Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning Turns Two

Happy birthday to the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, which turned two on Aug. 29!

"We're officially a toddler," joked Dr. Linda Kalbach, associate professor of education, who co-founded CETL in 2009 with Dr. Alec Engebretson, professor of Information Science and Technology, and Dr. Maureen Franklin, associate professor of modern language and former dean of faculty.

CETL's directors have completed two busy years, guiding the center through its infancy and first steps. As a relatively new addition to campus, it is a success, consistently bringing about 20 faculty members together at each of its workshops and leading to new techniques in classrooms.

But if its directors could grant a few wishes for its future, they'd ask for continued growth and that the center becomes less abstract and more the tool it is intended to be. CETL is a resource for faculty on a campus that defines itself by its teaching, Engebretson said, but to some, it's still an unknown entity that sends e-mail advisories promoting faculty workshops. Others know CETL's purpose, but don't know they are a part of it.

The center is for all faculty members, fulltime or adjunct, from every campus. "The more everyone can participate, the more effective it will be," Engebretson said. "Faculty supporting faculty. That's the heart of CETL."

CETL grew out of Doane's success with Learning Communities (a group of students take classes together, learning from professors who work together to blend divergent subject areas), but has expanded its focus.  Its broad goal is to offer four instructional elements found in Doane's Strategic Plan: to provide assistance with innovative and effective instruction and assessment practices; to provide interdisciplinary offerings, including the Learning Communities and the Arts Are Basic program; to generate service-learning opportunities;  and to promote practices that help develop critical thinking skills. Faculty learn from each other and from outside experts who visit campus.

In the past two years, CETL workshops and shareshops focused on practices that help students develop as readers and writers. A session on critical thinking brought in a presenter to talk about intellectual standards, while another focused on technology and strategies for student engagement.  The "Teach the Teacher" session was especially popular, Engebretson said. Professors acted as students and gave faculty presenters feedback.

The higher the percentage of faculty who participate, the more CETL can grow.

As Doane examines its general  education plan, CETL can play a key role, according to Kalbach.  Any new components to a curriculum typically need corresponding faculty development in order to most effectively implement those components.

For CETL, the 2011-2012 academic year is about sustaining the effective programs from the first two years and growing in new directions.  Workshops bringing in facilitators from the outside, and shareshops taking advantage of expertise on the inside are again planned.  CETL will continue supporting campus efforts related to service-learning, and aesthetic education in partnership with the Arts Are Basic program.  New offerings are being considered, including a mentor-mentor program and the development of instructional materials and videos.

They also have bigger plans if funding and staffing someday allow.

 "I do have some ‘blue-sky' dreams," Engebretson said.

He'd like a physical location for the program to promote awareness. He'd like to offer workshops in the summer. He'd love it if the center grew to the point that it needed its own staff or fulltime director to work with faculty.

What if it could grow to become a regional resource?  What if, Engebretson asked, faculty could take CETL sabbaticals that provide a certain amount of hours per semester to share their expertise?

That's likely a long way down the road, he admits - for now, it's enough that CETL is growing to be an established part of Doane.

But by its third birthday, he's hoping new faces join the center's leadership.

"Linda and I just happened to be the ones chosen to initially facilitate and direct this. Our goal is to have it be a culture where people recognize that they are a part of the center and take advantage of it and contribute to it. Doane has incredibly talented faculty doing some very innovative and effective things. The best resource we have to help others develop is each other."

CETL has the potential to reach all corners of Doane campuses, according to Dr. Franklin.

"An effective teacher is constantly developing new techniques, new teaching strategies to reach students. CETL'S goal is to foster excellence across the curriculum in order to best serve our students," Franklin said.


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