One of the reasons students are particularly satisfied with their educations is because they’ve had especially effective teachers, research shows. To both purposes, the School of Information Studies (iSchool) is launching a formal initiative to provide its faculty members with the resources to support teaching excellence and continuing professional development: the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning (FCTL).
The center is an expansion of the instructional tools, resources, and professional support services that have been provided for many years, but are now structured as an enhanced, school-wide focus with more services, more resources, and more regularly scheduled efforts to cultivate and maintain teaching excellence.
A learning lounge/training area has been dedicated for the Faculty Center on the second floor in Hinds Hall. Staff resources, structured programs, planned events, training schedules, and support for assessment and evaluation standards are being formalized. Students will be hired to provide research and resource support serving faculty member needs.
The formalization of the program and expanded future initiatives are being undertaken to support faculty teaching and professional development at the School, including effective course design and promotion of evidence-based teaching methods, according to Dr. Barbara Stripling, Senior Associate Dean and Assistant Professor of Practice, who oversees the Center. “The new center is devoted to the professional and personal growth of all iSchool faculty, adjunct faculty, and doctoral students who teach. Central to its mission is fostering a dynamic and committed teaching and learning community from across distances and disciplines,” Dr. Stripling noted.
Resources to Excel
Interim iSchool Dean Jeffrey Stanton noted, “This Center is devoted to providing extensive resources and support to help our faculty members and others who teach our students to excel in their teaching efforts. Programming is designed to benefit faculty in their personal career progression and skills-path growth, which also means that students will learn from teachers who constantly are freshening their knowledge, competencies, attitudes, technologies, and techniques. It’s essential to do that so that both faculty and students thrive in the kind of diverse and rapidly changing environment today’s educational systems present.”
The FCTL is putting programs and resources in place to assist faculty members in becoming part of a collaborative, innovative and interdependent teaching community—“one that engages in meaningful discussions about learning-centered topics, and that develops strategies to create an effective learning environment for all instructional modalities,” said Peggy M.Takach, director of the center. She envisions the FCTL as a continuously evolving resource, a central place that helps in every way. That includes offering basic assistance with resources and technologies, assisting faculty in instructional design and implementation of new teaching strategies, serving as a comprehensive source of instructional resources and tools, as well as providing extensive support services, individual consultations, and information and learning opportunities for faculty. “The goal is for the Center to grow into a faculty-driven program where instructors will be able to expand their professional practice and advance ongoing development,” the director added.
Takach, who has been the instructional designer for the School’s distance learning program since 2000 and an adjunct instructor, will maintain her responsibility for instructional design and teaching, while also being in charge of Center programming and operations in her role as director of the FCTL. Jeffrey Fouts, who came to the iSchool last year as instructional technology analyst, is now the Center’s director of instructional technology. He is responsible for all course management activities and technical support in the learning management system, developing and delivering information and instruction about the use of relevant teaching technologies for both the classroom and online, as well as assisting faculty members in their learning about various teaching technologies.
The Center intends to provide all-encompassing assistance to full-time and adjunct faculty in developing and delivering effective instruction, both face-to-face and online, Takach said. “We want to have a true place where faculty can come for their professional development and to access the information and support to help them improve overall course quality and get assistance with pedagogical strategies and the integration of instructional technology, for all courses, from undergraduate level to graduate,” she added.
The Center is forming a school-wide strategic group to develop and coordinate activities. It consists of the School’s curriculum program directors; the director of online education; the director of instructional quality; the Assistant Dean for IT Services and Facilities, and the Senior Associate Dean. The team will be working closely with Arthur Thomas, who is the School’s Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, regarding completion of course evaluations and assessments, faculty orientation, and new faculty onboarding, Takach said. Plans for professional development focus also extend to all adjunct instructors, and some training for doctoral students and teaching assistants as well, Takach said.
The Faculty Center recently piloted an online faculty certification program specifically aimed to assist adjunct faculty to upgrade skills and learn new methods for teaching online, for example. This spring, it conducted an in-depth workshop using current full-time and adjunct professors and staff instructional experts as workshop leaders and facilitators. The program brought five adjunct faculty members to campus for an intensive two-day session, with ongoing follow-up that continued for an eight-month period. Five adjunct faculty members are now completing that certification, and because of the program’s early success and enthusiasm, the iSchool will repeat it with another group of faculty members this coming spring, according to the Center’s director.
More information on the Faculty Center can be found at: http://facultycenter.ischool.syr.edu/