I think you are hitting on something that I have seen for awhile in my efforts to consult with faculty in the FHS and TechOne programs at SFU - yes, faculty are enmeshed in a system that impacts their performance and thus we are also part of that system. It is feasible to discuss base competencies and to provide opportunities "in-house" that fit the general culture of higher ed but then it has to happen within the disciplinary context. I also believe that peers who are ready and able to be identified as mentors and coaches and in fact in some cases potentially "reviewers" of performance in teaching. This notion of peer review is familiar to academics - they are reviewed on their writing performance so teaching performance is another aspect of their work.
Another dimension that is if well done "hidden" is the design piece of teaching. How to judge a good course design is difficult. What constitutes a "good course" in one context will vary from another. I spend most of my time consulting and having conversations with faculty about their approach to learning design since many of the performance issues in teaching that they name actually originate in design. So, there could be peer reviews for course design or as we are trying to do in FHS and TechOne establish a community of practice to assist in supporting design. Why not?
Also, if we were to work with the professional associations that many people either belong to or attend conferences - we might consider how to engage these folks in supporting additional adjunct learning opportunities and give people credit for this. Clearly, this is the "Continuing ed" portion of this work but it another approach.
Also, in the case of health sciences, the accreditation bodies may offer educational and teaching support. Here is a link to a public health accreditation body in the USA where teaching public health is a big concern. It is part of the accreditation process.
Demonstrating Excellence in Practice-Based Teaching in Public Health found at the Association of Schools of Public Health
I agree with Barb and Rosalie that competencies need to be discussed within the disciplinary context; any courses in teaching and learning must be relevant to the discipline of the teacher. In the Plymouth LTHE all participants are assigned to an IPD (Initial Professional Developer) who is an experienced lecturer in the same discipline, who helps them apply the more generic teaching and learning theory to their own practice. Whilst [gosh that was exciting - I've never used that word before :-)] the participants get the more broad teaching and learning theory from the eduational developers, they also meet together in disciplinary groups (and one-on-one) with their IPD to discuss pedagogy, methods and teahcing and learning issues for their own discipline.
We also get together in inter-disciplinary groups, which we call Learning Sets, where about 8 lecturers share ideas, plans, course designs, teaching concerns, and drafted LTHE assignments. Participants have indicated that the Learning Sets are one of the most useful part of the program. This is one of the strategies that is consisent with the development of a learning community (though the implementation is not as effective as it could be me thinks). Nonetheless, this concurs with the need for context-specific support as well as disciplinary-specific support.
Peer review is also incorpoarted into our LTHE as a requirement for a minimum of 3 teaching observations during the first year of lecturing - one by an LTHE tutor, one by the participant's mentor (an individual selected by the participant for support throughout their first year), and one by a peer fo their choosing. This review consists of 3 parts - first the participant writes up the design for the session and describes the area(s) that they would like feedback on, then the observer observes, meets with the participant and writes up the feedback, and finally, the particpant then comments on the feedback. I'll attach it, for your information. I actually just had a teaching observation a couple of weeks ago and though I was a little nervous, I expect that I am a better teacher for having done it.
I'm wondering if these types of learning activities would work for HE teachers in Canada and elsewhere, or if they could be adapted?
This sounds very interesting and I believe the activities you describe would be well worth exploring in Canada/BC. I love the idea of "Learning Sets". What are some of the "questions" or "practice problems" that emerge in these discussions?
I also like the peer review process that you have described. We do this a bit in our teaching certificate at SFU (course design workshop and assessment workshop) but I can see it would be very useful if used more strategically.
will now go to your LTHE site for more info.
We have a teacher preparation program required of all our new hires that runs the entire first year of their employment with us. The interesting thing about our structure is that many established faculty join us (coincidentally in numbers about equal to the new hires, usually), because this has the potential to impact their placement on the pay grid, ultimately. That's the initial motivation, though the program has gained quite a bit of traction on campus as a worthwhile, satisfying endeavour.
Well, as a result of the mix of participants, we invariably get wonderful discussions going between the new and established faculty around all of the topics we cover in those 12 sessions. For me, it's part of the fun of facilitating these sessions, and both groups acknowledge how rich the exchange is. I'm certain it's one of the features that keeps people signing up for these sessions (from among the established faculty), and causes the participants to hang around, even after we're 'done', late on a Friday afternoon, to continue their exchanges!
I also offer a peer review of teaching - entirely voluntary, and the agenda is set by the prof being observed.
The one piece we need to formalize a bit more at our little community college - and I'm grateful for the references I've seen to this already - is our mentoring program. In our case, too, folks from like disciplines connect for the new faculty member's first year, and the mentor's time becomes part of the workload formula. It's just VERY informal at the moment. But it's next on my hit list. :)
This program sounds very exciting and certainly would appeal to me. I think that you teaching institution is on the right track and the students will benefit.
How much time do you think is spent on it monthly?
Do you have any formal evaluations from participants yet?
Thanks Jo Ann
I'm not sure where you're located... If not in N. America, you may not be familiar with a program put out by League for Innovation (www.league.org) called "LENs", or Learning Exchange Networks. It's predominantly U.S. based, but one of our local community colleges (Humber, in Toronto) was a member of the consortium that developed the materials. My predecessor researched options and determined this would be one of the best available, and when I took over the position on campus, I just kept the status quo, as it had garnered such a strong response.
The content is meant to be delivered in six modules, but I only cover three per semester and I take two afternoons to cover each; hence the 12 sessions in total. Our sessions are three hours. It's a terrific set of materials, if you ask me, and I have yet to come across anything that decidedly surpasses the quality. It feels very much like an 'add water and stir' kind of formula. I freshen it up every year by changing some of the activities, and we bring in our in-house experts on a variety of topics - anything from rubrics to technology in the classroom, etc - but generally the content is rock solid and easy to use. I mean, REALLY easy.
We haven't gone so far as to collect data that goes beyond your usual feedback form, but I'd say that the LENs sessions (as they've become known) are probably considered the hallmark of what comes out of my office, though I do a lot more.... And they are widely well regarded.
As a community college, our faculty are members of a union, and in some respects that actually makes life easier. Their participation in the sessions is a condition of employment when they're hired on. People who have been with us since before the establishment of this program still opt in for reasons I described earlier. I think they stay pretty willingly. :)
I wasn't aware of the League for Innovation (www.league.org) "LENs" Learning Exchange Networks modules. We have been developing and offering something similar without knowing this existed. Arrgg!
This is especially frustrating when our district is very active in the League. We, Foothill-DeAnza College District - are the "host" for the League for Innovation conference next week! I'm going as a volunteer, so I'll be on the look-out for more information.
BTW: Is anyone else going to the League for Innovation conference (www.league.org/i2009/) in Reno Nevada next week? I'll be there Sunday Mar 15 - Wed Mar 18. I'd love to meet up with fellow SCoPE-ers.
I too like the ideas of "learning sets". I think that one of the areas I would like see developed is quality of "chunks" of learning that relate how to teach --both online and traditionally. These chunks could be learning sets that are given recognition at the national and international level as having mastered these areas (chunk by chunk) and this kind of learning could be promoted as life long learning. Models, skills, readings, application, and connecting with peers of learners would help support the reason to do these "learning set modules".
Some universities could give graduate students and faculty credits for the completion of these learning sets. This may be the road to meeting the diverse teaching needs of medical faculty, and the diverse needs for specific subject domains. I would like to see people developing these learning set modules on wikieducator as well as on other sites that are willing to share them and promote teaching quality. To some extent this may be already happening, but I think the intention would be to accelerate the development of these learning set modules and promote their quality and availability. Jo Ann
I will try to summarize the discussion so far to allow those who are just arriving can get an idea of what's been going on, and to help every reflect on some of the ideas that have been shared. First, I have to admit that I'm surprised that some of the discussion is about whether a mandatory credentialing framework would be appropriate - I expected that we could be talking more about how we might go about making it happen. That's just my perspective....
Last week we started off discussing the benefits of a national framework for credentialing and Deirdre pointed out the benefit of having the weight of authority in a national scheme, while Nick and others underscored the "titanic nature of academe". Barb offered several examples of the possible challenges of such a framework and the implications for higher education. Deirdre, Nick and Barb brought up the idea of starting at the provincial level because this is the level that universities are organized, and getting agreement nationally would be [10 times more :-)] difficult.
Wendy and others noted that the whole idea of needing a required credential is scary and that there needs to be a large amount of flexibility in any scheme, while several people emphasized the need to make the framework (or at least the implementation) discipline-specific in its structure and learning outcomes to accommodate the many different teaching situations - bedside, in a boat, one-on-one tutorials, classroom lectures, project work, and workplace-based learning.
Finally, there was mcuh discussion about the idea that there needs to be wide support for credentialing to become acceptable, including support from senior administrators, and Rosalie and I talked about the need to change attitudes and culture. Barb added that, champions would be required at multiple levels in the system and in multiple settings to come together and talk about a common framework. While Wendy asked, "who is the 'we'" when we are planning this framework - excellent question.
Moving on to how we might structure a teacher-training framework (Topic 2), Alice and Roselie suggested a framework of reflective practice, and a skills-based approach. Also Valerie and Irene described other credentialing models in colleges in the US and in Ontario that we can think consider, and I have provided some information about the system in the UK, plus Jo Ann shared some details as well for a possible structure.
I'm looking forward to hearing more ideas, and could I suggest that we move into the Topic 2 discussion, even though we haven't fully finished the first topic....