Adrienne Lavine

Q&A with Associate Vice Provost Adrienne Lavine

Adrienne Lavine is UCLA’s Associate Vice Provost of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and a professor in mechanical and aerospace engineering at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering. She has served as chair of her department and of the Academic Senate. Lavine received the 2003 Samueli Teaching Award and the UCLA Samueli University Service Award in 2020. She is the co-author of an internationally acclaimed textbook on heat transfer. Lavine serves on the UCLA Samueli Awards Selection Committee for the Lockheed Martin Excellence in Teaching Award and Northrop Grumman Excellence in Teaching Award. Both prizes are designed to recognize faculty who have adopted effective, evidence-based teaching methods in engineering.

“When I assumed my leadership role with the Center, I quickly identified that faculty development was an area of opportunity. … my first idea was to pilot a professional development program with UCLA Samueli.”

Q: Could you tell us about your priorities for the Center for the Advancement of Teaching (previously known at the Office for Instructional Development)?
When I assumed my leadership role with the Center, I quickly identified that faculty development was an area of opportunity. There was already expertise among the Center’s staff, but that expertise hadn’t been deployed in a strategic manner. We wanted to focus anew on developing faculty teaching skills. For example, our office holds a campus-wide new faculty teaching engagement event every fall. This event establishes, with all new faculty, that teaching matters at UCLA. It also introduces our faculty to campus resources and reinforces our support for student-centered, equity-minded teaching. Last fall we expanded the event, in collaboration with other campus teaching support units, to assist all faculty with remote teaching.

Q: How has the Center partnered with the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering?
When I started with what was then called the Office of Instructional Development in July 2017, my first idea was to pilot a professional development program with UCLA Samueli. Both Dean [Jayathi] Murthy and [Academic and Student Affairs] Associate Dean [Richard] Wesel were enthusiastic partners. Dean Wesel had taken on some initiatives already in this professional development space for faculty, but was really happy to work with us. We undertook a program we called “Faculty Teaching Faculty About Teaching” (or “FT Squared” because we’re engineers). We recruited a cadre of faculty known to care deeply about teaching to create a series of talks and workshops. This group put together shared priorities. At that point, the Center for the Advancement of Teaching team would meet with the faculty instructors to hone their message to be consistent with best pedagogical practices and understanding, and give them the language and structure to incorporate these principles.

Q: How does your engineering background inform how you approach your work and conceptualize your leadership with the Center for the Advancement of Teaching?
As an engineer, I would say that I approach this work very pragmatically. I want to propose initiatives for the campus that are both meaningful and achievable.

In a larger sense, one pedagogical approach to teaching is called backwards design. You start by stating what it is you want students to learn. You then design assessments and projects for them to demonstrate that they learned the key objective. And then, you design the course so they can perform well on assessments. This approach is very consistent with an engineering approach to designing a product. You first figure out what a product has to accomplish and design it accordingly.

Q: How did you and your team experience the teaching needs relative to the pandemic?
The Center for the Advancement of Teaching was certainly not alone among campus groups offering resources to help our faculty manage the dramatic and rapid shift in teaching. In the immediate response, we assisted with a lot of technology questions, as well as refining our website and digital resources. The Center also curated resources about how to approach equity-minded teaching in the remote context, given time zone challenges, technological access, etc.

In this year of crises, we also emphasized to our faculty and graduate students that expressing compassion not only helps a student’s emotional well-being, but also their ability to learn and perform to their best ability. Teaching can be adjusted to better support the realities in which we lived during this challenging period.

Q: Did Engineering faculty and graduate students (or STEM more broadly) have different needs during the past year?
There is a lot of commonality in what good teaching looks like across disciplines. That said, our engineering faculty weren’t daunted by the technological aspects of remote teaching. They embraced the technology and shared with each other in workshops held by the School of Engineering about good approaches and tools.