Raleigh, NC - The NC Student Success Center (NCSSC) hosted the 2017 Pathways to Learning & Success: Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Institute at NC State University on June 26-27. The two-day faculty development event was attended by 53 instructors and faculty developers from 29 colleges and 17 disciplines.
The Center’s Executive Director Roxanne Newton organized the SoTL event to share the high-impact teaching practice for community college instructors. As Newton stated, “SoTL is an evidence-based, action research practice that leads to improved student learning, faculty collaboration, and data-informed teaching practice.” Presenters from five institutions and the System Office provided insights into faculty development, data-informed teaching practices, and steps in the SoTL process.
Guest speaker Lisa Chapman, NCCCS Senior Vice President/CAO, presented the opening session, “Teaching and Learning for Student Success,” sharing her early experiences as a biology instructor, noting that she learned much from her students and peers that led to teaching improvements. Chapman also facilitated a dialogue about effective adult learning that involve students actively in relevant content and problem-solving activities.
Other SoTL presenters include Gabby McCutchen, Director, Teaching-Learning Center at Durham Technical Community College; Kelly Wisdom, English Instructor at Mitchell Community College; Chris Yockey, Coordinator of Writing Center & English-DRE at Mitchell Community College; Christie Williams, Lead Chair, Developmental Math at Central Piedmont Community College; Chris Perry, Coordinator, Instructional Design & Quality Enhancement Plan at the College of the Albemarle; and Diane Chapman, Teaching Professor and Director, Office of Faculty Development, at NC State University.
Keynote speaker Audrey Jaeger, Professor of Higher Education at NC State University, shared insights about faculty workload, learning about students, and the scholarship of teaching and learning. Jaeger emphasized the need for greater workload equity and time for community college instructors to improve their teaching practice, stating that “Student success is directly related to faculty success.”
An additional session featured Jay Martin, Associate Professor of Math, and Julia Smith, Assistant Professor of Math at Wake Technical Community College. They discussed the Math Department’s systematic use of course-level data to improve student learning outcomes. When outcomes are below 70% on a specific concept, instructors explore reasons for students’ difficulty and collaborate to develop and implement an action plan to help students learn more successfully. Martin and Smith emphasized the importance of faculty participating in collaborative learning and professional development.
Throughout the Institute, participants were engaged in small group interactions and collaborative learning about the SoTL five-step process. During each session, participants were invited to consider how SoTL could be applied in their courses and how they would work to share the process and their results with peers. Newton invited participants to stay connected with the NC Student Success Center with a planned online forum and future activities.
Attendees were provided articles, templates, and other materials to support their SoTL learning and research projects. Initial feedback from participants was positive.
As Cathy Kruska of Sandhills Community College stated in a subsequent email, “I continue to be very grateful for the time with you and colleagues. The conference was enlightening and motivational for me. In fact, I have been thinking of ideas for research non-stop since we concluded on Tuesday.”
Another participant commented, “It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to engage with so many talented and bright faculty and staff at the SoTL Institute, and I look forward to the next student success initiative.”
Brian Miller, an institutional researcher at Pitt Community College stated, “The SoTL Institute is a turning point in faculty development and action research to improve learning.”