How to Redesign a College-Level or Developmental Math Course Using the Emporium Model
IX. How to Address Specific Faculty Concerns
Clearly, faculty members are key to the redesign and are involved at every stage. Some issues are, however, particular to their situations such as their changing roles, responsibilities, workloads and training, all of which we address in this chapter. Some institutions are fortunate to have all instructors buy into and support the redesign, but most encounter some resistance along the way, resistance that ranges from mild to severe. Thus, we also give you some ideas about how others have dealt with faculty resistance to the new way of teaching.
Q: How does the instructor’s role change?
A: Faculty members no longer spend time grading homework or preparing and grading tests. Therefore, they can dedicate more time to helping students. The faculty role becomes one of facilitator of student learning and of guide for each student’s study in math. Instructors meet with classes either in or outside the lab, tutor students, counsel students, monitor each student’s progress and provide support and intervention as needed. Instructors may also lead small-group discussions on topics particularly difficult for groups of students.
Q: How can students possibly learn the material if we don’t teach it to them?
A: Most student learning takes place in the lab setting. The instructor role in the classroom is to guide students individually, pull concepts together and help students avoid common pitfalls rather than being the primary source of all information. You trade your role as sage-on-the-stage for tutor-in-the-trenches while students are doing their work. This is a huge adjustment for many experienced instructors and inexperienced instructors as well. As the same time, it is a very rewarding experience for instructors as reported by experienced redesign teams.
Q: If we meet in a classroom only once a week, how can we possibly teach a week’s worth of material in 50 minutes?
A: Don’t try to “teach a week’s worth of material.” For those who have a weekly class meeting, its goal is to focus students’ attention on the week’s upcoming tasks. Prior to class, the instructor should review each student’s status so that the instructor is ready to work--especially with students whose progress is lagging.
Q: Doesn’t the Emporium Model reduce the interaction between students and instructors?
A: On the contrary, there is more interaction between students and instructors than ever before, and that interaction is more meaningful, more individualized and more focused. The main reason students learn better under this model is that they are less passive and more actively involved in doing math, and they receive help based on their individual needs.
Q: What redesigned teaching load is equivalent to a traditional three-credit-hour course?
A: There is no simple answer to this question because every institution and every department has a different set of rules (policies and procedures) in regard to faculty load. Redesign will require you to revisit some of those rules because of the way that redesigned courses are structured. A teaching assignment that used to be a three-day-a-week hour-long lecture with paper assessments is now very different because the software both provides most of the lecture and automates most of the assessments.
A common assumption in higher education is that instructors spend two hours outside of class (preparing and grading) for every one spent in class. That means that a three-credit course typically requires the instructor to spend nine hours per week on the course. Because both the in-class time and the preparation and grading time are reduced in the Emporium Model, you need to reallocate instructor time accordingly. This might translate to something like two 1-hour weekly class meetings, 2 hours for preparation and review of student progress and 5 hours in the lab tutoring students each week. You will need to make decisions based on your own institutional rules and the changes you made in the redesigned course structure.
In addition, many institutions ask instructors to schedule some of their office hours in the lab, which adds to the number of hours instructors spend in the lab so that they can provide assistance for all students in the lab when they don’t have scheduled appointments with their own students.
Q: Are there tools to help instructors see how much time they are spending in the Emporium Model versus in the traditional format?
A: NCAT has developed a Scope of Effort Worksheet (see Appendix D) to help campuses document that the number of hours faculty devote to the redesigned course will be the same or fewer than those devoted to the traditional format of the course, even if class size increases or the number of sections that faculty carry increases. This is possible because the Emporium Model offloads to the technology certain tasks like grading and monitoring student progress. Explaining how this occurs and documenting the changes by using the Scope of Effort Worksheet allow redesign leaders to help others on campus understand the benefits of redesign for both students and the faculty.
Q: Who should be responsible for the course?
A: Someone needs to take overall responsibility for ensuring that the course works well, that all students have the same learning experiences and assessments, and that all course policies and procedures are implemented consistently. Make sure you have a course coordinator who can offer the necessary leadership. In smaller institutions, the department chair usually has overall responsibility for ensuring that the course works well, that all students have the same learning experiences and assessments, and that all course policies and procedures are implemented consistently. In larger institutions, a course coordinator may assume that responsibility. At the same time, it is important to emphasize teamwork and to involve others in the decision-making process. Instructors themselves are responsible for their individual sections as in the traditional format.
Q: How much training is needed for instructors?
A: Many institutions experience problems because they underestimate the degree of training—both initial and ongoing—that is required in order to implement their redesigns successfully. The new format inevitably requires very different kinds of interactions with students from those of the traditional teaching format. Developing a formal plan for initial and ongoing training of all personnel—rather than assuming they will pick up the new methods on their own—will go a long way to ensuring a successful redesign.
Instructors working in a redesigned setting for the first time need enough training to understand the new philosophy of teaching that is required because a change in the basic mindset must take place. Some people embrace this change immediately; others may have to be dragged along. Here are some tips:
Q: What should instructor training include?
A: The most important aspect of instructor training is how to “teach” in the Emporium Model because the one-on-one assistance the computer-based format requires is very different from the teaching format the instructors have used and/or experienced in the past. Instructors need to be coached in how to facilitate—and engage students in—problem solving rather than in resorting to lecturing or providing answers for students. Training should include:
Q: Do instructors need to work through the course modules?
A: It is helpful for new faculty to work through the modules. Doing so enables them to become familiar with the order in which the material is presented, grow accustomed to the wording of questions and recognize the ways the software expects answers to be entered.
Q: How often do we need to train instructors?
A: The desire to go back to old ways of doing things has to be overcome. Ongoing mandatory training of instructors is the only way to ensure that success will be achieved. All personnel need to be reminded of the policies and procedures and learn about changes in the software. We recommend holding a meeting with all experienced instructors at least once each semester to review old policies and point out any new ones.
As new faculty are brought into the course over time, it is important to help them go through the same steps of accepting a different learning model and to point out ways of creating the type of connections attributed to the traditional lecture format. We recommend holding a workshop for instructors new to redesign at the beginning of each semester and then monitoring their work throughout their initial term of working in the Emporium Model.
Q: How should we train adjunct faculty members?
A: In addition to involving adjuncts in instructor training sessions, full-time faculty need to mentor part-time faculty during the latter’s initial term of working in the Emporium Model. Although time consuming, doing so will ensure greater consistency in the redesign. Mentoring is an investment that will ensure continued success of redesign.
Q: How do we ensure ongoing consistency among instructors?
A: Even when initial training is provided for all instructors, most institutions discover inconsistencies in application of the redesign, especially during the pilot period. For example, students may be required to complete guided-lecture notes before taking a quiz, but some instructors do not monitor guided lecture note completion. Despite policies against accessing external resources during lab, some instructors allow students to listen to music with headphones, check email or use non-math-related Web resources while in the lab. Despite policies to the contrary, some instructors permit use of notes on proctored exams.
The faculty need to formulate firm rules about such matters. Faculty need to adjust to the concept that they cannot make a decision based on their individual interpretations; rather all have to follow the same rules and guidelines. If an instructor has an idea for improving student learning and/or the process, the idea should be agreed upon and used by all instructors. Because unforeseen issues arise regularly, weekly staff meetings are necessary with results recorded, published and distributed so that all faculty and staff can consistently implement those decisions. Although time-consuming, this investment ensures the continued success of redesign.
Q: How can we overcome faculty resistance to the redesign?
A: There are a number of ways to overcome faculty resistance:
It is important to remind all faculty why the redesign was undertaken. Some may argue that the college should return to the traditional, old way of offering the course, but you need to remind them that to do so would not improve the situation for students because fixing the “old way” is why the redesign began. Faculty need to be reminded of the successes other institutions have achieved and the benefits to faculty: working more closely with students who need their assistance, reducing the tedious task of grading, and so on.