The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning Assessment (CETLA) recently celebrated its anniversary, marking five years of remarkable innovation and growth. Founding director Teresa Redd, Ph.D., says that CETLA’s mission is “to develop a cadre of faculty who will produce distinguished and compassionate leaders to serve the nation and the global community.” CETLA seeks to improve students’ learning and foster a “culture of assessment” by becoming a resource of teaching, learning and assessment for educators nationwide.
To fulfill its mission, the center advises faculty about instructional design and classroom assessment, conducts training workshops, develops online tutorials, offers a summer institute, hosts guest lectures, co-sponsors conferences, promotes interdisciplinary collaboration and maintains a resource-rich Web site. Hands-on technology workshops cover a wide range of tools in Howard’s Blackboard course management system, including discussion boards, self-scoring tests, and online grade books, while other technology workshops focus on using multimedia, student response systems (“clickers”) and statistical packages to improve teaching, learning and assessment.
Because of its technology support, many observers harbor the misconception that CETLA strives only to expand the effective use of technology in the classroom. However, according to Redd, “tech support” is only one of many ways that it seeks to carry out its mission. For example, CETLA directs Howard’s Writing Across the Curriculum program, which seeks to improve students’ writing and learning across all disciplines by training faculty to design and respond to writing assignments more effectively.
According to CETLA’s 2008 annual report, almost half of Howard’s faculty members from all 12 schools and colleges participated in its activities—on site or online. Since many faculty enrolled in multiple activities, enrollment exceeded 2,000.
Such participation has led to significant changes. As a result of the center’s training, the School of Divinity developed a rubric for evaluating student writing, the College of Medicine added the Turning Point student response system to the software package for freshmen, and the Graduate School started checking all theses and dissertations for plagiarism with the aid of the Turnitin plagiarism detector.
CETLA has also earned a reputation for innovation and in October 2007 was recognized by the Professional and Organizational Development (POD) Network as a national finalist for POD’s Innovation Award for designing a unique online syllabus database. CETLA developed the database to facilitate the exchange of teaching strategies, student selection of courses and administrative review of the curriculum. Since its inception in 2005, faculty members have voluntarily posted more than 2,000 syllabi.
In the spirit of its own “culture of assessment,” CETLA constantly monitors its impact by asking its patrons to fill out anonymous surveys immediately after using its services. The center also surveys all faculty every year. On the surveys, faculty members consistently give CETLA high ratings. On the most recent Annual Faculty Survey, faculty members wrote, “They are exemplars of excellence in service and innovation,” “CETLA is a real treasure at Howard University,” and “I can’t imagine what we would do without CETLA. Thank you for helping us become world class professors.”
What is the secret of CETLA’s success?
According to CETLA’s Information Systems Manager Frederick Appiah, “CETLA’s strongest asset is its dedicated staff.” In addition to Appiah and Redd, the full-time staff includes three other employees: Carl Brown, assistant director; Brion Long, programmer analyst; and Gloria Bethea, administrative assistant.
Student employees also play a critical role in its success by serving as webmasters, video editors, instructional technology assistants, clerical assistants and research assistants. Another important asset—the faculty volunteers who conduct CETLA’s guest lectures on everything from learning styles and advising to distance-learning and interdisciplinary teaching.
Staff members are optimistic about the future and Brown said that CETLA’s importance will increase. “As online learning increases—we will enhance this arena at Howard and continue to make a positive impact,” Brown said.
To learn more, visit http://www.cetla.howard.edu.