President's Teaching Scholars Program

The First Five Years

Clayton Lewis and Mary Ann Shea, Co-Directors

The President's Teaching and Learning Collaborative: Scholarship of Teaching & Learning was established as a pilot program in 2006, and then as a full program following year. In the five years since, a lot has happened, in the collaborative, and in its environment. Here are some personal reflections on some of these developments.

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning has changed its engagement with higher education.

PTLC was inspired by the activities of the Carnegie Foundation. An influential Carnegie monograph by the late Ernest Boyer called for emphasis on the "scholarship of teaching and learning" as a way to increase the value placed on the teaching role of faculty at research universities, and the Foundation mounted a number of initiatives in support of this idea. One of these was an alliance of institutions across the country, into which CU was invited on the strength of our PTLC program. The plans for PTLC were greatly influenced by valuable assistance provided by the Foundation, especially during a visit of CU faculty with Foundation staff in Palo Alto, arranged by Mary Ann Shea. It was clear that the Carnegie name was influential in securing an initial commitment from CU, and was an important benefit for PTLC investigators.

In 2008 Foundation President Lee Shulman stepped down, and was replaced by Anthony Bryk. While no official pronouncement was made of a change of direction, the Foundation spoke through its actions by restructuring its programs aimed at higher education, to focus its efforts on the K12 system, community colleges, and community engagement. The Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CASTL), of which
PTLC was part, is no longer operating.

While the withdrawal by Carnegie isn't a good thing, it has fortunately had little impact on PTLC. Up to now administrators at CU have felt that what PTLC is doing is valuable enough to support without the visibility provided by Carnegie.

PTLC has enjoyed consistent support from the system and campus administrations.

Administration support for PTLC is divided between the campuses and the system (the system role was a requirement imposed initially by Carnegie staff, who were interested in CU as an example of a multi-campus institution whose practices could be studied.) As I've just said, this support has been steady. Under Shea's direction, PTLC has been careful to document faculty participation in detail, including especially publications. Campus administrators have recognized the value of participation by their faculty and have supported it financially.

PTLC has seen steady interest and participation.

Faculty investigators have ranged from 14 to 20 each year since the pilot year. Numbers of applicants have been somewhat higher, allowing some degree of selectivity when new investigators are added. Happily, though, candidates still have quite a good chance of being accepted.

Referrals from past participants show positive impact.

Several participants have been encouraged to apply to PTLC by colleagues who have themselves participated. This is a wonderful development; as it shows clearly that faculty who have experienced PTLC find it so valuable that they encourage others to seek the opportunity.

PTLC has made adjustments in its operation in response to feedback from participants.

The basic plan for PTLC, in which faculty investigators are supported by faculty colleagues who know something about educational research, and who understand the investigator's discipline, and the whole community gathers from time to time to report progress, and provide mutual support. Participants have repeatedly told us that they enjoy this interaction, and especially the chance to meet and work with faculty from other campuses. Participants have also told us, though, that it is difficult to take the time to get to these all-campus meetings. In response, PTLC has appointed campus PTLC faculty liaisons/coordinators who provide meeting and education research knowledge development opportunities on each campus. We're also exploring the possibility of video conferencing to permit cross-campus interaction without travel demands. And who have themselves been a published researcher, peer reviewed, in PTLC.

PTLC participants are making more progress.

Over the years participants are defining better projects, are completing them more quickly, and are publishing their results more often. We think that some of these improvements are due to changes in PTLC procedure: more structure in the application process, which itself helps candidates get off to a good start; good input from past participants acting as coaches; more recognition and use of the basic coaching principles adapted originally from Carnegie staff; attention to key bottlenecks as revealed by early experience, especially the need for an early application for human research approval; and more good examples of investigators who have made everything work, up through publication.

CU's regents have placed added focus on teaching and learning.

Recently the Board of Regents gave special recognition to the teaching role of faculty, calling for study on the campuses of how this role can be promoted. All signs are that PTLC has developed over its five-year life as a very useful program, fully aligned with CU's commitment to learning. It's been great fun being a part of it!

The Collaborative has created a new seminar design with the Anschutz Campus Teaching Scholars Program (as distinguished from the President’s Teaching Scholars Program). The plan provides seminars to Anschutz campus faculty researchers currently enrolled in the Collaborative. For example: “Searching the Literature: Pub-Med, Educational Databases, Online Repositories”, “Targeted Needs Assessment/ Introduction to Survey Design”, “Deadline for Curriculum Idea, Background and Plan for Needs Assessment”.