Volume IV: What works, what matters, what lasts

Learning and Teaching Centers

March 23, 2006

What works to foster informed leadership taking responsibility at the institutional level for building and sustaining a robust undergraduate STEM learning environment for the 21st century?

This is a key question driving the design of PKAL activities supported by our current grant from NSF's Division of Undergraduate Education/Directorate for Education and Human Resources. Over the next several months, we will be working to answer that question, in the context of examining the experiences of colleges and universities involved with PKAL's Leadership Initiative.

Two emerging answers to that question, 1) "what works" with faculty, and 2) "what works" at the institutional level are explored here.

Four new PKAL essays describe institutional centers charged to engage faculty in discussions about their research and teaching that lead to strengthened student learning. These four essays, together with previously-posted essays on related topics, are the beginning of a PKAL web publication on "investing in faculty" that will continue to grow through 2007. Each essay provides ways in which institutional structures for professional growth of faculty have been shaped to meet the needs of the institution and the faculty. These essays also illustrate clearly that institutional culture has an influence on the kind of structures (policies and practices) that facilitate creative thinking about learning and teaching that engages faculty and the wider campus community.

The Journal of Higher Education (Vol. 73, No.4, pp. 435 ff.) presents a report by researchers Adrianna Kezar from the University of Southern California and Peter D. Eckel from the American Council on Education on their work in examining "The Effect of Institutional Culture on Change Strategies in Higher Education." The core strategies they identified are:

  • Senior administrative support, refers to individuals in positional leadership providing support in terms of value statements, resources or new administrative structures.
  • Collaborative leadership, defined as a process where the positional and nonpositional individuals throughout the campus are involved in the change initiative from conception to implementation.
  • Robust design, a flexible picture of the future that is clear and understandable and includes set goals and objectives related to the implementation of that picture.
  • Staff development, a set of programmatic efforts to offer opportunities for individuals to learn certain skills or knowledge related to issues associated with the change effort.
  • Visible actions, refers to advances in the change process that are noticeable.

Each of those strategies are evident in the stories presented here, about: the Learning Commons at The Colorado College; the Campus Instructional Consulting center at Indiana University at Bloomington; the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning at Princeton University; and the Center for Educational Excellence at the United States Air Force Academy.