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Faculty outdoor discussion

Faculty Teaching Retreat

The Center for Teaching Excellence is currently making plans for its second Teaching Retreat, to be held June 3-7, 2019 at the Ocean Edge Resort on Cape Cod. This retreat will build on the successes of last year's inaugural event, providing time and support for faculty members to address student learning challenges in conversation with other instructors and in light of recent developments in learning science and pedagogical practice. We'll be distributing more information about this retreat, and a call for applications, by mid-November.

Retreatants include full-time faculty, either as individuals or in teams of up to three members. Each individual or team is asked to anchor their work either in the development of a new course or the revision of an existing course. Faculty teams might be instructors from a single department commissioned to re-think the department's core offering(s), or they might be faculty from different departments working together on an interdisciplinary course.

Retreat Project

Whether the proposed project is to develop a new course or to revise an existing course, we recognize that the project will require more than a week’s work, and so we ask that faculty focus the work of the retreat on a particular learning challenge they expect students to face in the new or revised course.

Faculty who propose to create a new course should explain how this course fits in with already existing offerings. For example, is it to fill a gap in the department’s curriculum or to focus on topics previously covered in other courses? In addition, while we recognize that the plan to develop the new course might not have emerged from a concern about a specific learning challenge, we ask that applicants identify a learning challenge they expect students to face in the course as a focal point for their retreat project.

Examples of learning challenges might include a rather broad challenge of helping students to appreciate the relevance of a core course or a more narrow focus on helping them to grasp problematic basic concepts more quickly. Other possibilities include helping students make the move from learning basic concepts in a discipline to defining and developing their own research projects, or pushing them to develop skills like that of taking apart an argument and arguing for a position.

Faculty teams might focus on the challenge of constructing a set of courses that lead students over several semesters to a deeper understanding of current issues in the discipline. Alternatively, they might work on revising a crucial course sequence in the major so that students engage more deeply with issues related to diversity and inclusion.

All of these are only examples and it should not be seen as an exhaustive list.

Benefits and Expectations

Accommodations and all meals will be provided for participants at the retreat. Accepted applicants should expect to:

  • Converse with colleagues about teaching and learning;
  • Participate in sessions led by fellow faculty members and CTE staff; and
  • Work individually on their own class projects.

In addition, all attendees will be responsible for reporting on their progress toward meeting a learning challenge after the retreat, including:

  • A one-page description of their progress during the week of the retreat, to be submitted at the end of the retreat;
  • A syllabus for the course (and, if a revised course, a description of revisions) to be submitted at the beginning of the semester in which the new or revised course is taught; and
  • A reflection on the success of the project, including discussion of relevant evidence, at the end of the semester in which the revised course is taught.

Application Process

The application consists of three questions, each of which is important to address in detail.

  1. Learning Challenge. The first question asks faculty members to describe a learning challenge they expect students to face in their new or revised course and how they propose to meet it, with the understanding that early-stage proposals may not have a robust response to the latter. Applicants should describe where they are in working on the learning challenge (e.g., early-stage research, implementable actions, etc.) and how they expect to determine if the course change was effective, including what they might accept as evidence of success. It is important to note that “evidence” in this sense is defined broadly and intended to include whatever is persuasive to the instructor – simply put, “What would you accept as an indication that this element of the course has succeeded?”
  2. Project Goals. The second question asks faculty members to identify a reasonable set of goals for the week of the retreat, with the understanding that the full course development or revision would almost certainly require more than the 5 days.
  3. Support. The third question asks about support that might be helpful in addressing the identified challenge. Examples might include consultation with CTE staff, recommendations for books or articles relating to a particular learning challenge, or assistance learning to use a particular learning technology or pedagogical strategy.

Applications are now closed. Accepted applicants will be notified in February.

Evaluation Criteria

Applications will be evaluated on several criteria:

  • Thoughtful articulation of learning challenge;
  • Feasibility of the project for a weeklong retreat;
  • Thematic fit with other applications;
  • Impact of the proposed project on department or program offerings; and
  • Available CTE resources to assist the instructor’s response to the learning challenge.

More Information

Funding for this retreat has been generously provided by the University Council on Teaching, University Mission and Ministry, and the Office of the Provost.

Accommodation Requests

The Center for Teaching Excellence is committed to providing equal access to its events and programs. Individuals with disabilities who anticipate needing accommodations or who have questions about physical access may contact