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Winter 2017 (March 3, 2017)

Experiments in Community and Professional Development

March 3, 2017
By Melissa Eblen-Zayas

Being an experimental physicist, my natural tendency is to approach things with an experimentalist’s mindset -- identify an objective, design and carry out a course of action to achieve that objective (recognizing that it’s unlikely to be successful the first time), collect data, learn from mistakes, and iterate. Even in the LTC role, I have found it difficult to completely reign in my experimental tendencies. While the LTC lunches and the books groups work well and are enjoyed by many, they have their limitations. As I started in this position, I heard from quite a few folks who wanted more time for conversation with colleagues. The teaching toolbox lunches have been one way to try to encourage more conversation. Taking time in small groups to share our successes and reflect on our challenges in dealing with particular pedagogical approaches provides a brief opportunity to catch one’s breath in the midst of all of Carleton’s busyness and to reconnect and learn from colleagues who have fabulous ideas to share. Although the number of participants in the teaching toolbox lunches is generally lower than other LTC lunch events (maybe people are turned off by the reading assignments?), the feedback from those who have participated has been overwhelmingly positive, but I’d like to gather more data, both from those who have participated and those who haven’t. If you haven’t attended, what would make you more likely to attend? If you have attended, what has worked well and what changes would you suggest?

I’m exploring more opportunities for groups of faculty and staff to examine a particular topic together over an extended period of time.

  • The inclusive classrooms faculty cohort begins meeting this spring for conversation and exploration of relevant literature, with the goal of implementing some of the effective approaches identified through reading and discussion in courses that cohort members are teaching next fall or winter.
  • The LTC will offer a learning community on electronic portfolios. After preliminary discussions this winter that included representatives from several departments, CCCE, OCS, AT, the library, and career services, it is clear that a one-time meeting does not do justice to exploring the pedagogical potential of this high impact practice. The e-portfolio learning community will allow more thoughtful coordination and conversations about our individual and shared goals in order to create the best possible learning experience for students.
  • A number of recently-tenured (and not-so-recently-tenured) faculty members have expressed interest in having an opportunity to thoughtfully consider the various directions a post-tenure path might lead so the LTC will be exploring possibilities for some targeted programming for this group of faculty.

Would you be interested in working with a group of faculty and staff as part of a learning community or cohort program over an extended period of time to explore a particular topic? If so, what topics would be of interest?