually, knowing the answer to the latter question should help you tackle the former.

Principle of Audience

While you’re thinking, I’d like to tell you an anecdote. At the beginning of the summer Charlie, Hal, and I wanted to do some research on CTLs in states contiguous to Kentucky, so we wrote some friends who serve as CTL directors for help. One very old friend wrote back, regretting she could not help because she had been removed as center director. Her plight is one of the reasons we decided to write on this topic.

In truth, this key question was suggested to us by our original discipline. All three of us started our careers as instructors in English, and one of the basic rhetorical principles instilled in us in graduate school was the principle of audience. Every time you write, you don’t just write per se, you address a particular audience; and that singular or plural entity determines everything from your style to your word choice, from your degree of formality or informality to the type and amount of evidence you employ. Emailing an old friend, for instance, places different demands on you than writing a piece of educational research or a spec script for The Walking Dead.

Now, our answer.

The most important question for us as faculty developers is: to whom do you report? Why? Because none of the other questions or answers about what you think may matter at all. What matters most is what matters most to your boss.

Provide Based On The Request

A case in point comes from an old friend, Dee Fink, who has written an essay “Innovative Ways of Assessing Faculty Development” (2013). In the article Dee discusses various ways to assess faculty development that take the assessor beyond attendance and satisfaction. While Dee really does offer some innovative assessments, he doesn’t confront what for us is the key reason for the assessments.

What does your boss want from you? If your boss is a basic bean-counter who thrives on reports that offer the number of faculty participants, it doesn’t make sense to provide satisfaction surveys using the psychometric Likert scale, faculty testimonials to what was learned during CTL sessions, or even how individual faculty implemented what they learned.

We once had the owner of the local McDonald’s tell us that customers come in looking for hamburger, so he doesn’t feed them steak. Actually, that was then, and McSteak and McLobster can now be found seasonally at regional McDonald’s.

Which brings up another important guideline. While you give your boss what s/he wants, nothing is wrong with supplying a little additional information (like student reflections on techniques Professor X learned in your flipping the classroom workshop) just as long as you also provide the hamburger.

Create Consistent Communication

In previous posts we (Hal, Charlie, and I) have described how we have a weekly Tuesday morning meeting. What we haven’t mentioned is that we also have monthly meetings with our boss, the dean of University Programs. Our Tuesday morning agendas usually contain some information about a meeting or other communication with her that we need to work on. For instance, as the University just came out with a new five-year strategic plan, we were told to rewrite our unit’s last plan so as to align with that of the University.

Simultaneously, we have been busy gently nudging our dean to urge her boss to move toward a required professional development plan for each faculty member. Nudging is good, but unless you provide the basic hamburger, you might not be around to serve much longer.



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.

Applying Pedagogy As The Fifth Creative Thinking Perspective

Hasn’t the time come for creative thinking researchers to begin a scholarly conversation about the fifth P? What, you didn’t realize there were already four Ps?

In our Introduction To Applied Creative Thinking (2012), we explain that since Rhodes (1965) “creative thinking theorists tend to regard the field from four different perspectives, commonly called the Four Ps”:

  • The Creative Process “consists of those learned skills that innovative thinkers employ.”
  • The Creative Person “is the focus of studies that examine those personality traits that produce a creative thinker.”
  • The Creative Press “is a term used to describe the environment that contributes to optimal creativity.”
  • The Creative Product is “the end result of the previous Ps—did the process, press, and person produce something tangible that is useful?” (pp. 2-4).

For us the fifth P is pedagogy, which Holberg and Taylor (2005) define as “incarnational teaching, that is, the embodiment of principles in practice.” Perhaps we believe in the importance of pedagogy because we have spent our careers in higher education, most recently focusing on professional development, or maybe it’s simply that we subscribe to the old adage that you don’t completely know something until you can teach it to someone else. No matter the source of our belief, we have noticed the past few years as we review the literature on applied creative thinking that too few researchers try to answer the question, “How can I utilize all these insights into creativity in my teaching?”

Related Reading: Sign up for our free newsletter to receive new articles!  

Transforming Students Into Creative Thinkers

Stated in other terms, we are vitally concerned with how to transform our students into creative thinkers. So far, our response has been twofold. First, we developed an 18-hour Minor in Applied Creative Thinking wherein students begin the minor with CRE 101 Introduction to Applied Creative Thinking and complete the minor with a capstone course. The other 12 hours can be fulfilled by students taking various creativity courses in specific disciplines (e.g., psych, education, business) or within the minor (e.g., an innovation course, a course into creativity research, and even a course in teaching the subject). And to provide continuity between the courses, as well as a common vocabulary, we have written the aforementioned Introduction To Applied Creative Thinking (2012) as well as Teaching Applied Creative Thinking (2013).

Combining Pedagogy and Creative Thinking

So what do we think should be done to bring the fifth P, pedagogy, into the spotlight?

  1.  As we alluded to earlier, researchers need to explore how creative strategies are best taught. For instance, we checked the Creativity Research Journal website that lists their “ten most read articles,” and not one of them is focused on pedagogy. Interestingly, we wrote Teaching Applied Creative Thinking because we could not find a suitable textbook in that area.
  2. Graduate schools need a greater emphasis on pedagogy—not just the pedagogy of creativity, but pedagogy in general, but that’s another column . . . if not book.
  3. Faculty members need to think about how to include creative thinking in their classes. Nobody we know had executed a search of America’s colleges and universities aimed at discovering how many classes have goals/student learning outcomes centered on creative thinking. And even if more higher ed faculty included such learning goals, would the students receive enough K-12 training in creative thinking to be ready for this approach
  4. Perhaps most important, the academy needs to admit that such a thing as the scholarship of creativity exists. After all, if you check Boyer’s seminal Scholarship Reconsidered (1990), you’ll find four categories of scholarship listed—discovery, integration, application, and teaching (what we now call the scholarship of teaching and learning)–and not one of them is the scholarship of creativity. We applaud Boyer’s emphasis on teaching, but 25 years ago, despite his rationale that the traditional definition of scholarship needed to be broadened to include social and environmental changes, the scholarship of creativity did not even receive a footnote. We often feel lucky that we work at a university that for almost half a century has recognized what it calls the “scholarship of creative endeavor.” Nonetheless, most people in higher ed don’t recognize that such a scholarship exists, and the few who do would be hard pressed to define it, come up with a rationale, or provide a research process that falls into this category.

Ultimately the pedagogy of creativity will not exist until the scholarship of creativity is developed, so get researching!



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.