Takeaways from the 2019 POD Network Conference

The Educational Development team from the Center for Teaching and Learning at Washington University in St. Louis recently attended the 2019 POD Network Conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The conference helps higher education professionals connect with one another and share research and best practices in teaching and learning.

POD Network, which was founded in 1976, provides support and services for members through conferences, publications, consulting, and networking. It offers services and resources to those interested in educational development. It also fulfills and advocacy role by seeking to inform and persuade educational leaders of the value of educational development in higher education. The event this year in Pittsburgh was POD’s 44th annual conference.

“It was so inspiring to be around 1200 like-minded colleagues. The educational development community has a culture of sharing and collaboration that permeates everything they do, and the POD conference is a great place to learn about innovative approaches from all sorts of different colleges and universities. It was also a terrific opportunity to share the work that we are doing at WashU,” said Eric Fournier, Director of Educational Development at the Center for Teaching and Learning.

Diversity and inclusion were popular topics at the conference. Educators discussed how to make classes more inclusive, as well as how to highlight diversity and inclusion when preparing for the academic job market.

“The conference inspired me to think more about getting faculty to generate a diversity, equity, and inclusion statement and deepen my knowledge on how these statements are evaluated. This is a statement that many graduate students and postdocs are required to write when they apply for positions,” said Denise Leonard, Associate Director of Educational Development at the Center for Teaching and Learning.

A Friday roundtable, “Disrupting White Supremacist Ideology in Higher Education as Educational Developers,” was particularly thought-provoking. The session highlighted steps educational developers can take to make classes not only inclusive, but anti-racist.

“I always find the roundtable sessions at POD to be rich spaces for exchange between educational developers from across the US. This roundtable in particular highlighted the importance of continuing to support inclusive, anti-racist pedagogical practice on our campuses and offered some practical suggestions for how the Center for Teaching and Learning might continue to integrate these ideas into our programing,” said Meg Gregory, Assistant Director of Educational Development at the Center for Teaching and Learning.

Finally, the conference was also helpful in terms of thinking about the role of a center for teaching and learning on campus. Sessions inspired the team at the Center for Teaching and Learning to think more critically about the kinds of programming offered.

“Every time you add something new, you need to be prepared to let something go. Centers cannot keep adding indefinitely. There are limits of time and energy that need to be considered,” said Michael Wysession, Executive Director at The Center for Teaching and Learning.