Center for faculty development opens on campus

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Early October marked the launch of The Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, a new program at Luther designed as a place for Luther faculty to improve their pedagogical approaches in the classroom and the overall quality of students’ learning experience. The program is located in Valders 240.

Associate Professor of Art History and CELT Director Kate Elliott says while Luther faculty have always participated in development activities, this is the first time a center has been established on campus specifically for this purpose.

“We’re really trying to [listen] to faculty about where they’re finding the hurdles or obstacles in their teaching and supporting faculty in those kinds of problems,” Elliott said. “We’ve always done faculty development; we just didn’t have a home for it. It’s little bit scattered now, but now it has a home.”

Instructional Technology Librarian Holly White believes many faculty members have already displayed an interest in the CELT and the resources the center offers.

“We have a lot of faculty who are interested in what CELT is going to be and what is currently going on in CELT,” White said. “A lot of faculty members have been stopping by and proposing ideas for workshops over the summer, along with possibilities for reading groups and those kinds of things.”

Inspiration for the center was based on the presence of programs like the CELT at other institutions and was proposed by former Luther President Paula Carlson during her tenure at Luther. Assistant Professor of English and CELT Writing Director Mike Garcia believes that the center will allow Luther to get on equal footing with other institutions in terms of best approaches to faculty development.

“I think one of the best ways to think about the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching is that there are a lot of centers for learning and teaching already across the country at different colleges and universities,” Garcia said. “Part of what we’re doing here is to first try and fill the gap of not having one up to this point. Secondly, we’re looking at what other colleges and universities are doing and what the best practices are for this kind of thing and see what among those practices would work best here at Luther.”

Elliott and her support team have many plans for the future of the CELT. The faculty involved in the CELT each have an area of expertise that they may use to help other faculty members in the classroom. Faculty can come to the center with any questions directed to the person with that area of expertise, which includes Elliott, White, Garcia, Associate Professor of Religion and Director of Faculty Development Sean Burke, Professor of Physics and Associate Dean for Program and Learning Assessment Jeff Wilkerson, and Multimedia and Makerspace Lead Ahmed Muaz (‘14).

White’s area of expertise is Luther’s web-based Learning Management System KATIE. She says the CELT will offer programming to better acquaint faculty with the system so they can use a more diverse array of its features.

“We will be planning some programming with instructors who perhaps have been using KATIE for a while, but not necessarily the KATIE grade book,” White said. “This is a way for us to say, ‘Hey, maybe you’ve been scared of the grade book before, but would you like to come and spend a little time learning about what that’s all about?’ We’re also doing some workshops that are about looking at advanced features in KATIE for people who are interested in utilizing more features on [the website] but haven’t had the time or ability to sort of teach themselves. This is a space where they can come and do that.”

Elliott encourages Luther students to come to the center with suggestions and concerns they may have with the way their education is being carried out.

“The center may be faculty-oriented, but it is student- centered,” Elliot said. “Anything we do on this end really affects students on [the other] end.”

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