Types and Characteristics of Successful Faculty Programming

So now that you have a Center of Teaching and Learning (CTL) to run, you’re going to have to decide what kind of programming to offer. Your supervisor has provided you some input and so has your advisory board, but there’s one more step you could take. When we took over our CTL, we got together with Institutional Research to create a survey, which we emailed to the entire faculty. What we desired to know was what kind of programming the faculty needed and wanted. In our case, the majority of answers centered on recent technology and help with scholarship.

Programming can be complex because CTLs usually serve varying audiences. Think of the possibilities:

  • New full-time faculty
  • New adjunct faculty
  • Full-time faculty
  • Others: Teachings Assistants, Specialized Class Instructors, Administrators.

As a result, CTLs must plan the programming to serve all groups. Some of the programs will overlap, but all will not.

Related Reading: Faculty Development: Consultation and Classroom Observation

Program Type: Informative Sessions

For us, since our bosses and advisory board prioritize new faculty orientation, we offer fall programming that introduces this cohort to important services on campus that we didn’t have time to explore during new faculty orientation. Most of these topics are things faculty members really need to know in order to be successful, and the programming also serves to emphasize that fact.

For instance, we began this fall’s programming on the third day of the semester with a session on the university’s academic integrity policy, moderated by a lawyer from that office. Faculty members can encounter cheating from day one, so it’s important to begin with this offering.

Our second presentation is not so time sensitive nor would the knowledge of its contents be mandatory. We have a representative from the university’s co-op and career services office discuss what they can do to help students. Faculty are encouraged to make sure their students also receive this information as co-op is often a great first step toward a permanent job. We offer our next session on teaching abroad opportunities. For faculty on nine-month contracts, this program offers not only summer employment, but a chance to go overseas. During the semester we also provide informative sessions by the office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors, University-funded scholarship and grant opportunities, accommodating students with disabilities, dealing with distressed students, administering the IDEA (a mandatory campus-wide evaluation of teaching).

Complementing these “things it would help you to know” sessions are our workshops, and we try to offer at least one a month. With our advisory board and with occasional input from the Faculty Senate and the Chairs Association, we pick from a combination of needed and hot topics. This fall, for instances, we are holding sessions on the following topics:

  • Contributing to the new Kentucky Journal of Undergraduate Research
  • Beyond Brainstorming: Teaching Effective Design and Creativity
  • Making Simple, Polished Videos for Your Classroom
  • Teaching and Learning with Social Media
  • Best Practices for Peer Observation of Teaching, and
  • Working Smarter Through SOTL.

Program Type: Workshops

Workshops last longer than purely informative sessions—usually one and one-half to three hours and contain more interactive materials. Participants may learn about editing videos, the best way to have a peer observe your teaching, how to tie a SOTL research project to your teaching, or even how various social media forms can be incorporated into your teaching. While the informational sessions rarely change, new workshops are added each semester.

Through trial and error, we’ve found another type of event—administration-sponsored ones. What got us started was talking with a vice-president for student affairs who wanted a forum to discuss the typical EKU student. For instance, because the last three University presidents and four provosts want to build a rapport with the faculty, we have hosted what we call Fireside Chats. Basically, any administrator sits in from of our meeting room’s fireplace and runs a type of press conference. Our current president so likes the Fireside Chat concept that he is running six this semester.

Related Reading: How to Communicate Best Practices in Higher Ed Pedagogy

Characteristics of Successful Programs

Over the years we’ve figured out a few guiding principles for successful programming:

  • Respond to the desires of faculty and administrators.
  • Keep it current. Schedule sessions that provide unique perspectives on current topics or new takes on traditional topics. Faculty members want to know that what they’re hearing is the latest and greatest.
  • Connect. Help faculty connect sessions with others on related or complementary topics. Sessions can build on one another to provide a more cohesive experience for new and returning faculty.
  • Provide food (“If you feed them, they will come”). Our Fireside Chats normally occur around 8:30 so we offer a healthy continental breakfast with a much coffee as they can drink. Other sessions start at 11:00 or 11:15 (depending on the class pattern) so we set up a lunch table.
  • Advertise. New faculty receive a notebook with all of this information as well as personalized email for each session. The sessions are also listed on our website, and notice is made eight days out and one day out on the campus email system.
  • Follow up each session with an electronic evaluation (more on this another time). Workshop evaluations ask about application to the faculty member’s course.
  • Make participants sign in and supply their email address. This information is crucial for assessment, and the federal government requires records on food distribution.
  • Develop interactive sessions. All event presenters are provided with a list of tips that range from how to structure a PowerPoint to how to be maximally interactive.
  • Work on making all events part of a for-credit program (e.g., certificate). This concept is another we will expand on later.

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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.