Each year, I attend the Professional and Organizational Developer (POD) Network Annual Conference, which is the main gathering of teaching-center folks, as well as faculty and administrators connected to the work of educational development in its many forms. I’ve been attending this conference since I became CETL Director, and it’s changed a great deal even in those six years.. This year, there were 1200 participants, about double what there were in 2014. The number and size of the various sessions and workshops has increased at a similar rate, and so too have the accompanying materials and resources. One of the things I appreciate about the POD conference is every session’s resources are made available online, from slide decks to additional readings to handouts.
On the other hand, because there is so much available, I definitely return from the conference with my head spinning. There are so many new things to learn, stuff that other colleges and universities are doing to improve teaching, learning, and faculty/staff support, that it’s nearly overwhelming. I always get tons of ideas, and then return to campus right before Thanksgiving and immediately get swept up in the end-of-the-semester currents. I’m not alone, however. For the last four years, I’ve served as one of the chairs of the POD Small Colleges group, which means I work closely with directors and faculty from teaching centers in institutions similar to ours: small (or at least smaller) enrollments, less-than-plentiful resources, teaching-centered, and with a large faculty workload. What I hear from those colleagues affirms that I’m not the only one trying to figure out how to implement all of this cool new research and practice, but it also reveals that we are far from alone on our current struggles.
Many, if not all, of my small-college colleagues are also on campuses wrestling with enrollment and retention, both of which are lower than they would like. As is also the case for us, many of these other institutions are trying to figure out how they can create a stronger sense of belonging for their students (and faculty and staff), particularly those from marginalized communities. Many of our peers are low on classroom space, teaching lots of overload on top of a 4-4 regular teaching load, and struggling to fit governance and service work into an already packed schedule–not to mentionthe rest of a litany of issues endemic to the small-college world.
I felt really good, though, that here at GV, we seem to have gotten a handle on at least some of the processes which promise to ease these problems. When I described our campus work on “belonging” and the efforts of the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) task force, for example, my colleagues said something to the effect of “I wish we were doing some of that.” Yet there were other colleagues whose schools were further down those roads, having rich and fruitful discussions about diversifying their curriculum or making DEI work a regular and prominent feature of their institutional life, for example. I was heartened that we are at least somewhere on that continuum–not as far along in diversity/equity work as some of our peers, but well ahead of others–and that there are institutions who’ve been where we are and are seeing positive results from their work.
Sometimes it’s nice to know you’re not alone, and I got the chance to see that this week at POD. There are lots of us at small colleges who face an array of challenges, but are still doing the work of teaching and learning, and of helping our students be successful. There’s something to be said for persisting even in the face of a pretty adverse landscape, and small colleges like GV are certainly doing that. The work we’re doing has demonstrable results for student learning and a sense of belonging, and that was affirmed in a lot of the research I got a chance to see at the conference. I look forward to the time (which I think will be soon) where I’ll be able to offer a session at POD based on the results of our teaching and student success work at Grand View.
Having said all that, however, there’s still the problem of getting so caught up int he hustle and bustle of the remainder of the fall semester that I lose the momentum from the conference, and allt hese great ideas start to evaporate. So to see some of the ways in which this professional development I experienced intersects with the needs and interests of all of you, I’ve prepared a brief survey to capture some of those points of resonance. If you could take a few minutes (it shouldn’t take more than five minutes, I promise) and provide some feedback about your needs and interests, it would help me immensely as we begin to plan what will be a significantly expanded schedule of CETL offerings for the Spring.
You can access the survey by clicking HERE or by copying and pasting this link into your browser’s address bar:
Thanks for taking the time to do this; it will be of significant assistance as we plan for a busy spring!
Have a question? Want to set up a consultation? Looking for ideas, strategies, or just another set of eyes on something? Make an appointment with CETL today! You can call 263-6102, contact us via this link, or directly book an appointment with Kevin that works with your schedule by clicking this Calendly link.
Finally, pandas in a hammock.
If you've had a day that could be improved by a panda trying to get in a hammock, here's a panda trying to get in a hammock.
— Paul Bronks (@SlenderSherbet) November 6, 2019