Creating Sustainable Engagement for Faculty Development Initiatives

faculty development meeting

As a faculty member working in educational development, there is a question at the forefront of my work—how do we drive and maintain engagement in faculty development initiatives?

In the book The Four Cultures of the Academy (Bergquist, 1992), those in academia who identify with developmental culture can be seen as idealistic and unproductive; they are busy imagining what things should be like as opposed to the more pragmatic colleagues in the collegial and managerial cultures who focus on plans and strategies that are often easier to implement and produce quantifiable impacts. With these competing forces and priorities, it can be easy for initiatives related to faculty development to get left behind or relegated to the compliance box of the checklist of things we simply must have. So how do we move away from this and promote a culture of sustainable engagement for faculty development?

Here are five simple points to consider:

1. Leverage marketing. Get back to the basics of the four Ps of marketing, also known as the “marketing mix” (Kotler, 2011): product, price, place, and promotion. In the context of faculty development, the product, or what we are “offering,” is the service of professional development. Although sometimes there is a financial cost, the most significant price for faculty is time. For place, the development is traditionally done in a face-to-face environment whether on or off campus. With the advancement of digital tools and new technologies, we can offer online solutions in both synchronous and asynchronous formats, including courses, webinars, and virtual environments. Finally, we increase awareness of what is available through promotion.

Consider the ways in which you promote your workshops or programs. E-mails are easy to ignore and easy to delete. Consider something new, but make sure the core message is still present. Recently, I promoted a pedagogical working group series using Adobe Spark. Click on this link to see a sample:

2. Embrace the power of social media. In addition to a departmental website or LMS page, develop an active presence on social media platforms—Facebook, LinkedIn,, ResearchGate, Twitter, and many others. These platforms are a great way to increase the visibility of your work inside and outside of your institution. It is also a great way to stay connected with faculty, expand your network, and share resources.

3. Experiment with new teaching practices. Stay up-to-date with digital tools that enhance teaching methods and activities, but have discriminating taste. Just because something is new doesn’t make it applicable to all contexts. I always refer to the 3E Framework for Technology Enhanced Learning (Smyth, 2012) to help faculty evaluate what might work in their classrooms or for a particular activity.

The 3E Framework encourages faculty to look at technology use in the classroom at three levels—enhance, empower, and extend. Most faculty can say they use technology to enhance teaching. An example we can all relate to is using PowerPoint for lecture slides as opposed to delivering a traditional lecture without visuals. Reaching the second and third levels—empower and extend— involves leveraging technology to promote active learning. This involves activities in which students create, share, and apply knowledge in their current context and other professional and personal contexts.

4. Solicit feedback: As educational developers, we are often used to delivering feedback, but we must be open to receiving feedback as well. Actively solicit feedback and be quick to react to advice that could improve your teaching.

5. Be accessible, approachable, and authentic. Those in the developmental culture often exhibit a power labeled “charisma,” the ability to persuade and motivate other people (Weber, 1947). Educational developers are academic partners who are there to support teaching and learning activities, not to judge or direct.

Although these ideas are related to sustainable engagement, sparking initial engagement might be tied to the structure and perception of faculty development itself in your institution.

The work that we do in faculty development is aimed at continuous improvement of our faculty, our students, our institutions, and the higher education community. This is what guides sustainable engagement and the significance of our work.

Rachel C. Plews is a conseillère pédagogique and lecturer at the Ecole hoteliere de Lausanne, where she coordinates faculty development initiatives and programming.


Bergquist, W. H. (1992). The four cultures of the academy. Jossey-Bass Inc., Publishers, 350 Sansome Street, San Francisco, CA 94104-1310.

Kotler, P., Keller, K. L., Manceau, D., & Hémonnet-Goujot, A. (2015). Marketing management (Vol. 14). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Smyth, K. (2012). Exploring and applying the 3E Framework for technology-enhanced learning. In ASCILITE-Australian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education Annual Conference (Vol. 2012, No. 1).

Weber, M. (1947). The Theory of Social and Economic Organization. New York: Free Press.