History of Teaching and Learning Activities at Valdosta State

We want to honor the precursors of The IDEA Center. While there have been, are, and will continue to be individual faculty and staff who work to become better teachers and communicators of their discipline, there also have been some organized efforts on our campus.

The Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning

The Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning was an initiative in 1996, which was aimed at building stronger communities through a commitment to educational excellence. Initially a small number of faculty were appointed Fellows in the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning. They were: Dr. Patricia Marks, English, Recipient, Regent’s Distinguished Professor for Teaching and Learning; Dr. Craig Klein, Communication Arts; Dr. Phil Gunter, Special Education and Communication Disorders; and Ms. Deborah Davis, Odum Library. The next year, Dr. David Graf was hired to be the Center’s Director.

In 1998-1999, Dr. Jeff Tepper, Physics, Astronomy, Geosciences, Recipient, Regent’s Distinguished Professor for Teaching and Learning; Dr. Craig Klein, Communication Arts, Dr. John Slate, Educational Leadership, Ms. Deborah Roush, Nursing were selected as Fellows.

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By 2002, a new initiative emerged on campus, the HUB. The mission of the HUB was “to facilitate strategic planning for learning through cooperation and collaboration.” It characterized itself as an R&D organization for teaching and learning that would evolve through democratic ownership and control by members, not be created by a central mandate. To that end, the HUB defined itself as a “cooperative” that would be “independent of individual departments and colleges within the University.” The central purpose of the HUB was “to meet member needs, which can be purely educational or social and cultural.” The HUB’s values included: self-help, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. There was also an element of enterprise built into the existence of the HUB. Through  an initiative called a HUB*CAP (for Cooperative Activity Proposal), any member of the HUB could show how his/her contribution (called an exchange) benefited the academy of teaching or learning via sharing of an activity, a facility, equipment, expertise, or resources.

In 2002, the planners of the HUB issued an outline for developing its functions. This overview charted an operational model that described the personnel, facilities, and resources needed to fulfill each of the HUB’s six proposed functions, i.e., a place that would accommodate:

  • Gatherings of people with ideas

[act as a]

  • Clearinghouse for collegial professional development
[and provide]
  • Spaces for conferring and planning
  • Laboratories for learning new skills
  • Studios for instructional materials production
  • Outlets for dissemination of success stories

We thank these founding members of the HUB for their creativity and foresight:  Andy Brovey, Lars Leader, Catherine Price, Lorraine Schmertzing, Ellen Wiley, and Jane Zahner.

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The Faculty Excellence Initiative

In October 2011, the members of the initiative met for the first time and were given the following charge from VPAA and Provost, Dr. Phil Gunter:

  • Funding for professional development in faculty has been an on-going process at VSU.
  • Challenges are growing for needs of faculty; need to keep them at the forefront of advancing society.
  • Classroom discipline procedures are changing.
  • This committee is charged with assessing the current needs and making a recommendation as to how best to meet the continual needs of VSU Faculty in regards to faculty development.

At the next meeting in November 2011, members began to focus on how they wanted to define “faculty development” and to begin to develop a plan for data gathering.  A four part plan was developed, which included the members splitting into to subcommittees. One subcommittee worked on finalizing the surveys and then analyzed their results:

  • In January 2012, all faculty were invited to participate in an anonymous online survey. The survey contained questions about what they felt they needed from VSU to continue developing their teaching and scholarship, what kinds of delivery would work best for them (e.g., webinars, ongoing series of workshops, one-time workshops, etc.), what times are best for them, what are factors that limit or inhibit their faculty development, etc. Results of the faculty survey can be found here:
  • In February 2012, administrators who are involved in academics (e.g., department heads, Deans and Directors, etc.) were invited to participate in an anonymous online survey. Some of the questions were similar to the faculty survey and some asked them about what issues they believed their faculty might have about teaching and scholarship, why recent faculty applicants turned down positions at VSU, what reasons faculty have given who have recently left VSU, etc. Results of the administrator survey can be found here:
  • In March-April 2012, graduate students were invited to participate in an anonymous online survey. This survey asked them about what kinds of development opportunities and training they did receive, and what types of opportunities they might want to receive. Results of the graduate student survey can be found here:
  • In March-April 2012, the other subcommittee investigated VSU’s peer institutions, peer aspirational institutions, and all other USG institutions. They researched what kind of faculty development opportunities there were on campus, especially if there was some sort of teaching and learning center or center for teaching excellence, and if so, what was its structure and place in the institution. They also investigated what types of faculty development opportunities were available (e.g., workshops, seminars, webinars, one-on-one mentoring, voluntary classroom observations, etc.).

After gathering this information, a select few institutions were identified as having models which might be where we want VSU to grow toward in the next few years. Phone interviews will be arranged with their Center Directors to learn more specific information, such as to whom does the Director report? How is the Center funded?, etc.

After analyzing all these data, the Faculty Excellence Initiative made a report to President McKinney and Acting Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Hull, requesting that the IDEA Center be created to meet the professional needs of our campus related to teaching and learning and innovation related to the retention of students and the successful accomplishment of promotion and tenure by VSU’s faculty.

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The IDEA Center

In July 2013, the IDEA Center opened its doors and began to work with faculty and staff. From teaching circles to research groups to new faculty support groups, IDEA Center Fellows and many other faculty have come together to think about their pedagogy and research agendas and about their students’ learning.

Until February 2015, the IDEA Center institutionally was housed under the Interim Dean of the Honors College, Dr. Mike Savoie. It is now a part of the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs, as a direct report to the Associate Provost, Dr. Sheri Gravett.