The Teaching and Learning Commons offers a broad range of supports to our faculty and instructional staff, including workshops and learning opportunities, a suite of learning technologies, funding opportunities, and pedagogical consultations. Over the past 18 months we have experienced record-levels of engagement with our university community, as hundreds of instructors took advantage of our supports as they first pivoted to remote instruction and then sought to deepen their skill set with facilitating online and blended learning. This experience has taught us all a lot, and while it has neither been easy nor the underlying circumstances optimal, our team has been deeply gratified to be of service of our university community during this time of need.
As we prepare for a return to campus and embrace the “New KPU,” we have taken the opportunity to critically reflect on the supports that we provide faculty, particularly with regard to our workshops and training. In recent years we have offered a long list of learning opportunities, many of which were developed in response to an emergent need. There is perhaps no better example of this than our Level Up: Learn to Teach Online Course that was completed by over 400 instructors last year. However, one disadvantage of this reactive approach to educational development is that we now have what can feel like a smorgasbord of workshops that, although individually very useful, do not always have a clear relationship to one another. What we seek to provide instead is a framework for faculty development that is comprehensive, integrated, and flexible, and that reflects the needs of our community.
We therefore looked carefully at our training, considering what we offer, what we don’t, what we ought to, and what we perhaps might no longer need. We surveyed our faculty and instructional staff and looked carefully at the needs and preferences expressed by our university community, both in terms of the content and the structure of desired learning opportunities. We researched how other post-secondary institutions approach educational development, read the literature, and engaged deeply with all members of our team (including both our staff and our faculty educational consultants).
To ensure strategic alignment, we identified relevant goals in KPU’s Vision 2023, such as:
- C1: We will expand innovation in teaching, learning and curriculum
- A2: We will enrich the experience of our employees
- B1: We will embrace all cultures and promote a renewed, authentic approach to Indigenization
- Strategy 2.1: Support and enable teaching excellence and the use of research-informed teaching practices
- Strategy 2.3: Equip educators with skills and knowledge and further develop their teaching expertise through ongoing PD activities
- Strategy 2.8: Leverage and build on internal expertise
However, we also identified several strategies relevant to teaching and learning that are embedded in other Academic Plan goals, such as:
- Strategy 1.4: KPU will adopt and implement UDL principles into its learning and public environments and strive to eliminate barriers to educational success
- Strategy 3.5: Ensure and encourage an enriched, direct connection between our research activities and our teaching and learning mission
- Strategy 4.2: Foster a culturally and globally aware curriculum, being prepared to meet the needs of an international workplace, whether in Canada or internationally
- Strategy 6.6: Provide training and support for faculty to embrace open pedagogies
- Strategy 7.3: Encouraging a leap forward in providing hybrid, online, and micro-credential delivery
- Strategy 8.2: The university will support professional development on competency- and e-portfolio-based teaching and learning
Finally, we distilled our thinking though our team’s shared values, of community, ethics, creativity, and care.
As we developed this new framework for faculty development, we consulted with various Faculty Councils as well as the Senate Standing Committee on Teaching and Learning, all of which enthusiastically endorsed our new approach. The result of this work is called the Foundations in Teaching Excellence program. The integrated program encompasses flexible and modular learning opportunities organized within five core domains:
- Learning Design
- Learning Assessment
- Learning Technologies
- Inclusive Teaching
- Reflective Practice
Each domain includes modules that provide an overview of important concepts and frameworks for that aspect of teaching practice. The development of the modules themselves is being led by Leeann Waddington, our Director, Learning Technologies and Educational Development and guided by our faculty educational consultants, in close collaboration with our core staff. Each domain is designed to take 4-6 hours for completion, and some may include optional synchronous or facilitated experiences. Although faculty and instructional staff may pick and choose individual modules within a given domain, the framework is designed so that a full-time faculty member can easily complete the entire core program in a single year. This will be especially valuable opportunity for new faculty members and those who come to us with deep disciplinary expertise but not necessarily any formal training in teaching and learning.
You will hear a lot more about the modules encompassed within each of the domains as these will begin to roll out this month, in time to serve new faculty hires who will join our university community for the upcoming academic year.
A final note for our faculty and instructional staff: We hope that you take the opportunity to engage with the Foundations in Teaching Excellence program and with us in the Commons as we work together to collectively enhance the learning experiences of our students. Our team has poured a lot of thought and effort into building these new supports for you and I hope that we exceed your expectations. As my colleague Leeann has previously noted, teaching excellence is an iterative process, based on reflection, feedback from students, peers, and learning designers, and your willingness to learn and to try new things. We hope that you regard the Commons as your partner as we collectively aim to raise the bar for teaching excellence at KPU.