The Teaching & Learning Certificate Program (TLCP) is a workshop-based program for all full- and part-time faculty interested in enriching their teaching practices. To attain a certificate, participants complete a minimum of six workshops within two years. The workshop series begins with an introduction to the Digication e-portfolio platform and ends with a reflective teaching portfolio workshop.
“A few years ago, the Office for Teaching, Learning and Assessment began to explore ways to enable faculty to share and learn best practices in teaching,” says Rana Husseini, assistant director, Teaching Support.
“Faculty members were surveyed: ‘Would you be interested in workshops? What qualities would make a program worthwhile?’ In focus groups, they were asked, ‘What topics would you find valuable?’ When I joined DePaul in 2010, all the conceptual parts were in place to implement the Teaching & Learning Certificate Program. And this spring we ‘graduated’ our first cohort — nine participants who had completed six workshops and created a teaching portfolio.”
Workshops attract — and benefit — faculty from every level
Over the course of the academic year, the program offers at least 10 different workshops on various topics related to teaching and learning. To earn a certificate, a participant must register, but, as Husseini explains, the workshops are open to everyone: “Last year, 54 faculty members, from eight different colleges, officially enrolled in the program, but total attendance was 261. Over the past year, our participants ranged from tenured faculty to Ph.D. graduate students who teach — and everyone in between, including adjunct faculty and staff who teach.”
One participant who earned a certificate was Jason Martin, assistant professor, College of Communication, who used the program to find “real, concrete ideas I could use in my classes.” Adrienne Holloway, assistant professor, School of Public Service, had the same goal: “I want my pedagogy to be top-notch — this program is helping me achieve that goal. For example, in one workshop I learned how to be more effective in helping students move from point A to point B in their writing; now, because I know how to offer expansive reflections in my comments, my students’ revisions are much better.”
Heather Rakes (PhD ’12), instructor, Philosophy, says the program broadened her perspective: “In each workshop are two presenters, often with different teaching styles and personalities. I could see how they leveraged their identities to engage students in conversations about difficult and complex topics. As a result, I can imagine bringing more of my personal strengths into the classroom. In fact, I think every faculty member — even those who’ve been teaching for a long time — could benefit from the TLCP for two reasons: first, the program enables faculty to reflect on their teaching and, second, it connects participants in an enriching collaboration.”
In fact, one goal of the TLCP is to provide a forum for faculty to come together. “In a university this size, it’s easy to get siloed into departments, and one of the most important outcomes of the program is to get people mixing and talking,” says Husseini.
Karen Marvinac agrees. As a new adjunct instructor in the University Internship Program, she joined the program as a way to get grounded as a teacher at DePaul: “I wanted to gain a better understanding of the university, to meet people, and to get integrated into the DePaul community. At the same time, I always encourage my students to enhance their credentials, and this program was a way to do that for myself — a kind of ‘practice what you preach’ idea — I never want to stop growing and learning as a teacher.”
Portfolios encourage reflection on everything from teaching philosophy to experience
Those faculty members who enroll in the TLCP build a teaching portfolio as a way to formalize their reflections on what they’re learning in the workshops. In a final workshop, they share what they have been doing throughout the program, giving and receiving feedback on their portfolios and then revising them to increase their on-going usefulness as teaching and learning tools.
For Martin, building and sharing portfolios was “another opportunity to get great ideas for teaching.” Holloway modeled her e-portfolio as an e-resume aligned with the tenure review process: “Now, I have a way to keep track of everything I’m doing, and then share this information.” Rakes says she was convinced to structure her e-portfolio for the job market: “Everyone has an internet presence; with an e-portfolio, I have control over what people see.”
Something for everyone
Martin sums up program’s value: “The great thing about the TLCP is that it’s not top-down. In fact, the program itself is an illustration of good teaching: the faculty presenters meet the participants — the ‘students’ — where they are, taking into account different learning styles and motivations. Each participant has his or her own goals, and each comes away with valuable insights. I was impressed with the university’s commitment to teaching and support — this kind of investment in teaching quality doesn’t happen everywhere.”
Under the direction of Husseini, a committee of five professionals from faculty support areas — including the University Center for Writing-based Learning, the Libraries, and Faculty Instructional Technology Services (FITS) — decides on workshop topics. Of foremost consideration are suggestions from faculty.