What Services Should a Center of Teaching and Learning Offer?

According to a 2005 survey by Sorcinelli et al as reported in Creating the Future of Faculty Development (2006), respondents identified eight key issues for CTLs:

  • Teaching for student-centered learning
  • New faculty development
  • Integrating technology into traditional teaching and learning settings
  • Active, inquiry-based, or problem-based learning
  • Assessment of student learning outcomes
  • Multiculturalism and diversity related to teaching
  • Scholarship of Teaching
  • Writing Across the Curriculum (p. 72).

In A Guide to Faculty Development (2010), Virginia Lee compiles a list of ten programs/services that can most impact an institution:

  • Workshops
  • Individual consultations
  • Classroom observations
  • Orientations
  • Grants
  • Faculty fellows
  • Teaching circles
  • Faculty learning communities
  • Management of grant-funded projects
  • Engagement in national projects (pp. 26-28).

So the question becomes, what programs and services should your CTL provide for your campus?

Related Reading: Questions On Center of Teaching and Learning Innovation

Review and Advice

In previous posts we have stressed two major factors in determining what to offer:

  • What does your boss want?
  • What does your advisory board want?

And now we’d like to suggest a third component. What would you like to do? More specifically, given your institution’s funding of you, the space offered, the support given, and even your allotted time, what are you capable of doing? Our friend and one-time director of a CTL at the University of Oklahoma, Dee Fink, did a presentation here last year and recommended that every CTL be funded at ½ to 1% of faculty salaries and benefits of the group it is being asked to serve. In reality, we doubt many CTLs receive this much University “grace,” so as director, your job comes down to balancing the support realities, your boss’s desire, and your board’s advice. Our advice is two-part.

One, favor your boss’ wishes.

Two, most schools have adopted as their unofficial motto today “Do more with less.” We advise the minimalist approach. It is better, especially when starting out, to do a few programs well than to do a lot of programs in mediocre fashion. As you become successful, you can then argue for more support to increase your programming. Similarly, if you think you are trying to do too much, consider cutting back.

Related Reading: Why Centers of Teaching and Learning Have Advisory Boards

Actual Programming

The program that we believe offers the potential for success and saturation is orientation. In previous posts we have talked about how we offer orientation programs to four groups:

  • New tenure-track Faculty (approximately 50/year)
  • Part-time Faculty (approximately 75/year)
  • University Orientation Faculty (approximately 60/year)
  • Graduate Teaching Assistants (approximately 40/year).

Over the past ten years we have discovered that our usual workshops/roundtables draw over an academic year about 10% of the faculty. We’re not positive of the national average, but we know from sitting on the state’s faculty development workgroup that our figure is consistent with other institutions of higher learning in the commonwealth. Our university has approximately 600 full-time instructors, so while we may reach only 50 each year through orientation, we reach 50 new individuals each year. In addition, we have the participation of the other teaching groups. If you wish to effect a culture shift on your campus as we did with our EXCELLENCE IN TEACHING IS JOB ONE initiative, orientation is a good priority.

A second offering that satisfies bosses, boards, and faculty is informational roundtables. When we started, our boss thought it important that we offer a fall series of roundtables for new faculty, highlighting basic informational services—i.e., campus services of which faculty need to be aware. Thus, once a week every fall we have presentations on the University’s academic integrity program, Co-op, opportunities in teaching abroad, mentoring student scholars, counselling center, the 911 program, accommodating students with disabilities, and even grants. All of these programs present key information faculty must know—e.g., pregnancy is now part of Title IX, attendance must be taken, crimes must be reported. What the faculty don’t know can hurt them and, more importantly, their employer. What we are doing is converting all these presentations to podcasts, but that’s the subject of another post.

A third offering is workshops, some which we do every fall and others that we rotate through or add in. For instance, this fall we are providing workshops in a new journal of undergraduate research, emerging technologies, teaching effective design and creativity, the IDEA form (offered every fall because the University has chosen to use this assessment instrument), making polished videos, teaching with social media, best practices in classroom observation, and working smarter through the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL).

A fourth key service deal with consultation and classroom observation, but that, too, is a post for next time.

Achieving Excellence in Teaching book


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.