Active Learning Advocate
At Century College, the overall goal of the Active Learning Advocate is to improve
teaching and learning to assure student success. To achieve that goal, we focused our
work plan on Goals I and II as indicated in the position description below. A team of six
faculty and our Chief Academic Officer developed the work plan for the Active Learning
Advocate program at the Collaboration’s Summer Institute at St. Olaf in June. We spent
five days in intensive planning sessions, where we laid the groundwork for the ALA
project so that we could begin implementing it right at the start of our fall development
days in August. This concentrated effort consisted of the team examining our campus
culture and the current status of faculty development initiatives at Century, and then
developing a position description with the goals and responsibilities of the Active
Learning Advocate. We also planned a Center for Teaching and Learning booklet to
clarify for faculty what each initiative is and how they can get involved, and we
developed programming for the August 21, 2003 faculty development day to launch the
ALA project. In addition, we sketched in the Leadership Institute training for initiative
leaders. From this solid foundation of planning, along with other training provided by
the Center for Teaching and Learning at the Office of the Chancellor, our Active
Learning Advocate program emerged and has evolved successfully over the academic
Goals and Responsibilities
Goal I: Develop and support various faculty development initiatives in a collaborative plan
to improve teaching and learning and thereby advance the movement of Century College
toward NCA Level 3 by:
Assisting all committees and individuals assigned to Center for Teaching and Learning
initiatives (listed below) in developing and implementing annual work plans, including their
vision/mission, goals, activities, and assessment.
Faculty Development Committee
Student Success Day
Teaching and Learning campus programming
Developing tools, such as a template, for the initiative leaders and committees to use in their
planning, assessment, and reporting of results.
Developing and implementing a process for training initiative leaders in effective group
leadership and process, development of goals and work plans, and use of tools for planning,
assessment, and reporting of results.
Communicating the mission, goals, work plans, activities, and results of Center for Teaching
and Learning initiatives to the college community.
Goal II: Promote active learning at Century College by:
Developing and implementing programming to assist faculty in learning about and using
active learning techniques and strategies in their teaching.
Consulting with individual faculty members and groups of faculty to support and encourage
the use of active learning techniques and strategies in their teaching.
Assisting in developing and training a group of faculty to serve as peer consultants in active
Researching and providing resources and information regarding active learning.
Communicating the goals, activities, progress, and results of the Active Learning Advocate
program to the college community.
Century’s Active Learning Advocate, Michele Neaton, along with CTL Leaders Judy
Evenson and Dorene Bruns and the other ALA team members (CAO, Dave Godderz, and
faculty Jermaine Davis, Connie Poferl, Frank Schultz, and Judy Vimont) planned these
first two activities to implement Goal I of the Active Learning Advocate’s position
“It’s All in the Circle” - August 21, 2003
The first major activity for Century’s Active Learning Advocate program was designed to
launch the project in a significant way. We did this by focusing our August 21st faculty
development day on explaining what was involved, why Century has an ALA, and the
benefits faculty would gain from the program. We tried to involve many faculty
members in the process of planning and presenting the program that day, so that we
would have ―buy in‖ from the start. There were more than forty faculty members who
contributed to writing and compiling the booklet we produced for this day to explain the
various faculty development initiatives. These faculty, plus several others, participated in
the opening skit and/or facilitated break out sessions during the day. In addition, our
college president, the CAO, and all of the academic deans were involved in planning and
presenting that day, demonstrating the commitment of our administration to the project.
Leadership Institute – September 10, 2003
This full day of training for faculty development initiative leaders was designed to
engage participants in analysis of our campus culture, and assist them in developing a
vision, goals, and a work plan for their initiative. It also provided an opportunity for the
leaders to learn about all the various initiatives in more detail, to meet the other leaders at
the same table, and to begin to coordinate their efforts in faculty development.
Additionally, it was a way to introduce the assessment and reporting process we had
planned to ensure that initiatives were accountable, and to allow us to examine faculty
development efforts at Century for continual improvement of teaching and learning to
assure student success.
The Active Learning Advocate conducted follow-up meetings with the initiative leaders
on November 4, 2003, February 11, 2004, and April 19, 2004. These meetings provided
additional opportunities for the leaders to collaborate with each other, to learn about what
makes meetings and programming successful, and to begin assessing and reporting their
efforts from the academic year.
Active Learning Workshops
Six Active Learning Workshops were offered as part of the Century College CTL’s
programming, to fulfill Goal II in the Active Learning Advocate work plan. There were
three workshops each semester, addressing various forms of active learning. These
sessions were well attended and provided an opportunity for faculty to participate as
active learners, while learning about ways to engage students in active learning. The
workshop descriptions and results follow.
Storyboarding (9-16-03) – This workshop, presented by Active Learning Advocate
Michele Neaton, asked faculty to consider if their teaching activities match course
objectives by accident or design. The technique of storyboarding was used to incorporate
the seven principles of good teaching, and faculty had an opportunity to practice applying
the concept to a current classroom lesson. There were twelve faculty members who
attended this event. Several faculty members requested that the workshop be offered
again because they could not attend at the originally scheduled time, and so we repeated
it the following week for an additional five faculty members. Feedback from attendees
indicated that they found the information valuable, and that they appreciated the
opportunity to interact with other faculty.
Managing Instructional Labs (10-08-03) – Faculty who teach and manage instructional
labs shared best practices about how to manage scheduling of equipment and students,
maintain equipment, provide for safety, and at the same time, assure that learning is
taking place. Judy Evenson, CTL Leader, facilitated the lively discussion. There were
fifteen faculty members who attended this session, and feedback indicated that they
appreciated the opportunity to discuss issues related to teaching labs, and to share best
Creating Significant Learning (11-06-03) – Michele Neaton introduced the work of Dee
Fink to faculty in this workshop by sharing the curriculum design model she had learned
about through the Active Learning Advocate training. Several other faculty had attended
a Weekend Seminar on this topic, and they also shared their insights about the model and
how it is useful in evaluating the curriculum of a course or an entire program. Ten
faculty members attended this session, and there were requests for this workshop to be
offered again. Three faculty members attended the follow-up session the next week.
Responses of the attendees were very positive, and they remarked that they intended to
use this information to review their curriculum, and in developing new courses.
Participants also requested more workshops on this topic in the future.
Learning Styles (2-04-04) - This presentation focused on identifying our preferred
learning style and how it impacts the way we teach. Michele Neaton presented an
overview of learning styles, and introduced a web site where participants took the VARK
inventory (www.vark-learn.com) and learned about their own preferences. Discussion of
the material was introspective, and the evaluations reflected a great interest in faculty
using this website as part of their teaching methodology. There were five faculty
members in attendance and the workshop was presented a second time for the ―Active
Learning/Learning Styles‖ Teaching Circle, with seven additional faculty attending.
Little Steps in Active Learning (3-02-04) - This presentation by Michele Neaton
addressed how we can make small changes in our teaching and in our classrooms to help
students become actively engaged in their learning. There were seven faculty members
in attendance, and they were ―actively learning‖ various methods of teaching. The
evaluations of this presentation were very positive, especially because of the active
participation—the emphasis was on what it was like to be an active learner. Participants
also spent time sharing active learning ideas they already use in their classrooms.
Handouts from this workshop were shared with three additional faculty members who
requested the information.
Team-Based Learning (4-08-04) - This workshop, presented by Michele Neaton,
addressed the question: What makes team-based learning different from other forms of
teaching with small groups? Again, participants were actively involved as they learned
the basics of this teaching strategy. Information from Michaelsen, Knight, and Fink’s
book, Team-Based Learning: A Transformative Use of Small Groups, and the authors’
web site: www.ou.edu/idp/teamlearning/index.htm was presented in handouts and
through exercises designed to demonstrate concepts of team-based learning. Six faculty
members attended and participated in this workshop. The feedback from the evaluations
spoke to the helpfulness of a new strategy for teaching; in that it is practical and a new
way to organize a course. One participant in the workshop has since incorporated
principles of team-based learning into her courses, and another faculty member is
working with Michele to design a course using team-based learning as the foundation of
the course curriculum. Several other faculty members also requested and received the
handouts from the workshop, even though they were not able to attend.
Chats with the President
As part of the Century College CTL programming, we regularly offer roundtable
discussions with President Larry Litecky to afford faculty the opportunity to address
teaching and learning topics with him in an informal setting. This past fall, two of those
―Chats with the President‖ focused on the question of ―What is a learning college?‖ and
whether Century is one. This allowed faculty to bring up questions and concerns they
had about the direction of faculty development at Century, and to discuss the merits of
lecture versus active learning as pedagogical techniques. The discussions were spirited,
brought the term ―active learning‖ to the forefront, and cleared up some misconceptions,
even though there was some disagreement about what makes for ―good teaching.‖
We began our efforts to develop a peer consulting program with a Teaching Circle that
dealt with the topic during fall semester. The Teaching Circle members learned about
various kinds of peer consulting, and tried out some variations of peer consulting with
other members of the group. They also conducted a survey of faculty concerning
perceptions of peer consulting, and based on survey results, developed a set of
recommendations for implementing a peer consultation program at Century. They
produced a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) sheet to alleviate some concerns that
were expressed in the survey. These Teaching Circle members had a two hour training
session with Russ Lee, from Bemidji State University, to practice peer consultation
techniques and ask questions of a veteran faculty peer consultant. Our Active Learning
Advocate participated in this Teaching Circle, and served as a resource, providing
information about peer consulting that she acquired from conferences and training
provided by the Center for Teaching and Learning at the Office of the Chancellor. She
provided books and a video, ―Opening Doors,‖ which also can be used in future training
of new faculty peer consultants. During fall semester, after the initial training and
research on peer consultation techniques, Michele began doing classroom observations
and conducting Small Group Instructional Feedback (SGIF) sessions for faculty. These
efforts expanded in the spring, when the FAQ and information about the consultation
process spread via announcements in the CTL News, at union meetings, and by word of
In addition to the more ―official‖ forms of peer consultation, Michele has been
recognized as the ―go-to‖ person concerning faculty development at Century College for
some time. As a CTL campus leader for the past six years, she has served as a continuing
resource for faculty. She regularly answers questions about faculty development in
general, regarding conferences and other workshop opportunities, as well as what funding
is available to participants. She finds information on particular aspects of teaching for
faculty, and often provides books, newletters, and online information to faculty through
our CTL collection or her own resources. In that sense, she has served as an informal
peer consultant and faculty support person prior to becoming an Active Learning
Advocate. This function has intensified this past year, and new faculty in particular,
increasingly have turned to her for support.
Besides the above programming activities to support Goals I and II, the Active Learning
Advocate maintained communication about the ALA program with the college
community, as well as in the broader context of the community of faculty developers
nationally. The Century communication efforts included producing our CTL booklet and
updating our CTL website to include all the information from the booklet. There also
were regular articles about the various faculty development initiatives, teaching tips, and
the peer consultation program in the CTL News column that appears in the weekly
Century College Bulletin, an online publication for the entire college community. In
addition, Michele made announcements at the monthly meetings of the faculty union to
keep faculty informed about what was happening with the faculty development
initiatives. She participated as an active member of the Student Academic Achievement
Committee (assessment), the Faculty Development Committee (for professional
development funds), and the Continuous Quality Improvement Task Force. She also met
regularly with the CAO, and presented information about the ALA program at a mid-year
meeting with all of the academic deans and the college president. Besides these local
communication efforts, Michele has been active in the Collaboration for the
Advancement of College Teaching and Learning. She presented information about
Century’s Active Learning Advocate program to the Collaboration’s Board at their
meeting on our campus on October 24, 2003 and wrote a column for the Collaboration’s
online newsletter in January 2004. She is serving on the Collaboration’s planning
committee for their fall conference, and will be presenting two sessions (both involving
forms of active learning) at that conference. For the Teaching for a Change conference,
―Bringing Learning to Life,‖ June 23-26 in Colorado, Michele submitted and had
accepted, a proposal for a session involving a total of five Active Learning Advocates
throughout Minnesota. They will be presenting an overview of the ALA program and
how it has been implemented on each of their campuses.
Response to our Active Learning Advocate project has been very positive over all.
Below is a summary of some specific responses and outcomes.
The August 21st faculty development day, “It’s All in the Circle” was very well received.
Faculty responses included excitement that so many opportunities were available to
Century faculty, and appreciation for all the hard work that went into producing the CTL
booklet for faculty to use as a resource. Feedback on evaluation surveys rated the days’
activities highly. In fact, all of the faculty development initiatives were viewed by
participants as "Important" or "Very Important" to the college and there were many
compliments on each break out. Very few suggestions for improvement were indicated,
although some faculty wanted more time to discuss issues, more food, and a change in
Feedback on the Leadership Institute was also very positive. The vast majority of the
participants rated the various parts of the session as ―Extremely helpful‖ and ―Very
helpful.‖ Attendees noted appreciation for the opportunity to learn about Century
College in general, and the faculty development initiatives in particular. What they
indicated was most beneficial about the day’s programming were interacting and
collaborating with each other, learning about the college culture, and having opportunity
to reflect and plan for their initiatives.
Those who attended the Active Learning Workshops enthusiastically responded to them.
On our CTL year end survey, of the 18 faculty who indicated that they had attended the
workshops, 14 indicated that they found the workshops to be ―very valuable‖ (the highest
ranking), and the remaining 4 rated the workshops as ―somewhat valuable.‖ (the middle
ranking). Below is a chart indicating the numbers of participates at each of the Active
Workshops Attendees Follow-Up Session Total
Storyboarding 12 5 17
Instructional Labs 15 not offered 15
Creating Significant Learning 10 3 13
Learning Styles 5 7 12
Little Steps in Active Learning 7 not offered 7
Team-Based Learning 6 1 7
TOTAL PARTICIPANTS 71
Many of the participants of the workshops made a point to discuss the content of the
workshops with others afterward, either informally one-on-one with other faculty or the
ALA, or at department meetings or in Teaching Circles. This led to numerous requests
for more information from the Active Learning Advocate, in the form of handouts, web
sites references, or books that faculty could check out from the CTL collection or buy for
themselves. In fact, the librarian for the CTL collection reports that the circulation of the
materials in the collection was ―way up‖ for this year.
Chats with the President were well-attended, with sometimes up to twenty-five faculty
present by the time the discussions ended. The one that produced the most ―buzz‖ on
campus was the first chat addressing ―What is a learning college?‖ There was much
lively debate about what helps students learn, and who our students at Century are. There
seemed to be some confusion about what the term ―active learning‖ means, and this was
an opportunity to address concerns some faculty had about the need to keep course
material rigorous, and not water it down with ―edu-tainment.‖ This will be an on-going
discussion as Century College continues the Active Learning Advocate project and works
to advance a culture that supports active learning and reflective practice.
Peer Consultation has evolved slowly but surely as a part of the ALA program. We laid
a firm foundation during fall semester, by using the existing structure of the Teaching
Circles to learn about the process, to develop recommendations and support for it from
faculty, and to train a group of consultants. During spring semester, we posted the FAQ
about peer consultation and the list of six available consultants on the Center for
Teaching and Learning web site. Unfortunately, it took until the middle of the semester
for this to appear, and then the ALA made the announcement at a faculty association
meeting about the availability of the program. Therefore, the participation was somewhat
limited to word-of-mouth advertising, and the faculty with whom the Active Learning
Advocate worked personally. None of the other consultants performed classroom
observations or had ―official‖ consultations (outside of the practice sessions done with
each other), although each of these consultants is viewed as a resource by other faculty,
and they frequently field questions about such topics as classroom management,
assessment or online pedagogy. Below is a list of the consultations and topics that the
ALA conducted during the academic year.
Service/Topic # of Faculty
Implementing active learning and/or related grant assistance 9
Implementing service learning 8
Classroom observations (15 conducted) 9
Small group instructional feedback sessions (10 conducted) 7
Note that some of the faculty who received consultation services in one area, sometimes
would request an additional service (i.e., after working with the ALA on an active
learning topic, the faculty member would request a classroom observation; some who had
classroom observations also requested an SGIF session).
The faculty who experienced peer consultation with the Active Learning Advocate this
year heartily endorse the program. One faculty member eagerly tells other faculty and
even his dean about the benefits he received from the process, and has again requested
classroom visits this summer. Another, who had both classroom visits and SGIF
sessions, enthusiastically asked the Active Learning Advocate to go into more detail
about what the process involves when the announcement about the availability of peer
consultation was made at a union meeting. Another faculty member, after de-briefing
for a classroom visit and SGIF session, where the ALA made a few suggestions for how
to incorporate some active learning components into a lecture, sent her a new classroom
handout he developed (based on her suggestion) and a note stating, ―See—you inspired
me!‖ Four other faculty with whom the ALA consulted this year sent personal notes and
cards expressing appreciation for the help and support given them through the
Students who have been involved in Small Group Instructional Feedback sessions have
enthusiastically participated in the process. They have provided constructive feedback
for instructors and several deliberately took the time to thank the ALA for asking them
what they think about teaching and learning at Century. Students have commented
positively on the process, and indicated that they wish other faculty would ask for
feedback. Interestingly, the feedback for instructors that students have offered closely
aligns with comments that the consultant also noted in classroom observations for those
instructors, prior to talking with the students!
Other results related to Goal I, the coordination of the faculty development initiatives,
include the following.
A work plan for each of the faculty development initiatives was submitted by the end of October,
2003. Each included a mission, goals, and activities for the year, although some work plans were
more thorough and well-developed than others.
There was an increased level of cooperation among some of the initiatives, such as the Global
Education committee and SEED working together to support and publicize one another’s efforts,
and the Assessment initiative participating in the Student Success Day programming.
For faculty, there is increased awareness and level of participation in the various initiatives, as
noted by the many questions directed to the ALA about Faculty Development Funds, Assessment
(both classroom and program), Student Success Day, E-learning, etc. Evidence in the final reports
from initiatives also recognizes increased participation by faculty.
For initiative leaders, there seems to be an eagerness to set goals and begin the process of
developing the work plan for the coming year. The ALA has had three individual summer
meetings with initiative leaders about the current status of their area of responsibility already, and
has appointments in June with several others.
The college administration views the ALA program as an opportunity to make changes to
continually improve faculty development and move initiatives forward, as demonstrated by the
inclusion of material about the ALA program in our accreditation report submitted to the Higher
Final reports from initiative leaders provide the data administration needs in order to make
changes to initiatives, such as consolidating work loads, increasing budgets, or in some cases,
eliminating or combining initiatives.
Final reports help initiative leaders and faculty participants focus on the impact of the initiatives
on student learning outcomes, emphasizing that ―Learning is Central.‖
The role of the Active Learning Advocate at Century College has turned out to be both
challenging and rewarding. It involves juggling many activities, and connecting diverse
aspects of the college. It is a huge responsibility to coordinate the various initiatives, and
to make an impact on teaching and student learning through such varied avenues.
Fortunately, there is much commitment on the part of Century faculty and administration
to be the ―Nothing But the Best.‖
The benefits of the ALA program have emerged as the program has evolved. Related to
Goal I, there has been more coordination of efforts and faculty development initiative
leaders have increased their communication with one another. This has resulted in less
duplication of efforts, more satisfaction on the part of initiative leaders, and has enabled
the college to see gaps where more needs to be done. For all faculty, there is clear and
accurate information more readily available about these initiatives. This will continue to
be available and updated as we publish our second edition of the CTL booklet, and
develop our CTL e-folio. Additionally, faculty have been encouraged to take part in
these initiatives. Their awareness about faculty development has been raised, and we
continue to build a campus culture focused on improved teaching and student learning.
For the Active Learning Advocate, the most rewarding aspect of the program has been
the achievements of Goal II. The Peer Consultation program is off to a solid start, and
the process of consultation has been gratifying for those involved. The confidentiality of
the program is assuring, we have the necessary structures and group of consultants in
place, and faculty are beginning to take advantage of the process to improve their
teaching. The Active Learning Workshops have been an energizing aspect of the ALA
programming. The workshops draw faculty who are interested and dedicated to
improving their teaching, and we have had opportunity to introduce them to a number of
different aspects of active learning, from course design to teaching labs, to little ways to
actively involve students in their learning. Faculty find these workshops valuable,
discuss the content with others, and use the information to make changes in their
All of these efforts related to the Active Learning Advocate program have enriched
Century College’s campus climate. Conversations about teaching and student learning
are common, many of our faculty participate in a number of the faculty development
initiatives, and the environment is fertile for positive change to take place. Century has
made a huge investment in its faculty and faculty development opportunities abound.
This has resulted in Century College being an exciting place for faculty to teach and for
students to learn.
Next Steps For Century
The job description and responsibilities of the Active Learning Advocate will remain
consistent with the goals originally developed for the program. Below are some specific
objectives that the ALA will work toward in the coming year.
Meet individually with each initiative leader during the summer to set goals and
develop their work plan for the coming year
Revise the reporting structure for initiative work plans and reports to better clarify
relationships of goals, activities, assessment and results.
Update the CTL booklet with current information.
Develop a detailed e-folio site, to be used as an up-to-date resource for faculty
Present two Active Learning Workshops during the summer months.
Offer peer consulting (classroom observations, SGIF, course design assistance,
implementing active learning techniques, service learning, etc.)
Plan and present the Faculty Institute with other CTL leaders, in order to focus active
learning efforts on new faculty hires.
2004-2005 Academic Year
Introduce the newly revised CTL booklet and provide an ALA update as part of our
opening day’s events.
Hold two meetings for the initiative leaders each semester, so that they can continue
to develop their work plans and coordinate their activities.
Advance efforts to acquire a designated office space for the Center for Teaching and
Learning and the Active Learning Advocate to conduct meetings and consultations.
Strengthen the peer consultation program
Publicize the program via the CTL News, announcements at union and
department meetings, flyers in faculty mailboxes, and the CTL e-folio site.
Recruit and train at least two new consultants.
Encourage new faculty to take advantage of consultations.
Continue to provide information and resources on active learning.
Offer a series of six Active Learning Workshops.
Build the e-folio site with links to useful web sites.
Present conference sessions with other Century faculty, and showcase their
efforts in the CTL News.
Research and add active learning resources to the CTL collection in the
Collaborate with other ALAs to offer more opportunities to all MnSCU
The Office of the Chancellor provided $1500 from the Bush grant to support the Active
Learning Advocate’s development and training through attendance at workshops and
conferences. The funds were used for the following.
Conference registrations (POD, the Collaboration) $515.00
POD membership 72.00
Travel (In-state) 102.64
Travel (Out-state) 998.00
The additional $167.64 was funded by Century
Century also funded food service for the Leadership Institute, which included breakfast,
lunch, and an afternoon snack, for the day’s programming at $438.09. In addition,
Century supported the printing of the CTL booklet, day-to-day duplicating costs, and
office supplies as part of the CTL budget, and which cannot be separated out from other
CTL costs. The honorarium for Russ Lee’s session with the Peer Consultation Teaching
Circle was funded as part of Century’s Teaching Circles budget.
Of the additional $1500 in programming funds from the Bush grant this spring, only
$355.20 was spent, to purchase books for the ―Active Learning/Learning Styles‖
Teaching Circle and the CTL collection. The remaining balance of $1,147.51 will be
carried over to support next year’s programming.
Agenda for fall 2003 faculty duty day
Faculty choice of initiative session
Information for all "new" faculty & adjunct
Peer Consultant list.doc