The future is in your hands.

The future is in your hands
A visioning session of the 3M Council of National Teaching Fellows

How it will work

There are four stations in the different corners of the room for each of the four themes that came out of the survey. At each station will be a member of the executive who will act as a scribe for the discussions, and a copy of the results from the survey that pertain to that topic. After about 20 or 30 minutes everyone will switch and choose another of the topics for a second round of discussion.

Results of the survey of the 3M fellows

Focus groups

Communications (Jon)

Communication sits on top of the other three areas the fellows expressed an interest in because mentorship, Advocacy and Pedagogical Innovation all require a communication strategy. In the discussion with the Fellows there was a general agreement that one email or similar form of communication each month was adequate. Although communiques and emails were seen as appropriate they were often long and set aside when they arrive. There could be an advantage to sending out headlines, or teasers RSS feeds that link directly to the full set of information. Underlying any and communication strategies is an upgrade to the web site itself. No one was interested in using alternative strategies such as twitter, facebook etc as a means of communication. The value of Linked-In was also discussed and that Fellows should be encouraged to add their profiles to it. To enhance communication between the Fellows the new web site will include a dynamic database including, among other things, contact information and areas of pedagogical expertise for each of the Fellows.

Message that we are communicating will be different depending on who are target group is. We discussed the concept of a speakers list that would be useful. A large number of the 3M Fellows are Administrators annually communicate directly to the administrators of universities on activities through this group. Communication between Fellows might be better if there were smaller groups, regional or chapters, and that this type of communication could be assisted in some way. At the level of the public – what is our national message that would be distinct and different from STLHE at the national level?


Mentorship (Ron M)

IMG_4391_resizedFirst issue was the language and implications that surround the terms mentoring and mentorship. They invoke the idea of expert and novice and this is contrary how we would like any initiative by the fellows to be. There is a need to find a better term to define this. Networking, peer conversations… Against this issue of terminology is part of the reality of how “mentoring” is done in many institutions. From enforced (assigned mentor) to something the approaches more what we need, an informal organic and more natural process.

The question was: What is the appropriate context for 3M fellows to participate? All too often there is a theme of “repair people” and fix broken places and this isn’t really appropriate. If we are in favour of these improvement models associated with mentorship how do we do that without treading on toes of teaching development centres, for example, that are mandated to do this type of work. Maybe the database of 3M Fellows should include an inventory of these different mentoring strategies and how they are used by the Fellows.

Within that context a resource, and identified experts, for a range of possibilities for what mentorship could involve might help break this concept of enforced and/or fixing. Example a BBQ of first time profs who then becoming a cohort that worked together after the get together. The Fellowship should consider making a list of mentorship strategies, who is willing to participate, and how they would fit into this range of mentorship styles and strategies What form should they take? Ted Talks or Utubes as a resource? The possibility of being more actively involved with our counterparts in the secondary school system was also discussed.


Pedagogical Innovation (Elizabeth)

IMG_4384_resizedStarted with the umbrella of communication and how it can be used to showcase innovation. Does excellence in pedagogy underlie all of these areas – advocacy, mentorship, and communication? There was a discussion of the term innovation and do we really know something more than anyone else? Is there really anything new in what we do?

Instead of ourselves as mouthpieces we should the people who are doing the great things and bring them together for other to see. Perhaps a 3M Fellows speakers’ tour to other universities and institutions would be appropriate. Is there a possible role for the 3M Fellows to help students make their transition to university? How do we find ways to get the people that normally don’t talk about pedagogy to do so? Should 3M fellows be keynote speakers to disseminate this innovation? Use interdisciplinary focus where 3M’s participate to break out of the bounds of the discipline. What a university says a teacher does and what a 3M fellow does and how do we know what is effective? These are not new issues and maybe there are things to learn what has happened in the past on disseminating innovation. What, as a 3M Fellow, that makes us different and this is the message that we should be sending out? Maybe we are not the experts, but that we are the only ones that are willing to talk and discuss this?  


Advocacy (Esther)

Group developed a framework that surrounded three basic considerations. The first is what do we mean by advocacy compared to promotion? The survey mixed the two and it is important we decide whether we will be doing one or both. What would advocacy entail and what will the message be and how will we know if or message has been revived and acted on. Finally what methods are appropriate?

Important to distinguish between advocacy and promotion and how advocacy has a political component and involves a grassroots level of participation. Discussion followed on what it would entail within an institution to make teaching count in institutional process. At the public any advocacy initiative should influence the general conversation of the value under the increasing attacks on university teaching. At the systemic level across institutions what could be done? An example may be to examine the quality of the assessment of teaching. Scope for the 3M Council – caution be careful where are advocacy to not be seen as self-serving but there is a great opportunity to bring the award to the national perspective but have to see what does 3M and STLHE do and how or do they overlap. As a first step, a plan and strategy for “advocacy” needs to be developed by the Executive and it became clear from the group’s discussion that the topic is very broad. Before anything meaningful can be done, a manageable area of focus needs to be carved out that identified what is the highest priority and what is manageable and realistic.

Ideas About What Needs to Conveyed Through Advocacy and/or Promotion:

  • importance of teaching
  • how to value teaching institutionally
  • that great teaching is provided in our institutions
  • how to assess the quality of teaching
  • meaningful criteria/standards for good teaching (characteristics of good teachers)
  • effects/benefits of good teachers

 IMG_4382_resizedWhat Can Be Done at the Micro Level – Within Institutions?

  • build awareness about the value of teaching: showcasing, stories
  • change the narrative about what’s important in universities
  • have teaching count in tenure and promotion processes
  • have teaching considered in hiring processes
  • Project for 3M Exec could be to provide tools/support for individual faculty and administrators to become active at the micro level
  • Revive the “Making Teaching Count” material that was produced some years ago (Ron Smith; Pat Rogers)
  • The key at this level is to support/empower individuals to become grass-roots advocates themselves

What Can Be Done in the General Public Arena?

  • Construct a narrative about good teaching; get out stories about good teachers – counter-narrative to public critique of quality of uniuversity teaching
  • work through small-scale local media: provide content (stories about students/teachers relevant to particular localities)
  • provide feature stories about good teaching to alumni newsletters
  • profile the story of the founder of the 3M company who credits his own experience with good teachers, and the reason for the 3M Award – he was grateful for his university education

What Can Be Done at the Level of the Post-Secondary System? How Can the 3M Council Advance Policy Around Assessing the Quality of Teaching in a Quality Assurance Context?

  • There is an opportunity for the 3M Council to bring a national voice/perspective regarding the quality of teaching to a provincially controlled system
  • propose quality standards/criteria for teaching in the context of “quality assurance” processers
  • develop “industry standards” for quality teaching
  • develop criteria for what it takes to get an “A” for teaching
  • seek involvement in accreditation of University Teachers

In conclusion

IMG_4383_resizedElizabeth concluded with her thanks to everyone that attended and shared some thoughts on future scenarios:

  • Every Canadian knows what the 3M Fellowship is what it means and all university professors aspire to being one.
  • Attaining a 3M Fellowship helps to pave the way to a full professor with the same gravitas as Research Productivity
  • 3M Fellows meet with award winning teachers from other countries to share experiences and advocate for the importance of teaching in the world’s universities.
  • 3M Fellows from different disciplines come together to teach a team taught course across their universities through the use of Technology.
  • Struggling professors and instructors would be able to access a 3M Fellow for guidance and support.
  • A letter from a 3M Fellow to an editor of a newspaper gets noticed. We get the message out about the wonderful teaching at our universities
  • 3M Fellows get together in smaller groups to relive the magic of Montebello/Banff and develop projects.