Teaching and Learning Center Planned to Support Faculty

Dickinson plans to create a Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning, and Research (CETLR) to support faculty in their research and teaching practices, according to the 2023 Strategic Plan released on March 10. This new center will primarily serve faculty and assist them in adapting and reviewing their teaching to be more responsive and inclusive. According to Provost Neil Weissman, “Dickinson has been very dynamic in advancing pedagogy and meeting the needs of our students,” and must work to meet those rapidly-changing needs, particularly coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Noreen Lape, Director of the Writing Program and Associate Provost of Academic Affairs, championed the creation of such a center at Dickinson for the past 12 years, and is at the center of its proposal in the new Strategic Plan.

The idea for the Center originated from a summer study workshop on inclusive pedagogies that Lape participated in, which resulted in 66 faculty members signing a letter agreeing that such a Center should be considered for the strategic plan. Lape said that much of her personal investment in the project comes from her own journey as a professor attempting to navigate student learning and understand how she can best support students. 

Until now, faculty development at Dickinson has mostly been decentralized and department-based, but Lape hopes that the CETLR will provide more developmental resources for all faculty and centralize faculty development. It will promote interdisciplinary connection, and help faculty be unified in their response to new issues that pop up in the realm of teaching — most recently, Lape said, the use of generative AI systems, such as ChatGPT in writing.

The CETLR hopes to promote the liberal arts education, which promises an excellent teaching and learning experience. Though there are already organizations at Dickinson that promote these ideas — the Writing Center, QR Center and SOAR, for example — the CETLR will provide faculty with resources to facilitate their own success.

Lape envisions that the CETLR will build an interdisciplinary faculty community centered around problem-based learning that will help professors integrate new technologies and learning techniques.

This will help them support first-generation and underrepresented students, and promote inclusive, equitable and diverse pedagogies, as well as a more open mindset among faculty to better support students in the classroom. Because the demographics of the student body are always changing, the CETLR will “[keep] pedagogy up to the pace of change in the student body,” according to Provost Weissman.

One opportunity that students will have to get involved in the CETLR will be the Pedagogical Partners program, a course which Lape hopes to teach next spring. These student partners will act similarly to the Writing or QR assistants that many classes already have, and will work with a professor to help them reflect on their teaching and respond to the classroom environment.