Center for Teaching and Learning
SUNY New Paltz
Strategic Plan, February 4, 2014 (draft)
Founded in 2001, The Center for Teaching and Learning originated as a recommendation in a report of college-wide committee that supported new teaching pedagogies and learning technologies. The Center was conceived as a grass roots effort in how it was designed and developed. Initially, some faculty expressed skepticism about the purpose and need of Teaching and Learning Center and its home in Academic Affairs. Such was the cultural climate at the time. However, to reassure faculty the TLC Directors made it clear, as did the Provost, that the mission of the Center was to support faculty pedagogical and curricular initiatives and innovations and would not engage in an evaluative role in regard to teaching performance and the tenure and promotion process.
The Center was designed a s a hybrid model with Linda Smith overseeing faculty development in instructional technology and Richard Kelder in curricular and pedagogical topics and issues. Over the past 12 years the Center has served as change agent, bringing innovative pedagogies and initiatives to the campus. Through the work of the Advisory Board and a cadre of dedicate teacher/scholars, an ethos of collaboration and community building has evolved through the Center. The Center for Teaching and Learning has organized programs on a variety of topics such as general education, assessment, accreditation, interdisciplinary teaching, academic integrity, intellectual property and copyright, liberal education, the scholarship of teaching and learning and many more, in addition to numerous workshops and training sessions in the use of instructional technology, Blackboard, and teaching online courses. Over the years, many nationally known scholars in addition to SUNY New Paltz faculty have been guest speakers at the Center.
Changing Landscape in Higher Education and the Impact on Centers for Teaching and Learning
The landscape of higher education has dramatically changed in the last 7 or 8 years with the introduction of more sophisticated learning technologies, web technologies, mobile devices, MOOCs, and Open SUNY. The emphasis on teaching with technology and online learning have made this a priority agenda at the Center. With more faculty teaching online courses in summer and winter sessions there is a need for more training and instruction. Consequently, the Center must advocate for more resources and personnel or shift its current resources to meet this demand. Given this paradigm shift to more online teaching and learning, as well as need to address local initiatives and projects, including liberal education, interdisciplinary curriculum development, and leadership and career development, the Center directors decided to revisit Center’s original mission and begin to rethink the structure and purpose of the Center. In the fall of 2013 the TLC Directors, the Advisory Board, in consultation with the Office of the Provost, began the process of developing a strategic plan.
Planning Process November 2013-February 2014
In November 2013 the TLC Directors designed a faculty survey to gather information about the role of the Center and perception and effectiveness of programs. 85 faculties responded to the survey and provided a wide range of qualitative responses that were often contradictory yet thought provoking. In addition, the TLC Advisory Board members were asked to gather suggestions and comments from faculty in their respective departments and schools and asked to report the results at an Advisory Board meeting in early December. The Center’s directors organized a faculty retreat in December for members of the Advisory Board and invited faculty and administrators, including the Provost. The retreat proved to be productive with twenty faculty and administrators in attendance. The ideas and recommendations discussed at the retreat were recorded and notes, including main points, summarized in a document (see attached). In January the launch of Open SUNY added an external factor to be addressed in the strategic plan. The TLC Directors contacted and interviewed the Directors of other Centers for Teaching and Learning Center throughout the SUNY system to determine how they were planning to address the Open SUNY agenda. Some reported that Open SUNY would place additional burden on current operations given the limited funding and resources from SUNY.
The College’s Strategic Plan and Institutional Goals and Objectives ( 2014-2016)
The overall goal and objective of the strategic plan is to support the institution’s goal as specified in its strategic plan: To Nurture Innovation and the Learning Environment. In addition, an additional impetus for the plan was the result of the Provost’s Fall report to the faculty which highlighted specific teaching and curriculum goals, including supporting interdisciplinary studies, building online teaching and learning efforts, realizing the goals of liberal education, facilitating mentoring and leadership development, and subsequently rethinking the purpose and structure of the Teaching and Center. Each of these initiatives is significant and has been incorporated into the planning process, and will culminate in rethinking and evaluating the TLC mission and re-conceptualizing its goals, priorities and projects within the changing landscape of our institution and higher education. This plan was conceived with belief that inherent within the challenges presented by Open SUNY and other internal and external agendas are opportunities for constructive and thoughtful changes for strengthening the mission and role of the Center for Teaching and Learning.
INCREASING SUPPORT FOR ONLINE TEACHING AND LEARNING 2014-16
The increasing emphasis on teaching with technology represents a major evolutionary change in the Center’s purpose and will affect how the resources and personnel are utilized. The Center will continue to offer a series of workshops and forums for faculty who plan to teach in online or hybrid/blended teaching environments. This will include ongoing workshops in Blackboard and other CMC instructional modalities, as well as podcasting, lecture capture, mobile devices, etc. The Center will continue to build on the expertise of the TLC Director of Academic Computing and her Associate in providing one-on-one faculty training as well as group workshops on a variety of topics for online instruction that contribute to quality teaching in blended and online teaching environments. However given the challenges inherent in Open SUNY and the increase in faculty teaching online courses at New Paltz during the winter and summer sessions the following recommendations are offered:
- Institute an online teaching institute within the structure of the Center staffed by faculty Fellows who have the expertise and years of experience teaching online to work with new faculty and serve as mentors. This will also meet the Open SUNY request to have noted online faculty fellows and researchers available at each campus. These fellows can develop online training modules and be available to troubleshoot when faculty are experiencing problems teaching online. Faculty who participate in training will receive notification, possibly some form of certification, indicating that they are ready to teach online. The Director of Academic Computing will serve as a liaison with the newly created OPEN SUNY committees on research and innovation, communities of practice, the SUNY Online Consortium and The Center for Online Teaching Excellence (COTE), etc. Faculty fellows will be appointed by the Provost’s Office will receive course reduction.
- To enhance the effectiveness of the training and ensure quality of course design and student learning outcomes, the TLC would welcome collaboration with additional personnel in instructional design, digital media, web design, academic computing and the Office of Educational Outreach. In re-conceptualizing the IT programs and with the addition of online faculty fellows and the collaboration of other IT professionals, there would be more campus-wide integration of online faculty development programs. This would provide more oversight and result in a more systematize and comprehensive approach to prepare faculty for online teaching and further ensure the quality of instruction and positive student learning outcomes.
- Each semester The Center’s directors and associate staff will continue to work with faculty to obtain SUNY Innovative Instructive Technology grants (IITG) grants as they have done in the past and invite SUNY faculty who have expertise in online teaching to give presentations. For example, this Spring semester a faculty member from SUNY Delhi, recently named as Best in the Nation for Online Undergraduate Degrees, will give a presentation at the Center.
Innovative Pedagogies and Best Practices
As faculty indicated in the recent survey, the TLC must continue to offer more workshops, forums, teaching circles and brown bag lunches for faculty to develop high impact and active learning pedagogies to improve teaching in online and hybrid learning environments and in the classroom. Sessions will also focus on best practices and research in online and face-to face environments. The Center will begin to offer these sessions in a more structured format each semester and invite more SUNY faculty members to give presentations on pedagogical and curricular topics and their respective research. Beginning in the spring of 2014, the Center will begin teaching circles for faculty to engage with and exchange ideas about current research and best practices in both online, blended and . These sessions will be scheduled at different times and repeated throughout the semester to reach as many faculty as possible. The same process will be followed each semester through 2014-2016.
Interdisciplinary Teaching/Curriculum Development and Liberal Education 2014-2016
A college-wide objective is to increase interdisciplinary teaching and curriculum development on campus, and the Center will offer more faculty development workshops to realize this objective. Also, The TLC will collaborate and consult with Director of the Honors Center, department chairs and faculty to identify and engage faculty teaching in interdisciplinary programs and courses and invite them to participate in forums and presentations. The Director of the Honors Center and the Director of the TLC have collaborated, organized and jointly supported events and workshops in the past and will continue to do so in the coming years. The new liberal education first year seminars organized around on common themes and texts necessitate that faculty form multiple disciplines collaborate to experiment with innovative interdisciplinary pedagogies and negotiate between disciplinary boundaries. The Center will offer opportunities in discussions and roundtables each semester for faculty to exchange ideas on how best to teach in interdisciplinary environments. These forums will also serve to build a faculty cohort experienced in teaching interdisciplinary courses who can then serve as mentors to new faculty teaching first year seminars As in the past the center will invite guest speakers knowledgeable in interdisciplinary teaching as well as SUNY New Plats faculty to give presentations. In addition, in the fall semester of 2014 the Center will organize a retreat for faculty teaching in interdisciplinary and others who are interested programs. As a follow-up activity, Interdisciplinarity will be the central theme for the 2015 Faculty winter forum.
Improving Communication, Fostering Collaboration and Building Community
- The Center will provide opportunities for faculty interested in the use of digital technology for curriculum and project development in their disciplines. This will be addressed by providing workshops in digital media and the use of digital technology in the humanities and by partnering with the library staff, digital media faculty and faculty in digital humanities to assist faculty on digital projects. To meet these programmatic goals the Center will advocate for additional personnel, including instructional designers.
- The Center directors will collaborate with researchers, fellows, and faculty development specialists at the SUNY Center for Online Teaching Excellence (COTE) and the SUNY Center for Professional Development. Through this collaborative effort, SUNY New Paltz faculty would have access to online teaching models and best practices in the use of evidence-based pedagogy.
- Each semester the Center will participate with the Office of Academic Affairs to organize orientation sessions and mentoring opportunities for new faculty.
- With the assistance of department chairs, the center will identify and develop workshops and forums on topics specifically designed for adjunct instructors.
- At the beginning of each semester, The Directors will meet with Deans and Department Chairs to identify priority topics for program development and encourage faculty, especially those newly hired, to participate at the Center in an advisory capacity or by giving presentations and leading discussions.
- The Center will continue to support the development of faculty learning communities as it has done for the past 12 years by having common readings of highly regarded texts and providing opportunities for faculty to share ideas and perspectives on teaching and learning and important topics in higher education.
- The Directors will redefine the role and responsibilities of Advisory members in order to serve a greater advocacy function as liaisons with faculty and chairs.
- Each semester The TLC directors will collaborate with and assist former Provost, David Lavallee, in the implementation of the Leadership Institute at the Center.
Promoting the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL) (2014-2016)
- With the assistance and support of the Provost, Dean, and Chairs the Center will support and highlight the scholarship of faculty who are publishing articles on teaching and learning in their disciplines. Faculty will be asked to participate in the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Professional Organizational Development (POD) and other SOTL sources.
- The directors and members of the Advisory Board will be asked to identity a cadre of faculty scholars who are interested in developing an on-line journal on teaching and learning across the disciplines. To realize this project , the Center will request additional support from the Office of Academic Affairs
Institutional Constraints and Recommendations
- Many faculty report that they do not have time to attend TLC sessions either because of their schedule or because of the TLC schedule of events. The Center will try to offer more of its events in a variety of time slots.
- Faculty report that there is little recognition associated with attending TLC events in the way of rewards, including recognition in the tenure and promotion and DSI processes. The Office of the Provost and President must continue to convey the importance of quality teaching to address student learning and consult with leaders in faculty governance to change the reward structure in clearly defined ways that illustrate that teaching is valued. Without leadership and strong signals from the administration, faculty will continue to invest time and energy where they receive rewards and recognition. The Administration may want to consider offering stipends for faculty who participate in faculty development activities.
- The Center for Teaching and Learning does not receive sufficient public recognition or acknowledgment for its programs and service from the majority of faculty and the administration. Some faculty still do not see Centers as being important in higher education nor do they understand their purpose. To rectify this the Center’s directors will become more proactive to make the Center more visible and share more information with faculty and chairs about the value of programs at Centers of Teaching and Learning. In addition the directors will advocate for more administrative support from Deans and Provost’s Office
- The success of the Center is problematic as result of being in caught conflicting narratives, one that acknowledges the changing landscape of higher education and the importance of teaching to improve student learning outcomes and assuage the criticism of legislators and other stakeholders, and another which resists or denies the latter, and suggests that things are just fine the way they are. Why change? With little or no authority, and without strong administrative support, directors and faculty in Centers for Teaching and Learning experience Sisyphean moments. However difficult it may be to overcome obstacles, there are always victories, both great and small, that make one’s work and contributions feel worthwhile and validated.
- The Center for Teaching and Learning will begin the process of changing of its name.