Responses from a Consortial Colloquy Dialogue – Making a Difference

Note: The GLCA had scheduled a major meeting of the Consortium for Teaching and Learning for the weekend of February 9-10, 2018, days, unfortunately, when a major snowstorm swept through the Midwest forcing us to cancel the meeting out of concern for everyone’s safety. Several of those scheduled to attend nevertheless were able to assembled for a video conference call at the hour the meeting was to have begun. We asked a series of questions from that conversation and invited written responses regarding the CTL’s future actions.

Some responded to a version of the questions as presented in Steve Volk’s Feature article of February 14. “Making a Difference: Strategizing for Change.” Others addressed the questions as they had appeared in the agenda memo of the cancelled consortial meeting. In each case, we list the questions concerning the CTL’s future actions and the answers given by those who responded. We present responses in the style that each author wrote them, with only minor editorial changes.

We hope to add to these responses as others reflect on the articles appearing in the CTL’s website and on the responses that we publish. In its final form these responses will help inform the agenda of the GLCA Consortium for Teaching and Learning. We welcome your thoughts. Please send your responses to Greg Wegner ( or Steve Volk ( for inclusion in successive versions of this collection.


What difference do we want to make:

    • locally (mindful of our primary task as educational developers, impacting teaching and learning on our campuses);
    • within our communities (considering the actual location, the “place-basedness,” of our campuses and the ways that interactions with our local communities can benefit students and communities alike and impact a broader discussion); and
    • nationally (considering ways that we can positively engage an increasingly polarized debate on the value of higher education).

Sarah Bunnell, Associate Professor of Psychology, Ohio Wesleyan University

Here are some areas of impact that I’d like to shape through our work together.


  • Support faculty in their discovery and application of pedagogical practices that are intentionally adopted to improve student learning in their courses
  • Argue for evidence-based decisions around curriculum, assessment, promotion and tenure, etc. that place student learning at the forefront of the conversation
  • Provide a transparent model of scholarly teaching to students
  • Serve as a local model of a scholarship of teaching and learning (SOTL) researcher, and argue for my institution to support and recognize SOTL work as meaningful scholarship by myself and my colleagues

Within the Community:

  • Identify and recognize ways in which student learning occurs outside of the classroom (and perhaps restructure graduation requirements to emphasize this aspect of student development)
  • Construct learning opportunities and assignments that encourage students to apply their developing expertise to real-world problems in their community


  • Make the high-impact work that we are already doing in and outside of the classroom public in a larger way. While we may feel as though the value of a liberal arts education is obvious, that is not the case for most individuals outside of our shared experience. We need to highlight this work (and its impact) for others, rather than assuming it is transparent.
  • Identify the ways in which a liberal arts teaching and learning context differs from the context of a research-intensive institution. Teaching and Learning Centers from R1 institutions are the primary driving forces of research in higher education pedagogy – while many best practices translate to our context, others do not. I see a real need to advance research on teaching and learning in the liberal arts. Given our consortia structure, we are poised to make substantial contributions to this conversation.

How do we plan to make these differences? How do we theorize and strategize change? What models do we have that can help us think, concretely and specifically, about realizing the changes we see as necessary at all three levels, local, community, and national?

  • This seems like the critical question to be asking at this point. In terms of planning for change, I think that the work so far by the Consortium for Teaching and Learning has been fantastic in terms of identifying a network of engaged and motivated individuals. Can we now connect those folks into a type of mentorship network (with support from experienced folks) focused on a shared local goal at their campus?
  • A strong model for how this works at research-intensive institutions is the Bay View Alliance ( There are a number of parallel projects supported by this alliance, and individuals with overlapping goals/interests are working locally and through each other to impact change. There are also built in opportunities for engaged parties to share their work with each other and with colleagues more broadly – it is through this sharing that the ripples of this work become more apparent.
  • In terms of community level change, this seems like an overlooked but really important level for all of us in the liberal arts. The communities in which we teach and learn have a strong presence that exists outside of the college/university. What a great opportunity for our students to develop translational skills that impact others and the communities in which they live! Highlighting this feature of our campuses (and structuring our curricula to explicitly meet this aim) could be a terrific mechanism for making the argument for the value of the liberal arts at the national level.

Adriel M. Trott, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Wabash College

What are the changes that we WANT to make on our campuses or more broadly?

I would like to see more people regularly involved in the conversations about pedagogy.  My sense is that the expectation that events about pedagogy are attended by almost everyone every time has really fallen off.  I think faculty are busy, and that is an important factor.  When it feels like you don’t have time to be a better teacher, attending another workshop about being a better teacher might not seem like the best choice.

What are the changes that we THINK we can make, both on our own campuses or more broadly?

I think our programming has become more responsible to faculty concerns and I would like to see us continue to be responsive in this way.  I also think that there are ways that we can find paths between the places on campus where discussions about pedagogy are thriving.  I think faculty teaching in gender studies are regularly involved in these conversations, but they are often different from the ones happening in more “teaching and learning” focused spaces. 

I am especially interested in the that we have local communities in which to make the case about the importance of the liberal arts.  I think we are doing this but sometimes we do this in more instrumental ways rather than in terms of what is good about becoming thoughtful and civically engaged people. 

Jocelyn McWhirter, Professor of Religious Studies, Albion College

Of the change factors that have been identified in the external and internal landscapes of our institutions, what are some of the most important issues that could warrant attention and engagement by this Consortium for Teaching and Learning?



  1. Re: a national conversation that is hostile to higher ed in particular and the liberal arts in general – Keep the website focused on the joy of learning and the rewards of critical thinking. Maintain a respectful and respectable tone (not that I don’t think we’re already there). Ditch the term “liberal arts” for something more awkward and less button-pushing, like “literature, science, and the arts” (a la the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts). I’m somewhat serious, because “liberal arts” sounds like “left-wing and artsy” when that’s not really what it means.
  2. Re: revenue challenges for liberal arts colleges – Let the CTL empower faculty to teach and otherwise do their jobs so that we make our classes, retain the students we have, and prepare them for success in today’s economy. Important issues along these lines include teaching study skills, critical thinking, writing, civil discourse, vocabulary, and gateway courses. It would also be important for faculty to gain cultural proficiency and, if necessary, familiarity with the situations of minority students and first-generation students. I’m always mindful of the fact that most of us won’t take time to engage with any of these issues unless we think that doing so will scratch our itch in some way. For example, we won’t click on an article about gateway courses unless we can identify our gateway courses and have a sense that we could handle them better.
  3. Re: time for development in addition to teaching, research, and service – Make sure that content and invitations to access content can be quickly read and understood. The CTL will get traffic if content is accessible, relevant, compelling, and easily digestible. I really like the visual improvements on the website. Quality matters. Also, just now I began to wonder whether it might help to have a sort of advice column. Kind of along the lines of Ms. Mentor. It’s just a thought. I haven’t vetted its practicality.

What are the changes that we WANT to make on our campuses or more broadly?  

I want faculty to be more effective teachers so that students experience learning that is relevant and empowering. I want my college to provide an environment where everybody (administrators, faculty, staff, and students) can learn and develop as whole persons with a sense of purpose and goals as well as the skills and knowledge they need to achieve those goals and to keep learning along the way. I want that environment to be less insular and more exposed to different experiences, different places, different cultures, and different ways of thought and expression. I want fewer addictions (chemical and technological); less anxiety and depression; more healthy relationships. I want at least a critical mass of campus citizens to take ongoing anti-racist training; that is, to construct and reinforce worldviews cognizant of the history and effects of racism and free of internalized racist superiority or internalized racist oppression. This is important to me because I am convinced that the American story (and probably the story of every other civilization) is a story of racism. I want to live in a functional democracy that values free speech, a free press, policies that curb exploitation, debate, and respect.

What are the changes that we THINK we can make, both on our own campuses or more broadly?

Campus: We can help teachers teach more effectively by highlighting the science of learning, by introducing best practices for pedagogy, and putting them in conversation with colleagues across the consortium and global alliance. We can help them chart their careers and manage their time. We can respond to their needs. If teaching is also mentoring and advising, we can address those areas as well.

Liberal Arts: We can emphasize study skills, critical thinking, writing, discussion, vocabulary, and gateway courses. We can make sure that the CTL conversation spans the disciplines.

Higher Education: I’m not sure we can impact the national or international conversation unless we can get a national or international audience. But we can certainly focus on championing inquiry, critical thinking, and the value to humanity of our disciplines and commitment to life-long learning. We don’t want our graduates to be “brittle.” We want to them to be adaptable, resilient, and strong. If we can strengthen our campus/consortial/alliance missions of teaching and mentoring young people for mindful and productive lives, then I think we will have made a significant contribution in our region and around the world – and to any other liberal arts colleges who care to pay attention to our work.


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