This morning, I attended a session at the American Association of Colleges & Universities annual meeting. The session was titled “How Centers for Teaching and Learning Can Influence Campus Culture on Emerging Educational Trends” run by Annie Soisson of Tufts and Stacy Grooters and Cristina Mirshekari, both of Boston College.
The three grounded their session in Connie Schroeder’s 2010 book Coming in From the Margins, which offers a five-point strategic change framework.
- Understand your center
- Align with institutional priorities
- Build relationships and reputation
- Build capacity
I’m at an odd place in my career. My tenure begins next AY though I received an early promotion. I have one foot—probably one and a half feet—in my home department where I teach classes, direct our first-year composition program, offer department only faculty development opportunities. At this point in my career, all my publications—including my two books—are within my discipline and land squarely in my home department. But I have one foot—more like 4 toes—in our university’s Center for Teaching, Learning, and Leadership where I am a faculty fellow and offer university-wide professional development opportunities, represent the university at conferences like AAC&U, bring in guest speakers for our annual university-wide celebration of faculty research and talk one-on-one with our chief research officer about future administrative opportunities.
As I watched and listened to this session, I thought about change that may come to my university and how I might leverage my work with CTLL to be a part of helping my departmental colleagues adapt to this change. In short, the session leaders asked us to think about how our Centers might push change via this framework. I thought about how our Center might respond to change via this framework.
Here’s some change I know is coming. The University System of Georgia hired a nice Vice Chancellor, Dr. Tristan Deaney, a PhD in math dude from Cambridge. Dr. Denley is bringing an initiative called Gateways to Completion (G2C), offered by the Gardner Institute. Really, really briefly, G2C aim to improve student learning in high-failure rate classes; UNG, like all System schools, will adopt G2C and probably overhaul our first-year composition courses. Maybe not. But probably.
So, change is coming. How might CTLL help faculty in the English Department adopt to this change? What might my role be, as a department member and director of this potentially soon-to-be overhauled classes, as a CTLL faculty fellow?
With Schroeder’s framework, I start with understanding the history of CTLL: when was it started, by whom, and why? Does the CTLL director have a “seat at the table?” To whom does she report? What does CTLL do really well? Struggle with? What’s their budget? What’s mine (course release? stipend?)
The next step—aligning with institutional priorities—can be glossed over. This change is coming to us. CTLL doesn’t have to sell it.
CTLL and I then work the relationships we have already established. I talk with my department colleagues about these changes and rely on the relationships I have built up with this over 3 years directing first-year composition and publishing books and articles on the topic of writing instruction.
We would also need to build capacity. Would CTLL need to ask for additional revenue streams to be used hiring additional staff or supporting new faculty fellows? Would I need to work closely with my chair and dean to secure a budget for directing first-year composition, a budget that would allow us to bring in experts from other schools who have woven G2C into their first-year composition courses? Would I need to connect more closely with InstitutionalEffectiveness and rely on their partnership with National Survey of Student Engagement to track student learning and data-points such as DWF rates across campuses, differentiating between associates degree-seeking students and bachelor degree-seeking students?
I don’t know. But I do know I would need to build capacity to help faculty adopt to these changes, to help faculty help students adapt to these changes.
And the evaluate. Schroeder doesn’t use the word assess, curiously. But we would need to know, quite simply, if it works. Does G2C improve student writing? And how can we—my department, CTLL—communicate these findings all the way up the chain of command to the System level?
The session got me thinking.
It got me ready for the change that is coming.