by Liesel Knaack, Director, Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning, VIU

Thinkstock Photo part of VIU license

Thinkstock Photo part of VIU license

Many times people ask me, “What do you do”?

I often say, “I help faculty be successful in the classroom with their teaching and to assist with student learning.”

After I describe my job a bit more, I soon realize I do much more than this. I try to use a more generic term to describe what people in my profession do.

Sometimes I say I am in the ‘faculty development’ field and get confused looks back. Lately I’ve been saying I work in ‘academic development’ (a UK term for the work we do) and sometimes I’ll use the more North American term of ‘educational development’.

I like none of these titles  – they sound like I am developing someone or developing something. I am doing neither – ultimately I am helping faculty be effective teachers to enhance student learning. Looking at my calendar of appointments and activity – I soon realize why I am having a hard time describing what I do.

I just returned from the Educational Developers Caucus Conference in Calgary, Alberta. The title of the conference was “Conceptions of the Profession: How Institutional Directions Shape our Practice“.  As a profession of ‘educational developers’, we are conceptually adapting and changing to the ebb and flow of activity at a higher education institution. Centres for teaching and learning often do much more than support faculty directly through 1:1 consultations or through workshops. We do so much more.

The first session I attended entitled, “The Changing Face of Educational Development” by Deb Dawson (Western U), Lynn Taylor (U of Calgary) and Stephanie Chu (SFU), had us considering the breadth of our work. We discussed activities and initiatives we do with faculty, in programs or departments, institutionally and even externally with other universities and colleges – and then were asked us to add more to the list. Here are some examples of what we do….

….Course Development, Technology Integration, Problem Solving, Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Supporting Teaching and Learning Grants Programs, Orientations of New Faculty, Institutional Advocacy and Leadership in Teaching and Learning, Awards and Recognition, Development of Learning Outcomes, Teaching Assistant Education and Support, Strategic Planning, Committee Work, Student Preparedness Activities, Retention and Enrolment Support….

….Facilitating Change, Blended and Online Learning Course Development, Curriculum Design, Grad Student Supervision, Interdiscplinary Workshops, Unit/Program Initiatives, Community Building, Quality Assurance, Writing Grant Proposals, Copyright and Privacy, Student Affairs, Research into Practices that Assist Faculty be Successful in Teaching, Learning Spaces and Classroom Design, IT Infrastructure Advice, Learning Analytics, Institutional Research….

….Program Reviews, Teacher Observations, Resource Development, Principles of Teaching and Learning Statements, Accreditation Support, R+D on new Technologies, LMS and associated technologies administration, LMS Support…and the list goes on and on

In addition, a quick glance over the conference session titles below shows you how diverse this profession is – and why there is a changing face in educational development.

  • Utilizing the Transformative Force of Appreciative Inquiry in Education Development
  • The Pedagogy of Engagement through Imaginative Practices using Artifacts as Triggers – Simon Fraser University
  • Facilitating Cross-Disciplinary Collaborative Course Design – OCAD Unviersity
  • Blending our Practice: Using Online and Face-to-Face Methods to Engage Faculty in a One Year Professional Development Program –VIU
  • Perceptions and Indicators of an Institutional Culture that Values Teaching – McMaster, Windsor, Ryerson, Guelph, Brock, Western, Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier
  • Bridging Faculty and Institutional Priorities through Holistic Program Review – St. Mary’s University
  • Influencing the Adoption of Evidence-Based Practices: Contextual Academic Development in Practie – Dalhousie University
  • Leveging Social Media to Foster Learning – UOIT and McMaster University
  • Project Engage in Teaching at Memorial University – Memorial University
  • Rapport Building: Unearthing this Cornerstone of Educational Development – University of Saskatchewan
  • Bridging into Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Work: Challenges, Opportunities and Promises – Queen’s University
  • How are we doing? An Evaluation Framework for a Curriculum Development Team – University of Saskatchewan
  • Fraying the Edges: Changing the Fabric of the Institution, One Faculty Member at a Time – MacEwan University
  • How we Inhibit and Cross Paths: A Dialogue between Educational Development and Student Affairs – University of Saskatchwan
  • Developing an Education for Sustainability (EfS) Strategy for Post-Secondary Institutions Across Canada
  • Professional Recognition in Higher Education: Institutional Scholarship and Academic Development – University of Ulster, UK
  • Pedagogical Design of Learning Technologies in the Classroom: New and Emerging Tools for Faculty and Student Learning – VIU

So what do I say now when someone asks what I do?

I still don’t have a good title to appropriately describe our work – but I do know that our activity is diverse and integrated, yet nimble enough to adjust to institutional activity, new technologies or current initiatives across post-secondary education. This diversity and variance makes it hard to describe what I do or what my team does – but we are definitely about change!

I am a change agent, a maven and a broker in this world of higher education. I help advance a culture of teaching and learning in my institution.