Expert Status in Question
A good number of Sinclair's faculty members have been with the college since the 1970's. After serving 20 plus years as a subject matter expert, to be pushed out of one's comfort zone is not a particularly welcome thought. If faculty members perceive that their key value to Sinclair is their knowledge expertise, then discomfort in the loss of their expert status is a natural response. However, without subject matter expertise as a given, the performance potential of the facilitator would be gravely limited. Those involved with process learning endeavors agree that subject matter expertise significantly enhances the students' learning.
To ease the transition, faculty members need to focus on the benefits of developing process skills as well as the accepting the new roles of facilitator and self-learner. The transition from lecturer to process facilitator will not occur instantly. The skill acquisition period ranges from 18 months to three years, so the training and development requirements fall far beyond a one-hour orientation or even a three-day teaching institute. The skill development process is ongoing with input from peer-assessment as well as self-assessment as faculty members strive for continuous process improvement.
With the realization of shared processes-the teaching process, the learning process, and the assessment process-comes the understanding that faculty can help one another more than previously possible. Even though instructors work in different departments and/or different divisions, they can now collaborate and improve one another's efforts more than ever before.
More Good News
Faculty members can help each other when they share and reuse activities, modules, and courses because of the interoperability of activity design. And there is even more good news-process learning activities fit well within the NSF modular design architecture which ensures transferability to the workplace through integrated curriculum design. With this type of seamless learning, our students will have a déjà vu experience when they move from course to course at Sinclair or to the next learning institution.
Instructors, like students, learn and grow the most from what we call "failures." If faculty members try and do not succeed completely in their early implementation attempts, the efforts can still be good learning experiences. With support of their department chairperson, division dean and vice-president for instruction, faculty members can effectively migrate to the new role of process learning facilitator. Without support of these most important players, instructors will be reluctant to take the risk to learn and practice their process learning skills. On a final note, the college must never underestimate the change required of students in this process, too; helping students adapt to the new process heightens the adopting faculty member's initial challenge.
Challenge Team Support
- Sinclair's Taking Process Learning the Distance Challenge Team will continue to develop deliverables in support of this transition as follows:
- Process Education Teaching Institutes, workshops, development tool kit, and monthly support meetings to provide for training needs and ongoing support
- Foundations of Learning module(s) or course to help students make the transition to active learners
- Redesigned courses with feedback emphasizing lessons learned
- Interactive CDROM to help students and faculty understand the features, functions, and benefits of process learning
- New formative and summative assessment of faculty performance in this new role (The dominant faculty assessment tool no longer accurately evaluates the role of faculty "facilitator" and does not address the role of student "active learner.")
- Partnership with Kirkwood Community College to leverage their "lessons learned" into Sinclair's process-based efforts
For more information about this paper or process learning at Sinclair, contact any of the Taking Process Learning the Distance team members at Questions and/or Comments.