Teaching and Learning History

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  • 1.  Changing an Institution's Culture

    Posted 09-27-2017 11:07:00 AM
    Dear Colleagues,

    I chair a committee whose aim is to create a "Culture of Thinking" at my institution. The Tuning Project and the SoTL group have been invaluable resources for me. However, the concern is that the committee will become stagnant, or ineffective at instituting change due to faculty push-back. Even if we place emphasis on faculty-led decisions about courses and learning outcomes, the concern of the committee is that faculty will view any initiatives as extra "work."

    My question is simple, though the answer will likely be more complex. How do we get faculty buy-in? Institutional buy-in is the ultimate goal, but departmental buy-in, admittedly, is most relevant, here.

    Zachary Virgin
    Upper School History Instructor
    Franklin Road Academy
    Nashville, TN

  • 2.  RE: Changing an Institution's Culture

    Posted 09-28-2017 07:22:00 AM
    I'd love to hear answers to this too.

    Sent from my iPhone

  • 3.  RE: Changing an Institution's Culture

    Posted 09-28-2017 08:27:00 AM
    I've been involved as a founding member/chair of new SOTL/faculty development programs at two different universities, and I experienced two very different outcomes. So, perhaps I can offer something of value.

    At one institution, there was a tremendous amount of help from above. From the outset, administrators were on-board with devoting resources to fostering the program, and we enjoyed considerable success. We ascertained what other universities were offering their faculty to become involved (usually it was a stipend of some sort, ranging from $500-$3500/annum, either paid as salary or to offset conference travel or equipment purchases). Through trial and error, we optimized our stipend amounts, and had previous participants serve as mentors to newcomers. It worked pretty well: we had a constantly growing cohort, there was widespread buy-in, there were measurable outcomes (e.g., participant satisfaction, number of SOTL presentations & publications), and administration backed us up where it counts.

    The other institution was quite different, as it was a grass-roots effort. Administrators backed us in theory, but wouldn't commit any funding. I inventoried what our peer institutions were doing to demonstrate that we were behind the curve; and I ran a university-wide, baseline faculty survey to show that (1) there was a real need for SOTL support, and (2) there was very little SOTL work actually being done. Despite the clear evidence, administrators never got behind things. In the meantime, I launched an unfunded, scaled down teaching development program and ran it for 8 years. There was decent participation, but the faculty who partook were the ones who were already pretty competent. Meanwhile, those who most needed to join us were precisely the ones who'd never come, given the lack of extrinsic incentives.

    So, what's the takeaway? You can create and maintain a credible, stand-alone SOTL operation. But if the institution doesn't back it with anything more than lip service, it might fail to achieve any lofty goals you may have for it. Doing comparative inventories and running a baseline survey, as described above, can yield hard data to help persuade the higher-ups that this is something to get behind.

    Good luck!

    Pete Burkholder
    Fairleigh Dickinson Univ.