Center for Advancing 

Teaching & Learning 

 

A proposal to support instructional and course development, assessment and enhancement.

 

Introduction

This is a proposal to consolidate and expand the Center for Advancing Teaching & Learning (CATL). The overall aim is to provide more comprehensive, coordinated, and efficient support for instructional and curricular development at UW-La Crosse.

University support for teaching has been in existence at UW-L since 1991 when the Center for Effective Teaching & Learning (CETL) was founded to support campus wide initiatives in inquiry-based teaching and learning and writing emphasis. Since then there have been many campus wide projects and activities including, annual teaching conferences, new faculty orientation, the development of the Writing Emphasis and Writing-in-the-Major programs and a wide array of faculty seminars on critical thinking, teaching portfolios, assessment, lesson study, and instructional technology. In 2003 the name Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning (www.uwlax.edu/catl) was adopted to give greater visibility to the wide array of campus instructional improvement activities. However, lack of funding, space and organizational structure has limited the kinds of support CATL can provide.

 

The current proposal is to bring together individuals who already work with faculty (e.g., CATL Director, Writing Programs Coordinator, Online Education Director), add additional forms of support (e.g., assessment, instructional design, multicultural infusion), and establish a physical place for the center.  

 

Description of the proposed new structure 

The mission of the Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning is to improve teaching effectiveness and student learning and to promote innovations in the creative and effective use of both new and traditional educational methods, tools, and technologies.

The expanded Center will:

·       Provide professional development opportunities, activities, events, consultation, and programs to support teaching and learning

·       Coordinate support and services to provide "one-stop shopping" for instructional development

·       Create a forum for faculty discussions, seminars and workshops on undergraduate education and teaching

·       Assist faculty in the infusion of multi-cultural content into the curriculum 

·       Provide support for faculty to improve in all phases of the instructional process including course design, instructional materials, teaching practices, assessment and evaluation of student learning

·       Promote and support cross-disciplinary innovations and cooperation across departments and colleges

·       Support faculty to improve undergraduate education through the scholarship of teaching and learning

·       Evaluate ongoing instructional technology efforts and provide examples of "best practices" in the use of technology to support student learning

·       Assist faculty and departments in the development and use of tools, materials and practices for the assessment of student learning

·       Assist faculty in the development and use of materials and practices intended to improve the quality of student writing and student learning through writing

The proposed Center is similar to other centers in the System. In fact, all of the comprehensive universities in the system have some form of teaching center, see http://www.uwsa.edu/opid/centers.htm.

The Center will have an Advisory Board that will consist of faculty and instructional academic staff from each college and 1-2 undergraduate students. The Board will provide recommendations and suggestions about CATL programs, activities and services.  

The personnel structure of the new center

The center will consist of a director and faculty and support staff who have appointments to support instructional development. Some of the faculty and staff are already serving the university (e.g., CATL Director, Writing Programs Coordinator, Online Education Director), and additional hires are planned. The goal is to provide the faculty with the resources (both personnel and funding) necessary to develop, assess and improve instruction, courses, programs and student learning.

·       CATL Director. The Director works with CATL staff to coordinate opportunities for faculty and instructional academic staff to develop their teaching through conferences, workshops, colloquia, ongoing programs and consultation. The Director is also a consultant to the UW-L Faculty Development Committee and the Administrative Representative to the UWS Office of Professional & Instructional Development (OPID). The Director supervises CATL staff members, conducts annual performance evaluations and documents the collective work of the Center. The Director reports to the Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. See position description.  

 

·       Writing Programs Coordinator.  The Writing Programs Coordinator helps instructors develop teaching practices and materials intended to improve the quality of student writing and student learning through writing. The Coordinator provides instructor seminars and consultation, maintains online and multimedia resources and supports the Writing Emphasis Program and Writing in the Major Programs. See position description.

·       Online Teaching Director. The Director of Online Education works with faculty who are interested in online education. The director oversees the online grant proposals and acts as a resource as the courses are developed.  The Director also works closely with the UW-L online advisory group to determine priorities, policies and direction related to online programming. See position description.

·       Instructional Designer. The Instructional Designer supports curricular development by providing individual consultations for faculty to help develop curricula and pedagogical strategies to enhance teaching and learning. Design and present faculty workshops focusing on best practices in instruction (including new technologies). See position description.

·       Assessment Coordinator. The coordinator provides assistance to academic departments and programs, campus committees and groups, and to faculty and staff to plan, implement and use assessment of student learning to improve educational quality. Assessment of student learning outcomes in academic programs is faculty driven. The coordinator will help departments and programs develop solid, realistic and stream-lined assessment programs to improve student learning and educational quality. The coordinator may consult directly with departments and instructors in any phase of the assessment process (e.g., identify or develop assessment instruments, identify strategies to implement assessment, analysis of results, ways to use assessment results for improvement purposes).   In addition, the coordinator will work with various campus groups to update and revise the university’s plan to assess student learning in academic programs (accreditation, APR, NSSE, CLA, etc.). See Attached "Justification for Assessment Coordinator". See position description.

·       Inclusive Excellence Coordinator.  The coordinator helps instructors improve their practice so that it is increasingly informed by diversity pedagogies and to infuse diversity content and perspectives into their courses.  The coordinator organizes seminars and workshops events for instructors, consults with individuals, departments, curriculum committees, and project groups, and collaborates with other CATL staff to promote diversity in all aspects of teaching and learning in any venue. See position description.

Timeline for implementation

The Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning has been in existence on the UW-L campus since 2003. This proposal details a plan to increase the impact of this center by (1) bringing existing support people physically into one space (2) to increase the amount of curricular development support available to faculty. 

Space will be identified for the Center and "centralized" operations will begin in Fall 2009. In preparation for this, the process of searching for the Instructional Designer and the Assessment Coordinator will begin in Spring 2009, with an expected employment start date of July 1, 2009. The Inclusive Excellence Coordinator will be selected from the existing faculty. The individual will be selected in Spring 2009 and will have release time to begin in Fall 2009. The other three positions (CATL Director, Writing Programs Director, and Online Teaching Director) currently exist. The planned increases in release time relating to these three positions will occur Summer and Fall of 2009, allowing for planning and for a smooth startup in the fall.

Committees that have endorsed proposed changes

·        On October 15, 2008, the Faculty Budget Review Committee passes a motion to support the establishment of the Center with a list of positions described in this proposal.

·        On October 29, 2008, Faculty Development Committee supports the idea of establishing a teaching center.

·        On November 10, 2008, the General Education Committee supports the Assessment Coordinator position.

·        On November 11, 2008, the Senate Executive Committee supports the description of the Assessment Coordinator.

Major reasons for initiating the proposed changes

UW-La Crosse provides a wide variety of faculty development activities intended to improve teaching and learning, but there has been little coordination among them. A major reason to establish a center is to bring staff and resources together in order to provide more efficient and better integrated support and services.

It is important to recognize that GQ&A which will bring new faculty to campus in the next two years. Many new faculty are inexperienced and can benefit from support for basic instructional practices.

Many faculty requests for assistance and for attention to specific teaching topics go unmet each year. Bringing staff together and adding staff in key areas such as inclusive excellence and assessment will result in broader and more comprehensive assistance. For example, cultural and ethnic diversity have been important areas of focus on campus. A resource expert in this area can help instructors modify and enhance their course activities and materials. 

Many curricular changes would benefit from the expertise that would be provided by more than one individual in the center. Bringing together the people involved in the center will provide a “one-stop-shop” for faculty seeking help in developing or enhancing a course or program.  Linking the skills of the various support personnel could enhance training and presentations.   

Online course creation and development has grown in recent years and the technical support needs in this area require specialized skills. 

Contributions to the Select Mission of the University

The campus is currently reviewing the Select Mission Statement, but teaching and learning will certainly remain at the heart of the mission. Currently, the select mission states that "The primary purpose of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse is to provide education leading to baccalaureate and selected graduate degrees supplemented by appropriate research and public service activities as further detailed in the following set of goals:" and continues with a list of goals, the first of which is "The University shall emphasize excellence in educational programs and teaching."

Resource, staffing, and budgetary implications

The funding for CATL staff positions will come from several sources, but not from funds that support faculty and instructional academic staff positions.  

·       CATL Director. Currently, one half of Dr. Bill Cerbin's position deals with Center activities. Due to the increase in activities and added responsibilities, this position will be expanded to a full time position and will have a teaching component (one or two courses per year). The Provost will secure funding to expand the director position to full time.

 

·       Writing Programs Coordinator.  Until recently, the funding source and amount for this position was determined each year. The College of Liberal Studies or the Provost office would typically find replacement funding to support a one-course release. In the summer 2008, a budget line was established in the Provost office, making the funding more secure at the level of a quarter-time teaching release, providing replacement costs to the department. At this level of funding, the program can be continued at a "maintenance" level. A higher level of support is needed in this area, and the Provost has identified funds to increase the level to half-time.  

 

·       Online Teaching Director. The number of courses and programs that are utilizing on-line components has been increasing on campus. The development and delivery of new online courses and programs requires logistical and technical support as well as a review of policies. Currently, the online director is supported by online fees, which provides a half-time teaching release for the director. The growth in online courses on campus has increased the workload of the director and will support the expansion of the position to full time. The position will continue to have a teaching component (one to two courses per year).

 

·       Instructional Designer. This is a new non-instructional position. The instructional designer will have the skills necessary to support the development of both traditional and on-line courses. Support for this position will come primarily from the online course fees. 

 

·       Assessment Coordinator. This is a new position. Currently, one half of Dr. Bill Cerbin's position consists of duties related to university assessment. Dr. Cerbin will no longer be directly involved in these duties. In addition to university assessment, the Assessment Coordinator will assist faculty and programs with the development of assessment tools and will coordinate university assessment in an attempt to integrate the various assessment activities. The Provost will work with the Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance to secure funding to expand the position to full time.

 

·       Inclusive Excellence Coordinator. This position will be modeled after the Writing Programs Coordinator. Replacement funds for the half-time teaching release will be funded by the Provost.