Philosophy of Faculty Development

As a faculty developer, I believe that your work at the university level is guided by the needs of the institution, the faculty members, and the student population that is served. I believe that in order to do my job effectively, I need to continually strive to balance my own understanding of effective teaching and learning with the level of readiness of the system I am working in and the level of experience and understanding of its stakeholders. My own philosophy of faculty development stems not only from the experiences I have had on the job, but also from an intersection of my experiences in the areas of teaching, research, and service.

With respect to my experience in the area of teaching, I consider myself to be an early adopter in the change process. I believe that in order to establish credibility amongst the faculty I work with, I must be willing to use the same teaching strategies I am promoting in workshops, consultations, and presentations. For example, I frequently consult with faculty on the use of inquiry-based learning strategies in the classroom and in order to truly understand the potential pitfalls and successes of this approach I needed to adopt this method in my own course. As a result, when I taught the introductory instructional design class in my affiliated department I decided to have students work in groups and used a combination of case-based and project-based learning. Moreover, I used a self-evaluation technique in the beginning of the course to help group students, I organized the class around student discussion of the material, I used self-assessments for each chapter to promote student reading of the material, and I used grading rubrics to assess their projects throughout the semester. My reason for adopting each of these different approaches was not only because I believed they would enhance student attainment of the learning objects, but also because it gave me the opportunity to experience the techniques and thus be better able to consult with faculty on their use.

Just as the conception of research varies from discipline to discipline, I believe that research as it applies to faculty development can vary as well. To me, research can be 1) a specific study into the impact of faculty support on the adoption, implementation and diffusion of course changes; 2) an evaluation of an individual implementation of a course change; 3) collaborating with faculty on external grants in order to evaluate the impact of more broad-based change; or 4) an assessment of a curricular program or unit. In each of these instances, the goal is to engage in an in-depth study of different approaches to the teaching and learning process and from the results, learn about how different methods are more or less effective with different student populations and disciplines. I consider my research into the different processes that can enhance support to faculty as an ongoing project. Since the process of adoption-diffusion process can take time, I believe that every three to five years faculty support units should undertake a study to compare the types of support offered with the implementation, transfer and diffusion of changes in order to make informed decisions about the best way to assist faculty in the change process. A majority of my work as a faculty developer is situated in areas 2, 3, and 4 above. In every course change project I work on with a faculty member, I encourage faculty to embed both formative and summative evaluation techniques to gain a better understanding of the impact of the change on student learning. In many cases, these collaborations have led to conference presentations and publications by the faculty member and/or myself. My collaborations on externally funded grants have focused mainly on assessment, either as a co-principal investigator or an external evaluator. In each of these instances, I have contributed to the writing of the assessment portion of the grant proposal. Finally, with the emphasis on program assessment in higher education, most recently I have focused my efforts on delivering workshops and consulting with faculty on how they can engage in the assessment process. I believe that the program assessment process is the key to transforming teaching and learning because the gaps identified create opportunities for small and large scale changes, potential external grants and research and focused faculty development. Thus, our universities and degree granting programs stay current and are better equipped to respond to the needs of future students and society.

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