Tidbits, Resources, and Discussion for ELI Faculty

Friday, September 5, 2008

Fall Faculty Meeting Follow-Up

Thanks to everyone who joined me for the faculty meeting last night. I am looking forward to today's session and the chance to update more of you on what's going on this semester at ELI.

As promised in the meeting, I'm posting here a place where you can give me and your colleagues any additional comments and/or questions about the faculty meeting. I would welcome your thoughts on the meeting format as well as on the specific topics we discussed. You can post comments with your name, or anonymously, as you prefer.

Please also note the new poll on the left. (Please only vote in this poll if you teach for ELI, as it does not apply to anyone else!) This issue came up in the text chat during the first faculty meeting. Some faculty want to be blind-copied on the emails we send to students, and others don't. I thought I'd take a poll here as one way to get a better sense of where the majority of you lie on this issue.

Comment away!


Maria Rynn said...

For the third Exam in ITE 115 we ask student to write a 300 word review of the course so far. This is the Word assignment so it needs to be formatted correctly but we also learn what works and doesn’t work while the students are still in the class. Given what you talked about in the meeting yesterday in terms of deadlines, I thought this excerpt from one of the exams was interesting.

"As the Professor of this course I think you know best how the deadlines should be set to complete the course while still learning. I have found that if I don’t have deadlines I wait until the very last minute and end up rushing the assignments just for the sake of getting them done and not really learning from them. As this is the case with most ELI courses, teachers would like the students to come up with there own deadlines and although the students will come up with dates for assignments, realistically they simply won’t know if there schedule really fits the course content until they have gone through a good amount of the course and usually by that time it is too late to catch up and still learn effectively."

CTE said...

While the eMeeting is a great way for you and ELI staff to convey information to the very large ELI faculty community, I do not think that is a very good forum for discussion. For example, I am sure that there are a lot of opinions that could be heard about course ownership, the team projects, the idea of deadlines, etc, and I am wondering what is the forum for those discussions to take place before decisions are made by ELI staff, decisions that do not always take into account the complete scope of faculty opinion. Ten years we could have talked at a faculty meeting, or we could have talked with the course designers since there were so few of them. With the present size of ELI, and the growing size of our offerings, I see this problem of communication and interchange as a major challenge.

Laura said...

Charlie, perhaps this Blog is just the place for the kind of communication you describe. While face-2-face "forums" might also be effective, the required faculty meeting would not be the best place for discussion as that would merely extend the time the staff has to share important information with us. But such discussions as you are concerned about - what takes place before decisions are made - can, I think, be most effective done on an ongoing basis through this Blog - if only MORE ELI faculty would join in the discussions to have their voice heard. Personally, I found the one hour e-meeting most efficient for updating us on policy and proceedure matters.

Jennifer Lerner said...

Maria--thanks for sharing that. I think it's a great example of how deadlines can benefit students (even if they do not WANT the deadlines).

Charlie--thanks for your comment. You are right--the eMeeting works for conveying information only. I had intended the faculty meeting to be in-person and more of a work/feedback session this semester, for exactly the reason you point out, but it didn't work out that way this time due to the change in Sept. 12 plans. For what it's worth, the things I was announcing in the meeting were all policies/practices already in place before I arrived, that I just felt needed to be disseminated--not new policies I've created without getting faculty input. But of course, we need faculty input on current policies and practices, too! You are right that this only gets more challenging as ELI continues to grow.

Laura is right that I intend this blog to be one way faculty can keep up with what's going on at ELI as I am thinking about things. I ask for your feedback here, and the more feedback I can get, the better plans and policies I can make. I do also intend to continue having face-to-face meetings so folks can weigh in on issues and share concerns I may not have been aware of. (I had that set of meetings in March so folks could meet me and raise initial concerns, but haven't had any since then because it was summer; I will schedule some such opportunities for fall once we get past the registration/start of term craziness!)

Wise faculty... what other ways would you like me to consult with you on ELI policies and practices as we chart new directions for ELI?

Meena said...

I second Laura’s thoughts on the effectiveness of faculty eMeetings, rather than f 2 f . These meetings are (and should be) to basically update faculty on policies, procedural changes, etc., and I would rather have this information delivered to me in this most convenient way. I also think that if we open policy changes to discussion, the decision-making will become quite unwieldy, especially now that we have grown so much. I, for one, am happy not to be involved in policy making—for the most part. (As long as the policies and changes don’t supersede teaching or hinder the business of instruction) However, I also agree with Charlie that we need other fora for discussions that must necessarily occur among members of the ELI family. And these would be most beneficial if they are f 2 f. We keep talking about how we must alleviate the sense of aloneness our students feel and draw them into a community of learners in order to enhance their learning. I think the same is true for faculty. Those of us who teach only ELI course must also be made to feel a sense of connectedness in order for them to be most effective instructors. Blogs and online communication is wonderful (and I’m sorry I have not been participating in these as much I would have liked to), but I think we need more opportunities to ‘meet’ and share and build and learn. How about an annual Retreat?

CTE said...

Well, I hate to suggest brown bag lunches and things of that nature, but maybe one way to start is to have some fixed hours for faculty to drop in and meet someone at ELI.
I realize that your schedule is probably terrible Jennifer, but maybe some fixed hours (1) scattered throughout the week that people could always find you, but then again you might get the typical office hours phenom where you sit there and no one comes in.
One disadvantage of the current way that you have the designers set up is that the designers cannot act as conduits for information/discussion both back to you and out to the faculty.
Even if a designer was a (2) liaison for 20-25 faculty, that is better than a single director trying to relay information and respond to stuff all by yourself.
I think the blog (3) works if you remind everyone that a specific issue is set to be discussed there.
(4) Maybe you need to require faculty to meet face-to-face with someone at ELI over the course of the year. I think there are too many who don't realize and appreciate how much work goes on at ELI, the resources there and who actually works there.
(5) Consider inviting some faculty to ELI staff meetings when things are going to be discussed that will affect policy/procedures, etc. You might at least get some ideas of how to present things to faculty.

John said...

It seems there are two completely different ways to approach this issue.

On the one hand, it could be argued that as an ELI faculty, we should experience what our students do (no personal contact), and experiment with ways to keep us "happy" nonetheless. Then, through that learning process, we would become more expert at devising ways to keep our own students engaged and productive learners without access to the face to face medium.

Alternatively, one might argue that just as faculty could be invited to benefit from some limited face to face ELI activities, students could too -- e.g., noncompulsory extra programming, such as guest expert speakers on a Saturday afternoon, perhaps twice in the semester. I've thought of this with my class this semester (my first ELI experience), and all of the students happily are in the metro area. I would have the same guest speakers I invite to my in classroom sections for the same course. But as I am new at this, I'm sure there are pitfalls of which I'm not aware. (I'll be asking ELI staff about this soon).

The question I pose is simply this: Are both options I have described, which arguably frame the extremes of our possibilities, equally feasible and desirable?

Or, is there "best practice" experience in favor of one or the other direction?

Jennifer Lerner said...

Thank you for these comments, everyone... keep them coming! You are giving me great ideas.

John--you're right that we can see some parallels here to how we interact with our students. In fact, that will be a part of our theme at our professional development day Friday! I do want to take issue with one part of what you said, though--ELI students DO get personal contact. It may not be IN PERSON (although it is in some cases, as students come to lab sessions or come to in-person office hours), but they always get personal interaction with their professors to help them learn. (Any ELI faculty who do not give students personal attention are not doing their jobs.)

Your idea about involving ELI students in campus activities, like guest speakers, is a good one and many faculty do this. You can decide to invite them just in a "for your information" sort of way, or offer extra credit, or even include as part of your class requirements that students participate in a certain number of such events during the semester. (If you choose this last option, though, you will need to have a notation in the schedule of classes in advance so that students are aware that the class requires some in-person meetings, OR you will need to have alternative assignments for this part of the course expectations for students who live out of the area, cannot get off work for daytime events, are homebound, etc.).

Anonymous said...

I thought the meeting was well run, well planned and got to the point.

I enjoyed all the comments I've read here. But I want to add that I am now retired after 32 years at Annandale and now live in Delaware. I love being able to teach through ELI. But I don't relish the idea of having to come to a face to face meeting and pay for a hotel room!

Anne Guandolo