“I just stumbled onto this. . .” I heard the phrase a couple of times in presentations during the recent Teaching Professor Technology Conference. Faculty presenters used it to describe their discovery of an aspect of instruction that worked well, such as an assignment detail or activity sequence. Since then I’ve been thinking about accidental learning and the role it plays or might play in the instructional growth of teachers.
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.
I am on my way to speak at another professional development day at a college. I do these events with misgivings—frequently persuading myself on the way home that I really shouldn’t be doing them.
Some time ago, a colleague and I reviewed the literature on interventions to improve instruction. If I were to do that paper again, I would pay special attention to those changes that improved student learning. The research we looked at then did not give workshops very high marks. If teachers changed, they did so right after the event, but soon reverted to their old ways of doing things
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.
McGraw-Hill Education and Magna Publications Launch Magna Campus to Support Faculty Development in Higher Education
Professional development in the higher education industry is becoming increasingly important as shifts in student demographics, pedagogy and classroom technology usage mean that faculty require a new generation of training tools. To help educators respond effectively to these challenges, McGraw-Hill Education today announced the launch of Magna Campus, the first professional development product created through the collaboration between Magna Publications and the McGraw-Hill Learning Institute, the company’s professional development unit designed to help faculty navigate new and emerging educational technologies.
Not everything we do in our courses works as well as we’d like. Sometimes it’s a new assignment that falls flat, other times it’s something that consistently disappoints. For example, let’s take a written assignment that routinely delivers work that is well below our expectations. It might be a paper that reports facts but never ties them together, an essay that repeats arguments but never takes a stand, or journal entries that barely scratch the surface of deep ideas.
The well-known three-legged stool of academic life—teaching, research, and service—has been assumed to cover the main responsibilities of faculty in academic communities. But is there a missing leg that would add strength and stability to the stool? I propose there is. It’s professional faculty development, and I would also propose that faculty committed to teaching should be its most articulate advocates.
For the past three years I have directed a small program that has produced big results at Tusculum College. For as little as $3,000 per year, our college has increased its sense of campus community, helped with current faculty development, more quickly integrated new faculty, and modeled scholarly discussions for students. Officially the program goes by the name “The Teaching and Learning Initiative,” but it has acquired the nickname “teaching circles.”
It’s an issue many colleges and universities are facing today: How do you expand research capacity while still preserving an institution’s traditional emphasis on effective teaching? How is it possible to improve your reputation in one of these areas without abandoning your reputation in the other? How can you expand your mission in an environment of increasingly strained budgets, greater competition among institutions (including public, private, for-profit, and virtual universities), and rigorous accountability? And how do you balance the expectation of so many legislatures and governing boards that you demonstrate student success with their simultaneous expectation that you obtain more and more external funding from sponsored research and the frequent pursuit of grants?