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An Open House Instead

posted: 1.30.14 by Nedra Reynolds

Beginnings are important, including the kickoff to a new semester. Typically, as a new semester begins here, the 50+ instructors who teach WRT courses in our department all gather for a pre-semester meeting.  There is often ho-hum information to disseminate (“apply for your new parking permit” and the like), but we try to put that in a packet and use the time together to talk about teaching strategies or successes.  Last January, for example, we collected feedback about the final portfolios for our first-year writing classes and tried to sharpen a couple of learning outcomes; we also viewed a demonstration on how to manage online peer review.

It’s hugely rewarding to gather; I believe that more and more.  When Cheryl Glenn came to our Welcome Back meeting in the fall, the room was all abuzz, and that hum lasted for days.  I’m also mindful, however, that coming to campus involves a time and travel commitment that some of our instructors may find a bit burdensome.  The low wages our dedicated adjuncts earn do not include mileage allowances!  So I want the trip they make to be worthwhile.

In professional development, just as in my teaching, I’m always looking for ways to mix things up, striking a balance between routine and variety.  I want to keep things lively and not always have a meeting where announcements are followed by a group task, followed by reporting out, followed by a demonstration of some new tool or technology, followed by Q & A.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but last week, we had an Open House instead, and it seems to have been a huge hit!

People dropped in for thirty minutes or two hours; they chatted and ate and sat in small groups here and there along our corridor and in our main office, faculty offices, production lab, and seminar room. A few brought their laptops and huddled together to talk about assignments.  Others simply roamed and chatted, and we all ate (and ate!) baked goods, followed by pizza.

We had our fabulous undergraduate lab monitors on hand to help them begin a new “basic competencies” course for our campus’ course management system (Sakai).  Rather than having everyone at their own (isolated) station, we invited them all to come and hang out together while they started the process.  The lack of a formal program might not always be the way to go for professional development, but our Open House was an option we will try again.  Happy Winter semester, everyone!

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