Extending Your Teaching Practice: Working in the Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning (CIEL)

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Learning Opportunity for Teaching Faculty Members at Vancouver Island University

VIU Job Posting Link (Open August 30 – September 26)


The Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning at Vancouver Island University (VIU) welcomes one current VIU teaching faculty member to join them in supporting faculty and students in teaching and learning endeavours. The position rotates every year or every two years and creates an opportunity for instructors to extend their teaching practice. This post shares responses to frequently-asked questions.

What is the Position?

The position is called a Curriculum, Teaching and Learning Specialist (CTLS) and it is a Vancouver Island University Faculty Association (VUIFA) position. It is posted as a temporary position for one year up to two years. VIUFA faculty, as well as British Columbia Government and Service Employee Union (BCGEU) faculty are welcome to apply. A Curriculum, Teaching and Learning Specialist is someone who assists faculty with pedagogy, teaching and learning matters. In other universities and colleges this position is called by various titles such as Teaching and Learning Consultant, Instructional Developer or Educational Developer. See this website offering a variety of educational developer position descriptions. If you’d like to learn more about educational development see the Centre’s website, “Leading in Teaching and Learning“.

Why Was the Position Created?

The position was created to provide a professional development experience for VIU faculty who are interested in supporting teaching and learning across the institution. The position was also created to embed a skilled educational developer back into the Faculties across VIU for ongoing discipline-related teaching support. There is immense value to the institution in having a VIU faculty member take on a full-time role leading ine teaching and learning. The Centre supports building a community of colleagues across the institution. The Centre has three full-time ongoing Curriculum, Teaching and Learning Specialist (CTLS) positions filled by people who came from other institutions. This fourth position is for a VIU teaching faculty member to join our team!

How Do I Leave my Current Position?

The successful faculty member would take a leave from their current position (with permission of their Dean) and join the Centre for a one year or two year period depending on what works best for both the faculty member and Centre. A two-year period is highly recommended to fully experience the role. The position would start August 1 and end the following July 31 (one year appointments) or the next July 31 (two year appointments) depending on the length of the leave. When the leave is over, the faculty member returns to their previous teaching position. The Centre’s position matches the current faculty member’s salary, as well as vacation time allotment. The scheduling of vacation time is adjusted to meet operational needs of the Centre. While on leave, the department backfills the faculty member’s teaching duties. The position is 100% in the Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning for optimal learning by the faculty member and to support the operations of the Centre. In other words, the faculty member doesn’t undertake any other VIU teaching duties during this time.

When Does the Job Posting Get Posted?

The job will always be posted in the Fall a year prior to the position starting the following August 1. The posting would go up the last week of August and remain active for four weeks into September. This gives faculty members a chance to consider the position and submit a résumé and cover letter before the Fall term gets too far underway. Shortlisting and interviews will happen in early October with the position being finalized before the end of October. The successful faculty member would begin the position the following August 1. This gives the department sufficient time to backfill the faculty member’s teaching duties and gives the Centre time to plan and organize projects and activities that align with the skills and abilities of the new staff member.

What Does the Application Process Look Like?

The job posting is posted on the VIU Human Resources website for four weeks. Applicants interested in the position are encouraged to connect with the current faculty member serving in the position. Before the posting deadline, a résumé and cover letter are submitted through the job application process managed by Human Resources. The Search Committee will require a couple of weeks to read all the applications and prepare a short list of applicants. Shortlisted applicants will be contacted for further information or  invited to an interview. Interviews will take place in the following weeks.

The interview will have two parts: a 20 – 25 minute presentation (like a mini-workshop) to the search committee along with a formal question period. The presentation and interview together could last up to three hours. The Search Committee will consider all they learned about the applicants through the interview process and choose one applicant for reference checks (including at least an immediate supervisor, plus two more who can comment on the teaching skills and abilities). During the reference check period, the dean will be consulted to ascertain his/her approval of the leave. In some cases, faculty members give their dean a heads-up earlier in the process to ensure they have approval. The Chair of the Search Committee will contact the successful applicant with the results of the reference checks. If successful, the faculty member will complete a Request for Leave form and submits to their Dean.

What Does this Position Do?

This position primarily supports faculty members with their teaching and learning requests, questions and needs. The Centre provides services and supports in the form of workshops, learning sessions, course redesign intensives, along with 1:1 consultations. We also offer events such as our bi-annual teaching and learning conference and our new faculty orientation to teaching. All Curriculum, Teaching and Learning Specialist positions work mostly in a team-based format. The position engages in effective consulting strategies to respond to faculty needs and assists with program and institutional change through large scale projects and activities.

Kathleen Bortolin, Curriculum, Teaching and Learning Specialist in the Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning wrote a 2 part post on a ‘Day in the Life of an Educational Developer’ that provides more details on the position. See Part 1 and Part 2

Marilyn Funk, Curriculum Teaching and Learning Specialist from August 2017 to July 2019 was the Centre’s first internal hire into this position and provides these thoughts:

Many faculty have asked me what I do on a daily basis and a few have assumed that the scope of this job is limited to 1:1 faculty consultations and leading or assisting with Centre run workshops. This is not the case!  Within 6 months of working in this position my electronic files tripled. This burst of megabyte use is illustrative of the wide variety of activities in which I’ve been involved. Examples include: curriculum enhancement with various departments, responding to teaching and learning questions in the context of the program review process, delivering VIU’s New Faculty Orientation to Teaching, hosting learning circles, facilitating KAIROS Blanket exercises, projects including exploring how VIU might make students into partners in the design of their learning experiences, co-presenting at a 3 different teaching and learning conferences, serving on 4 different institutional committees –as well as supporting faculty through 1 on 1 consultations and presenting various Centre run workshops. This is a rich learning environment!

What Education and Experiences Are Required for the Position?

Applicants must possess at minimum a Master’s degree in any discipline. This is required for all Curriculum, Teaching and Learning Specialists positions and is a common education requirement of most educational developers across North America. However, some applicants may have a doctorate.

Applicants must have many years of successful teaching experience at the post-secondary level in a full-teaching load supporting credit programs. Applicants may also have a mix of teaching experience in both credit and non-credit programs and with some sessional/temporary appointments. To be successful in this position, it is important to have many years of teaching experience preferably with some of those years at VIU.

The Centre is also looking for faculty members who have engaged in educational development activities. Examples may include: giving workshops for departments or doing public presentations on teaching and learning, mentoring colleagues, engaging in scholarly teaching and learning activities, leading new program or department enhancements in teaching and learning.

We are very much looking for faculty members who have undergone substantial reflection and exploration in their own teaching practice through adopting new teaching and learning strategies or implementing varied structures or supports to aid in student learning. The successful incumbent must be able to empathize and relate to faculty undergoing changes in their own practice. The applicant may or may not have a portfolio outlining their growth and development as an educator, as well as examples of enhanced learning experiences in educational development practices.

Marilyn characterizes her background like this:

When I applied for this position I had completed my Master’s, and had been teaching for 14 years. Over the last 6 years or so I’d been spending a lot of time doing professional development activities around student learning. I had just implemented a new teaching strategy, Team-Based Learning and was bouncing with excitement about how a well-designed learning sequence could bring about deep student engagement. I excitedly shared my successes in the classroom with my colleagues and ‘taught it forward’ to others when asked. I openly shared my lesson plans, assessments, course outlines and learning sequences with the two colleagues who were taking over my courses during my leave, and mentored them. If I have the tools to help someone to be successful I will share what I know.

I think that people who apply for this job should feel comfortable in the classroom and be investigating ways to improve their teaching practice, be excited about student learning, and have shared their experiences with colleagues. ‘Teaching your learning forward’ and a positive attitude toward sharing teaching materials openly, willingly mentoring colleagues, and pro-actively seeking out ways to help people to succeed are absolutely necessary for this position.

What is it Like Learning to be a Curriculum, Teaching and Learning Specialist?

Marilyn explains: There was a noticeable shift from being an ‘expert’ in my field, to me being a novice in an entirely different subject area. At times I felt like I didn’t even know the basics, such as where to find the files (articles?) that I wanted to read prior to various scheduled meeting. I learned how to work on the edges of my knowledge – everything was new – and also to be okay with myself as a novice. Learning is non-stop in this job – it’s like every day is a pro-D day. It’s a gift!

Over the past year, I’ve become more fluent with the research that supports good teaching and learning practices, and feel as though I can pinpoint why certain learning sequences work (and why others don’t). I’ve developed new competencies and perspectives on the University from serving on various committees, working with faculty and programs, and by co-presenting at different conferences. I feel like I’ve grown in so many ways, and become a part of the broader University community in a way that I hadn’t anticipated. I’m keen to share what I’ve learned!

What are the Most Significant Changes in Adjusting to this Position from a Faculty Teaching Role?

Role and Organization of Work

Some of the most significant changes include a shift in how the faculty member will undertake the role of “work”. Teaching roles have specific course times and dates when a faculty member is present and engaging in teaching duties and available for student support during office hours. There are also anticipated work schedules related to class preparation and grading activities.

Since the Centre is open year-round for faculty and student support, Centre staff work consistent hours each day (e.g., 8:30 – 4:00 pm or 9:00 – 4:30 pm) for operational reasons. Sometimes we need to work longer hours in the day according to when faculty are requiring our support or when we have a special event or experience that extends into the early or later work hours. Work takes place in structured meetings, work times or engagement in Centre-hosted events and activities. Vacation time is dispersed throughout the year rather than larger chunks in the summer months. Faculty members who want to work in the Centre may have to adjust to the more consistent nature of coming to work every day and for the full day.

Ebb and Flow of Work

The work also varies in intensity and engagement throughout the year. For example, August, September, January and May are months when the entire staff are working full days engaged with faculty and students. At other times during the year, there are quieter times for planning and preparation. The work varies and is often unpredictable. On any given day, this position may work with a trades faculty member in the morning to leading a workshop on assessment activities or engaging in a planning session for a project in the afternoon. No day is ever the same.

Collaboration, Control, and Responsive Work

Teaching is mostly an independent job with relative control over when and how you structure classes, course activities and student learning. Working in a teaching and learning centre is more uncertain and unpredictable on a day to day basis because staff respond to varied phone calls, emails and walk-in requests for support. The Centre aligns itself with VIU’s Academic Plan has a Strategic Plan that outlines objectives and learning outcomes for the next three years. Work is focused on facilitating these intentions and pivoting as needs arise or circumstances change. The Centre engages in large scale projects and initiatives that often take longer than a term. Staff work together in collaborative teams or partnerships to ensure they share strengths and provide consistency for faculty communication. An educational developer position is also reactive and responsive to immediate needs, issues, and urgent requests and as such the Centre staff frequently flex their schedules to meet priorities and situations.

Greater Depth and Breadth to Understanding VIU’s Culture

The Centre supports the entire university and its role in the post-secondary landscape in BC and beyond. Successful incumbents will need to acquire a greater awareness to VIU’s varied cultures and practices across Faculties, programs and departments. Most often the faculty member knows their own department and Faculty well. However, the Centre staff have undertaken learning experiences to respond to requests and activities across all programs and Faculties. The most effective educational developers are those who understand the people, the places and the programs and adjust their support accordingly. Gaining an understanding of the people, places and programs takes time and involves immersion in learning experiences, meetings, and conversations with Centre staff about how to effectively and efficiently support VIU and its people.

Marilyn’s thoughts: For me the trade-off of not having summers off, and working more of a “9-5” work day was worth the professional development opportunities I’ve had as a CTLS. I was at a stage in my career where I knew I ‘should’ get involved with the campus beyond my department, and by working in the Centre I’ve learned about the University through a teaching and learning lens. I’ve learned that ‘my students’ are not actually mine – they are individuals on a learning journey that encompasses the whole university and spaces beyond. Their time in my class is just a small part of that, (and my job is to help them be successful on that journey).

Over the last year I’ve also met so many wonderfully dedicated VIU employees who work on campus. Because everyone is so passionate about what they do, I feel that it’s my responsibility to actively help students to have a positive experience on campus. I have greater empathy and deep respect for everyone who works on campus – I’ve learned that we all contribute to providing a positive experience for students on their learning journey.

Advice for Potential Applicants

Marilyn’s thoughts:If you’re going to apply for this position make sure that it’s okay with your department and Dean first. Think about the role that you’re about to step into:  it’s a role of service, of being a role model, and of being supportive of all facets that make VIU an excellent teaching and learning university. This job isn’t about you or your courses, it’s bigger than that. It’s about ensuring all of our students’ experiences of learning are as positive and productive as they can be, and supporting our colleagues to ensure that they have the tools to do the same thing.

What if I have Questions or Want to Learn More?

If you have questions or want to learn more, the best person to talk to is the current incumbent in the position. You could set up a meeting to chat with that person in more depth. See name below. In addition, you could set up a time to chat with any of the other Curriculum, Teaching and Learning Specialists to gain insights into their perspectives on the field of educational development.

  • August 1, 2017 – July 31, 2019: Marilyn Funk
  • August 1, 2019  – TBD