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Monday, July 18, 2016

Five Fundamentals of Faculty Development | Faculty Focus

Photo: Patty Phelps
Dr. Patty Phelps, professor in the Department of Teaching & Learning at the University of Central Arkansas insist, "I am not a skilled athlete, but I have watched enough sporting events to know that the fundamentals are essential to both player and team success."

Photo: Faculty Focus

Coaches can often be heard repeating such maxims as “keep your eye on the ball,” “follow through,” and “hold your position.”

Faculty development has its own set of fundamentals. More than 20 years ago, I co-authored a grant establishing the faculty development center at the University of Central Arkansas. Over the years, I have served as faculty coordinator, co-director, and director. My experiences may benefit others who are working in the field or plan to in the future. Here are five fundamentals for designing and delivering effective faculty development:
  1. Begin with a clear vision. Almost every authority on leadership will mention the importance of creating a mental picture of your ideal future (i.e., a vision). As a starting point identify your core values. What ideals are most important to you and your institution? How do you see your role as a faculty developer (e.g., mentor, encourager, change agent, etc.)? What do you want faculty development to look and feel like on your campus? Gather input from center staff as well as your constituents. Incorporate these ideas into a brief, descriptive statement. This vision can then serve as a guide for future decisions and actions. (Note: Be sure to check for alignment with your institution’s mission.)
  2. Maintain the right perspective. In my session at the recent Teaching Professor Conference, I included a cell phone survey regarding effective faculty development. The most-missed survey question revealed that many faculty developers participating in the workshop viewed faculty development from a remedial perspective. This is a less than effective stance. Faculty who take advantage of professional development activities must not be seen as deficient. Rather than approaching faculty development as a way to “fix” designated faculty, recognize its potential to boost the instructional vitality of all faculty. When you see learning to teach as a lifelong process involving continual improvement, you are less inclined to take a remedial view of faculty development. The right perspective is one that is grounded in growth; it focuses on improving student learning, serves all campus faculty, and includes a variety of programs and services. No one group or type of individual is singled out. (Additional guidance: Weimer’s 2010 book, Inspired college teaching: A career-long resource for professional growth is an excellent resource to orient you toward the desired perspective.) 

Source: Faculty Focus

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