Advancing Through Professional Development

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Through our participation in Making Connections, we had a clear understanding that professional development and on-going support for faculty was essential for ePortfolio buy-in. Central to our philosophy was that ePortfolio was pedagogy, as much or more than it was a technology. Prior to our Teaching and Learning Circles (TLCs), we had no formal faculty development practices on campus. Our president at the time had only just begun sending us to higher education conferences such as AAC&U. Therefore, the TLCs not only provided instruction on ePortfolio but filled an important void providing time and space to have conversations about teaching and learning. Originally conceived of as support for First Year instructors, when open invitations for participation were sent out, we included adjuncts, staff and administration, thus the result was not only interdisciplinary, but campus-wide representation. This wide approach led to the participation of staff from our Center for Career Development, a special workshop for Admissions, library staff, advising staff, staff from the Office of Disability Services, and staff from our Centers for Academic Success. At times, the inclusion of both faculty and staff in our TLCs has been challenging, but the development of cross-campus relationships and a shared understanding of the benefits of ePortfolio have far outweighed these obstacles.

In terms of organization, TLCs include four 1-and-1/2 hour sessions over the course of five weeks during a semester. These sessions are a balance of pedagogical discussion and specific technological skill building with regard to the Digication platform. The TLCs are lead by a faculty member on the ePortfolio team and in its more recent incarnation, an eTern is also attached to each TLC cohort as a co-teacher and as someone who will follow-up with the individual TLC participants over the course of the semester. Additionally, over the last year, we have also expanded our TLC leadership. Faculty who have participated in our TLCs and implemented ePortfolio in their classes are now leading the TLCs. In general, we aim to create a community of practice within our TLCs, where the process of inquiry is supported by trust, openness and curiosity. Inquiry is central to our TLCs as we encourage our participants to examine their classrooms and question what works, what doesn’t work and why. The processes of self-reflection and self-assessment support this inquiry process. For a full description of our TLCs, please see our description here.

In addition to our TLCs, we have held more specialized TLCs designed for particular purposes. For example, we developed a TLC for writing instructors designed to expose the writing staff to ePortfolio and its collaboration potential. We held a TLC for members of both our Core Curriculum Committee and our Committee on the Assessment of Student Learning, again designed to expose (not cram) these faculty members to the potential of ePortfolio. More recently, we have developed a TLC to support faculty who are about to use ePortfolio for the reappointment, tenure or promotion process. We are also planning a TLC for advising next Spring. We have also invited ePortfolio experts from other institutions (Elizabeth Clarke and Laura Gambino, to be specific) to come to campus and present on the benefits of ePortfolio and the use of ePortfolio in assessment, respectively.

While we believe that sustained engagement is the only way to successfully develop a community of practice, we recognize that there need to be avenues and opportunities to draw faculty in and bring them to place where they want to join and engage in a more sustained inquiry process. To this end, we have also developed a low stakes one hour introduction to ePortfolio for those curious about the tool but not ready to commit to a four-session TLC. We have also put together a series of one-time workshops led by faculty who have been using ePortfolio. We tapped faculty who had already participated in our faculty development series (TLCs) and asked them to repeat a 1 ½ hour workshop across the Fall 2011 semester. These workshops covered topics such as collaborative teaching and learning, the examination of ePortfolio as spaces for reflection and integration, advanced design techniques, and developing a career ePortfolio. These sessions were important as we were now putting faculty other than ourselves in ePortfolio leadership positions.

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