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“FaCE Value” Highlights the Transformative Power of Collaboration

“FaCE Value” Highlights the Transformative Power of Collaboration November 14, 2011

“Collaboration is at the heart of a liberal arts education.”

That remark – made during a writing activity on the opening night of FaCE Value: Advances through Collaboration, the culminating conference of ACM’s Faculty Career Enhancement (FaCE) Project – provided a fitting summation of both the conference and the FaCE Project as a whole.

Supported by generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, FaCE has brought faculty from the 14 ACM colleges together for a wide range of cross-disciplinary conferences, workshops, and research projects during the past four years. FaCE will wrap up in 2012, with a final series of workshops and conferences.

Face Value, hosted by Colorado College on October 28-30, highlighted and synthesized the accomplishments of the FaCE Project and also looked forward toward new opportunities for consortial collaboration.

The conference participants, many of whom received FaCE grants over the past four years, were asked on that first evening to reflect on the impact of collaboration on their students and institutions, and on changes to their own teaching and scholarship as a result of their collaborative projects.

Many of their responses underscored familiar benefits, such as forging new networks, creating new models and resources, and sharing best practices. Many more responses highlighted intangible, sometimes unexpected, outcomes, including reinvigorated teaching, greater awareness of alternate approaches, informal mentoring relationships, and an openness to experimentation. The overarching narrative of the weekend was about of teaching and learning, as well as enthusiasm for the cross-institutional friendships and collaborations that FaCE has fostered.

Collaboration “refreshed my approach to the classroom”

A series of panel discussions at the conference provided a forum for grant recipients to share what they did and learned through their FaCE projects. Presenters often described improvements to their teaching and their relationship with students, reinforcing an idea stated in one of the written responses from the opening night: “This kind of collaboration really refreshed my approach to the classroom. I get new ideas that I implement in my own classes. This encourages me to be more reflective, because I am placed in a position of defending [and] justifying my coursework, assignments, readings, and assessment.”

At a panel session on “Expanding Disciplinary Boundaries,” Liz Carlin-Metz (theatre, Knox College) and Shawn Womack (drama and dance, Colorado College) talked about their FaCE project, the Performance Educators Conference. Their workshop incorporated the physical theatre work of Dijana Miloševic and Maja Mitic of Serbia’s DAH Theatre and sparked an inter-institutional and interdisciplinary discussion about integrating new approaches into theatre arts curricula.

The project “encouraged me to make my performance classes more of a workshop than a traditional acting class,” Carlin-Metz explained. “For instance, my students now have much more input regarding the direction of the class, the progress of the materials, and the conveyance of critical perspectives.… The individual courses in performance are now more integrated as a whole over four years and development benchmarks are more personally established than globally pre-set.”

Expanding networks

Presentations at the conference revealed the power of cross-institutional networking through grant-funded collaborative events, which brought together like-minded faculty from across the consortia to discuss pertinent issues.

Elizabeth Ciner (Director of Student Fellowships, Carleton College), led off a lively session on assessment by describing a collaboration among Carleton, Macalester, and St. Olaf Colleges centered on the College Learning Assessment (CLA). Visiting a faculty colleague on a different campus is like sharing different cultures, she observed. Like student experiences in study abroad programs, such collaborations across campuses can “open one’s eyes to new ways of doing things.”

During the panel session “Integrating Study Abroad into the Undergraduate Curriculum,” Betsy Brewer (Director of International Education, Beloit College) discussed her 2009 FaCE-funded workshop of the same name, which aimed to improve study abroad learning outcomes through curricular integration. Brewer’s workshop generated several promising ideas to address this goal, and audience discussion at the end of the panel revealed that the workshop had served as a catalyst to several members of the audience, sparking ideas for courses and resources that they continue to implement on their own campuses.

One attendee described how Brewer’s workshop generated a serious dialogue on campus about how to structure the study abroad programs. After attending the Integrating Study Abroad workshop, “[we] returned to our home campus, interested in implementing some of the ideas we encountered at the conference. This definitely would not have happened without the FaCE program as a catalyst.”

Looking forward

By promoting dialogue among projects, the panel sessions demonstrated that the individual projects funded through FaCE have fostered significant follow-up and transformation on ACM campuses. They also showed that there is exciting potential for future work within and across departments, disciplines, and campuses.

A set of workshop sessions on the last day of the conference developed that forward-looking perspective, as well. An overflow crowd attended a workshop on grant writing, with Paul Kuerbis (education and Director of the Crown Faculty Center and Colket Student Learning Center, Colorado College), Tess Powers (Director of Faculty Research Support, Colorado College), Leslie Gregg-Jolly (biology, Grinnell College), and Jo Beld (political science and Director, Evaluation and Assessment, St. Olaf College) offering helpful lessons from the FaCE Project about effective grant proposals and advice for grant seekers and grant writers. Lively discussions also focused on how to continue building collaboration on campuses, perhaps by sharing faculty expertise, and about integrating off-campus study into campus curricula.

A fourth group worked on building out the repository for FaCE Project resources on the Science Education Resource Center (SERC) website [link] at Carleton College. The SERC site now contains reports and teaching resources from most FaCE-funded projects, and, according to ACM Vice President John Ottenhoff promises to continue building in value to faculty long after the conclusion of FaCE. “We’re very pleased to be working with our colleagues at SERC and see the gathering of these resources on SERC as central to the success of FaCE,” Ottenhoff said.

In the conference’s wrap-up session, David Schodt (economics, St. Olaf College) urged participants to begin to take a broader view of the collaborative work that they are doing. Liberal arts colleges, he said, can be viewed as laboratories of pedagogical innovation. He challenged participants to systematically connect this work to student learning, bringing the tools of their disciplines to bear and publicizing the results. In doing so, ACM colleges can tell more effective stories about the unique nature of liberal arts colleges.

• Faculty Career Enhancement (FaCE) Project
• FaCE calendar of events
• ACM/FaCE Project resources on the SERC website
• FaCE Value: Advances through Collaboration conference webpage
• The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

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