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"A moment with ... Cecilia Shore"

12/15/2011

Cecilia Shore
"A moment with ..." is a Q-and-A column featuring Miami employees.

Today, take "A moment with ... Cecilia Shore," director of the Center for the Enhancement of Learning, Teaching and University Assessment (CELTUA).

Cecilia Shore began her career in the department of psychology and gives partial credit to her current role at the university in faculty development and assessment to two of her former students.

Q:How did you progress from psychology faculty to faculty development expert?
A: I actually credit two graduate students for part of it. Miami’s psychology department offers a course in teaching for its graduate students that I began teaching in 1991. Then, in 2000, graduate students Amy Buddie and Sandy Neumann noticed that the American Psychological Association (APA) was providing grants to psychology departments to prepare their students for faculty roles. The grants focused on preparing students to teach in a wide variety of settings, as well as with diverse student bodies. Amy and Sandy worked with me to create the program, which was funded by APA.

Q: So does the program still exist?
A: Miami was on the cutting edge at the time. Most universities were not working with graduate students in teacher training. Our psychology department was forward thinking in that issue. Amy and Sandy took the lead in this initiative. (Today, I am very proud to say that Amy has just been named associate director of the teaching-learning center at Kennesaw State University.) The psychology department continues its preparing future faculty program. It served as a starting point for CELTUA’s graduate student teaching enhancement program, which is open to all graduate students.

Q: You seem to juggle many hats as the current director of CELTUA. How do you manage?
A: (Laughing.) I have an understanding husband. I also make use of the task list on my computer. Summer is my time to plan. As director, I have a number of different areas for which I am held accountable: assessment, engaged learning, diversity and global awareness, reflective practice (a scholarly approach to teaching), outreach and collaboration with other areas. I storyboard these areas and the major tasks for the year. Those storyboards keep me on track. It is like the act at the Chinese circus where the juggler is spinning plates on sticks and one begins to wobble. When one of my areas of responsibilities begins to wobble, I make sure I get in there and do something about it.

Q: Assessment has been viewed as a dirty word with many afraid of it. Why should it be embraced?
A: The first reason not to be afraid is we are actually doing it already. We know how to evaluate student work. We do it all the time. It already is part of our communal discourse to see how we can work together as a team to help our students reach outcomes that are important. The second reason is that it is not about evaluating individual faculty, but how we collectively as a team support and challenge our students. The purpose is continuous improvement. You don’t get evaluated badly for discovering that your students are not reaching your goals for their learning. The bad evaluation would come if you were not doing anything about it. The third reason is that it moves us forward as a community of learning. People have told us that their departments are having conversations about their curricula that rarely occurred before. It enhances teamwork and improves performance.

Q: What is on your storyboard for spring semester?
A: By the end of the academic year, we are working to have the vast majority of degree-granting programs develop a plan for assessment with at least three student-learning outcomes. That’s the A goal. The B goal is organizing a method of tracking this process and making sure this happens. We are also organizing seminars and groups to support teaching development in a number of different topic areas. We will celebrate the work of our current Faculty-Staff Learning Communities (FLCs) and Faculty Learning and Inquiry Groups at our Expo March 15. We will be accepting proposals for 2012-2013 FLCs Feb. 1, so I hope faculty and staff will start thinking about what topics they would like to explore with a community next year.

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