I attended my first Institute on the Curricular Approach (then the Residential Curriculum Institute) in 2010. Since that point I have attended 8 of the 12 total Institutes and served on faculty and planning committees for 6 of them. With the most recent Institute wrapping up this past week in Chicago, I left the experience as I always do: with a full brain and a full heart. On the car ride home I reflected on what it is about this experience that has me coming back for more every year and why I find it so fulfilling.
The Institute is a TRUE learning community.
The Institute practices what it preaches. In order to successfully develop and implement a curriculum, it requires organizational change and the development of a learning-centered organization. As a result, the faculty of the Institute have worked hard to cultivate this same environment for attendees. Participants share mistakes, as well as successes, are both critical and open to feedback, and aren’t afraid to ask questions or challenge assumptions. It is these qualities that make the Institute a true learning community of colleagues. The learning also does not stop when the Institute is over. Through social media, and other means of staying connected, participants share book recommendations, swap ideas for tackling common problems, and seek to help others in their journeys. (Consider joining the Residential Curriculum Facebook Group or follow the #ACPAICA hashtag on Twitter and other platforms.)
The faculty and participants are also very giving of their time. As a faculty member, I can say that I learn just as much as the participants as I do from my fellow faculty. One of my favorite activities is doing the one-on-one campus consults with schools. The consults provide the opportunity for an institution to sit down with one (or a couple) of faculty members and seek guidance through the process. It is in these moments that I feel connected to others and am actively helping them and rooting for their success. It is the true essence of collegiality.
There is ALWAYS something new to learn.
Even though I have been to the Institute multiple times, I always find that I learn something new or that the depth of my understanding increases. When you’re surrounded by curious folks who aren’t afraid to try new things, there is always an opportunity to learn. The Institute brings together such a diverse group of folks representing diverse institutional types, that it allows for one to view old ideas in new ways.
One of the things I’ve learned by consulting on campuses and serving as an Institute faculty member is that there are always new and better ways of explaining things. Listening to how other faculty members and participants approach problems and questions enhances my ability as an educator to find ways to explain concepts with resonance. The faculty do this so frequently, we sometimes find it hard to attribute ideas to specific people. There is open sharing and learning that becomes part of our “common knowledge” that we’ve co-created together.
And then there are the speakers. I don’t know how we do it year after year, but the Institute hires some of the best speakers that get to the heart of our work and our soul. This yaer proved no different.
There is a sense of camaraderie.
“These are my people.” This is something I have said and I have heard others say. People that attend the Institute are the people that “get it.” They are focused on student learning and how to enhance the student experience. So much more than professional colleagues, these folks have become my friends. That feeling doesn’t just stop with us “veterans” who have attended multiple times, but extends to the new folks who join us. Learning is fun and learning alongside these folks is insanely fun. The Institute is a space where we make mistakes, fall down, and there are others alongside us to pick us up. We’re truly in this together doing something new, pushing boundaries, and charting new paths.
In conclusion, I want to say thank you. Thank you to my fellow faculty members for allowing me the privilege to work and learn alongside you. Thank you to the participants for teaching me and for being so open and willing to engage. Thank you to ACPA and Tricia Fechter Gates for organizing and providing the space for a transformational learning experience. And thank you to my company, for allowing me to engage in my professional passion (and paying me for it!).
I can’t wait to see you in Anaheim for the 13th annual Institute on the Curricular Approach! Registration is open now! 🙂