Final Faculty Learning Community 2015 Report

When I hit publish, this will be the last blog post for this grant project. As I’ve written this report and maintained the requirements of this grant, I’ve used Ward Cunningham’s Federated Wiki and followed Mike Caulfield’s teachings on Idea Mining.

Only my collaborative journal has been with myself. I’ve also used Google Docs, paper journals, IdeaPaint, post-it notes, my friends, and the minds of my endlessly brilliant and wonderful colleagues in the eLearning Council. What follows here are my words, but they aren’t mine.

What isn’t reflected here or in the federated wiki is the lovely conversations I’ve had with teachers about what they want for professional learning. What works for them. Why they want it. How people like me can help them. How we can work together. This work, albeit cumbersome, challenging, and emotionally draining, has been incredibly rewarding. One year ago today, I could not have predicted where this grant would take my research interests, but it’s all coming together in ways that thrill me. Where I am now is only possible thanks to the legacy of people who have advocated for faculty learning communities as a grant-funded project. The legacy of people.

Let me start by quoting Jen Whetham from the email reminder about our grant reports:

We’ve already used the blog produced by Everett’s FLC, Aligning the CC Stars, as a training resource at the spring ATL.  And thanks to Alyson and Peg for openly licensing their successful application so other people can use it as a learning tool—and to Alyson for writing such a thoughtful reflection about it as well.

This is emergent work, folks, and I appreciate the creativity and innovation you have shown as we begin to explore, as a system, what Alyson calls “Communities of Practice 2.0.”  We are, as she writes, beginning to “tap into the potential of the digital space.” 

This collaborative journey to continually push the purpose and function of the FLC grants is not a linear one.  It requires imagination and pushing boundaries and stepping well outside of our comfort zones.  It requires re-reading what could be perceived as “mistakes” as the potential for new direction and expansion.  We must continue to ask questions to which there are not simple or elegant answers.

Wow. A lot of really smart people got that email. Wow. Thanks, Jen.

On a day when I was working like a madwoman to meet some deadlines and information requests, this email slowed me down. Made me think. Made me incredibly grateful. Thoughtful. Reflective. Introspective.

And that’s the purpose of these grants. Why they exist. Why they solve problems. Why I feel lucky to write this report as part of my job. Why I feel lucky.

I searched for an image on Flikr to find stars, and I found this image. It seems appropriate since my blog title “aligning the stars” can mean a variety of things. One person’s star is somebody else’s flower about to bloom. Lucky me.

Speaking of luck: I’m co-collaborating with Dr. Debra Rudder Lohe on a workshop for the New Faculty Developers Institute, and she has been incredibly patient with me. Basically, I’ve struggled with finishing our presentation materials because I have to write this report first.

Truth be told: I just want to sit down in the audience and listen to her with our attendees! She’s got some brilliant work that I will use for years to come (hopefully).

Here’s our title and blurb:

Strategic Planning for Faculty Development Centers: Sensible Approaches for Starting and Sustaining

Strategic planning can be daunting. Whether you are starting, rebuilding, re-branding, or re-visioning your faculty development center, you need sensible approaches to this important work, and no one approach is right for all contexts. The presenters of this session will draw on their own experiences and share processes and products that may guide your efforts, whether you are starting from scratch or sustaining an existing plan. You will leave with an action plan to help you develop or refine a strategic plan for your unit.

We are going to ask attendees to locate themselves on a continuum.

I’m going to identify my work with strategic planning as New/Emerging/Contested/Rebuilding. I’ll tell the story that I’ve explained along with Peg a few times on this blog, and from there, I’m willing to work on the fly based on friends I have yet to meet who will attend this workshop.

As presenters, Debie and I are on opposite ends of the spectrum, and it will be obvious by the amount of resources we will provide to our audience. She’s got a ton; I have very little. Our conversations have been incredibly insightful for me. We do have, however (I think), a really great workshop planned that I wish had popped into my life two years ago. Everything I know now is because I’ve made a lot of mistakes. Or because I didn’t know the right questions to ask.

One thing I did right stems back to career as a composition teacher–I synthesized the right sources and kept my mind open to new possibilities as I read and researched. The right sources–in this case–were the people that I know who make me smarter every time I talk to them. We sometimes call this our personal learning network in some circles. Colleagues in another circle. Mentors in another circle. Friends in another circle. The overlap of those circles is what I’m very interested in exploring. That’s the future of professional development, kids!

Let’s get to the reporting, so I can finish my part of workshop planning. It’s in a week after all (gulp). Here’s a link to the work I’m doing for the INFD and our presentation links as they currently exist. 

My final FLC report is based on the five areas I plan to present on with this workshop. Also known as the five major accomplishments of this grant process.

1. Based on our needs at EvCC, we created the first openly licensed FLC grant with the SBCTC.  I could drop the mic here and walk off stage, but I promise when I did this, I was not trying to be radical. I was merely supporting the policy about state-funded grant artifacts. Well, okay, I did have an agenda. We created the first openly licensed grant application so other people can use it as a template on how to collaborate with eLearning Departments. It’s interesting to note that I thought people would read the blog as help for writing the grant–that was my audience. The ATL workshop was a fantastic idea that I did not know about, and I’m so glad I wasn’t there in the audience! Somebody remixed and reused my work to make their lives easier. Imagine!

If I was to write one edict about what I see in the SBCTC, it would be:

Our faculty need to collaborate more with eLearning, Media Services, IT more and that connection is made possible with an instructional designer. These three departments working in their silos is a gigantic failure fraught with histories that serve nobody and nothing. In fact, the current organizational structure–as I see it at most institutions–harms teaching and learning within our system. We need to burn down most of current structure and build anew, but until somebody else agrees with me, I think these grants can justify this collaboration that you usually don’t have time for as faculty. Bring the players from these departments and ask them questions. Marc Lentini and his crew at Highline are a model for us all. Call him up, he’ll tell you how it’s done.

If you can’t make the funding work to hire an ID, use the faculty-in-residence idea from Shoreline Community College. We stole Ann Garnsey-Harter’s idea, and it’s a winner. Faculty-in-residence IDs help faculty understand the role of an ID. It’s easier to build the reputation of an ID as non-threatening to academic freedom. If you don’t know how to get started, contact me, I’ll share everything we have. I’ll introduce you to Ann.

The momentum from that ATL workshop session on FLC grants got me thinking about sharing information for professional development as a system. Systemicity at this level solves problems for a lot of people at once. I got to witness and be a part of this magic, and it was a delight. I want to see more of this kind of sharing success within our system and with our university partners.

Systemicity: it’s the future, man. Dig it.

2. If I did one thing right with this grant, it was the Unconference Teacher Think Tank. I’m not sure what shocked me more, the fact that I kept everyone on the agenda or that I was able to pull this off. This where the rubber really hit the road, and I got down to exactly what I wanted to do. And I want to do this again next year but I want to involve my university friends in the system. I’ve got big plans for this idea, but that’s for later. Let me begin by expressing my sincere gratitude to the people who came, delivered, shared, and tolerated my crazy idea.

For right now, I don’t have time to clean up our notes. They are in their nascent state in the federated wiki. I’m going to clean those up and try to write a paper on this idea. If I can’t pull that off, then I’ll blog about it. Either way, I’m not done with what we produced.

Why the Unconference Teacher Think Tank? If you are searching for a meaningful way to do a Needs Assessment at your institution about your TLC, then I suggest inviting people who you think are brilliant, ask to them to write their responses to focused questions, and be prepared to have your mind blown. I had planned to have this summary ready for this report, but then planning for the 2015-2016 budget happened and the wind, so to speak, stopped blowing my sail. For now, this bit of work is a tiny sail on the horizon I’m trying to swim back to very soon. That page along with the work I started with Lisa Chamberlin in the federated wiki is my lighthouse in the uncharted waters of the future.

3. Plan for the two R’s and embrace it: Redirection and Revision. Using the Kolb’s Learning Cycle Model, I kept a close eye on what we did by taking notes. Lots of notes. Some folks think this model is out-dated or not concrete enough for measuring learning, and I get that. But if you take into consideration the realities of working with teachers and technology, looking at Kolb’s cycle makes a bit of sense. You have the concrete experience, along with some reflective observation, while allowing time for some abstract conceptualization–all with the aim to support active experimentation. Nothing is linear, yet you can trace what’s happening thanks to Kolb’s cycle. It’s like waving a magic wand that helps you explain what you are doing when you aren’t really sure what you’re doing. Perhaps I’m a bit on the constructivist side of the interpretation here, but we think, feel, do, and reflect in real life–it only makes sense to bring that style of familiar thinking into the classroom.

4. We settled on a name. In the midst of trying to justify the work we are doing, we needed to give it a title. I tore up the Internet looking for names that I liked. We were tasked to bring three names and then we would vote. Peg and Jeanne liked one of my ideas. We are going to steal Debie’s name which I hope she finds as an honor. Our TLC will now be EvCC’s Center for Transformative Teaching & Learning. We don’t have an actual space nor do we have all of the pieces put together, but we’re getting there. I see this name as part of the legacy that Peg and Jeanne have created at EvCC. I’ve just been really lucky to be at the table–while my two deanly geniuses work on the logistics of institutionalizing this idea.

My role will be to figure out how educational technology fits into this “Center” and I shared Dr. Rolin Moe’s killer use of WordPress to showcase Ed Tech. and faculty. They liked it, and I’m sure I heard the wings of ten thousand butterflies somewhere.

We were going with Center for Instructional Innovation and Advancement, so I need to revise this chart below for EvCC’s Center for Transformative Teaching & Learning.

Thank you, Western Washington University for the idea we almost used!

What follows is the work of Jeanne Leader who collaborated with Peg and I to write this summary for our VPI and the President. It helps explain how this work is connected to eLearning. It answers the question: “How is this eLearning?”

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 10.35.15 AMThis Center for Instructional Innovation and Advancement provides and promotes a coordinated effort to increase instructional excellence through faculty development. Efficient and effective program planning and delivery will only take place if this group of employees works closely together on a daily basis. The Center builds on the past success of the Teaching and Learning Cooperative with the intent of impacting instructional programs and faculty in all program areas. Looking toward the future, the Center will be located in the new Learning Resource Center which has been planned with this integrated approach in mind. When that facility is built, it will also include the other ubiquitous resources that directly support all of instruction including library services, media services, the tutoring center and the writing center.

Team Members and Roles

Program success is dependent on a high functioning team committed to a collaborative approach. Team members work together to assess needs, plan strategies, develop initiatives and then deliver activities and provide services. They may work as a whole unit on some projects (such as the annual Teaching and Learning Retreat) or in subgroups depending on the project needs (such as conference presentations or grant-funded projects).

Team members include:

  • Director of eLearning and Instructional Design – responsible for researching, planning and implementing effective practices related especially to non-traditional and innovative approaches to instructional delivery. Increased emphasis is on the use of the Canvas learning management system for all classes and technology integration.
  • Instructional Designer – responsible for providing instructional design and delivery expertise to faculty in the development and support of all coursework. The Designer evaluates, plans, and implements new and emerging teaching and learning technologies.
  • Associate Dean of Teaching and Learning – responsible for faculty development including orientation programs, faculty mentoring of senior associate candidates, pedagogy and assessment strategy workshops and initiates, IDEA student survey interpretation, Small Group Instructional Diagnosis management.
  • Dean of Arts and Learning Resources – responsible for program oversight, communication and development and coordination with IT, Media Services, the academic deans and the Executive Vice President of Instruction and Student Services.

Primary Focus of the EvCC’s Center for Transformative Teaching & Learning:

Faculty orientation

  • Introduces EvCC instructional philosophy, practice and processes. New fulltime faculty participate in a year-long cohort and new associate faculty participate in a one quarter experience.

Course design

  • Links student learning objectives and outcomes to instructional activities and assessment strategies

Technology integration

  • Emphasizes technological tools that enhance learning


  • Assists individual faculty with an emphasis based on their professional goals

Classroom design

  • Evaluates the use of physical and virtual space

Instructional resources

  • Connects faculty to the library, media services, disability services, tutoring, diversity and equity center, etc.


  • Facilitates faculty work groups and teams


  • Researches and implements new ideas and best practices


  • Pursues opportunities outside the college including other CTCs and the SBCTC


  • Celebrates faculty who are using effective or innovative instructional practices and working with them to share their experience with colleagues through presentations at conferences, webinars, etc.

Current Targeted Projects and Initiatives

Faculty Learning Communities Initiative grant (lead college – SBCTC grant with 5 Star colleges)

Title III Associate Faculty Academy

New Faculty Academy

Annual Teaching and Learning Retreat

Open Education/Alternative Textbook Committee

eCULT (eLearning Canvas Users Learning Together)

Brilliant in draft form, right? Rocking my world, Jeanne and Peg. Thanks for the fun conversations this year.

Speaking of fun:

5. I also learned I love asking people what their dreams would look like if nobody could say no. This work is a massive downer sometimes and it’s really hard. Asking people about their dreams makes sense. Try it.

When I try to explain the work that I do to people who don’t understand it, I return to a simple story involving Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. In short, Hitch used state-of-the-art technology to tell a story that’s never been told. At the time, it was terrifying, innovative, and exceptional cinema. Something nobody had ever seen. Something new, yet rooted in a history. What keeps this film a classic is not the reputation of the director nor the special effects, it’s the script. Something new, yet rooted in a history. The story. The content. The reaction of the people who watch it. Who they become after they see it. How they integrate what they experienced into their lives. Looking back on an older blog, I’ve now been using this story for almost three years (click here for more).

Someday, somebody may see this work as outdated, out of touch, or quite simply kind of out there. Should that be the case, then I hope what has taken its place is better than what we have now. And it better not have a trademark, copyright, or password. The true legacy of this work should be openly licensed. I’m reflecting on the conclusion of something that feels like it’s just starting.

And when words truly fail me, I turn to images. Here’s what Tom Gibbons said we need to create for professional development.Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 10.42.22 AM This tweet is amazing. Yes!

And whether you’re on stage, sewing the sequins on the outfits, choreographing the dance moves, or writing the music, there’s a place for us all in this work. Our students are the ones worth putting the show. Our students are worth it.

They deserve a better song and dance than what’s being delivered right now. What’s on stage right now. Sorry, I feel another edict coming on:

If you can’t do a high-kick to that tune, hepcat Daddy-O, do us all a favor. Get out of this business.

Exit stage left.

On that note: From now on, I will write exclusively (for now) on my other blog. Thank you following these posts, lovely readers.


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