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Have They Kept Doing It?

Sustaining Faculty Change in a Learning-based Course-Design Initiative

(for the handout distributed at the Sydney Conference click here)

Summary: The 4x4 Initiative at the University of Washington has for three years been introducing faculty to learning-based practice through a year-long seminar promoting writing-integrated course design. This paper reports on an assessment of the significant long-term success this program’s first cohort has had in extending and sustaining the changes in practice first initiated in 4x4 workshops.

Abstract: A persistent problem with faculty development is that of actually sustaining any change of practice faculty are urged to adopt. Perhaps especially at institutions where teaching competes with research and is thus only fitfully valued, teaching practices do not change easily. For the past three years the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington has been promoting new teaching practices through an initiative that introduces clusters of faculty to learning-based teaching through a year-long seminar promoting writing-integrated course instruction. This year we have run an assessment of the program’s long term effects; we asked members of the 2004-5 cohort to participate in a “Two Years Later Initiative” designed to learn and document whether changes begun during the workshop year had been sustained and/or developed. This assessment had two dimensions: course mini-portfolios written by approximately one half of the 15 member group, and interviews conducted with the others. This paper explains and illustrates our findings that the overwhelming majority of participants had indeed sustained the changes introduced in their first year’s work, had extended newly acquired practices to other courses, and had refined and even intensified their learning-based course designs. The primary motive for maintaining and extending this work was participants’ palpable sense that their students were learning more, more deeply, and with significantly greater engagement and pleasure in doing so. This paper reports on what specific techniques they adopted, and how participants felt these writing-linked techniques had transformed their classroom teaching.