January 14, 2013 marks an important day for Towson University with the creation of its Office of Academic Innovation (OAI).
During the past several months I’ve had the privilege of engaging in substantive conversations with many of our faculty, administrators, students, and staff about the concept of educational innovation and what it means to us as Maryland’s premier teaching institution of higher education.
Out of these conversations, some very important underlying values have surfaced. Number one is that faculty inherently bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the academic enterprise by virtue of their advanced degrees and professional experiences. In other words, there is no need to “fix” faculty. Rather, we should create a system of supports whereby faculty can develop their talents as leaders in teaching, scholarship, and service. Also, we should provide a collaborative context in which faculty can experiment with their teaching, mentor one another along the way, and generally “provoke or evoke” critical thinking and reflection about the practice of teaching—all this done in a collegial and non-evaluative environment.
Hopefully, you are already familiar with the services of CIAT, the Center for Instructional Advancement and Technology, located on the 4th floor of Cook Library. CIAT will continue to offer instructional design workshops and consultations as well as training on a variety of technologies under the umbrella of the new Office of Academic Innovation.
Under the direction of the Assistant Provost, the already established services provided by CIAT will now be extended to include a more intentional program of services for faculty development over the career span. These include programs such as a new faculty orientation series, faculty led workshops on topics such as course design, syllabi development, and instructional methods. Also, opportunities to engage in interdisciplinary teams for the sustained investigation of problems of teaching practice—often referred to as self-study, practitioner inquiry, or action research. These types of investigations have the power for developing a deeper understanding of shared concerns about teaching and learning and can contribute greatly to forming a culture where teaching is honored and valued by all.
So, I encourage you to visit our website on a regular basis—it is a work in progress and new events and opportunities will be posted weekly. Your questions, comments, and recommendations are also welcome. We want to know what’s on your mind as we move forward in our work.
Finally, I want to thank Dr. Maravene Loeschke, President of Towson University, whose commitment to supporting academic innovation has made the OAI possible. As with all types of transformative innovations, it takes a certain kind of leadership ability that addresses the needs of individuals while at the same time creates a vision for the good of the whole organization. It is our goal to meet this challenge with your help and your support.
Jane E. Neapolitan, Ed.D.
Office of Academic Innovation