Community colleges are diverse environments, and not just in the student body sense. Each faculty member has his or her own teaching style — and some are more current than others.
A few years ago, leaders at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) realized two things: They had faculty members who wanted to learn more about new teaching techniques that could help their students, and they had talented faculty members on staff who could share these techniques.
With help from several college departments, NOVA’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) developed an annual conference that every faculty member and adjunct instructor on all the NOVA campuses can attend for free. And attend they do: More than 800 faculty members attended last year’s Power Up your Pedagogy (PUP) conference, and more than 700 registered for the 2015 event, which took place Jan. 7 and 8.
Cindy Miller, CETL coordinator, and Robin Muse, CETL administrative assistant, gave us the details on how they put the event together.
How did PUP start? Ten years ago, Nan Peck, the former head of CETL, developed the first program with NOVA’s executive vice president, Muse says. Peck realized there was so much talent on campus and a strong need for professional development. It was further realized that the perfect time to hold such a conference is during the period of the winter break when faculty members are on campus and students aren’t. Faculty came up with proposals for what to teach each other, and conference organizers chose a NOVA campus with enough classroom space to accommodate the entire staff.
What does putting on PUP entail? The week after the PUP conference is held, the planning committee holds its first monthly meeting for the following year’s conference. Miller heads the committee, which includes representatives from IT, teaching faculty, deans, e-learning, student services, human resources and advising. In this first meeting, committee members evaluate the past conference and decide what changes need to be made for the next conference. Over the next few months, the committee decides on a theme and the tracks. This year’s tracks: Student Success, Developing an Engaging Learning Environment, and Science of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.
Once the tracks are set, in September, faculty are emailed a request for session proposals. Because the tracks are clearly explained, the faculty’s session proposals are very good, Miller says. About 70 percent of submitted proposals were accepted this year.
Popular sessions from previous years are repeated if the topic works with the current theme. For instance, leadership topics fit well in any conference. Also, a session in which all the provosts speak is always well attended because otherwise faculty never get to hear from all of the provosts at once, Miller says.
What is your biggest challenge? The hardest part of putting on PUP is taking care of the smaller details, like getting the evaluation forms and creating the room signs, Miller says. “We’re lucky to have 80 volunteers among faculty plus college IT staff who meets with us throughout the year to make the conference happen.” Making sure all the presentation technology works is vital to the program’s success.
What if a faculty member can’t attend the conference? Popular sessions are repeated on other NOVA campuses in late spring.
What has changed over the years? A few years ago, PUP added a vendor fair. The money earned from the fair pays for outside speakers. Otherwise, not much has changed. “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it,” Miller says.
What professional development options does your college offer? Tell us in the Comments.