faculty development programs
Consider this hypothetical situation: The vice president of academic affairs has just sent you a cryptic email asking you to define the impact of your faculty development center. Could you do so? What would you say? How would you measure the impact?
The use of student learning outcomes (SLOs) is commonplace at regionally accredited colleges and universities in the United States. I have been working with SLOs in one form or another for the past decade, even before they became fashionable. Many years ago, while I was an instructor in the US Navy, SLOs were called Terminal Objectives. After the service, I taught GED classes and at that time SLOs were referred to as Learning Goals. Regardless of the latest trendy technical name, SLOs are clear statements that describe the new skills students should be able to demonstrate as a result of a learning event such as a college course (Ewell, 2001). Whether teaching online, on-ground, or via a blended environment, the importance of defining the intended outcomes, before instruction takes place, cannot be overstated because SLOs identify fundamental and measurable student skills, help outline needed curricular content, and define appropriate assessment.
This is an era of rapid transformation and heightened opportunities for Faculty Development Centers (FDCs). There is a growing realization that faculty development can be a crucial component in addressing some of the most significant challenges facing higher education, including technology’s impact on teaching, reliance on part-time and distance faculty, and student success.
Faculty development programs exist, at least to some degree, to help faculty become better teachers, better scholars, and better members of the campus community. Schools invest in faculty development in different ways and at different levels. Yet increasing calls for accountability in higher education are demanding evidence of return on investment. In other words, colleges and universities that are spending time, money, or other resources on faculty development need to determine and show what is working—and improve or abandon what isn’t. Hence the need to evaluate faculty development efforts and to determine their impact
The past 10 years have witnessed some massive growing pains in education. Nearly all aspects at all levels have been touched by efforts to reform in an attempt to create meaningful learning opportunities for today’s students. New tools, skills, approaches, and media have redefined the way we create those experiences, and educators who don’t learn and engage in them will see themselves become increasingly irrelevant. In short, faculty development now more than ever is necessary to an institution’s viability.
Faculty development has become a priority at many academic institutions as a way to improve the quality of academic programs and to respond to emerging faculty, student, program, and industry needs.
Faculty development is a crucial and vital component to any college or university. For institutions with geographically dispersed faculty who are teaching online, in some cases for the very first time, faculty development takes on a new level of importance. Here the challenges are not only ensuring instructors understand the technical aspects of teaching online and have the instructional skills to meet online learners’ needs, but also instilling a sense of community.
Professional development is essential for maintaining and developing the skills of higher education employees. Beyond educating students, colleges also have to keep faculty and administrators continually updated with the latest technology, changes in enrollment characteristics, and larger societal issue so that they can help students be more successful.