Innovations in Conversations About Teaching

Beyond the Workshop

by Maria B. Hopkins (Volume editor) Rachel Bailey Jones (Volume editor)
©2021 Monographs X, 240 Pages


Centers for teaching and learning all face the same dilemma: In a context where faculty are not required to partake in our services, how do we provide transformative learning experiences to which faculty willingly give their limited time? The answer, Maria B. Hopkins and Rachel Bailey Jones propose, is to move away from a workshop model of faculty development and toward a model that supports the kinds of connections among faculty that lead to self-sustaining growth and development. This edited book provides a breadth of innovative alternatives to fixed-schedule faculty development workshops that faculty are rarely attending due to the increasing complexity of their professional lives. The audience for this book is higher education administrators, faculty, and staff responsible for faculty development related to teaching and learning. Each chapter provides a detailed description of a faculty development initiative in practice that provide opportunities for creativity, adaptability, and collaboration among faculty. Public, private, and community colleges, small and large, research-focused and teaching-focused institutions are represented. The editors have taken on this project because this is the resource they wish they had when they began their work as directors of the teaching lab at their institution.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the authors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • 1. Introduction
  • Part I. Opening Doors
  • 2. You Just Have to Be in My Class: Open Classroom and Teaching Partners at Nazareth
  • 3. Please, Please Participate! Designing and Offering Effective Faculty Development Workshops
  • Part II. Building Communities
  • 4. Teaching Circles at RIT: Faculty-Directed Educational Development
  • 5. Reflective Practice Groups: Changing the Way We Talk about Teaching
  • 6. “Turn to Your Neighbor”: Placing Faculty Dialogue and Peer Learning at the Center of Teaching Development
  • Part III. Shifting Design
  • 7. Learning to Teach by Being a Student
  • 8. From Within: Faculty as Agents of Change
  • Part IV. Making Space
  • 9. Faculty Development Online
  • 10. Space: The Final Frontier
  • Contributors
  • Index

←x | 1→

1. Introduction

Maria B. Hopkins and Rachel Bailey Jones

Together, in the fall of 2015, we, the editors of this volume and authors of this chapter, attended the Annual Assessment Conference at Drexel University. The conference theme that year was Building Academic Innovation & Renewal. At the time, both of us were (and continue to be) full-time faculty at Nazareth College in the School of Education. In addition to our faculty roles, we each had administrative re-assignments within the Division of Academic Affairs. Maria was the Coordinator of Student Learning Outcomes Assessment, and Rachel was the Director of the Core Curriculum. We had traveled to Philadelphia in order to learn together about ways to strengthen our assessment work at Nazareth and how to support our faculty colleagues in these endeavors. As with most conferences to which we travel with colleagues, we found that the time away from campus provided valuable opportunities to brainstorm in a new setting and to begin to imagine how we might apply our conference learnings on the return home. At this particular conference, we began to “think big” and consider the ways we might advocate for an institutional response to our most pervasive challenges.

We each had our own dilemmas and obstacles in our administrative roles. However, at the core, they were the same and were reflected in Linda Suskie’s (2015) remarks at the conference as she outlined the “stubborn challenges” facing higher education:

1.Change is hard.

2.We have cultures of silos and isolation.

3.We are stretched too thin.

4.We focus on assessment over learning.

5.We lack a culture of evidence.

←1 | 2→

The challenges Suskie (2015) described were very much reflected in our own experiences. And these challenges become more significant when taken together. As faculty relatively new to leadership positions at our institution, we learned quickly that in order to be successful, we needed to embrace our roles as facilitators of faculty growth and development in relation to our respective charges. Beyond preventing us from achieving specific goals related to academic assessment or the core curriculum, each of these challenges were present and each brought with it barriers to faculty learning.

Front on our minds at this conference was that at the same time that our faculty colleagues demonstrated resistance to traditional approaches to academic assessment, we each actively resisted the notion that we needed to “create a culture of assessment” at Nazareth. A frequently proclaimed dictum at assessment conferences, this idea positions assessment as the end-game. It assumes that if assessment were only in the air that we breathed, improvement in student learning would be inevitable. To the contrary, in our experience to this point, an explicit focus on assessment only alienated and frustrated our faculty colleagues, who became overly concerned with assessing “the right way” and completing complex reporting forms accurately.

In response to “stubborn challenges,” Suskie (2015) advocated that higher education resolve to do the following: (1) know whom you serve and be relevant and responsive to them, (2) encourage and support great teaching and learning, (3) fight complacency, (4) build a culture of evidence, and (5) tell relevant, evidence-based stories of your successes. Again, Suskie’s (2015) words resonated. We wanted to keep assessment firmly in its place as a tool for improvement, as a means to an end, where the end goal is a culture of teaching growth and development. To our minds, this shift would enable us to carry out our responsibilities to faculty at Nazareth College in a way that would be meaningful, give faculty ownership of curriculum and assessment, promote engagement and collegiality, and in doing so, assist them in serving the needs of our ever-more-diverse student population.

As we reflected on Suskie’s (2015) remarks over lunch that day, we began to envision what would become the Teaching Innovation and Integration Lab (known on campus as “the TIIL”). With the support of our administration, college-granted strategic initiatives funds, and an Impact Grant from the IDEA Center, we launched the TIIL the following fall.

The vision of the TIIL that emerged was a system that supported innovative and integrative teaching practices, to be led by grassroots faculty collaboration. Prior to the TIIL, only informal networks of support for teaching and ←2 | 3→collaboration existed at Nazareth. The TIIL was to become a faculty-led support system for formative development of teaching, encouraging collaboration, feedback, innovation, and integration of ideas and techniques. Designed to be both a physical and intellectual space of exploration, support, and discovery, the TIIL would promote an explicit culture of teaching on campus as one of sharing, dialogue, collegiality, and communication. This culture would reflect the call for a “new normal” in higher education that is aligned with what is understood about how people learn and develop new ideas:

Teaching centers in the new normal would be the garage—not places for faculty to be repaired, but “garages” in the spirit of Jobs, Wozniak, and others, who created the first Apple computer—where creative faculty members gather to take risks, innovate, and transform the educational landscape. (Beach, Sorcinelli, Austin, & Rivard, 2016, p. 147)

Dovetailing with this sentiment, Cook and Marincovich (2010) note that innovation, not remediation, should be at the heart of a teaching center’s mission because it is novel approaches, not deficit models, that spur change.


X, 240
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2021 (June)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2021. X, 240 pp., 5 b/w ill., 10 tables.

Biographical notes

Maria B. Hopkins (Volume editor) Rachel Bailey Jones (Volume editor)

Maria B. Hopkins, Ph.D., is Professor in the School of Education at Nazareth College in Rochester, New York, where she also serves as Director of the Graduate Literacy program and co-founded the Teaching Innovation and Integration Lab. Rachel Bailey Jones, Ph.D., is Professor of Education at Nazareth College in Rochester, New York. She is the co-founder of the Teaching Innovation and Integration Lab and Program Co-Director for the Honors Program.


Title: Innovations in Conversations About Teaching
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