Central Piedmont’s Professional Learning Hub Fosters Teaching and Learning Excellence

In the spring of 2020, Central Piedmont Community College created the Wilton and Mary W. Parr Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence, a professional learning hub to support staff and faculty in their efforts to create equitable learning opportunities for Central Piedmont’s diverse students. The Center was the product of a year-long effort from faculty and staff to conduct research for and propose a new professional learning hub that would align with the college’s values and promote transformational change for its educators and students.

In Spring 2019, the college formed the Teaching and Learning Excellence Team (TLET) — a cross-functional group of nearly thirty educators — and charged it with researching and crafting a proposal for a new Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence. Most TLET members were faculty, coming from many departments with representatives from key areas around the college.

Dr. Shantell Strickland-Davis is executive director of the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence. She said that including so many staff and faculty members in the planning process was key to the Center’s success. “I’m reaping the benefit of that now,” she told ATD. “They feel invested in the Center and invested in the support that we provide, because they were a part of the foundation.”

That foundation includes a vision statement informed by a new Framework for Teaching and Learning Excellence, which emphasizes the importance of inclusive pedagogy, curriculum alignment, classroom climate, and feedback and assessment. ATD has guided these planning efforts through our Teaching & Learning Capacity Building coaching supports.

The TLET’s proposal for a new Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence was approved in Fall 2019, and the Center opened in Spring 2020 — just as a pandemic swept the globe. While the team has not been able to meet at the Center in person yet, Strickland-Davis said that the Center’s merging of online learning and face-to-face faculty development supports has been helpful. Faculty already experienced in remote teaching and online course design were able to support others making the transition.

The Center serves over 1800 part-time and around 400 full-time faculty at Central Piedmont. “The Center is a space that helps to bring faculty groups together in inter- and intra-discipline kinds of programs,” Strickland-Davis said.

An online learning committee is doing research and gathering best practices from the field to inform the “gold standard” for the college’s online learning. Similarly, a committee for inclusive teaching practices is collaboratively building out a toolkit to support faculty in their equity work. Strickland-Davis said of this effort, “This would have been a one-person project before the Center.”

The ongoing collaborations are just a portion of the work that Strickland-Davis hopes the Center will be able to undertake once the threat of the pandemic is passed. They still haven’t established their “day-to-day,” she said, and she’s excited for the added opportunities a physical space will provide: peer-to-peer professional learning, networking sessions, and even a video studio where faculty can develop multimedia learning materials. She’s excited about “getting back to our new standards of excellence,” she said. “I look forward to the day that we get to get back on campus and work as a team.”

The Parr Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence at Central Piedmont is one of many professional learning hubs that colleges in the ATD Network have established or are developing. Central Piedmont found success in a step-by-step process that included a broad range of faculty and helped it gain broad support across the college. More information about Central Piedmont’s approach and resources to guide your college work in designing and strengthening professional learning hubs can be found in ATD’s Teaching & Learning Toolkit.

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