Faculty Coffee Break Vol. 2: AI Tools in Teaching and Research w/ Ben Kei Daniel
On July 5th, 2023, GFD welcomed Ben Daniel, Professor of Research Methodology and Educational Technology at the Higher Education Development Centre (HEDC) at the University of Otago, New Zealand, to have a conversation with UTokyo faculty members on his faculty-development work around artificial intelligence (AI). Ben is an incredibly thoughtful and generous person who freely shares his deep knowledge of various aspects of faculty development to help advance higher education in New Zealand and other countries.
While we started asking Ben about how the University of Otago responded to the rapid development of generative AI, our conversation soon spanned out to the organizational structure of faculty development because it became clear that Ben’s HEDC could give us invaluable insights.
First, the University of Otago centrally organizes its faculty development activities and programs, covering all aspects of faculty development. For example, workshops that HEDC offers cover a wide range of topics, including but not limited to “supporting and developing your tutors (teaching assistants),” “assisting postgraduate students with writing,” and “applying to industry and business with a Ph.D.” HEDC’s workshop offering is comprehensive because the university is committed to “holistic academic development,” as Ben put it, to promote faculty development in research, teaching, and service/leadership.
Second, HEDC promotes a culture of peer coaching for teaching excellence through the mechanism called “Teaching and Learning Circles (TLCs),” which involves “group-based, reciprocal peer observation of teaching with the ultimate goal of strengthening teaching culture and practice.” Because TLC offers individually tailored feedback, it nicely complements workshops that provide general guidelines and tips for teaching.
Last but not least, Ben told us that at the beginning of every academic year, HEDC offers a university-wide orientation workshop for staff who newly joined the University of Otago. This workshop is meant to help new members effectively adapt to the system and culture of the university. To signal the importance of this workshop, the vice chancellor attends it to welcome new members and communicate the university’s commitment to excellence in research, teaching, and service.
Hearing from Ben about the organizational structure of faculty development at the University of Otago was eye-opening because it differs from the one at UTokyo. Here, we are not judging which university is better concerning faculty development; a cross-national/institutional comparison is always helpful because it enables us to recognize how the existing organizational structure of faculty development is not “destiny” and explore how we might change it to become more effective and serve our needs better. In this regard, the conversation with Ben was incredibly encouraging, and we look forward to reaching out to him for further brainstorming.