2-page proposal file

Taking College Teaching Seriously: An Online Community of Practice for
Developmental Educators
One of the most important topics for faculty in public higher education, especially at
community colleges, is how to help developmental students succeed. Students requiring
basic math and English courses are the most at-risk college students in public education
today. They are most likely to drop out before completing a degree, and often before
entering college-level courses. Clearly, there is a great need for in-depth conversation
among all developmental educators about how best to serve these students.
In considering this issue, we asked ourselves the following research questions:
Can a wholly online professional development community engage developmental
education faculty in dialogue about their teaching to improve pedagogy and student
Does individual reflective practice, framed by an authoritative set of analytic
categories, and supported by peer interaction and visualization techniques make
individual pedagogy more successful?
To what extent does faculty participation in an online learning community
enhance student retention, persistence and overall success?
Is an online professional development community “scalable” so that large
numbers of faculty (especially adjunct faculty) and, therefore, students can benefit?
Taking College Teaching Seriously uses the processes honed over the past 4 years,
creating the “tools and routines” of a practice improvement model using a technology,
Classroom Notebook. It is unique, as far as we know, on several counts. First, it emerged
from the engagement, observation, and assessment of the work of outstandingly
successful faculty. Second, the experience is integrated with actual teaching and involves
self-reflection and peer exchange – critical elements of adult learning and behavioral
change. Third, it is designed to be scaled organically but exponentially at an affordable
In Taking College Teaching Seriously, faculty work in an asynchronous online
environment in small Pedagogy Circles guided by a coach. Faculty weekly post lesson
descriptions, reflections and assessment online in Classroom Notebook. The postings can
include handouts, activities, and examples of student work. Lesson posts and dialogue
among circle mates and coaches prompt reflection and change.
This reflective, collaborative process enables faculty involved to learn more about their
own and each other’s teaching in a sustained community of practice. Participants deepen
their inquiry by applying a set of authoritative Themes and Tags to identify pedagogical
approaches, reflect on and define their activities, discover teaching patterns, and explore
new pedagogical areas. For each lesson, a pie chart is generated showing the frequency of
tags used; a cumulative pie chart is also developed to reflect a faculty participant’s
overall pattern over a semester. Looking at the frequency of chosen Themes and Tags
help faculty identify their specific pedagogical styles and priorities while encouraging
them to try new things in the classroom. The charts provide a visualization that enables
faculty to see where they place the most emphasis, and what new pedagogical approaches
they may wish to try.
We are encouraged by the exciting results already achieved after one semester of “Taking
College Teaching Seriously” (Spring 2015) and have begun the process of assessing our
work to identify the elements of our project that we think will have the greatest impact on
faculty development and student success. Some of the responses we received from
faculty participating during the Spring 2015 semester include:
This project really showed me what I do in the classroom and lets me assess the
effectiveness of it
Most significant take away from this project is the ability to write out, structure
my lesson, and effectively articulate my learning objectives
Being able to mindfully plan out every lesson each week and then reaffirm it
through writing has given me a visibility of my own practice in teaching
These testimonials provide insight into the positive results that faculty achieved while
participating in this online community. Our hope is that as faculty pedagogy improves,
student success rates improve as well.
Data from our Spring 2015 semester indicate a high level of engagement among faculty,
with even higher levels of adjunct participation. (Adjuncts posted more lessons and
engaged in more exchanges with their peers.) Data from the current cohort also show
significant changes in pedagogy as a result of individual and community reflection.
Tagging over the semester shows a shift towards higher-level cognitive activities in
faculty pedagogy between lessons 1 and 8. In lesson 1 faculty emphasize tags such as
“transition to college.” By lesson 8, there is a spike in tags such as “creating a
challenging classroom environment,” (e.g. “higher order thinking”) and creating an
organized classroom environment” (“structured classroom” and “connections”).
By strengthening faculty pedagogy, including the pedagogy of adjunct faculty who are
often unable to participate in professional development opportunities, our goal is to
enhance student learning and student outcomes for typically underserved populations
taking basic skills math and English courses across the nation. In doing this, we are
supporting one of the most at-risk student populations in public education as they prepare
to take credit-bearing courses, providing them access to employment and further
educational opportunities. Using technology to scale a sharing of faculty pedagogy, this
project involves a diverse pool of faculty participants from Arizona, Florida, and New
York City. Coaches hail from Hawaii, California, Arizona, Colorado, Missouri,
Michigan, Ohio, Texas, Virginia and New York. The goal is to connect even more
campuses nationwide as the community continues to grow.
More information about the Project may be found on our website: