Phillips helps faculty become more effective, innovative

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phillips streamScott Phillips, Ph.D., director of the UAB Center for Teaching and LearningPerhaps what makes Scott Phillips, Ph.D., so good at his job as director of the UAB Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) is that he is no stranger to the game.

Phillips joined UAB in 2008 as an assistant professor of music technology and co-director of the music technology program. By 2015, he was associate director of the CTL, which provides professional and teaching-support programs and encourages teaching effectiveness and innovation among faculty. He was named director in 2016.

Phillip’s experience as a faculty member here gives him a unique perspective on the things they want and need, nominators say. Translating that knowledge to his work earned him the 2018 Sam Brown Bridge Builder Award, given to a faculty or staff member who is committed to cross-campus collaboration that enhances research and teaching activities at UAB. He was honored during the 2018 Faculty Convocation Oct. 22.

This past spring, the CTL offered 91 workshops to 1,430 participants, and 1,000 teachers have logged more than 4,000 attendances at CTL events.

“Scott was always open to others, eager to grow and expand the scope of his teaching and research interests,” said Catherine Daniélou, Ph.D., associate professor of French and senior associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Arts and Sciences. “He was the first faculty to approach online teaching for non-music appreciation courses in the Department of Music in 2012.”


A new path

When Phillips, now associate professor, first began working in the CTL, the program was doing well, but not thriving, nominators say. But he remains dedicated, reaching out to groups across campus and tailoring CTL offerings to each while searching for an overlap of needs between units.

“Through these efforts, Scott maximized the CTL’s outreach and effectively built bridges across campus, bringing together people from different units to discuss their teaching efforts and challenges, finding solutions together that best meet the needs of our varied learners,” said Dale Dickinson, Ph.D., director of the UAB Quality Enhancement Plan.

To encourage faculty participation, Phillips found a balance between offering workshops engaging enough to catch the eye of busy faculty and incentives to engage them. In 2016, Phillips developed a game system in which faculty earn points and badges for workshops attended. When various point thresholds are met, they earn a CTL Teaching Certificate. Additionally, “teaching passports” are offered to enable faculty to track points, stickers and badges, a points leaderboard is on the CTL website and an awards ceremony is held at the end of each academic year.

“We have the greatest impact when we stay focused on what will benefit our students the most. Better and more effective teaching benefits our students.”

His process is working: This past spring, the CTL offered 91 workshops to 1,430 participants, Phillips said, and he was profiled in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the nation’s largest newsroom dedicated to covering colleges and universities, as an example of success in continuing education.

Cassandra Volpe Horii, president of the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education, told the Chronicle that she believes gamification programs such as the one Phillips developed have good potential and that they can encourage “a sense of self-direction and agency” among participants.

“It took a lot of creativity in developing the badges and points system, plus effective branding, developing strong relationships and providing useful and helpful information to have success,” Phillips told UAB Reporter. “But now hundreds of faculty participate in our workshops each month, and 1,000 teachers have logged more than 4,000 attendances at our events. This success has contributed to an increased awareness of the importance of teaching on campus and is helping to build a dynamic and organic culture of innovative teaching at UAB.”

Sharing the success

The partnerships Phillips has nurtured across campus has led to offerings from UAB Libraries, Disability Support Services, Academic Advising and more. It made sense to augment the CTL calendar with additional workshops provided by other experts on campus, Phillips said. Workshops from outside entities that partner with the CTL also count for points and badges.

“Scott was always open to others, eager to grow and expand the scope of his teaching and research interests.”

“These partnerships have brought a wealth of campus partners into the CTL to help our faculty become more effective, benefitting our students at all levels,” said Gregg Janowski, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Materials Sciences and Engineering and associate provost for assessment and accreditation.

Phillips agrees, saying that the end goal of all his work at the CTL is to ensure students have access to the best education possible.

“Our purpose at the CTL is to help faculty become better teachers,” he said. “We have the greatest impact when we stay focused on what will benefit our students the most. Better and more effective teaching benefits our students.”

 

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