Elevating Community College Faculty Voices

May 1, 2018

Over four years, Public Agenda partnered with the League for Innovation in the Community College (“the League”) to strengthen their capacity to be field leaders in the practice of effective faculty engagement in the changing landscape of higher education. Public Agenda designed an array of tools and resources to complement the League’s Faculty Voices Project, enabling them to amplify their ongoing efforts and significantly improve the quality of dialogue and collaboration on issues related to faculty engagement.

This project engages community college faculty, both full- and part-time, in the national conversation about student success and completion, to: (a) identify issues, challenges, and concerns faculty have about the national focus on student completion; and (b) identify ways faculty—individually and in college-wide efforts—support student success, retention, and completion.

We invited faculty to join the conversation through participating in face-to-face discussions using the Expanding Opportunity for All: How Can We Increase Community College Student Completion? discussion guide. So far, the League has held nearly 100 discussions around the country. Faculty and administrators say that the discussions on student completion have led to frank conversations around faculty engagement.

“It was wonderful to see how excited faculty members were when they participated in the conversations. I led a faculty engagement dialogue at a League conference that was so eye-opening for participants that several people returned the next day to participate again,” recounts Nicole Cabral, Associate Director of Public Engagement. “I have also led conversations where faculty were very appreciative of the opportunity to voice their opinions. They shared with me that they rarely get that opportunity on their campuses.”

Even though community college faculty enjoyed the face-to-face conversations, there was a need to scale up dialogues through text-based and online conversation platforms. We partnered with the Kettering Foundation’s National Issues Forum to adapt the Expanding Opportunity for All discussion guide for the Common Ground for Action’s online platform.

We also used Text, Talk, Engage (TTE) to support real-time, text-enabled, face-to-face conversations. Participants receive a series of text messages to guide them through a conversation on engaging faculty members. TTE is meant to encourage dialogue that is personally meaningful and stimulates thinking about actions. It is part of a much larger conversation on faculty engagement. We customized this platform for faculty to have conversations on how they would like to be engaged in decisions on campus.

Public Agenda found that faculty and administrators could use additional resources on how to utilize the faculty engagement resources. We created the Facilitation Challenges and Interventions: Video-based Training for Facilitators and produced the Facilitation, Challenges and Interventions Training Videos for face-to-face dialogues and the Taking the Conversations Virtual: A Primer on Moderating Online Discussions for the Common Ground for Action and the Text, Talk, Engage platforms.

We partnered with the League to administer two faculty engagement surveys. In 2015, we fielded a survey to 1,000 community college faculty members to gauge their perspectives on student completion, and in 2017, we fielded another survey to 1,000 faculty members on faculty engagement. We created a series of infographics with support from the League for the faculty engagement survey.

Our Public Engagement team led stakeholder conversations and engagement workshops at the League’s Innovation Conferences in Boston and San Francisco, and were the keynote speakers at the Learning Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona for around 300 community college faculty and administration.

Findings from the Faculty Voices Project were presented in reports to community college educators and administrators, association and foundation staff, policy makers, and other stakeholders. Project findings are intended to provide insight into faculty perceptions and thus help inform decisions made around topics such as tools and strategies for improving student learning and completion, faculty and staff professional development, collegewide initiatives related to student success and completion, and organizational structures that affect teaching and learning.

This project (2014-2017) was funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

For more information on our higher education initiatives contact mailto:pe@publicagenda.org and for Faculty Voices, visit League For Innovation.

Community college faculty members across the country are working on transformational practices in and out of their classrooms. Through our work as a partner in the League for Innovation Faculty Voices Project, we’ve learned educators want more opportunities for honest conversations with each other and with administrators on important matters around student learning and the college experience.

If you’re interested in using Text, Talk, Engage (TTE) for your organization, look here for more information on how YOU can use TTE.

This series of vignettes illustrates common facilitation challenges and examples of ways facilitators might manage them. This vignette portrays excerpts of facilitated conversations among residents of the fictitious town of Bradford.

The mayor and city council are considering a change to the zoning laws that will authorize the construction of a big box chain-store called ProMart in the middle of town. The city leaders want to hear feedback from residents about the proposed ProMart store, so they brought professional facilitators to organize and facilitate a series of small group dialogues with the community.

Click below for the first of the four Facilitation, Challenges & Interventions training videos.

Whether you are a seasoned facilitator looking to translate your knowledge of in-person discussions to the virtual world, or an educator getting ready to moderate your first online discussion, “Taking the Conversation Virtual: A Primer on Moderating Online Discussions” is intended to provide a foundation for leading and supporting your efforts.

In general, discussions provide a space for people to talk through how a particular issue or problem affects them, learn more about the issue, discover a range of views on what could be done about it, and in some cases, decide how they want to take action. When discussions are taken online, they can reach more people than face-to-face conversations, regardless of geographic distance—and they can do so faster than ever before.

Moderating an online discussion is both similar to and different from facilitating a conversation in person. For those with facilitation experience, this primer will support much of what you have already practiced as well as provide you with additional resources to draw upon. For those with little experience, it will provide you with the foundational skills you’ll need to begin successfully moderating online conversations.

A series of infographics created by Public Agenda for the League for Innovation Faculty Voices Project.