Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 17 seconds

Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Faculty Development During Times of Uncertainty as Fostering Imagination #facdev #covid19 #digPINS

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Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 17 seconds

I’ve been thinking, and thinking aloud with my boss, Hoda Mostafa, about how we can do relevant professional development for faculty in these times of high uncertainty and stress.

I think, beyond the tools and “best practices of online learning” (we might be past that now), I feel that for faculty development to help promote the literacies i talked about before (socioemotional, care, wellbeing, equity literacies, etc.), faculty development itself needs to change such that it does the following:

  1. Fosters imagination, such that a faculty member can imagine alternative ways of doing the same thing and already plans their teaching with multiple scenarios on their mind. If they plan to do an activity synchronously, how will they manage if some students have connectivity issues? How will they provide engaging asynchronous opportunities? What if they plan something and the impact on students in one class is positive but not so great in another class
  2. Center values. When making decisions like these and imagining alternatives, our values should set the parameters or constraints of where we go. Is equity a central concern? Is critical thinking an important habit of mind you’re focusing on? Is community among students essential? What do you lose or gain with each pathway, especially with the less tangible things like wellbeing? Faculty development itself needs to Center values and model that.
  3. Models process. As we all know, it’s ridiculous to lecture about the benefits of active learning 😉, and so too does faculty development have to model the processes it recommends. We can’t promote giving agency to students by requiring faculty to attend a particular one-size-fits-all workshop, nor can we keep encouraging asynchronous learning by holding webinars about it 🙃.

I am so excited to be facilitating DigPINS because it gives me the opportunity to model all kinds of things like using open educational practices, engaging with a global community of peers, giving participants loads of ownership over their pathway through it, and offering a good combination of asynchronous, semisynchronous and synchronous learning opportunities to engage with.

This week alone, I co-facilitated two types of synchronous session, twice each.

One was an institute for our summer faculty, integrating Liberating Structures and breakout rooms to model community building but also for small group problem solving and collaboration. We managed with 4-5 facilitators and 40 participants each day, with some amount of “letting go of control” since we couldn’t always have a facilitator in each break out room and a few folks had technical difficulties (still need to address this issue for break out rooms). We used asynchronous components to collect their challenges ahead of time and give them time to work on syllabi and get feedback afterwards.

The other was a one-hour DigPINS intro session across the 5 cohorts around the world. We (Autumm Caines and I) held two identical ones  to reach most people on their time availability. We used ice breakers and small breakout rooms for a longer discussion and it was important to ensure diversity in each breakout room to experience the richness of the global cohort. We also have lots of asynchronous and semisynchronous opportunities for interaction with Slack, blogs and next week inshallah Twitter and then hopefully some other time soon, annotation.

So much grief and pain in the world… and I need to feel like I’m doing something useful and productive and that can help people with their wellbeing and energize them and help them just CONNECT with other humans. I hope these sessions have provided that.

I have to say that pre-pandemic I thought I knew all I needed to know about managing synchronous conversations. I co-founded Virtually Connecting after all. But Liberating Structures have taken it to a whole new level with the virtual equitable, energizing activities and I’m such a fan and advocate for them.

Here is the handbook for virtual liberating structures. Keep a lookout for their free (and paid) virtual meetups, often announced on eventbrite as well.

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