faculty professional development
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 Department of Behavioral Sciences at St. Louis Community College-Meramec is a diverse department with 16 full-time and 53 adjunct faculty. In an effort to connect those adjuncts to the department, Darlaine Gardetto and some of her colleagues created an adjunct professional development program focused on improving teaching based on Bloom’s Taxonomy.
I had a most interesting experience last summer. I have taught college composition for many years, but I had not participated in a writing workshop as a writer for a long time. Of course, I had regularly run workshops in my classroom. But this time, I had written a short, 600-word essay, and it was workshopped (which to those of us in composition means reviewed and critiqued) by my peers as part of a larger in-service on curiosity and writing.
When the workshop was finished, I turned to a fellow English professor and said, “So that’s how it’s supposed to be done!”
After a refreshing summer break, which included professional development and time to reflect on the mistakes and successes of the last academic year, the start of a new semester is, at least for me, an exciting time.
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.
As higher education budgets for professional development have shrunk in the last few years, it has become more important than ever to plan your professional development goals in a meaningful way. What is it you want to accomplish in the next year? Do you want to become a better instructor, research a specific area, or just attain the funds to attend that great meeting? All of these are goals that you can use to design your comprehensive professional development plan.
I’ve been reading pedagogical literature for a long time and so I don’t often come upon a topic I haven’t seen before. But this week I came across one — it was an article on conversation in an international faculty development journal.
“Self-knowledge is the beginning of all knowledge,” writes C. Roland Christensen, one of the true masters of discussion teaching. He is referring to his development as a teacher—how he arrived at the techniques that made him so effective. Most teacher accounts of growth are not as instructive and insightful as this one. Best of all, the approach he used to develop his discussion leadership skills is one that can be used to develop many teaching skills.
Beginning college teachers benefit when they have an instructional mentor. That fact is well established; as is the fact that mentoring benefits those who mentor. The influx of new faculty over the past few years has caused mentoring programs to flourish. All kinds of activities have been proposed so that mentors and mentees can spend their time together profitably. Addressed less often are those instructional topics particularly beneficial for the experienced and less-experienced teachers to address. Here’s a list of possibilities.
Hiring, promotion, and tenure activities are full of risk and potential landmines. Poor hiring decisions are not only costly, but the hiring process itself opens the institution up to litigation if everyone on the hiring committee is not trained properly.