Leadership and managing change are two of the most pressing concerns POD Network Members face in their institutions and in the educational development profession. We believe that these two concepts, leadership and change, are naturally intertwined and combined them to form the 2018 conference theme.
Sessions addressing this theme considered the questions: Where in higher education is change already happening? And where is change needed but not happening—or not happening quickly enough? What kind of professional development do we need to become the leaders who are successful in navigating the changes on the horizon?
Sessions addressed leadership and change at all levels, including changes in student learning needs, individual instructor teaching practices, institutional organizational changes, and national and international level discussions about the current state and future of higher education. Addressing these levels required the consideration of a range of leadership initiatives, including leading individual instructors, leading teaching initiatives, leading centers of teaching and learning, leading campus and other organizational initiatives, and leading in the broader space of higher education as advocates and thought leaders. Furthermore, we believe that considering multiple facets of diversity and inclusion is essential when considering the types of changes on the horizon that will require our leadership.
While not an exhaustive list, we submitted the following issues that were on the horizon of the higher education landscape as ideas and perhaps sources of inspiration that presenters might consider addressing during conference sessions.
- Leading changes in various pressing issues in higher education:
- College Completion and Affordability: In Derek Bok’s recent book, The Struggle to Reform Our Colleges, he draws attention to the fact that in the United States, the percentage of young adults earning college degrees has fallen in the last decade as compared to the rate of college completion in other countries. Furthermore, It is not just an issue that the overall rate has fallen. Inequality has risen. The gap between the children of white families and the children of black and Latino families earning bachelor’s degrees is over 20 percentage points. The gap between children of high income and low income families is even larger at over 40%. And for those who do finish their undergraduate degrees (regardless of identity), they are lagging behind their peers in other countries on international tests of basic skills, creating a problem for their employers, and disappointment in the weak value of their degrees. He argues that improving the quality of education for all requires a responsive, well-designed curriculum taught by instructors well equipped with teaching methods that help students learn. Relevantly, in their 2017 report, Instructional Quality, Student Outcomes, and Institutional Finances, the American Council on Education found that there are links between educational development, college completion and college affordability. “The more a faculty member participated in development programs, the more her teaching and the outcomes of her students improved. Moreover, faculty participation in development had long-term impacts on student learning; students of participating faculty continued to demonstrate increased learning over time.” How are we leading educational development initiatives that address improvement in equitable college completion and college affordability?
- Broadening Demographics of our Student Populations: We continue to see a broadening of the demographic characteristics of the student populations that attend our institutions. Young, traditional-age students are enrolling in college alongside older generations, including increasingly larger populations of adult learners. Within these populations, we have veterans, students with disabilities, students from marginalized identity groups, international students, and others. How can educational development play a leadership role in making learning accessible to all of these different populations?
- Changing threats to teaching and learning in a politically fraught time: Leading the charge to maintain and strengthen higher education as a space where diversity and inclusion are intentionally cultivated as a value is more important than ever in the face of exclusionary attitudes and practices emanating in culture today. The POD Network has reaffirmed our commitment to the values of inclusion, diverse perspectives, advocacy and social justice, and respect/ethical practices and made it one of our goals to act on our commitment to inclusion and diversity. How can educational development generate inclusive leadership that amplifies the voices of those who are marginalized and equips and empowers all of our constituents to create learning spaces that are truly welcoming to all?
- Leading changes in teaching practice:
- Changing accessibility needs in the age of digital learning: In the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiatives’ Survey, The 2018 Key Issues in Teaching and Learning, accessibility and universal design for learning ranked as the second most pressing concern. This is especially crucial as digital learning practices become more and more ubiquitous, requiring institutions to be vigilant in protecting practices that make learning broadly accessible lest these fall by the wayside in the rush to innovate with new digital learning technologies. How can educational developers play a leadership role in advocating for accessibility and universal design for learning?
- Implementing evidence-based teaching practices: Supporting instructors in implementing evidence-based teaching practices has long been a central concern of our field, yet it is still just as pressing today as ever. In Progress Toward Achieving Systematic Change, the Association of American Universities laid out a framework for supporting research universities in helping faculty implement evidence-based teaching practices that have been demonstrated to most effectively engage and help students learn. The framework they propose calls for identifying successful approaches for training, recognizing and rewarding faculty members who want to improve the quality and effectiveness of their STEM teaching. The aim is to improve teaching practice at individual institutions as well as to lift up institutions of higher education in general by sharing information about promising and effective STEM education programs, approaches, methods, and pedagogies. How can educational development continue to lead efforts for widespread adoption of evidence-based teaching practices across all disciplines?
- Changes related to the profession of educational development and our capacity to lead organizational change:
- Professionalizing Educational Development: Educational development is changing and maturing as a profession. According to the 2017 American Council on Education Report, Institutional Commitment to Teaching Excellence: Assessing the Impacts and Outcomes of Faculty Development, “Faculty development is at a juncture where expounding a defined body of knowledge, formal pathways to the profession, and consensus on what constitutes research in this area can take the field forward” (p. 57). How are centers for teaching and learning and educational developers professionalizing the field through defining a domain of essential knowledge and skills, forming pathways to the profession, and establishing an agenda for credible research? How do we lead the profession of educational development forward through these changes?
- Influencing Institutional Culture: The authors of Institutional Commitment (2017) also say, “The synergy between faculty, faculty development, and student learning can drive institutional culture in promising ways” (p. 55). How do educational developers lead as change agents on campuses? How do we create synergy among students, faculty and administration to promote change? How do we enlarge our influence as major players on our campuses?
- Advocacy and Thought Leadership: The POD Network and the Network of STEM Education Centers recently responded to The American Academy of Arts & Sciences Report (The Future of Undergraduate Education, 2017) to supplement its findings by emphasizing the importance of Centers for Teaching and Learning and STEM Education Centers in contributing to the mission of undergraduate education. How do the POD Network and its membership step forward as advocates and thought leaders to shape the vision of the centrality of teaching and learning in higher education? How do we advocate for the benefit of Centers for Teaching and Learning in an era of institutional fiscal concern?