“At AU, we emphasize teaching and scholarship, and we need faculty to comfortably wear two hats,” says Professor Kiho Kim, who serves as executive director of American University’s Center for Teaching, Research and Learning (CTRL).
The ability to wear multiple hats has likely never been more relevant for faculty. But that’s exactly why CTRL exists—to help faculty excel as educators throughout their careers.
When COVID-19 halted AU’s in-person classes last spring, a key priority was for faculty to support their students during the transition. Likewise, CTRL’s key priority was to support faculty as they reached for another hat. In the early stages, that meant providing technical support as students and faculty adjusted to new systems and new methodologies. Over the last few months, CTRL has been hard at work on another part of virtual teaching— instructional design and pedagogy.
“We’ve really focused on exploring how we engage with our students in the online space, how we ensure we’re teaching in an inclusive online space,” says Kim.
But inclusive teaching is not a new priority for CTRL. Before the pandemic, inclusive pedagogy—teaching to all students—was already a main area of focus.
“We strive to understand the diverse experiences and situations of our students, and to make our content and classrooms accessible to all individuals, whether it’s because of learning disabilities or lived experiences, and even tackling microaggressions—that focus really hasn’t changed,” says Kim.
What has changed is CTRL’s own approach to teaching and getting information to faculty, as most of the center’s workshops used to take place in person. CTRL now offers everything online, with positive results.
“We’re getting more people in our online workshops than we had been in person,” says Kim. In the 2019-20 academic year, CTRL offered an additional 51 workshops than the previous year, and more than doubled its number of faculty participants.
The center’s mission, however, isn’t simply offering workshops and ensuring faculty are aware of best practices. Kim says that CTRL filters large amounts of information and data through AU’s cultural lens, then develops resources specifically for AU’s faculty.
A recent example is the July workshop, “Incoming First-Year Students in the Time of COVID,” which featured Jeremy Lowe from AU’s Office of Enrollment and government professor James Quirk. In the workshop, faculty examined the make-up of AU’s incoming class, as well as survey results from college-bound seniors who were asked what they might want during a virtual first semester of college. The latter is the reason the workshop was developed—a faculty member whose own son is heading off to college wanted to know what other students were thinking about, so he brought the idea to Kim.
The session featured information from College Board’s Landscape, a system that anonymously collects information about neighborhoods where students attended high school and factors that impact the educational experience, including locale, class size, test scores, income levels, and housing stability.
“It’s a very nuanced interpretation of data about the lived experiences of different students, so that we know what to consider as we create a more inclusive classroom space,” Kim explains.
CTRL has (in one form or another) been a part of AU for 25 years; a sign of AU’s commitment to the teacher-scholar ideal. Not all colleges or universities have an in-house resource like CTRL, and if that’s the case, they often rely on external training. But the impact of a dedicated space like CTRL goes far beyond faculty or skill development.
“Ultimately, whatever we do at CTRL, our end goal is to enhance the student experience,” Kim explains. “AU’s faculty are hands-on…and we are here to help them thrive, so that students thrive.”
For more information about AU’s Center for Teaching, Research and Learning, visit: american.edu/ctrl
If you'd like to support AU’s faculty, please consider a gift to CTRL.Your gift helps the center provide workshops, trainings, research support, and more. GIVE TODAY.