Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Taking a Course for Faculty Developers…

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

I’ve been taking an online course at UMass Amherst for faculty developers for the past 2 weeks. It’s been really useful and I’ve learned a lot from the discussions, the assignments have helped me reflect, and the readings have given structure to much of what is already familiar to me about my work… But has helped organize it better in my head, and helped me see where my center’s work fits with the global (ok, no, US) scene. Which is basically we have the same priorities as most US universities, are newly focusing on the same things, often struggling with the same issues, and just overall similar.

Which seems off.

The course discussions are on Blackboard so I can’t directly reference them (though I will eventually copy/paste my own work so I don’t lose it) but two things made me pause.

For our first assignment, we were supposed to report on a Center for Learning and Teaching and answer a few questions about it. I thought it would be more useful to compare one to my own than to just report on mine, and I chose University of Cape Town’s CILT. I chose it because everyone but three people in the course are based in the US (of the 3, only one isn’t in my own institution!). So I wondered if a South African university which doesn’t have an American flavor would be different. And it was. Apart from discourses of support for good teaching, it had elements of decolonization and social justice explicitly there. It made me wonder if ours was lacking a local flavor altogether and I’m pretty sure it is. I’m not sure what our politically acceptable alternative would be, to what we have, or if we intend to continue to be relatively interchangeable with a mainstream US liberal arts institution. But I do know that if you dig deep into our struggles, you find something different because of context.

For example, one of the things I brought up, and which resonated with others in the forum, is professional development for adjuncts, and how unfair it is to them to ask them to do this without getting compensated for it.

The other thing that made me pause was another participant located outside the US who found a resource about teaching his subject that is centered around non-Western approaches. I thought this was a really good find and I wonder if more such resources/societies exist in other fields.

On another note, I am also a big advocate for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) to be rewarded as research in tenure and promotion. This seems to be one of the areas other CLTs would like to grow in the future but which is tricky.

I’m overall enjoying the course and the discussions… Feeling weird being a student in a closed space after working openly online for so long. I mean, I work in Slack teams but those are people I have relationships with that aren’t bound by a few weeks. I follow them on Twitter. In this Course, I have no relationship with other participants beyond the course and I’m already sad about that. But again, many may not even be active on Twitter and I would have missed meeting them altogether if I hadn’t joined this closed course. So it’s a trade-off. And besides, some stuff I write in the assignments is probably best not said publicly anyway.

So it is not my favorite thing, not my favorite way to learn, but it’s working for me for now, and it’s always useful to keep trying new (or in this case for me, old) ways of learning so we can better support our students and our faculty (as facdev).

It reminds me of Lee skallerup Bessette and I once talking about doing facdev, the MOOC 🙂 This one is that kind of meta….

I’ll stop for now coz I need to sleep.

2 Comments

  1. So many things to read
    SOTL in the South and a Tribute to Brenda Leibowitz
    published by jmoore28@elon.edu on Mon, 05/14/2018 – 09:16

    https://www.issotl.com/blog/sotl-south-and-tribute-brenda-leibowitz

    Ways of knowing and the possible contributions of curriculum to the decolonising project

    http://sotl-south-journal.net/?journal=sotls&page=article&op=view&path%5B%5D=54&path%5B%5D=20

    Article in the Atlantic on how US Colleges are NOT solving poverty by training people to move up in society but my sense is northern societies are too fixated on caring about themselves to notice their irrelevance. https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2018/05/college-poor-students/560972/

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