Linse takes over helm at TLC
New Teaching and Learning Center Director Angela R. Linse confers with acting Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies Peter R. Jones at last month's New Presidential Faculty Orientation.
After a two-year national search by Temple faculty, administration and students - and a series of grueling coast-to-coast trips - Angela R. Linse will make her official debut as the director of Temple's Teaching and Learning Center on Sept. 15. Her self-described mission: "To help Temple's instructors successfully navigate their careers, and to help them make their teaching efficient and effective."
Linse, the first full-time director in the TLC's two-year history, had her first on-the-job sessions with Temple instructors last week, when she flew in from Seattle for three days of TLC-sponsored events: the New Presidential Faculty Orientation, the Summer Teaching and Learning Conference, and the New Teaching Assistant Orientation.
"Teaching, with all of its attendant responsibilities, is a complex business," she told more than 200 assembled new TAs last month. "We hope that by providing you with resources and services, we can demonstrate Temple's desire to support you as you serve a necessary and vital role in helping the University meet its educational mission."
After three marathon days, Linse said she was impressed by the commitment of Temple instructors.
"I sensed that commitment during my interviews," she said. "Now it has been confirmed. It's one of the reasons I wanted to come here."
Linse replaces the TLC's founder, professor Catherine Schifter, who returns to her research and teaching duties in the education department full-time.
"Catherine Schifter laid incredible groundwork for me," Linse said. "I could not be coming into a better situation. She has built a solid foundation of support and collaboration across the campus. My job, for this first year, is to find out what my constituents' priorities are. I need to talk to the campus community: undergraduates, graduate students, the faculty, chairs and deans."
Linse comes to Temple from the University of Washington's Center for Engineering Learning and Teaching, where she was assistant director for faculty development. In less than four years, she helped build the center's offerings from a handful of loosely organized workshops into a comprehensive program with a national reputation. She believes her experience working with engineers - a group that her profession has struggled to reach - has prepared her for the challenges she'll face at Temple, where she'll work with instructors representing many disciplines, each with its own traditions and special needs.
"Instructional development isn't a one-size-fits-all endeavor," she said. "Just as all students don't learn in the same way, the TLC will offer its clients access to information in a variety of formats: individual consultations, seminars, workshops, courses, informal discussions and working meetings."
Working with the engineers scholars who appreciate the importance of demonstrating results - also helped her forge an understanding of one of the hottest trends in her profession, a new emphasis on "educational outcomes."
"Faculty developers realize we have to demonstrate that we've had a positive impact," Linse said. "We've always strived to improve teaching and learning, but we haven't been good at tracking it."
At the University of Washington, she used voluntary and confidential survey techniques to help her clients monitor results in the classroom.
Linse wants Temple's instructors to pay close attention to the words describing the surveys in the last sentence. In fact, if Linse were to chisel the Ten Commandments of the TLC, the first entry on the tablets might be: "Our services are voluntary and confidential."
"Instructors must own the process," she said. "Confidentiality is essential. We are not the teaching police. We facilitate, we support, we help, but we do not judge people's teaching. We don't administer course and teaching evaluations [CATEs]; we help instructors interpret them."
According to Linse's detailed tracking of visits to Washington's Center for Engineering Learning and Teaching, the top reasons that faculty and teaching assistants seek help are: course preparation or redesign ("I want to change this class - what's the most efficient way to do it?"); assessment of student learning ("How do I know my students are learning what I teach?"); encouraging class participation ("How do I get my students to talk?") and coping with student evaluations ("What do I do with my CATEs?").
Linse also hopes to encourage Temple's growing research community to seek out the TLC for help with another challenge: working on educational impact statements required on many research grant proposals. Granting and funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation demand that investigators explain the broader social impacts of their research - a task that many researchers find daunting. Linse says she's helped University of Washington scientists and engineers get their grants approved, and she's convinced she can do the same for Temple researchers.
For now, Linse has an office in Conwell Hall, while the TLC's graduate externs work out of the center's temporary quarters in Ritter Annex. Plans are under way for a permanent home for the TLC in a newly renovated facility on Temple's Main Campus.
"Temple is fortunate that someone with Dr. Linse's experience, talent and vision is taking over the leadership of the Teaching and Learning Center," Provost Ira Schwartz said. "And she's an outstanding scholar and teacher in her own right."
An archaeologist with bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in anthropology from the University of Washington, Linse also grew up in Seattle.
"I was born and bred on the West Coast," she says. "This is my East Coast adventure."
After Temple's faculty and teaching assistants heard what Linse had to say, there are already a few hundred instructors who hope she won't head back west any time soon.
-By Hillel J. Hoffmann