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Action Project Four – Developing a Teaching and Learning Center
Annual Update Report to AQIP
Note: The AQIP explanation of each question is in blue at the bottom of the question.
#1. Describe the past year's accomplishments and the current status of this Action Project.
Although the importance of faculty and staff development was recognized before Shawnee State joined AQIP, the Vital Focus survey and Conversation Day used to begin the AQIP process highlighted the need for a more structured approach to faculty, and personnel, development. Active faculty learning communities associated with the Ohio Teaching Enhancement Program, interdepartmental development efforts, and an active University-Wide Personnel Development Committee, which had organized a successful workshop series lasting a full academic year, expressed the hope that a more structured approach to faculty and staff development could take place at Shawnee. In fact, several ad hoc committees were already working on development of a Teaching and Learning Center.
The AQIP Team appointed to move the project forward was expanded to include members of the Faculty Affairs and Development Committee along with several staff members interested in professional development to form the AQIP Action Project Team charged with proposing, creating and establishing a Shawnee State Teaching and Learning Center. Action Project Four on Developing a Teaching and Learning Center for Faculty and Staff at Shawnee State University has a large team of fifteen members (eight faculty and seven staff) who met monthly during the winter and spring quarters and once during the summer following the Action Project Kick-off event on January 6, 2006. In January, the team divided into three subcommittees: group 1 looked at other centers in Ohio and around the nation; group 2 developed an instrument for conducting needs assessment for faculty development; and group 3 looked at possible programming and an organizational plan for the new center.
Group 1 shared information about other centers with the whole team. The team discussed names and audiences for the proposed center based on what they were seeing on university websites. They agreed that the adding of the word "Learning" to center names was common and consonant with current educational paradigms. The team also noted that virtually none of the centers they observed included staff or other personnel in their audiences. The team agreed that including non-faculty in events and providing some staff training would work in Shawnee’s culture, as long as the Center’s commitment to excellence in teaching and learning remained the primary goal.
The needs assessment group (group 2) developed a variety of questions and questionnaires, one of which was chosen for distribution to faculty prior to the end of spring quarter.
The top three items of 42 development needs identified by faculty were:
The assignment for the third group was the focus of the summer meeting on June 28:
At its meeting of June 28, the team formulated a recommendation that the existing University-Wide Personnel Committee become the TLC’s Advisory Committee and that its members be invited to serve along with the Action Team until December 2006, when the team’s charge should be completed. The team also recommended that the TLC and its Director would operate directly under the Office of the Provost. The Provost asked the team to email their response to his choice for a director for the TLC, thus involving team members in the selection process before the appointment was made in July. In addition, the team suggested specific workshops, several of which would be conducted by action team members themselves (Wellness Workshop as beginning of a series; a workshop specifically for adjuncts; a three-part workshop on grant-writing; Information Literacy workshops in partnership with the library; and a workshop on teaching the senior seminar paper). The team agreed that a series of workshops would complement the four or five faculty learning communities, meeting throughout the school year, being planned for 2006-2007.
The team as a whole devoted two meetings to discussing and revising the draft of the Center proposal before submitting it to the Provost in late March. The Board of Trustees approved the TLC Proposal and established the Center at its April meeting. Programming and selection of a Director were addressed in June, with the Director’s appointment made in early July. As of August 2006 the space has been completed and implementation of TLC programming is underway. The three-room complex for the Center’s Activities is a newly remodeled space comprising a conference/training room (for about 12 people), a secretary’s office, and a spacious director’s office. Fall programming in the new TLC has been planned and is being implemented beginning in September.
In December 2005, the Chair of the Action Team, with the help of several technology-minded colleagues and Shawnee State’s Grants Officer (a member of the AQIP Action Team) applied for a grant from the Ohio Learning Network to become a Learning Community Regional Center for Southeast Ohio. The Proposal was successful and the newly established TLC is now working in partnership with OLN as the OLN Southeast Ohio Regional Center. The Regional Center will administer small grants for sister institutions to develop professional learning communities exploring the critical relationship between technology and increased learning within regional classrooms and will host several meetings and institutes at Shawnee State.
Describe concrete achievements: meetings, data
gathered and analyzed, plans made or
#2. Describe how the institution involved people in work on this Action Project.
With recommendation from the university-wide Budget and Academic Quality Improvement Planning Committee (BAQIP), the President appointed members of the Action Project Team and provided a charge and timeline for the project. Dr. Barbara Kunkle, faculty member in English/Humanities and Chair of the Faculty Affairs and Development Committee, agreed to Chair the Action Project Team. The original Team was expanded to incorporate members of the Faculty Affairs and Development Committee (a Faculty Senate Committee) and of the University-Wide Personnel Development Committee. Motivation for the expanded committee was twofold: first, it increased the number of potential stakeholders and, thus, supporters of the new Center; second, it made use of committees already charged with faculty or personnel development, thus making use of experienced people and avoiding possible alienation that could result from creating a whole new structure.
Minutes of team meetings have been placed on the institution’s AQIP web pages to make them widely available. The Action Team members have met formally and informally with numerous individuals and groups on campus as they collected information and data about faculty and staff development needs. A faculty survey was conducted. Information from peer institutions was helpful in examining how other campus structure Teaching and Learning Centers. Team members working on Action Project Four on Developing a Teaching and Learning Center for Faculty and Staff at Shawnee State made regular reports on their progress at the monthly meetings of BAQIP.
In addition, the team has worked to involve a wide range of campus constituents in planning and projects of the new Teaching and Learning Center. The team has recruited talented faculty or staff, some not previously involved in development activities, to play active roles in Center activities. Specific examples include the following:
The University Faculty Senate was asked, and voted unanimously to fund, attendance of two faculty members to the annual POD (Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education) on October 26. They will be asked to share what they learned with the Center’s Advisory Board and Director. An extra benefit is the potential creation new faculty developers.
A professor of botany has consented to take a group of faculty and staff on a nature hike in the Hocking Hills in October. This activity will meet an important objective of the TLC—fostering collegiality, while it gives participants an opportunity to see how a colleague conducts fieldtrips for our students.
An action team member was asked to accompany a librarian to an OhioLink Symposium on August 24, 2006 and to share what they learned at a Brownbag Lunch in the new Center during fall quarter.
The action team’s chair, now the Director of the TLC, attended an orientation for new faculty and staff in early September. New faculty were given the TLCs first newsletter and invited to join Shawneesians, the faculty learning community for early-service faculty. They were also invited to come to the new center for confidential help, to find a mentor, or simply to enjoy the company of colleagues.
The visibility of the TLC has undoubtedly benefited from its new partnership with the Ohio Learning Network. In fact, two front-page stories were devoted to the OLN regional center in the local newspaper. This attention is raising awareness of the Center and, hopefully, convincing faculty and staff that the Center is valuable to Shawnee State’s Mission and to their own personal and professional goals.
AQIP wants Information about motivation and communication: how you kept this Project on the institution’s priority list, how you maintained general awareness of the importance and progress of the Project, and how you kept those working on it directly active and motivated.
#3. Describe your planned next steps for this Action Project.
The Faculty and Staff Development Action Project plans to oversee the implementation of the Teaching and Learning Center. The team has been charged with responsibility for monitoring the initial operation of the Center consistent with quality improvement methods of determining progress and success. Establishing and beginning the collection data on faculty and staff development and other Center Activities will be a major goal for the fall term. Developing assessment data on Center Activities will be important if we are to continue to address the needs of our constituents. The most serious challenge we will face will be assessing gains in student learning based on faculty do in the Center.
As we move the faculty learning community (FLC) program into the Center and more firmly into the core functioning and budgeting of the university, we need to firm up FLC objectives regarding teaching and learning. We need to move beyond achieving "good talk about good teaching" and good collegiality leading to an improved campus culture (both excellent objectives we are already achieving). Members of FLCs need to set more specific and achievable objectives for improving the learning environments of their students and then assess the gains they make as teachers and—more difficult—the gains their students make in quality or depth of learning. The same challenge applies to workshops, Brownbag Lunches, and other activities, although long-term change in quality of teaching or learning based on a one-time "inoculation" would be harder to achieve than work in more sustained arenas such as FLCs provide. If increased student learning is one of the measurements upon which the Center gauges its success, the assessment challenge is one that must be met.
In order to better address the assessment of FLC outcomes, the TLC Director and a colleague in journalism who studied one of our FLCs and developed an assessment tool as part of a graduate class, will apply for an Assessment Mini-Grant to refine the instrument and try it out on the current group of FLCs in Spring of 2007.
The Action Project is expected to be completed in December when all operational and management tasks of the Center are turned over to the Director and a campus advisory group.
Be specific about the next critical steps you are planning to move the Action Project ahead. If your planning is vague or there is no planning at this point, explain why.
#4. Describe any "effective practice(s)" that resulted from your work on this Action Project.
This is an Action Project that achieved good results with the official creation of the Shawnee State University Teaching and Learning Center. Such a Center is common on university campuses. The unique aspect of this project is the use of an AQIP Action Project to create a new institutional structure that meets needs identified in the initial data gathering and analysis stages of AQIP participation.
The Center is building on work done by the Faculty Affairs and Development Committee and participants in faculty learning communities. The FLC program has thrived on our campus, with nearly one-third of the entire faculty participating in one or more group since 2001. The collegiality developed in these cross-disciplinary communities has inspired much collaboration—including team presentations at teaching and learning conferences; grant writing and implementation of development programs especially involving educational technology; improved teaching and learning; and the critical mass of interest that made the TLC a perceived need during the AQIP Conversation Day. Five years ago, a faculty member argued that FLCs would provide more "bang for the buck" than just about any other approach to faculty development. The prediction has proved to be true. Our faculty learning community program could be successfully adopted or adapted for other institutions.
With the technology grant from the Ohio Learning Network, the Center for Teaching and Learning is poised to make a regional contribution to faculty development in the area of technology use related to student learning. An innovative project related to the partnership with OLN but funded by Shawnee State University will be the creation of a multi-campus CyberTrek Faculty Learning Community. CyberTrek has been a popular FLC at Shawnee for several years providing knowledge and collegial support for technology use in the classroom. We plan to provide two southern Ohio schools with iMac computers set up to provide synchronous, real-time meetings with our peers.
Share practices (or processes, policies,
procedures, or initiatives) that could be adopted or
#5. What challenges, if any, are you still facing in regards to this Action Project?
As mentioned above, the challenge of linking the operation of the Teaching and Learning Center to student learning will be difficult.
The team chair and a colleague are working on a survey instrument for measuring the success of the CyberTrek FLC, based on graduate work on FLCs the colleague had done. We expect to apply for an Assessment Mini-Grant and do this work January through December of 2007.
This is an opportunity to get constructive, actionable feedback and advice from our review process. Use this question to specify where your blocks, gaps, sticking points, or problems are. If you have already fashioned strategies to deal with any challenge you face, share both the challenge and your strategy for meeting it.
#6. The optional question:
Regarding our assessment challenges: If you have resources that can help—and prevent us from ‘reinventing the wheel,’ we would appreciate the assistance. We have worked some with Classroom Assessment Techniques, are aware of the assessment instrument Milt Cox utilizes at Miami for FLCs, and have locally designed evaluation forms for workshops and events. We have a new Needs Assessment developed by members of the team that we have used already and expect to refine over time.
Approaches and instruments for measuring student learning gains based on a faculty member’s development activities would be very helpful, as would approaches to measuring student, and faculty, satisfaction.
Contact: Dr. Barbara Kunkle, Director of the Teaching and Learning Center