What the CTL Does
Our main goal at the Center for Teaching and Learning is to promote conversations on campus about teaching and learning. Every spring we plan a series of programs for the following year that respond to emerging interests among the faculty or that bring to our attention innovative practices or important questions we should be considering. We strive for a variety of programs that touch on such dimensions as student development and its effect on the college classroom, elements of effective course design, assignments and activities for engaged learning, and ways to assess what students are learning. We strive to include questions of access and equity into all of our programs as well integrate into our programs a consideration of technological tools that can help to support student learning. While the majority of our programs focus on teaching, one or two programs a year highlight other elements of faculty professional life. We also strive to offer a variety of program types:
- Presentations: Typically held over the lunch hour, these 50-minute sessions are facilitated by one to three faculty or staff members. Facilitators guide discussion of a specific topic and set of questions and typically share resources, which may include scholarship on teaching and learning or specific examples of successful pedagogies from their own classrooms.
- Roundtables: Facilitated by a faculty or staff member, these sessions are less structured and generally broader in scope than a presentation but are typically focused on a specific set of questions.
- Informal Lunches: Often at the Baker Center, faculty discuss broad topics in an informal open-ended way with small groups of colleagues over lunch. Topics for these lunches are often chosen to connect to other conversations on campus or to connect to campus-wide events such as the student-run Power and Privilege Symposium.
- Swap Meets: Also informal in nature, at these events faculty are invited to bring their own examples of a particular pedagogical practice, usually something that can be shared in concrete format. Recent examples include collaborative assignments, best classroom warm-up activity, and effective faculty-student research projects.
- Workshops: Typically run by facilitators who are not Whitman faculty members, these are longer sessions that engage faculty in hands-on work on some aspect of teaching or professional life. Recent workshops have included course design, inclusive pedagogy, peer observation of classroom teaching, mentoring, faculty leadership, and scholarly productivity.
A faculty learning community is a small group of faculty (typically no more than twelve) who meet together regularly over a period of time (usually a semester) to work in-depth on a concrete question of interest related to their teaching. Many faculty learning communities also benefit greatly from including staff members whose expertise and interests are connected to the focus of the group. Theoretical readings inform the work of the learning community and individual sessions are led by faculty with a focus on practical strategies that participants can carry into the classroom. Some learning communities are created through external funding, such as the Cultivating Difficult Dialogues learning community funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The CTL steering committee typically issues a call for participants and makes selections. A faculty facilitator, in collaboration with the Associate Dean for Faculty Development, generally oversees the work of the group and authors the report that describes the group's accomplishments.
The CTL oversees two different initiatives meant to encourage experimentation in teaching. These are the ITL (Innovation in Teaching and Learning) grants and the CDLTI (Cross-Disciplinary Teaching and Learning) grants. The competitiveness of these grants varies greatly by year and steering committee members are always glad to answer questions or provide informal feedback to faculty who are considering submitting a proposal.
A three-day orientation is held each August for all new faculty, including part-time and visiting faculty. In addition, a series of discussions are scheduled over the course of the first year (approximately four per semester, usually on Mondays). See events for topics and dates. Whereas the August orientation is meant to prepare faculty with everything they need before they teach that first week, the lunch sessions throughout the year focus on other important, if less, immediate concerns of new faculty. The orientation in August, as well as the year-long series, are intended to help all faculty, even those with significant prior teaching experience, learn about teaching and learning as well as other dimensions of faculty life at Whitman. The sessions will be led by faculty and staff members from different parts of campus and aim to answer questions on the minds of new faculty as well as provide time for discussion.
Upstairs in Penrose Library is a collection of books and other resources on the scholarship of teaching and learning. Faculty can browse these resources at any time, and most can be checked out. In addition, the College has acquired many electronic resources and these can generally be found by doing keyword searches on the library homepage. For help in locating resources on a specific topic, or to suggest resources that we should acquire, please contact Lisa Perfetti, Associate Dean for Faculty Development. In addition, Whitman subscribes to The Teaching Professor, a monthly publication that has short essays that are very accessible: some are overviews of published scholarly research while others are more personal reflections by classroom teachers. All issues are available online through Penrose Library.
All Whitman faculty are able to receive support to attend teaching conferences through either their Professional Development Accounts (PDA) or Aid for Scholarly and Instructional Development (ASID). Occasionally the Associate Dean for Faculty Development will send out announcements. Of special note are the annual Lilly Conferences on College Teaching.