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LeagueTLC Innovation Express
Exploring Issues, Innovations, and New Developments with Information Technology Professionals

The New Faculty Institute at Bellevue Community College: Targeting Teaching and Learning for New Faculty Orientation

 

I was so honored by this process. It is the first time I've been welcomed and respected for my scholarly interest and expertise in teaching and learning.
-- Dr. Margaret Harada, English Instructor, Bellevue Community College

In an effort to focus and instill learning college principles, that is "learning first" through student-centered, teaching-centered, and learning-centered values, Bellevue Community College (BCC) looked at new ways to create professional development opportunities for faculty. Noting the five underlying objectives of The Learning College Project-Organizational Culture, Staff Recruitment and Development, Technology, Learning Outcomes, and Underprepared Students-the challenge was creating the time and space for faculty to focus on their own commitment to learning and foster the kind of institutional change necessary to impact these five targeted areas. After years of new faculty orientation and fall faculty days being filled with paperwork, processes, and college policy issues, it was time to make academic discussions about student, teaching, and learning the priority of professional development. When BCC's Director of Faculty Professional Development Helen Taylor and BCC Curriculum Design Specialist Suzy Lepeintre approached the college administration with the idea of a New Faculty Institute focused solely on teaching and learning, they found enthusiastic support. 

With college support, innovative ideas, and allocated resources in place, the major challenge, again, was time. Like many colleges, BCC schedules a full week of pre-fall activities for faculty with all-campus issue days, division retreats, and statewide conferences. Existing scheduled agenda items left only two days for the BCC New Faculty Institute to hold face-to-face activities focused on teaching and learning. Carving out this limited time took extraordinarily creative measures, but the greater challenge loomed-How do we allow faculty to explore their own ideas and issues related to student learning and become a learning community themselves in 14 hours spread over two days? 


Developing The New Faculty Institute

Planning The New Faculty Institute from scratch was a great opportunity in designing project outcomes. However, in addition to outcomes, we wanted faculty to come into the two days with a level of understanding about ideas and expectations at the college:

A sense of BCC's respect for new faculty expertise and ability to conduct inquiry into teaching and learning
Some ideas formed around learning issues BCC considers important
Respect for each other's expertise 
A sense of what their colleagues were thinking about and researching in teaching and learning

To meet these value-based goals and offset time constraints, we created a 3-week online course within WebCT for new BCC Faculty. In a letter signed by our Dean of Instruction, new faculty were asked to participate in The New Faculty Institute which included the three week online course running from August 15 through September 10, 2001, a two-day face-to-face session September 10 and 11, and follow-up meetings throughout the year at all-campus issues days and professional development days. The New Faculty Institute participants received a $250 stipend for the additional time and commitment. 

Ten new full-time faculty were targeted as first participants for the Fall 2001, but when the announcement of the New Faculty Institute was made, a number of current full-time and part-time faculty ask to participate. Of those inquiring, seven actually signed up for the institute, making our opening year attendance 17. 

Upon selection, participants received letters of welcome describing the Institute along with instructions on how to access the online portion of the course through WebCT. The BCC Curriculum Design Specialist, who also serves as one of the campus WebCT Administrators, offered helpdesk assistance via anytime email service for those who needed help navigating website functions; however, few faculty encountered problems with the New Faculty Institute Website, corresponding chat functions, or posting comments and responses. 


The New Faculty Institute in Motion 

Helen Taylor and Suzy Lepeintre planned a curriculum for new faculty centered on the scholarship of teaching, and also included key tips and techniques for immediate use in classroom learning sessions. Through informal polling of faculty colleagues and input from BCC Disabled Student Services staff, the curriculum turned on four sets of questions:

1. Why do we teach? What is the value of our work?
2. What do we know about students at Bellevue Community College? What else would we like to know? How do we find out more?
3. What do we know about our own teaching? What do we want to achieve? How do we know when we've achieved it? What do we assume about our work? How do we test our assumptions?
4. What have our faculty at Bellevue Community College found works in their classrooms, both face-to-face and online?

These four questions were then categorized into three topic areas for online discussion: 

1. Talking About Teaching (Why do we teach?)
2. Bellevue Community College Students (What do we know about our students?)
3. Teaching and Learning (What do we know about our own teaching?) 

The Teaching and Learning category also included best practices shared by BCC faculty, and experiences developing course syllabi, lesson plans, and other classroom activities that illustrated each participant's teaching philosophy and methodology.

Talking About Teaching

The online portion of the Institute opened with a series of quotes from our current humanities faculty on what teaching and learning is all about.

The first task for our seminar participants was to share their own feelings about teaching and learning. Within WebCT, each instructor read through the online series of quotes, posted their own feelings to the bulletin board (Discussions) and then responded to each other's posts. 



The following is an example of one new faculty member's post to the bulletin board:

My main discovery has been a realization, at semester's
end, that I have learned as much as my students!


What continually surprises are students who bring
entirely new, and altogether fresh, perspectives to bear
on a topic, ones that hadn't occurred to me despite my
intimate connection with the subject matter. (This is
delightful, of course, since it provides evidence of
higher order thinking.)


A major value of Talking about Teaching and the shared discussion among colleagues is that it opens the dialogue and new dimensions for learning. It is the prologue and initiation of new ideas, new opportunities, and new innovations that nurture growth and development within college life. 

Bellevue Community College Students

The student category provided the meat of the online portion of the New Faculty Institute. Faculty read profiles of BCC students and participated in scenario-based discussions of typical classroom situations encountered at BCC. In addition, this section included references and resources focused on disabled students' needs, with a quiz related to disabled student services. Participants read various articles illustrating ways syllabi can help faculty communicate with students, wrote their own syllabi and exchanged feedback. 

One particularly enjoyable activity included live online chats that introduced new BCC faculty to BCC students and provided opportunities for initial conversations between the two groups. The conversations are facilitated by a New Faculty Institute instructor. In one typical exchange, for example, after the new faculty member introduced himself and mentioned the courses he teaches, the facilitator asked the three participating students to introduce themselves and provide a sentence or two on their backgrounds. The students discussed their major programs and progress toward completion, talked about where they are from, and mentioned their plans for continuing their education after completed programs at BCC. Some students also described active learning opportunities that have been particularly beneficial in helping them understand important concepts and processes in their courses.

Teaching and Learning

The focus on teaching and learning proved to be the transition point. We hoped to have faculty come into the first face-to-face portions of our institute ready and eager to share their own best practices, linked to their philosophy of teaching. In advance of the meeting, we asked faculty to complete an online survey of their own teaching methods based on Angelo & Cross's Classroom Assessment Techniques. In addition to the online survey, they were also asked to share their teaching philosophy and an activity or lesson that worked well within that philosophy. With so many advance activities and time being the perennial restraining factor, new faculty were only able to touch on these things through the online venue; the real work in this area was to occur during the face-to-face meeting September 10 and 11.

By the time the seminar participants met face-to-face on September 10, they had already affirmed their own passion for teaching and formed a community of inquiry into teaching and learning. After spending so much virtual time together during previous three weeks, the participants enjoyed seeing their colleagues for the first time! 

New faculty were greeted with an inspirational video of veteran BCC faculty talking about teaching and learning, and then welcomed by the BCC President. Motion was the word for the day of the Institute. New Faculty Institute staff employed every active learning technique to further explore issues related to BCC students: learning styles, disabled student services, collaborative learning techniques, student-centered activities, and classroom management strategies. 

As with the rest of the world, the New Faculty Institute was disrupted by the tragic events of September 11. Participants and staff arrived that morning, consoled each other, and committed to covering some topics at later dates throughout the year-the regularly scheduled new faculty 'orientation', the college issues days, and professional development days scheduled throughout the quarter. The full orientation day scheduled for September 11 was scaled down to just half a day, and, as designed, the majority of the day focused on teaching and learning. 

On the October 19 Fall College Issues Day, the college hosted a 'reunion' lunch for The New Faculty Institute participants. During lunch, we discussed our classroom experiences to date. Every instructor reported the use of at least one approach discussed during the Institute, especially the active learning activities and the classroom assessment strategies.

The follow-up to College Issues Day occurred on November 12 with a two-hour session on professional development. Participants shared ideas related to issues the faculty had brought up during the October 19 lunch: strategies for breaking up lectures with discussion, techniques for getting students to work well in small groups, and specific information on classroom assessment techniques and Small Group Instructional Diagnosis (SGIDS) in which a facilitator is invited by the instructor to interview the class regarding their perceptions of what works well and what doesn't. 


Lessons Learned

The first thing BCC New Faculty Institute developers learnedand that we've actually heard again and again from our peer learning collegesis that when faculty receive the respect they deserve for their commitment to teaching and learning, they are more than willing to volunteer their personal time to come together and share their work and their passion. 

Even with a limited budget and limited time, we were able to symbolize the respect we have for our faculty with stipends, well-designed websites and multimedia presentations, guest presentations, and quality curriculum centered on celebrating what our faculty do.

Other notable lessons were identified directly by the project staff:

It is very hard to create curriculum, publish it in a course site, and run the course itself at the same time. There was a great feeling of chaos at times; it's amazing to look back now and see that the site actually looks pretty nice!

It is very difficult to recruit students to chat during the summer. Next year we will begin recruiting in the spring.

Faculty presenting their best techniques to other faculty worked extremely well face-to-face. 

Having two trained facilitators and curriculum designers fully committed to preparing such an endeavor is essential. An administrative assistant for a few hours here and there would have been great. 


Summary & Results

With only one year to measure results, we have had 15 faculty donate at least 60 hours of their own time to participate in the Institute, and they are eager for more. We have follow-up meetings and sessions planned for the rest of the year and will ask this year's New Faculty Institute participants help us to improve next year's Institute.

It is hard to measure how the student's experience of the teaching and learning process has changed because of the Institute. Some of the new BCC faculty recruits are very experienced teachers. They come in with perspectives and well-developed philosophies of teaching and most probably would have employed these principles in their own classroom practice regardless of their participation in the Institute.

What is changing, however, is our culture as a college. BCC is moving from a perception that the bottom line is numbers and statistics, and trying to reaffirm, as a college, that the real work we do and our accountability is about teaching and learning. The first experiences our new faculty had on this campus communicated that we are a college that values teaching and learning above all and respects faculty for their ability to help us continue our excellent work in this area. That is significant.

Part of that desired change in culture also involves technology. Our college has been remarkably successful in securing technology resources and developing programs that support technology assisted teaching and learning. The large amounts of money moving in these directions has left many on the campus feeling the quality work they do in their face-to-face classrooms and the issues they have been researching there are being forgotten. This Institute has shown that the communicative power of our instructional technologies can be used to amplify and celebrate the quality work our instructors do in all of their teaching contexts.

Our response from our college administration was amazing. Our Dean of Instruction independently approached our President for more funding and was granted the ability to give five credits of release time (15 credit quarters are a full load) to the faculty attending the Institute starting next year. While the budget freezes associated with recent economic downturn have put this project on hold for the moment, the fact that our administration is so eager to support this project is significant.

Currently we have invited the professional developers and curriculum designers involved with the Teaching and Learning Network of Washington State to share and help improve the curriculum and online environment we have created. We plan to begin planning for fall 2002 during the winter quarter and finalize the program in the spring.

For more information contact 

Suzy Lepeintre
Curriculum Design Specialist

Helen Taylor
Director of Faculty Professional Development

 

 

 

 

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