Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Top Services in Centers for Teaching Excellence

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I am currently serving as a visiting scholar at Utah State University (USU). I have been working with the Office of the Provost to identify ways that teaching can be support more effectively at USU. As part of my research, I have been reviewing the websites of several Centers for Teaching Excellence at other large universities across the United States with the goal of identifying the common kinds or services and supports given at the university. In this blog post, I will describe some of my findings.

How I Chose the Centers to Include in My Review
I used a fairly unscientific approach for selecting these centers. I performed a Google search for the term "Center for Teaching Excellence." I then began reviewing each site in the order of their ranking by Google. I reviewed a total of 7 sites using this process. I also reviewed the sites of Utah Valley University and the University of Utah, though U of U's site appeared to be in transition from one structure to another and I therefore did not include it in the review.

To document and tabulate my findings, I created a giant table with the university in the first column and the potential services throughout the subsequent columns. I placed a check mark to indicate whether the center provided the service and also made notes in the limited space. I ended up adding an additional piece of paper to the table to add more columns. I also took notes on  a separate Word document on what I found interesting as I went through the sites.

Common Services/Programs at Centers of Teaching Excellence
The following table lays out the most common services offered at these centers. The services are organized from most common to least common.
# offering service (of 8 reviewed)
Online teaching resources for faculty (e.g. blogs, web pages, videos, podcasts related to teaching excellence)
Teaching workshops and/or institutes
New Faculty Teaching Preparation
Teaching Consultations
Teaching Observations
Small Grants for Teaching Innovation/Improvement
Graduate student teacher support program
Teaching awards
Center-led mentoring program
Faculty fellowships to promote teaching excellence
Teaching Certification Program
Faculty portfolio development support
Department-level faculty ambassadors/liaisons
Instructional technology programs and research groups
International graduate student teacher support program
Customized workshops
System for faculty observation of high impact teachers
Center-run “Journal of Teaching Effectiveness”
Faculty Writing Academy

Typical Staffing of Centers for Teaching Effectiveness
I made it a point to document the basic staffing structure of each of these centers. Based on my review, the following staffing structure seems fairly typical and standard in higher education. It should be noted that many universities had several more employees and programs than these; however, these appeared to be the most common.
  • Director – The director should have expertise in faculty development and capacity to lead the center while working closely with administrators of the various faculty support initiatives.
  • Faculty Fellow –Some kind of temporary visit from a faculty member to the center, perhaps for 1-2 semesters.
  • Support Staff – Administrative assistance and support, maintenance and support of website, communication, etc..
  • Graduate Student – Students providing research and support to director and to the faculty fellows.
The average number of employees at the centers reviewed is about 6. This usually included 2-3 individuals with doctorate degrees who were usually directors or associate directors. Most centers include 2-3 support staff, though some had many more, including instructional design and technology support. I assume that some of the universities that didn't have these kinds of roles in the center likely had them in separate areas.

Structure of the Center Website 
I found that the structure of most of these sites was unique. Many of them were fairly disorganized, and as I looked at them from a faculty member's perspective, I had a hard time figuring out what they might be able to do for me. I would probably keep the faculty member in mind when creating the site. Here is what I currently think should be the basic structure of the site of a center for teaching excellence (though some further analysis and testing is warranted). Basic sub-pages should include (1) the About page, (2) the Services page, (3) the Workshops page, and (4) the Resources page.
Recommended structure for center for teaching effectiveness website. 

A Few Final Notes
It should be noted that this was a review of a relatively small number of centers (only 8), but I believe they are typical for what is out there. Also, these were larger universities, and it would be difficult for a smaller university to implement some of these programs. However, the general categories of support appear to be very sound and useful, and it makes sense to me to use these categories in many settings.

This is my current thinking on the topic, but I am still doing plenty of investigating. I have purchased some books on teaching support at the university level and will continue to deepen my knowledge as I focus on this kind of work going forward.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Ideal in Evaluating and Improving Teaching Effectiveness

Quality teaching yields quality learning, and important step in improving teaching is evaluating teaching success and changing teaching strategies based on that evaluation. But what is the best way to evaluate a teacher's effectiveness? And what data sources can illuminate the path forward? the I recently had a conversation with my good friend John Louviere at USU, and through our mutual brainstorming, we generated the following data sources for effective teaching evaluation. The idea here is to utilize the principle of triangulation - the more data points you can use in your analysis, the more realistic picture you are able to paint of the situation. This in turn gives one a better process and method for moving forward.
The ideal data sources for effective teaching evaluation, particularly in higher education.
Teaching Evaluation Data Points
To make a truly holistic evaluation of a faculty member's teaching effectiveness, the following data points should be analyzed:
  • Teacher Observations
  • Student Teaching Evaluations 
  • Formative Evaluation Tools
  • Course Design Principles Rubric
  • Course Design Quality Rubric
  • LMS Data Analytics
Creating and Implementing Teaching Evaluation Tools
To create and implement effective data analytics tools, the following general phases should be followed. These phases should be used for each of the six data points described above. 
  1. Identify and Synthesize Standards of Excellence - Determine based on the literature what the ideal is for each tool. For example, what should an observer find in the ideal teacher? This phase should include a thorough review of literature to find the research-based best-practices and should also include a clear synthesis of those practices into a coherent whole.
  2. Develop Reports, Tools, and Rubrics Based on Standard - Create methods for gathering data on how well the standards are being used by the teacher. These can be rubrics, checklists, data analytics reports, and other tools. The goal is to have a way to efficiently and effectively gather data for each data point. For example, a teaching observation form would be developed to guide the observation of a teacher.
  3. Gather Formative Feedback and Perform Validity Testing - Get sufficient expert feedback on the drafted tool or report and refine it based on the feedback. For example, have an expert or a scholar of teaching review the teaching observation form and give you feedback on how to refine it.
  4. Pilot Testing - Conduct a pilot test of the tool and gather formative feedback on how well it functions and on the quality of the data being generated. For example, have someone use the teaching observation rubric to observe teaching and gather data on how well it worked and on whether the data is useful.
  5. Implementation - After the tool has been refined and improved, implement it. This should inherently include the gathering of data on how it is being used and on the outcomes of its use.
  6. Summative Evaluation - After the tool has been implemented, gather data on its effectiveness and draw conclusions from its use. Publish the results of the findings and create plans to move forward based on the results of the tool.  
Steps for establishing, implementing and evaluation tools, rubrics, and reports for improving teaching effectiveness.
Interactions of Data 
There will likely be a strong correlation between the many of the measures in each of these tools. For example, the use of effective design principles could correlate strongly to positive reports in other measures. The key is to create the tools, gather data on their use and results, and look for ways to further analyze and improve teaching effectiveness. As data is gathered, we will likely be able to determine what measure(s) are the strongest predictors of successful student learning, and this in turn gives us increased power to develop and improve future teaching evaluation and effectiveness. And in the increasingly competitive higher education environment, the universities who use data to help students succeed will both survive and thrive.

So, what do you think? Am I missing something? What else could be included in this? I believe that the effective establishment and use of these strategies will lay the foundation for increased and continued excellence in teaching at any university.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Hiking in Dry Canyon

My brother in law Chris and I went on an outstanding hike last week and I thought I would share some pictures of the experience here.

We woke up at 4 am to start the hike. We began hiking at 4:30 am. Here I am still waking up at the trail head.
This is Chris as the sun was rising over Cache Valley (in the background). It was really cool to be there while the sun was coming up. It is a beautiful canyon.
Here I am later in the day as we continued to gain altitude in our hike. I think my socks look totally goofy in this picture.

We hiked north along the Syncline Trail and eventually crested the ridge between Dry Canyon and Logan Canyon. This is the view down into Logan Canyon and Cache Valley. Chris is the small do on the ridge on the left of the photograph.
I really enjoyed the hike. We covered about 13 miles total and had an outstanding time. Every once in a while I experience something like this - a clear, purifying experience in nature. I can't wait to get up into the canyon again!

My Leadership Values

I have been thinking lately about what I believe good leaders value and what they do to lead effectively. To me, I believe it all comes down to having values or principles and adhering to those principles. I've put together what I feel is important to me as I work to influence others - here are my top 11 (though there certainly are more). I have written these as affirmative statements of action to infuse a sense of positive energy into the values. I do not pretend that I am perfect in each of these, only that I aspire to make them part of my life.
  1. Vision – I constantly envision my future and the future of my organization.  I continuously set goals and work with others to share and champion that vision.
  2. Proactive – I am proactive. I take responsibility for my life and my work. I am fully responsible for myself and I work to direct my actions toward goal achievement.
  3. Optimism – I exercise optimism. I am confident that my efforts now will influence what happens in the future.
  4. Decide Intelligently – I gather data and rely on the expertise of others when making decisions. When a decision is made, I move forward with confidence and energy.
  5. Learn – I am continually learning. I constantly upgrade my knowledge and skills and am continually developing myself. I foster and encourage an environment of continual growth and learning within my organization.
  6. Change – I proactively change myself and my organization to adapt and grow toward a positive future.
  7. Respect – I am respectful. I always show concern, respect, and love for everyone I work with. I do not favor one group or individual, and I am kind to everyone I meet.
  8. Recognize – I recognize the contributions of others. I seek out opportunities to praise others for the hard work and diligent efforts.
  9. Balance – I find balance in my life. I work to enjoy physical, spiritual, mental and social health, and I promote this balance with the people I work with.
  10. Humility – I employ the habits of humility. I respect the expertise of those I work with and constantly seek new knowledge.
  11. Composure – I maintain my composure under difficult circumstances. I am in control of my emotions and maintain a positive, controlled manner in all my work.

 I believe that many of these values are a part of who I am, though I certainly hope to make them a greater part of me. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Principles of Successful Team Interaction

I have been thinking a lot about effective teamwork, lately. I believe that the norms and attitudes of the people in a team or group have a deep impact on the success of the work within the group. All work can be accomplished in positive, fulfilling ways and below are what I believe to be some of the key principles for effective teamwork. I have written these as affirmative statements and as principles within an organization.

Principles of Successful Team Interaction
  • Purposeful – we focus on our goals. We are not distracted by the ancillary.
  • Respect – we respect one another. We avoid useless gossip and disrespectful language and focus on success.
  • Openness – there are no secrets. We work together in an open, positive manner to achieve our goals.
  • Collaboration – we work as a team. We work to support one another in our work in the program.
  • Constructive – we are proactive and focus on solutions. We focus on reaching goals and fixing problems.
What do you think? Would you add anything else to the list?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The 2014 Bear Lake Half Marathon (Utah)

Well, I have successfully completed my first half marathon race. I trained pretty hard over the last 2.5 months, and it has been a really great experience. Here's the route I ran for the Bear Lake Half Marathon: . I'll share some pictures below.

Here is all the stuff I laid out the night before. I only slept about 4 hours, which was irritating.

Me before the race. I feel my legs look really short in this picture, kind of like the characters on Punch-Out.
It was SO COLD. I wish I had brought a jacket for the run. I think I could have worn it for most of the race. 

Here I am approaching the finish line (I am the black dot in the middle). That is my daughter cheering for me in the foreground. 

My beautiful, supportive wife Katie also cheered me on.

This guy Henry  has run over 900 marathons, which I thought was pretty cool. 
Tips For the Next Race
I learned a few things on this my first official endurance-style run:

  1. Bring a jacket. It was so cold this morning that my hands went numb. This was a problem when I couldn't get burrs out of my socks because my fingers weren't working.
  2. Use running socks. Apparently there are socks that prevent blisters, but I just ran in cotton socks. I didn't get any blisters, but the bottom of my feet were hurting and still feel pretty sensitive.
  3. Do it again. It was a great experience, overall, and I am looking forward to my next race.
This was a great experience, really, and I plan on continuing my running. As I mentioned in a previous post, I plan to run 36 miles on my 36th birthday. (Actually, it will probably be the week after my birthday due to some scheduling issues). I am not entirely sure how I am going to do this - today's run was pretty tough, and I only have 3 months to prepare. But I am excited to keep working toward it and believe that I will get there.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Running in Logan

Yesterday I went running. It was a beautiful, cool morning, and my training schedule called for a 10 mile run, so I left early, around 7:00. This was my last long run before I run the Bear Lake Half Marathon next Saturday morning. I've been training for about 3 months and feel prepared for the race - my first half marathon.

I usually run in Ohio, and running in Utah is an entirely different experience. The mountains, altitude, and lack of humidity make for a beautiful running environment. I ran out and back on a 5 mile loop orbiting Utah State's main campus - down onto the "island" area of Logan, up to the mouth of Logan Canyon, and across the Lake Bonneville Trail. I was shocked by the beauty of the valley and its mounts and took a few photos while I ran.

A look up 400 North toward the mouth of Logan Canyon, where I was headed.

A little closer to Logan Canyon. This is "first dam" at the base of the mountain.

Looking down on "first dam" from the mountain as I ascended on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail.

Looking up the mountain along Bonneville Shoreline Trail.
Looking back toward USU campus. You can see it in front of the distant mountains on the right.