Cal Poly’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) is a resource for faculty members, new and experienced, looking to improve their classroom performance. Located on the second floor of the Robert E. Kennedy Library, the center offers workshops, consultations and learning activities for faculty.
The CTL is not associated with any one college at Cal Poly. The program is funded by a variety of sources including the provost’s office, the California State University (CSU) Chancellor’s Office and Information Technology Services, said Al Liddicoat, assistant vice president for academic personnel and interim director for the CTL.
The CTL aims to supplement and aid faculty at all levels of their careers at Cal Poly, Liddicoat said.
“Our goal is to provide support for the brand new teacher to the seasoned teacher that is doing new things in the classroom,” he said. “Basically what our center is, is a place that helps and supports faculty in teaching and learning and also some professional development.”
The program began in 2000 when computer science professor and founding director of the CTL, Joseph Grimes, took charge with funding from the provost’s office. Grimes has seen the program grow significantly.
“Basically, we started out with probably around 100 to 200 people participating the first year,” he said. “Most recently we’ve had over 1,000 (yearly).”
The program provides brand new teachers and transfers with the opportunity to attend a new faculty orientation, which occurs during Week of Welcome, Grimes said. This is to learn about the Cal Poly learning environment and the university’s specific learning policies, like add/drop procedures for classes. According to Grimes, a recent survey reported that 90 percent of faculty in first five years said that this orientation helped their teaching in a significant way.
To continue its support of teachers throughout each quarter, the CTL offers workshops and lectures every Friday ranging from how to use technology in the classroom to how to make classes more effective during furloughs.
“Course Design with Technology in Mind is a workshop to explore ways to use technology to improve learning,” Liddicoat said. “It helps answer the question: How do you provide a richer environment with technology?”
Other opportunities that the CTL provides are cohort learning, when teachers get together and share teaching experiences, and faculty development workshops where skills in grant-writing and entering research communities are discussed.
Writing In Generally Every Discipline (WINGED) is another program hosted by the CTL. WINGED attempts to aid teachers in helping students read, write and think better in their classes, said English lecturer and writing proficiency exam coordinator Deborah Willhelm.
Willhelm said that one important role WINGED plays is helping teachers deal with students who may be unprepared for college-level writing. Another is helping faculty design assignments so that students know what is expected of them.
Because the program is independent of any college, they are not required to be reviewed. Yet, last year the CTL underwent a review process run by outside members from national learning centers, Liddicoat said.
“We did it just to assess the impact we had and to look at our vision for the future,” he said. “It was very complimentary and talked about a lot of positive things and the impact we’ve had on faculty.”
Grimes, CTL’s founding director said the program has done well with their limited resources through volunteer work and faculty member passion.
“I think the amount of money put into it and the results we get, that ratio is just tremendous,” he said. “We’ve done it on a minimal amount of funding. Fifty to 60 faculty volunteer every year to do workshops. The way we looked at (CTL) was and is by faculty for faculty.”