SMU’s Center for Teaching Excellence has entered its 20th year with a new director, new website, and new programs to help faculty members connect across campus.
The New Faculty Teaching Excellence Program, or NFTE (pronounced “Nifty”), is a year-long workshop series for new faculty members in their first 3 years of full-time teaching. The CTE plans to offer 3 or 4 NFTE programs per term, says Law Professor Beth Thornburg, who became CTE director in June.
The NFTE Program will also provide a support system for these new teachers, Thornburg says. “NFTE participants will network with their fellow faculty ‘class members’ across every school and field of study,” she says. “It will be a great way to help build community and enhance our interdisciplinary culture.” The next NFTE event, “How Can I Promote Active Learning?,” will take place Wednesday, Sept. 26.
Another new initiative, Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs), creates peer-led groups of 8 to 12 faculty members who take on one-year collaborations “structured to provide encouragement, support, and reflection” and to help faculty members make connections across campus. Each FLC focuses on a question, topic or set of problems with the goal of deepening faculty members’ knowledge through their interaction with each other.
“They’re called communities, not committees, and we did that on purpose,” Thornburg says. The FLCs are designed to create an environment that promotes innovation and ultimately helps to improve teaching and learning across campus, she adds.
The Center also boasts a redesigned website that makes it easier to find resources, register for events, and connect with other faculty members. A “What’s New” section on the top page will allow faculty members to share news, links and other useful information, says Barbara Whitehead, CTE assistant director, who helped steer the new design.
The CTE has its roots in a 1992 Faculty Senate committee’s work to create the University’s first Teaching Effectiveness Symposium, held before the beginning of fall classes in 1993. The enthusiasm of the response led to the 1994 appointment of SMU’s Commission on Teaching and Learning, which continued the Symposium and added several additional faculty development programs. The Center for Teaching Excellence was created in 1997 to provide structure and support for the Commission’s efforts.