Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Teaching Possibilities

I'm hoping to steal shamelessly from some wise and worldly readers at other places.  

Too many colleges treat faculty as a cost, rather than an asset.  Professional development is often reduced to travel or webinars, and then cut when things get tight, which they nearly always do.

Conferences can be great; I've certainly learned a lot at them.  But they're expensive, and we have nowhere near the money to send everyone to them.  Multiply $1,500 by several hundred faculty and staff, and it adds up.  And the "send everyone to conferences" model suggests that every good idea comes from outside, which simply isn't true.

We have people with some terrific ideas right here.  

That's especially true when it comes to teaching, as opposed to current developments within particular disciplines.  

So we're trying something new, and I'm hoping that some folks who have done something similar will have useful tips.

We've assembled a group of respected faculty across disciplines -- they've chosen the name "Teaching Possibilities" -- to be on call to provide confidential, non-evaluative peer observations and feedback to any faculty, full-time or adjunct, who request them.  

The observations have a few ground rules: they have to be done by people outside the home discipline of the observed, to ensure fresh eyes.  They will not be reported back to the administration in any form other than a raw count (i.e. "this semester we did fourteen").  They will not discuss the observations with anyone outside the group.  And the goal of the observations is improvement.

My theory is that standard evaluations -- of the sort that go into personnel files -- are useful as a sort of quality control, but not generally ideal for improvement.  These are an attempt to fill that gap.

So my question to wise and worldly readers: any tips in our first semester?  Any fears?  If you teach and you had this option, would you take it?