Instructor Impacts

Instructor Impacts

How has the program impacted faculty participants?

 [The CDF program] is very valuable. We tend to do the same old stuff in our classes—exam, paper, exam, paper, repeat. This only taps into certain sets of skills. While these assignments develop valuable academic skills, students often have much more they can bring to their class experience. For a certain type of student (and teacher!) who feel constrained by the limits of traditional assignments and classroom protocols, the [Creative Discovery Fellows] program is quite freeing in providing institutional support for trying something new.

As the above instructor outlined, the CDF Program has opened up new possibilities and modes of representation and learning that are currently undersupported and underutilized in the classroom. The CDF program was designed to fill a noted gap in how creative tools were used and what types of common training programs were available. The intentions were not simply to enhance a course but to expand and support a faculty member’s understanding and use of new technologies, modes of learning, and pedagogy. While student-centered outcomes often are often highlighted, the CDF program has also had a demonstrable impact on instructor pedagogical practices and enjoyment. 

Did the support from the CDF program match instructors' needs?

 A core tenet of the CDF program was to provide appropriate support for instructors at a variety of individual levels, so that they could engage in meaningful and impactful creative assignment design and pedagogy. The CDF program offered a constellation of support for instructors (and their students)  both during the creative assignment design and implementation phase. On average, instructors reported that the amount of support they received from the CDF program matched the level they desired for their creative assignments. Instructors desired (and received) the most support for framing and implementing their creative assignments and for supporting digital tool usage and student completion of the creative projects. On average, instructors wish they had received more support for assessing their students’ creative projects, though this gap was closed with each subsequent semester of the program.

What benefits did instructors gain from the CDF program?

Peer-led learning and innovation

Instructors who participated in the CDF Program reported many unique benefits. Through interviews and qualitative coding for instructor reflections, we saw several main themes emerge. In general, instructors reported that the CDF program allowed them to:

  • Engage in interesting intellectual projects and inventive pedagogies
  • Develop a community of practice with other like-minded instructors
  • Build stronger relationships with their students
  • Create and implement creative assignments that allow students to bring their full selves into the classroom, take risks, and/or more deeply engage with the course material
  • Experiment with new or additional modes of learning and communication

The CDF Program was intentionally designed around a cohort structure, which allowed a group of instructors to move through their creative assignment design and implementation together. The program provided space and time for instructors to gather and share ideas and receive feedback and inspiration from each other. Many instructors spoke about the impact this cohort model had on their CDF experience. As one instructor noted, this cohort structure brought together many different types of people and projects, which ultimately led to more expansive ideas.

Bringing together –  a cohort of people who are all doing different types of creative projects at the same time – provided a lot of support and cross-fertilization of ideas.

Similarly, another instructor pointed to the support provided to students and the community created for the instructors as the most valuable parts of the CDF Program. The ability to gather and be in dialogue with other instructors and staff expanded the possibilities for impactful creative assignments.

The greatest value was in the technical support for students and gathering with other faculty and staff to hear about and discuss the various possibilities — to open up the doors to what else can be done in assignments when multi-media are integrated.

Other instructors appreciated not only their peers' knowledge but also the knowledge and expertise of the CDF support team and other outside experts, all of which were designed to aid with technical, creative, and pedagogical design. Indeed, some instructors even said this helped them pivot to remote instruction during the spring 2020 semester.

I loved learning about all the other courses and assignments colleagues were doing. I also learned a tremendous amount about course design from all the DLS and bCourses-savvy folks – much of which aided the pivot to remote instruction this spring.

In general, instructors reported that the monthly cohort meetings were useful for their assignment design and implementation and that in-person workshops and consultations with the CDF support team were very useful parts fo the CDF program.

Relationship building between instructor and student

Instructors also spoke about how the creative assignments and digital tools brought a richness into their classrooms. The creative projects enhanced classroom pedagogy and made visible to instructors the knowledge and effort students put into their learning. The projects also shifted instructors' practices towards more formative assessment including opportunities for project reflection and feedback. As one instructor noted, this led to a deeper and more productive relationship between themselves and their students:

I learned how to use the Adobe tools to highlight and enhance my classroom teaching. It allowed me to look at how well the students were able to transfer their academic understanding into the projects themselves. I can see when there was depth and the amount of effort taken in the projects. I also found that I had to be very proactive in working with students to see how the projects were going. This in turn developed a better relationship between myself and the students.

And yet another instructor noted that the creative project allowed her to play a facilitator role instead of their typical instructor role:

For me, participating in this program allowed me to interact with students in a very different way than I normally do; this was a small group, and my role was as facilitator, rather than “instructor”. It was really fun for me to see the students collaborate successfully on this project.

While not all classes and creative projects will lend themselves to such a  small and personal group structure, introducing a novel project into a classroom room often provides impetus to reassess the roles and dynamics at play in a classroom. Designing and implementing an impactful creative assignment necessitates reflection on and design for student-centered, participatory, and formative pedagogies and outcomes.

For students, I think the benefits [of a creative project] can be immense. They can really immerse themselves in class material in a way that is meaningful to them; they can learn or hone skills that are valuable in the labor market; they will have a product they can display as evidence of that skill, and they could have collaborative experiences with peers. I imagine that for students who complete the creative assignments that are supported by Adobe Fellows, these will be among the most memorable of their college years.
CDF Instructor

Instructor observed benefits to students

When asked to reflect on the impact of the CDF program, many instructors spoke about the immense benefit they believed this type of work had for their students. One of the most common impacts instructors observed was how the creative projects the instructors designed and implemented allowed students to bring their full selves into the classroom through the creative project. Instructors observed how the creative projects served as a bridge for students to relate their personal experiences to the broader topics of the course. Instructors also gave students a great deal of agency over their creative projects which allowed the students to choose topics that were important to them and apply their prior skills and knowledge to the project.  

Creative projects can be very productive, and I think the approach of making them one of multiple options is useful for students to be able to match their own interests, talents, and desires.

Several instructors discussed how creative projects opened up more possibilities for instructors and students alike compared to more traditional term papers and how the support that CDF Program provided made these possibilities exciting and productive instead of overwhelming. Even though creative projects might require more upfront thought and effort on the part of the student and instructors, instructors overall thought they were well worth the effort and that, once again, the many different support options provided by CDF Program made this a much more seamless transition.

The programs are an advance over the standard term paper model which in many cases require a lot of motivation. They may take more work and effort, however, this can definitely be a plus in allowing students to conduct research outside the classroom, conduct oral history interviews with community members. Through instructor training, the information can be transferred quite easily (through tools such as Spark and Rush) to the students who themselves take part in creating new narratives about social justice.

Instructors also discussed how they designed their creative assignments to encourage risk-taking in students and that they believed that the creative projects allowed for deeper engagement (which, in one instructor’s case, led to overall higher grades for the class) than they had previously observed.

I found that students not only dug into the creative work, but also engaged with historical sources more deeply than they typically do for a paper. For example, in their final reflections, many of my students spoke about the diary they read early in the class in great depth -- far more depth than I typically see about sources they read only for class, and I think that’s because the nature of the creative project led to deeper engagement.

Finally, many instructors talked about how creative projects open up more modes of learning and communication for their students. The CDF instructors designed creative assignments that allowed students to explore new tools and media for organizing, framing, and presenting their work. Instructors observed how creative assignments opened up new avenues of research and exploration for students since some topics are more easily represented in media other than text.

The program also opened up new paths for my students to explore different research topics that might be more easily represented in multi-media than in text.

These assignments often pushed students to think about who they were speaking to or serving with their creative projects. They allowed students to choose how they wanted to learn and showcase their knowledge and creativity.  

For students the ability to express themselves in dimensions other than text—particularly given the major and growing importance of multi-media in our digital lives—is highly valued.

I think from the perspective of students and their work on the creative projects, the support of the Adobe Fellows program opened up greater possibilities and more flexibility to imagine, design, and implement a project.
CDF Instructor