In 2014, the inaugural year of the University of Calgary’s Teaching Awards program, 18 educators were recognized for their contributions to teaching excellence at the U of C. The 2014 award winners became known as the Teaching Academy, a group of “on-the-ground” professionals who were interested in supporting the development of individual and collective teaching practices at the U of C. The Teaching Academy met for the first time in May, 2014 to discuss the identity of the group and to decide how group members would like to offer teaching and learning support. Robin Mueller, an educational development consultant and faculty member at the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, led the Teaching Academy’s development over a ten month period in alignment with an action research model of inquiry.
Within 18 months of formation, the Teaching Academy group articulated a purpose and principles of practice, designed a teaching support framework, determined objectives for each support type within the framework, and achieved pilot implementation of all three of the three support types featured within their teaching support model (see Figure 1). While the group has provided targeted support to new instructors at the U of C as part of their pilot initiatives, they have also built on the principles of inclusivity, collegiality, and interdisciplinarity by supporting teaching development, dialogue, and collaboration across a broad range of University of Calgary colleagues.
The Teaching Academy has shifted to leadership committee model of governance; the leadership committee is a working group that reflects on evaluative data, connects with U of C community members across disciplines, and leverages their own expertise to inform decision making on behalf of the Teaching Academy. Teaching Academy members contribute to various initiatives and the group’s development in an individualized and sustainable manner. Teaching Academy members are also contributing to a Taylor Institute research project that has been designed to investigate and evaluate the group’s depth, breadth, and impact of activity.
Documentation and Materials
Campus Alberta Teaching Summit – Teaching Academy highlighted as a strategic effort to foster teaching networks of practice
Teaching Academy’s Open Classroom Week
Teaching Academy’s Peer to Peer Teaching Mentorship – Expression of Interest
Assessment Strategies and Results
A research assistant is currently designing and implementing a Teaching Academy evaluation plan. The goals of the evaluation are to assess the effectiveness of Teaching Academy initiatives, and to determine the most effective structure for engaging Teaching Academy members in a manageable and sustainable way.
An Open Classroom Week research project is also being conducted by Robin Mueller (Taylor Institute faculty) and Meadow Schroeder (Teaching Academy member). The project has been designed to assess the learning and teaching development benefits of participating as an observer during Open Classroom Week.
Reflection and Impact
The Teaching Academy contributes in a unique way to both the practice and scholarship of teaching and learning at the University of Calgary.
Current research regarding teaching awards programs in higher education clearly indicates the purpose of awards, but does not extend our understanding beyond the offer of the award to determining how winners continue to support teaching development on their campuses. The Teaching Academy contributes to this gap in understanding by providing a practical model for engaging teaching award winners in a sustained influence on campus-wide teaching development. The Teaching Academy also serves as a mechanism to forge, develop, and foster teaching networks of practice at the University of Calgary. Networks of practice have been theoretically conceptualized in higher education, but the Teaching Academy offers a specific case example of networks in action. The interdisiciplinary nature of the University of Calgary Teaching Awards program ensures that teaching networks of practice mobilized by Teaching Academy members continue to create capacity for teaching development across disciplines and the campus as a whole.
The Teaching Academy will move forward by shifting to a leadership committee model of operation, in order to ensure that Teaching Academy members have the opportunity to contribute to the development of the group in ways that are meaningful and sustainable. The three support types offered by the Teaching Academy will continue to be refined by leadership committee members, and will be assessed on an ongoing basis.
ePortfolio post author: Robin Alison Mueller