The Center for Instructional Innovation and Assessment (CIIA) is a resource for faculty at Western Washington University who wish to consider new ways of teaching, modifying their existing courses to better serve their student learning objectives, or to link them to colleagues in other disciplines who share their values about teaching and learning in today’s complex world of higher education.
Key ServicesThe CIIA fosters effective teaching practices that contribute to the advancement of student success and engagement. New and continuing faculty may work with the CIIA to:
- Discuss ideas for classroom facilitation or assessment
- Brainstorm solutions to concerns or innovations
- Develop a plan for a new class or a new plan for an old class
- Attend or participate in workshops or webinars
- Browse instructional resources–either the online collection of teaching and learning videos and websites or the “Lending Library” books in HH154 (catalogued in Western Libraries)
- Explore opportunities for collegial interaction
In 2010 The CIIA took on a new name and added a new mission, supporting assessment activities for departments and programs at the university. The CIIA already provided support for faculty who wished to use assessment activities to improve their courses. Through the years this support has grown, and in 2009 the CIIA added a new course assessment tool, the SGID, to aid faculty who wished to receive guided feedback from students while their courses were still in session.
The Small Group Instructional Discussion (SGID) is an open-ended feedback process to provide anonymous mid-course formative feedback to instructors. Facilitators from the CIIA ask students to identify issues that are most important for their learning in a course. Similar to a focus group, the facilitator meets with the students, in the instructor's absence, to identify course strengths and areas for change. The facilitator then summarizes this information and meets with the instructor to discuss the students' perceptions and options for addressing their concerns. Instructors find what they learn through this process very useful for helping them make decisions about their teaching. Students can also see the direct benefits, as instructors can make immediate changes to the course.
The CIIA has facilitated SGIDs in both large and small classes at WWU, providing valuable anonymous student feedback to instructors. Western faculty have used this information to improve their courses, get additional information about the classroom environment or specifics about areas of concern, and they have also used the feedback to document their assessment activities for their departments and colleges.
Other Assessment Activities
Using evidence gathered about a course's or a program's effectiveness can directly affect and improve student learning. According to Bill Moore of the State Board for Community & Technical Colleges, "Good teachers are continually gathering evidence and providing feedback about how well students are performing—but for many teachers this work is not considered 'assessment'—it's just good teaching." In the years to come, the CIIA will be working with faculty, departments, and programs to use assessment with the goal of improving student learning.
For more detailed information about documenting student learning through course and program assessment, see the Assessment and Outcomes section of the CIIA's website.
More than 100 faculty and staff members attend the Professional Development Workshop Series each year, exploring issues such as diversity, writing proficiency, active learning, assessment, intellectual development, and instructional strategies. Current and archived events (along with associated handouts) may be viewed on the CIIA's Workshops & Events web page.
The Innovative Teaching Showcase is an online publication created by the CIIA to highlight exceptional teaching practices by WWU faculty. Each year, several instructors are nominated to participate, and then work with the CIIA to create this in-depth resource. The Showcase is published on the CIIA's website at the end of each academic year.
Each Showcase includes three parts:
- A portfolio (like a recipe or a road map) which is written by the instructor;
- A multimedia showcase, which includes video interviews with the instructor and provides more detail, depth, and perspective on the innovative approach; and
- An institutional goals section that links the approach to specific student learning outcomes, or alternatively, a profiles page.
The "showcased" instructors meet with the CIIA staff to discuss the approach for which they were nominated. Staff members describe what is involved in the process, and work with the instructor's schedule to set a date for the Portfolio, as written by the instructor, to be drafted. CIIA staff then draw out key questions from the Portfolio that the instructor will answer during a videotaped interview. The interview is edited into short movies that are accessible on the Showcase website. The last part of the process involves working with the instructor to align his or her innovative approach to one or more rubrics for student learning outcomes as identified by Washington State.
Instructors who have been showcased often find that taking the time to reflect on their teaching in this way is a rewarding and enlightening process. They especially enjoy having the online record of their innovation.
Those who have visited the CIIA are often surprised by how friendly and comfortable an environment it is. In addition to consulting with CIIA staff members and exploring the small teaching and learning library, faculty can simply go to the CIIA's web site for an impressive array of information and resources. The Teaching & Learning Resources section of the CIIA's web site is a bank of information for teaching development and the assessment of student learning.
The CIIA works closely with programs associated with the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, including the First-year Interest Groups Program (FIGs). In this capacity, the CIIA offers academic consultation and multimedia design and development services to all instructors involved in FIGs. The projects that the CIIA creates arise from the professional personalized consultations. Projects include developing interactive web applications, video projects, and other tools that meet the instructor's objectives. Examples are as follows:
- An anthropology professor thought that playing songs from various indigenous cultures at the beginning of class might help her students become more engaged in class. The project expanded to include video-based screens to accompany the music that are rich with information about each culture, including demographics, maps, photographs, and interesting facts, such as the role of music in the culture.
- An astronomy professor wanted her students to be able to analyze some characteristics and computations in order to identify a black hole. The interactive web application that resulted from this consultation allows students to enter various data for computations and choose various objects to see how they behave in "The Orbiter."
- An art history professor returned from a trip to Europe wishing that she could transport her students--not only to the ancient remains of medieval villages--but back in time as well. Using 3D gaming technologies, "The Medieval Village" project allows students to enter the village through the gates, walk the cobbled paths, enter the centralized Cathedral, and wander the grounds that are peppered with artifacts of the era.
Student employees at the CIIA often carry out research that complements or contributes to each project, in addition to developing them. With significant communication and feedback from the instructor, the project is completed in time for use in the instructor's course. Once a project is complete, subsequent support for new versions are offered.
As Undergraduate Program support grows and changes, so will the focus of the CIIA. The vision is to continue supporting faculty instructional efforts in lower division programs and large lecture courses in the general education program, and begin to develop national connections to other institutions that support faculty efforts in undergraduate learning.
Further questions about the CIIA or the CIIA's representatives, please contact the office at 360-650-7210, firstname.lastname@example.org, or by stopping by our office (Haggard Hall 154).