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Monday, October 20, 2014

October 20, 2014: De Lange Follows Ups: The Rice CTE

[Last Monday and Tuesday I had the honor of being invited to attend Rice University’s De Lange Conference IX  as a Social Media Fellow, helping to create conversations about and around the conference theme (“Teaching in the University of Tomorrow”) and talks. It was a wonderful experience, and I wanted to follow it up this week with posts on a number of the issues and ideas I encountered there. Whether you attended as well, followed on Twitter, or just have thoughts on any of these topics, I’d love to hear from you!]
On the impressive and important work being done at Rice’s Center for Teaching Excellence.
I attended the De Lange Conference because of an invitation from Dr. Joshua Eyler, the Director of Rice’s new Center for Teaching Excellence. The CTE, through Eyler’s voice and presence along with those of his colleagues Dr. Robin Paige and Dr. Elizabeth Barre, was literally everywhere at the conference: sharing their work in a poster in the events hall, leading thought-provoking breakout sessions on pedagogy (on which more later this week), participating actively and critically in the backchannel conversations on Twitter (ditto), and much more. In all those ways, Eyler and his CTE colleagues illustrated not just the colleagiality and support, but also the ground-breaking research in teaching and learning, that an organization like the CTE can provide and produce.
My ten years at Fitchburg State have corresponded almost exactly with the development of our own Center for Teaching & Learning, from its initial creation by Dr. Sean Goodlett through its many faculty directors since, up to its current leadership by my English Studies colleague Dr. Kisha Tracy. The FSU CTL has truly exemplified the aforementioned kinds of collegiality and support that such institutions can offer, on every level: from the more informal (providing a comfortable space for faculty to gather, celebrating faculty publications and successes) to the more structured (an annual summer institute offering talks and workshops on teaching and learning, year-long series of talks, workshops, and reading groups on such issues). But because our CTL has not (at least not yet) been able to employ an administrative staff outside of our academic departments—that is, our faculty directors to date have maintained their roles and much of their teaching and service responsibilities within their home departments—it does not quite allow for the kinds of in-depth research projects and work that Rice’s CTE features.
There are understandable and perhaps inevitable factors at FSU (financial, contractual, institutional) that make it unlikely that our CTL would ever be able to employ a full-time director and two associate directors like Eyler, Paige, and Barre at Rice’s CTE. But throughout the De Lange Conference, Eyler and many other presenters made a compelling case for why faculty need to engage more consistently with the research and scholarship of teaching and learning, for the vital benefits that such engagement can provide for not just our individual or departmental efforts but for the future of higher education in America. And while the FSU CTL’s efforts certainly allow for such engagement for those individual faculty who attend and participate, there’s simply no substitute for an institution like the CTE, one that provides sufficient space, resources, and opportunity for more sustained and in-depth research and engagement with these issues. Not every college and university will be able to support such an institution, of course—indeed, most will not—but that just means that we all should be paying close attention to, and learning as much as we can from, the efforts at Rice’s CTE.
Next follow up tomorrow,

PS. What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for this generous, insightful post, Ben! It was great to finally meet you, and I really appreciated your perspectives on the future of higher ed. It's clear that wonderful things are happening in your classes and at FSU more generally!