I have been staring at the computer screen trying to decide what to tell you about the Teaching Excellence Academy (TEA). The TEA is a four-day course design workshop held each year in April. At first, I thought I would share some interesting facts with you.
- The TEA has been completed by over 100 participants during the past eight years.
- Members of all six Faculties and all four affiliated colleges have attended.
- Each year, there are six facilitators including two TEA alumni (thus far, 10 faculty members have returned as facilitators).
- Participants include new faculty, mid-career, and senior faculty members.
Then, I thought, perhaps I could talk about what we do at the TEA. The workshop covers key topics in course design focused on creating an “aligned” course. On the first day, we explore the content and concepts of your course as well as the context in which you are teaching (e.g., class size, level, core/elective/service, TA support, other resources, etc.). Based on the content, concepts, and context, you create learning outcomes for the course on Day 2. Finally, in an aligned course, the teaching methods, learning activities, and assessments are related to these outcomes. We explore these areas on Day 3 and finish the workshop with the creation of a new course outline on Day 4, which is shared at the celebration in the afternoon of Day 4.
The challenge, however, is that sharing these facts and describing the process doesn’t capture the essence of the TEA. This is not an isolated process; instead, the morning is spent with the large group (about 15 participants) examining the theme for the day. In the afternoon, we move to our small groups (each group has five participants and two facilitators). During the small group session, the first hour is spent working on your course then we spend the rest of the afternoon sharing our plans and ideas with each other. It is this process of sharing your plan with your group that I see as the key to the TEA’s success. We stay in the same small groups throughout the workshop. These groups are diverse with respect to discipline and so rather than spending a lot of time debating whether Concept A or Concept B belongs in the course, you can focus more on the big picture. At the same time, you learn how others across campus are approaching their teaching. We learn that while our disciplines vary, the challenges and the exciting parts of teaching are very similar.
The TEA is intense. How often in our roles at the university do we have four days to focus on anything, let alone a single course? We ask you to evaluate the way you do things, question the content you include, and consider critically, why you assess students the way you do. I do not claim that this is an easy process; past participants often describe the struggles they had as they worked through this process. The scope sometimes expands beyond that single course to your other courses, or more broadly to your own teaching practices and philosophy. But it can be incredibly rewarding, particularly when you teach the revised course for the first time. As a facilitator, I can tell you that I enjoy the TEA immensely. It is such a privilege to spend four days with colleagues who care greatly about their students, their teaching, and their discipline. I hope you will consider joining us next year!
For more information on the TEA, please visit CTE’s web site.