3 Questions about CTLs and Organizational Change

On language, discussions, and communities of practice.

March 28, 2016

"My suspicion is that learning people spend too much time debating constructivist theory and Bloom’s Taxonomy, and too little time learning about organizational change." 

"My suspicion is that this is a remarkably superficial and inaccurate picture of what faculty developers and Centers for Teaching and Learning do. The middle letter of our professional organization's acronym-POD-stands for "organizational." As in, we are both Professional and Organizational developers. All around the country, in institutions of all types, faculty developers are engaging in exactly the type of conversations surrounding organizational change that are alluded to here.

If you look at the conference program for POD's annual meeting, for example, you'll find it littered with sessions on faculty developers' roles in institutional change and strategic planning/conversations. That's just one way in which a little bit of assumption-testing and research can get us past sound-bite evidence and into a real conversation about the nature of organizational development in academia".

Kevin Gannon, commenting on my post (3/27/16) 8 Ways to Read ‘Leading Change’ as a Higher Ed Book.

First, I want to say thank you to Kevin for engaging in this space. My best days are when I’m wrong - as being wrong is a great way to learn something new. 

So thank you to Kevin.

The question that I’m asking is if CTLs (Centers for Teaching and Learning) can be at the forefront of leading organizational change?

The fact that I’m asking this question mostly shows, as Kevin points out, my "remarkably superficial and inaccurate picture of what faculty developers and Centers for Teaching and Learning do.” I am relatively new to the CTL world, having come over first from teaching, academic computing, and online learning.

Clearly I have more questions than answers, and less knowledge than more about the CTL space.  So let me ask some questions:

Question 1 - On Language and Definitions: What is the right language to use when talking about the work of CTLs?

The work of Centers for Teaching and Learning seems to encompass many elements. 

  • CTLs create a community of practice for campus educators. 
  • CTLs host convenings,  gatherings, workshops, institutes, and training sessions. 
  • CTLs provide one-on-one coaching and advice for faculty.  CTLs provide community, educational opportunities, and support for graduate students and postdocs. 
  • CTLs are involved in assessment, institutional research and evaluation efforts.
  • CTLs collaborate with faculty on the scholarship of teaching and learning (SOTL). 
  • CTLs have taken on responsibilities around experiential and digital learning initiatives. 
  • From what Kevin tells us, CTLs are also involved in organizational change and academic transformation efforts. 

I’m sure I am only covering a fraction of what CTLs do. 

How can we talk about Centers for Teaching and Learning in ways that capture all the work going on in these units?

What sort of language can we use that captures the learning, educational, digital, experiential, assessment, and leadership work that is going on at CTLs? 

How do we place describe the shifts in organizational structure where CTLs are taking on more institutional responsibilities and bigger campus roles?

Are the organizational shifts towards more roles for CTL units (such as instructional design, digital learning, innovation and R&D, and strategic change leadership) widespread across higher ed? 

How do our colleagues on campus - as well as the larger academic world - understand (or misunderstand) the work of the CTL?

Question 2 - On Organizational Change:  How are CTL leaders participating in campus and national discussions of academic transformation?

This is really a question about the participation of CTL people at campus leadership tables. 

Are the leaders of CTLs also leading campus organizational change efforts? Are big questions about academic transformation occurring with the CTL? 

How does a background in learning theory, instructional design, assessment, and the scholarship of teaching and learning impact one’s ability to carve out a leadership role in strategic change? 

Do the goals of a CTL person - a learning person - for academic transformation differ from those of academics from other disciplines? 

How can members of CTLs who are incredibly busy doing all the daily operational work of the unit carve out the time - and create the influence - to participate in strategic institutional questions?

Question 3 - Professional Organizations and Communities of Practice:  Where are the discussions of organizational change and academic transformation from a CTL (a learning) lens occurring?

In Kevin’s comment, he makes the case that the big discussions of organizational change and academic transformation are going on at POD.  Is everyone in agreement? 

The challenges that I have had in coming from the edtech world is that:  a) the number of conferences one can attend are limited, and b) POD seems to take place right around lots of edtech conferences.  

Is it the case that those of us with digital learning backgrounds who work in CTLs should stop going to the edtech conferences, and start going to POD? 

Who else besides CTL people go to POD?  Where are meetings occurring where academics from the CTL world are leading strategic discussions with those outside of CTLs?

What other questions should we be asking about organizational change, academic transformation, and the world of Centers for Teaching and Learning?

Do you see strategic leadership for non-incremental academic change emerging from the CTL world?

A quick note - a good resource that tries to answer some of these questions is MJ Bishop's and Anne Keehn's 2015 report, Teaching and Learning Centers' Evolving Transformation Role: National Survey Results.



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