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Faculty Development — As If It Matters

Slightly departing from my usual topic of online learning, I’m devoting this post or two to the topic of Faculty Centers within CUNY. As current Director of City College’s CETL (Center for Teaching and Learning), and having held several positions in faculty development over a dozen years at four institutions, I have given substantial thought to the topic.  On a monthly basis, CUNY’s CETL Directors meet to discuss matters and projects of mutual interest with colleagues.

In June 2011, Dr. Karrin Wilks, (then) University Dean for Undergraduate Studies, surveyed all CTL Directors within CUNY to get a better understanding of what these Centers were doing, their staff and funding levels, their respective missions and impact and finally, make appropriate recommendations for action. Entitled, “Analysis of CUNY Centers for Teaching and Learning,” (link here), this was really the first systematic attempt to determine the effectiveness of the CTLs in addition to assessing the challenges inherent in directing them. Although several years old, and since publication, several new Centers have cropped up on CUNY campuses, it remains the only authoritative document that I’m aware of that addresses this subject. I will add some thoughts/reflection below and in a subsequent post.

CTLs: An Under-valued Resource

Currently, there are 17 CTL Centers within CUNY. Each Center has unique, but similar, context, missions, programs and resources. If I were to characterize the general “gestalt” of CTL Directors in numerous meetings I have attended over the years, it would be that most Centers are not realizing their full potential as institutional resources for their respective campuses. Admittedly, this observation is subjective, and though there is significant variation from Center to Center, I would stand by that view. It is common for Center Directors to report staffing and budget deficiencies; inadequate, changing or tenuous management support and reporting structures; lack of involvement with institutional priorities; and minimal understanding or vision from administration of what role these CTL Centers could potentially play on each campus. Greater support and/or less marginalization regarding these concerns is necessary for these Centers to be viable, effective and integral.

CTLs as Change Agents?

In Dr. Wilks’ report, she concludes, “An effective CTL is thus a mechanism for both individual and organizational development, and an essential component of systemic change.” (pg 17, reference below). This view is frequently heard and written about in SoTL  (Scholarship of Teaching and Learning) circles.

The CTL Directors at CUNY that I’ve met are professionals who see the “big picture” in terms of the importance of teaching, technology, assessment and student learning. This perspective comes from many years of teaching, research, publications, conference presentations and attendance, and thinking about their respective Centers. In terms of being agents for change, their unique talents and ideas can greatly assist a college in the throes of institutional change. Yet often, they are not part of the decision-making process.  This is a great loss, personally to these Directors, and institutionally, as well. As I’ve written in previous posts, throughout academia generally, and CUNY and its respective colleges specifically, there is a need for a serious overhaul in the approach to teaching, technology and learning. If so, where will the agents of change come from?

References:

Wilks, Karrin (2011), “Analysis of CUNY Centers for Teaching and Learning,” Office of Academic Affairs website. Retrieved at: http://www.cuny.edu/about/administration/offices/ue/CentersTeachingLearning/CTLReport6-15-11.pdf

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