Faculty Development Course

Michelle Donlon, Tara Hyland, Marguerite Wolf
Dean Ganio, Hope Windle, William Sheldon, Wendy McCorry
Faculty Development Course

Developing as online/blended course for faculty
How to use education to get to another level ofconnection with students
Connect to

Teaching and Learning course and Institute


From: Sheldon, William
Sent: Thursday, May 06, 2010 9:47 AM
To: Full Time Faculty at SUNY Ulster
Cc: Ganio, John; Windle, Hope; McCorry, Wendy
Subject: A Course on Teaching and Learning for New (and Continually Inquisitive Ongoing) Instructors

Attached is a description of, and invitation to, a professional development experience in teaching/learning developed as the content of the Title III Mini Grant which I received last year. The “course” as proposed by the grant was targeted at relatively new instructors but all faculty are warmly invited who are interested in a dialogue and inquiry into what we do in the classroom and how we might experiment with options to expand our range.

I hope you will find this introduction interesting and that I will see many of you in fall at our first session.

William Sheldon

A Course on Teaching and Learning for New (and Continually Inquisitive Ongoing) Instructors

As a new instructor starting my career many years ago, I had virtually no orientation or introduction to teaching at the community college level.My formal education had included a Master’s in my content area, but as far as how to connect students to content, build satisfying learning/teaching experiences, and develop high degrees of engagement and student success, I was basically just thrown into a classroom to learn on my own by trial and (frequent) error.I initially implemented the kinds of practices that I had, myself, experienced in my own educational journey, trying to remember and emulate the best ones, and to avoid the worst.I had enthusiasm and effort on my side in those early days, and by and large my efforts were well received.However, it was only over a number of succeeding years, (decades, gulp) from ongoing attendance at conferences and seminars on differing aspects of effective teaching and learning that I was able to incorporate a wider spectrum of what I have found to be interesting, innovative and more satisfying teaching/learning practices than just the ones with which I had been educated.
I have often wished that I had been given an orientation, at the starting point in my career, to a broader theoretical understanding of the teaching/learning process and to a wider variety of potential practices to enhance and develop my teaching from the very beginning.I have also observed that generally the orientation/education processes that most institutions give to their new instructors—including our own-are not markedly different than what I experienced in arriving at my career’s doorsteps those many years ago.My intention, in submitting the Title III Mini-Grant for a Course on Teaching and Learning for New Instructors, was to provide an orientation to instructors here at the opening stages of their careers in hopes that they might have the advantage of being exposed to a more robust conversation on the community college teaching/learning process than I had been.That they might, at a much earlier point, receive the same sort of benefit that my own extended encounters with different possibilities have, over time, provided.
I do not make a claim to be a content expert on the community college teaching/learning process.And the course will not claim to be exhaustive in the coverage of possibilities.My hope, however, is that I can share some of what has been engaging to me and that the attendees will develop a deep and meaningful shared conversation on the teaching and learning experience that can enhance their own classroom experiences.
Lastly, several different colleagues who have had long and rich careers here at Ulster, after seeing the communication on the awarding of the grant, have come up to me to ask “Is it only for New Instructors?Can I come too?”This is delightful acknowledgement, I think, both of the quality of our faculty and of the interest that most of us take in this process we engage in as our careers.And my answer to all of them and to any of you who are interested is “by all means….all faculty are warmly invited…”We are all new every day to some extent…..each classroom day a new adventure.I’m looking forward to being delighted by all of our mutual sharing and discovery….

I have held a somewhat bemused issue with the way that our profession largely conducts its professional development experiences.They mostly consist of one-time workshops or seminars or even extended conferences at which some new process or idea or series of ideas is presented and then participants are set loose to hopefully incorporate the new ideas in some fashion on their own over a succeeding period of time.Often however, in the rush and push of the ongoing demands of the semester even the most ardently received notes wind up untouched on shelves or at the bottom of inboxes with little follow up implementation, reflection and experimentation.We would be outraged if we, as instructors, were commanded to teach our students in the same manner.“What?One class at the beginning of the semester?No assignments?No follow through? How are they going to learn the material that way?”The classes we teach here at the college, as opposed to those one-shot professional development experiences, are delivered over a period of time, with regular out-of-class assignments and consistent follow up discussion of them and of the students’ interactions with them. My best professional development experience, in a similar manner, was a week-long seminar followed by a year-long process of reflection, application, and ongoing communication with colleagues and a mentor, and capped by a week at the end that pulled it all together.
The intention of this professional development experience, this “course” is that it is built on roughly the same model that we use in our own classrooms, and that I found to be the most effective of my own professional development.That it is indeed a course, delivered over a period of time with vehicles for ongoing application, reflection, and communication in order to incorporate, experiment with and talk about the teaching/learning content being offered.
The time period for the course is an academic year.The regularity, so as to hopefully not be overly burdensome, will consist of just 7 sessions over the academic year—one at the beginning of the Fall semester, (perhaps at Development Day if time permits), and two more during the course of the first semester at approximately the 5th and 10th weeks.The fourth session will be at the start of the Spring semester, again perhaps at Development Day, with two more sessions during the semester at the 5 and 10 week marks and a final wrap up session after classes and before graduation at the end of the year.The sessions themselves are expected to be two/two and a half hours in length.Each session will have what will hopefully be provocative reading and/or application assignments so that participants can engage with the materials in ways that can lead to meaningful inquiry and experimentation.

The Tentative Outline for the Course is as follows.

Fall Semester
Session 1.Who Are We?What is the underlying pull that each of us feels toward this as our profession?What have our own inspirations been?What kinds of great and not-so-great experiences have we had as learners?How can we build on those?Who are we as we go into the classroom every day?What is our foundation of commitment and intent?How can we nurture and develop that during the push and shove of the demands of the semester, and over the course of an entire career?
Session 2.Who Are They?How do students learn?How can learning theory and research help us to more fully tailor the processes in our classrooms?What do students expect from their best instructors?How are those who are seen as the best college instructors regarded?What sets them apart in the eyes of students?What can we learn from those perceptions?
Session 3.What Do We Do?- 1How do we teach?What do we do?What kinds of possibilities do we have available?What are our traditional classroom activities and how can we enhance those?What is the Art of the Lecture? (from a series developed at the Harvard teaching/learning project)What is the Art of Discussion?How can our lectures and discussions be enhanced and student engagement increased?

Spring Semester
Session 4.What Do We Do?- 2Learning Teams and Project LearningWhat is the research and understanding of effective group/team learning?Why does so much of what we experience and experiment with in group learning fall flat or wind up being dissatisfying to students?How can we incorporate powerful effective collaborative learning?
Session 5.What Do We Do?-3—Critical Thinking.A comprehensive survey project in all of the higher education institutions throughout California undertaken some years ago revealed that almost all instructors/professors agreed that a primary goal of their classes and of the college learning process as a whole is that students come out of their college years being able to think well -- to be powerful critical thinkers.Yet, that same survey revealed, there was almost no consensus on what that meant nor on how to deliberately or systematically go about teaching that skill.During this module we will do our own “thinking about thinking”,examining and experimenting with different approaches to integrating critical thinking more explicitly into our course content.
Session 6.What Do We Do?-4—Technology and You.Technological tools for enhancing the teaching/learning processes are evolving at a dizzying rate.Our Instructional Designer, Hope Windle, does a fantastic job of keeping up with and helping faculty utilize these as they unfold.She’ll present a an array of different possibilities to enhance students’ involvement both in and out of the classroom.In addition, Hope will work with us during the entire course to develop tools for us all to experientially work with communication and presentation vehicles in the enhancement of our own Teaching and Learning Course.
Session 7.Wrap Up.What Do We Do Ongoing?What have we learned and experienced?How can we use what we have learned in order to enrich our classroom experiences?What kinds of vehicles might we develop among ourselves to keep our processes of development and sharing alive and vibrant?Also…… End of Course Celebration!!!!!

So that’s it.I hope that you have some sense of what the course is envisioned to entail and that those of you who are interested in this content will consider joining us.

You can sign up with Dean Ganio’s office.I’ll get in touch with you over the summer to give you the details of the start of the course.
We’ll look forward to hopefully seeing you in the fall.

William Sheldon
ProfessorBusiness Dept.