Dr. Lyda McCartin, the interim director of the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (CETL) at UNC, discusses revitalization strategies for the center over the next three years as well as what it offers UNC instructors of all levels to enhance their teaching methods.
You’re listening to Bear in Mind, the University of Northern Colorado’s official podcast. Join us each episode as we listen to the voices from UNC faculty, staff, students and alumni as they offer insights of local or national importance. This is Katie Corder, public relations strategist, bringing you just a taste of UNC.
On this episode, I talk with Dr. Lyda McCartin, the interim director of the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning aka CETL (spell out) at UNC. She discusses her revitalization strategies for the center over the next three years as well as what it offers UNC instructors of all levels to enhance their teaching methods.
Describe the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning also known as CETL
at UNC. What does it offer the UNC community and how?
The Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning … our vision is that we're recognized as the place for teaching-related development at UNC, and that we're a leader in advancing teaching excellence. We want to serve as a hub for instructors of every level, every rank to discuss teaching practice and teaching-focus scholarship. Our main mission is to advance teaching excellence, and so, we provide professional learning opportunities through webinars, hands-on workshops, cohort-based, long-term learning opportunities like our learning communities — and those are focused on pedagogy equity-minded, teaching practice sessions on curriculum development and also student learning assessment. And so, really the center is about how instructors can take what they already know and do really well and make that better and also to help peers become better instructors.
All of our instructors come in with strengths from the classroom, and so, part of my goal at UNC and in CETL is to bring our faculty experts in as the facilitators of these sessions. So, I run numerous sessions, but really, it's our faculty who are doing really great work across campus who are coming and sharing that practice and expertise with others.
Can you describe the CETL revitalization that you implemented earlier this year? What
strategies were utilized and through what means?
The center was sort of leaderless for a while, and no one was paying great attention to it. Toward the end of last year, I was appointed as the interim director, and that's a three-year position, and this is the first year. And so, I took over in January 2020 right before the pandemic, so really interesting time to take over a center for teaching and learning. My first goal was to really explore what other centers are doing, especially centers of our size. And a lot of them have advisory boards and that's across campus folks who come and share ideas about what the programming should be and things like that.
But I didn't think we were quite at the place to have an advisory board yet because we hadn't really been reestablished at that point. So, what I did in January is reach out to folks that I knew were advocates for improving teaching and learning, advocates for student success and the connection between teaching and student academic success. And some folks I had worked with before, and then some I hadn't, some were recommendations from people. This was a really handpicked revitalization team that came together, and February was our first meeting. There was a representative from every college, there’s a graduate student, a representative from University Libraries.
We sat and talked about what the center could be, where we wanted the center to go. And that group of folks helped write the mission and vision statement and helped me think through programming ideas, helped me think through the structure of what an advisory board would look like. They've done a lot of really great work and put a lot of time and effort, especially through a pandemic. I can't thank these folks enough. And they really took a lot of time to think through what the center should be, where the center should go. And then they've helped me think through the strategic plan. So, I drafted a new three-year strategic plan, it's on the website, and they reviewed that, gave feedback on that, and then I reviewed with them the action plans that we have around that.
Down the road, we need some, potentially a leadership program for our new chairs, for faculty who might want to be going into that chair position. And so, they went out and interviewed folks around what would be the needs there. And so, they really did a lot of information gathering, which one person alone couldn't do. So that team has just been really vital in revitalizing the center.
The other piece of revitalization was really just getting the word out that we exist now and that we're back and that we're doing great things in support of faculty development. We've shifted the focus into pedagogy, assessment and teaching practice. We are slowly but surely making that shift.
We started a learning community through CETL last fall; we just kind of continued that program this year, and we're able to expand it this year. It’s really great to have these really experienced and passionate faculty leading these sorts of programs. I think we have about 22 folks in that learning community now.
And the key, I think, to showing that CETL is a place for faculty to come: if they want to learn something new, or they want to improve something, or they want to share something about what they've been doing, CETL is the place to go for that; CETL can be the hub for that. Getting a lot of faculty across campus to share their experiences, which is something that we weren't doing for quite some time, we've been able to revitalize in that way, as well.
Can you kind of describe the workshops and events that CETL offers faculty members?
Earlier this year when we really made the shift to remote learning, CETL was really just revitalizing. So really, the only thing that we were running was a faculty learning community. We weren't doing a lot of workshops at all at that point because we had just started up again. And so, I was working on the strategic plan; I was getting the revitalization team together. We didn't have a lot programming in the works. So, we had the learning community going on, and that was about it. But we weren't thinking about individual webinars at that point. And then the pandemic hit, and we did have to start thinking about that.
And so, the first session we ran right as we were shifting remotely was Prioritizing Curriculum During Emergency Remote Teaching, and that session was really about how do we think through what we need the students to do in order to complete the semester successfully? And then after that series, we started offering some workshops on online best practices. And so, we had great presentations by Dr. Amanda Rutter from CEBS, she was talking about her techie tools that she uses. We had sessions from faculty in various colleges Dr. Sarah Cornish, Dr. Molly Jameson, Kathie Records talking about asynchronous learning and how to effectively do an online class fully asynchronous because that's something I think a lot of faculty wanted to do, but just weren't really sure how to do that while staying connected to students.
As we moved into the fall, we expanded out a bit. So, we did do the techie tools again; we did do things on community building and such, but we also expanded that out to low-stakes assessments, aligning summative assessments with learning outcomes and how you ensure that you're doing that. Also, sessions on retention efforts at the department level, which was a great session by Dr. Brian Iannacchione from Criminal Justice. And all of these are recorded and now in our webinar library. So, the fall sessions really kind of ran the gamut in terms of topics.
Moving into the spring, our sessions will be a little bit more focused. We are going to have a series of workshops for teaching evaluation. So, how do you show evidence of great teaching, and what does that look like? How to improve questions on end-of-semester evaluations? Things like that and also sessions on reflective teaching and taking action on that reflection. Then, we'll have a series of workshops around inclusive practice looking at culturally responsive teaching, inclusive assessment, another equity-minded syllabus session.
And then there'll be some open educational resources sessions and universal design for learning sessions. There's going to be lots of different topics, but more kind of focused under large topics, if that makes sense. But again, the ultimate goal in CETL is to move toward a long-term, longitudinal cohort-based learning experiences for faculty, and those start with our learning communities.
And so, we have a How Learning Works Learning Community, which is based on the book, “How Learning Works,” and faculty and instructors and graduate students, you know, instructors of any level can join that learning community, and it runs for a full year. You basically read the book, and then you do activities and implement new things in class and really reflect on your practice. And you partner with another colleague from across campus, probably outside of your college, to get a different perspective and to talk things out. That’s a really great learning community.
And then there's an advanced learning community called Peer-to-Peer, and when you finish the How Learning Works, you get to join Peer-to-Peer, if you'd like to do that. And that's just more in-depth peer observation, and a review of course materials, observation of the online or the in-person or hybrid environment, and really more in-depth conversations with a peer, most likely not in your college or not in your discipline and, again, just getting different perspectives. And so, you're reviewing the syllabus, you're reviewing assignments, you're reviewing assessments, you know, all sorts of things, and then actually getting a sense of someone coming into your classroom and, giving you feedback on your teaching in a critical friend sort of way. So those two learning communities we're really excited about — they’re off and running.
We have a new learning community starting this spring. It'll be led by Dr. Tara Wood from English, and it's the Writing Pedagogy Learning Community. And in that learning community, she is going to be leading all instructors at every level. But it's really to think about how you teach writing, not how you grade writing, but how you teach writing and infuse that even in disciplines where that might not be the biggest thing, like mathematics. We also have a new Graduate Student Learning Community, and that's for current TAs/GAs, graduate students thinking about going into one of those roles or hoping to, or even just thinking about going into academia.
And that’ll be a shorter version of How Learning Works; it'll be one semester, and that's going to be led by our graduate field experience student. That’s really what we want to build moving forward, because it's really that long-term engagement with peers, engagement in the material and also that reflection that you get by engaging with something over months at a time that really gets you thinking about your practice and making great change, that sustainable changes.
What I'm hoping to start in the fall of next year is an opportunity for instructors across campus to pick a topic that they want to lead and develop the curriculum for that, and suitable support that work, provide the materials for the participants, do all the scheduling and everything, but that's really faculty-led, CETL hasn't selected that topic. And so, if somebody has an interest in equitable grading or supporting trans and non-binary students or stress-relief for faculty or anything that they really want to lead faculty through that they think would be of interest, they can apply and then get supported through CETL.
Excellent. Sounds like you have a good plan going on!
I think it's a good plan. People seem interested, people are signing up for the long-term things, which is really great that people are able to find some time to carve out that monthly meeting time, but that's also why we'll continue to do the one-time workshops. Not everybody can commit to a long-term thing. And so, we want to still provide opportunities for folks to come in and get some information, think about trying something new, think about what their peers just talked about and maybe implement that.
Excellent. And this goes into my next question actually: Describe how faculty members
have responded to your efforts. Have you seen an increase in participation and/or
We have seen some great participation and positive feedback. I think folks have reacted positively to what we've offered. I will actually say that part of that is it might be the pandemic, especially in March and April, just in terms of that rapid shift and some of the information and the resources that we provide: We very quickly created some online resources, restructured the website, provided some static things, worked with Instructional Design and Development to provide some guides for moving a class from fully in person to fully online or making it a hybrid course and put those things online. There was this recognition that CETL was existing in a new way and could provide some of that support.
We saw really great participation over the summer in the early summer sessions that we provided. But definitely this fall, we have people coming to every session, we've got people coming back. And so, I think the key to tracking success at this point is that people see enough value to sign up for the next one and sign up for the next one. We're slowly but surely showing our instructors that there's some great programming coming out of CETL. And, these things are that not only do they get to connect with peers across campus, but they get to learn from a colleague perhaps out of their discipline and get new perspectives.
Excellent. Sounds like everything's moving on up!
We’re moving in the right direction. But I have to say that cannot happen and wouldn't be happening without the support and really hard work of many people. Berniece Mitchell is the CETL administrative assistant and also the communication specialist in our ASC model. The center just simply can't run without her. She is just really crucial to the revitalization and our success. We've got Tabby Harraf who's also doing a lot of work for us. And then we have our graduate field experience student who came in as a volunteer intern in spring of 2020, developed the field experience program that we now get to offer and then was the pilot student this semester, and it's such a great program. We have another field experience student coming in the spring.
So those three folks are really crucial to the success of the center, but I would be remiss not to say a big thank you to Kim Black and Mark Anderson for the support. A lot of our programming couldn't happen without all of the faculty presented. But especially Dr. Molly Jameson for running our learning communities; Dr. Susan Keenan who is actually the STEM IEC director, the inclusive excellence collective director in STEM, and she's been building with other folks in that program that curriculum.
That's now become the basis for the teaching for inclusion and equity program curriculum that really engages faculty in a long-term learning opportunity across two semesters, the spring and the fall. Instructors there are exploring their own identities and privileges and implicit biases and how those impact the classroom and how they can think through those things. When they're choosing curriculum and putting together their class content. The work that STEM IEC has done over the last few years, and specifically the work of Dr. Susan Keenan over the last semester into spring and likely next fall, is absolutely crucial to the success of our programming.
Sounds like you've got a good team there. Well, those are all of the questions that
I have. Do you have any additional comments that you'd like to say?
I guess I’d just like to say thank you for everyone who's attended, everyone who’s look onto the website, everyone who's emailed a question. I’m glad that we’re here to support you and the work that you need to do. And I hope that you continue to come, and we will continue to ask you what you need and hopefully provide that. And I would say that anybody who has an idea for CETL, wants to present for CETL, just wants to talk about what CETL can provide or offer, where they think CETL needs to go: Please send me an email or give me a call or jump on Teams, or however you want to get in touch with me. The center isn’t me; the center is for the UNC community. The goal is to provide the instructors at UNC with what they need. We want to hear from everybody in terms of what they need and how we can provide that.
Well, those are all the questions that I had. Thanks for speaking with me.
Thank you very much. I appreciate it.