Expanding Your Expertise in Teaching

Expanding Your Expertise in Teaching Spring Quarter 2010 Mini-Grant Program

Note: This program was run Spring Quarter 2010. 

In 2010, the Center for Faculty Development piloted the Expanding Your Expertise in teaching (EYE) Mini-Grant Program to support faculty assigned to teach in an area outside of their expertise. The program was composed of 2 elements: 1) a grant-supported project designed by the faculty member, which would help them gain the required expertise, and 2) a faculty learning community of grant recipients that met 4 times in Spring Quarter to study how to teach outside one's expertise, build interdisciplinary relationships, share ideas, and discuss readings from the book Teaching What You Don't Know (Huston, 2009). 

The following 6 faculty were selected to receive grants:

  • Sven Arvidson | Philosophy/Liberal Studies, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Sharon Cumberland | English, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Naomi Kasumi | Fine Arts – Digital Design, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Elise Murowchick | Psychology, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Susan Palmer | Fine Arts – Music, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Nina Valerio | Education – Curriculum & Instruction, College of Education

Below is the Call for Applications, which was sent to faculty in late January 2010.

The Center for Faculty Development is piloting an Expanding Your Expertise in teaching (EYE) Mini-Grant Program. These grants are for those of you who find yourselves assigned to teach something other than your current area of expertise. Even though it's not commonly discussed, many faculty find themselves in this predicament.

It's challenging to teach yourself the material and simultaneously find brilliant ways to teach it to a classroom full of students. But you don't have to do it alone. Chances are there are content experts— people who know this material and teach it well—who can help you figure out the best ways to explain a difficult concept or who can model how to lead a discussion on a sensitive issue. This is an opportunity to expand your expertise for a course that otherwise falls outside of your training and experience. It's also an opportunity to build community around tricky teaching issues and to create an interdisciplinary commons where faculty can learn from one another.

The Center's EYE Mini-Grant Program is open to all SU faculty (non-tenure-track, tenured, tenure-track and visiting) in all colleges and schools. 

How is the program structured? The emphasis of this program is on building relationships with other faculty to talk about teaching and to learn from one another. There are two components to the program:

  • The project you design. How could you create an intensive learning experience for yourself? If you could learn from someone, who would it be? The project you propose should put you in direct contact with an expert or experts who know the content you'll be teaching and who can help you think about how to support your students' learning.
  • A faculty learning community. A faculty learning community is a group of faculty unified by a common interest collaboratively studying an issue. As part of this interdisciplinary community, you'll be studying how to teach outside of your expertise. You'll be meeting with the other grant recipients four times in the spring of 2010 and once in the fall of 2010. In the spring, you'll be reading and discussing Teaching What You Don't Know, which will be provided to all grant recipients. In the fall, you'll be meeting once to present the outcomes of your project.

What kinds of activities will be funded? The EYE Mini-Grant Program provides support of $500-$1,500 to as many as eight faculty members for a teaching project of their own design. The following are examples of projects that can be funded by EYE Grants:

  • Travel expenses and registration fees to attend a workshop or short course on your topic
  • Travel expenses to visit a colleague at another school who does an exemplary job teaching the content or skills you need to learn so that you can observe her or him teach and see the kinds of questions students raise
  • Travel expenses to bring an outstanding teacher to campus who is a content expert on the topic you'll be teaching so that he or she can watch you teach, see your classroom / lab / studio, and mentor you in making good decisions
  • Costs associated with sponsoring a mentoring network so that faculty in the region who teach this topic can come together on a periodic basis to share techniques and dilemmas

A successful proposal will focus on building relationships with other faculty, not on purchasing course materials. Establishing a mentoring relationship with someone nationally known for his or her teaching or forging mutual mentoring relationships with peers in this region has lasting benefits for you and your students. For this reason, no more than $100 of your budget can be designated towards purchasing books or course materials.

Are there time limits on using the funds? The mini-grants will be awarded in spring 2010, and the expectation is that they will be used by the end of fall 2010. This pilot program focuses on courses being offered in spring 2010, summer 2010, or fall 2010. If the pilot program is successful, it may be offered again for courses being taught in 2011.

What will be expected of me? In spring 2010, you'll be expected to participate in a faculty learning community with the other grant recipients. In this learning community you will be

  • reading Teaching What You Don't Know (Huston, 2009),
  • attending the four meetings (approximately once every two weeks) that will be scheduled between March 29 and June 1, and
  • discussing the book and your teaching questions, challenges, and successes at those meetings.

In fall 2010, you'll be expected to

  • attend one final meeting to present your project to your peers,
  • provide an itemized account of the expenses associated with your project to the Center, and
  • evaluate the program and offer advice for improving it in the future.