Purdue Teaching and Learning Open Forums Summaries

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Understand, Support, and Value Great Teaching

  • We shouldn’t presume that great teaching results in great learning, so keep the emphasis on learning; be sure to get student input and use student outcomes as at least a partial measure of what great teaching looks like.
  • It is too easy to identify some faculty as good teachers and others as bad teachers. Adopt a growth mindset for faculty as well, and think about teaching development; anyone can become a more effective teacher.
  • Encourage faculty to help students be self-regulated learners who can evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses throughout the semester and course-correct when necessary.
  • Create more formalized systems for mentoring of teaching for all instructors at every level.
  • We need enthusiasm and support for teaching from the Deans, and we need to provide time for faculty to focus on teaching rather than administrative responsibilities.
  • General agreement with the goal of making teaching a bigger factor in promotion and tenure.

Create a Hub for Teaching and Learning Innovation, Translation, and Scale-Up

  • Create a “sandbox” classroom that allows faculty to come in and test out new technologies so they can become comfortable and evaluate what they want to use.
  • Start with an inventory of what is already going on in various departments. What are common challenges that instructors are attempting to address?
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of innovative technologies currently being used, and be sure to include feedback from students in this evaluation.
  • Consider if the hub will be passive and wait for faculty to seek out support or if it will be assertive, anticipating future needs and seeking beta testers.
  • Encourage faculty to be open with students about what teaching innovations they are adopting, perhaps by including an explanation in their syllabus. Students report being confused about concepts like hybrid or flipped classes and what those innovations are meant to achieve.
  • Use the introduction of the new LMS to provide “assertive” training on how it can be used to facilitate great teaching.
  • Faculty need to be given room to experiment, which includes being allowed to fail and then try again.

Facilitate Meaningful, Flexible, and Cross-Disciplinary Curricula

  • Start by checking our assumptions. Do we know that the current examples we have are successful (and by what metrics)? Will students who pursue this kind of path be employable? Will there simply be too many options so students are overwhelmed?
  • Structural issues to consider: many plans of study have no room for flexibility, so it seems students in those majors cannot access these opportunities. How do we provide access to courses for non-majors when space is at a premium? Do we need to create new course codes that reflect multi-disciplinary nature of the course, or do we simply continue to cross-list?
  • Small liberal arts colleges are excellent in this regard, so we should look to them for ideas.
  • We should involve libraries in this effort, since they already operate across disciplines.
  • If courses are team-taught across disciplines, which instructors/departments get the credit?
  • Part of this effort could include blending courses with the work of the university, to model how work gets done in the “real world” after college, with collaborations across disciplines. For example, students from across the university could enroll in a course that partners with the Archives & Special Collections to review primary sources, design, and communicate about an exhibit on almost any disciplinary topic.
  • Flexible curricula would also help students who change majors reduce their time to degree, enhancing affordability.

Leverage Characteristics of a Residential Campus to Increase Engagement

  • We should ask students what their priorities are for a residential campus experience.
  • The focus of the roadmap is primarily on cognitive outcomes, but it should include affective and behavioral outcomes as well. What are the outcomes we would like to see re: student development? Can we measure and improve student wellness and engagement?
  • Providing adequate campus housing, including affordable options, should be a high priority.
  • There is a virtual reality lab available in McCutcheon. Are there other opportunities for incorporating new learning technologies in the residence halls?
  • Consider how easy or difficult we make it for faculty to engage with student life. For example, it is challenging that the co-rec charges to use their facilities for academic reasons, but the cultural centers do not necessarily charge for use of their space.
  • We could use solid data on the extent of challenges our students face (e.g., hunger, affordable housing, health concerns, working multiple jobs) that work against learning and engagement.
  • Many thoughts and questions about high impact practices:
    • Who is already participating, and do we know if outcomes are significant at Purdue (as opposed to national data/anecdotal information)?
    • Who is not participating, and what are the barriers to their participation?
    • How do we collect data and track participation in HIPs, and how do we make that information visible to those who work with students?
    • Can we more clearly label courses and activities that include HIPs to help students find them and understand why participation is beneficial?
    • How can we equip, support, and recognize/reward faculty who do this work?
    • Would requiring HIPs potentially increase inequality, creating new barriers for students who cannot afford or do not have time to participate?

Close Achievement Gaps

  • We need more data on what is happening, why, and what we can do to change outcomes. The SEISMIC study just getting underway is a good example and should be supported. We should also consider post-graduation data, data on use of resources by different student groups, and ICHE’s College Equity Report.
  • We need to train faculty, staff, TAs, and student organization leaders about this topic and be specific about what we are asking them to do with the information. Make it easier for faculty and staff to know what resources are available and how to make referrals effectively.
  • Find out what is already happening in college-based diversity offices, and work to ensure their efforts are aligned with the work of the Diversity Resources Office and the cultural centers.
  • Ask students about their experiences, and make sure the student story is centered. Administration telling faculty and staff what they need to do differently can make people defensive. Legitimize the student voice, and let people empathize and connect with humans.
  • This goal should be given more prominence in the roadmap. It is not a true excellence initiative unless it is for all students. To make a difference we need radical and significant change now.
  • Be careful how we talk about the “achievement gap” and take care not to approach it only from a deficit mindset. Are there places where underrepresented groups are outperforming majority groups? Are we celebrating that and determining why?
  • Assess efforts for recruiting and retaining diverse faculty and staff, especially in areas like CAPS and PUPD. Advertise the cultural affinity groups for faculty and staff.
  • Offer more work-study jobs, paid internships on campus, and paid undergraduate research opportunities for low-income students who may otherwise need to spend their time working off campus.
  • Increase access to affordable study abroad programs, and focus more on pre-departure support so fewer students drop out of programs because they don’t know how to handle the logistics of transportation and lodging.
  • Review campus websites for accessibility, not just ADA, but reading comprehension level. All our communication to students needs to be reviewed so it is understandable by someone who is not familiar with university bureaucracy. 

What are we missing?

  • Best practices for teaching and learning have to include universal design, so that students with disabilities have equal opportunities with their peers and are not excluded.
  • The draft has little discussion of the role of writing to advance teaching and learning, especially in the context that Purdue has no university-wide commitment to writing or communication across the curriculum (which makes us an outlier with Big Ten and AAU peers).
  • For many, the poor quality of buildings/facilities is the strongest indicator that our units are not valued at this university in the way that STEM disciplines are.
  • How do we get students involved in all components of these discussions and teaching development? We should respect the diverse experiences and knowledge that students bring.

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