An initial look at a conference program can lead attendees to become (in the words of a former colleague) “paralyzed by the possibilities.” There are just so many sessions we’d like to attend that it’s hard to choose. At a recent conference, a new faculty member asked me for advice about negotiating the labyrinth. Here is a collection of strategies that I have developed over the years to help me make the most of the conference experience—before, during, and after the event.
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
faculty development strategies
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.
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.
For more than nine years, I have been deeply interested in metacognition as it applies to the art and science of teaching. I have also been involved in taking non-professional teachers and training them to be both content area experts and more than adequate teachers in the classroom. This can be a tough endeavor as people like to teach in non-traditional schools for a variety of reasons and some are not always interested in becoming teachers qua teachers. Worse are those who feel being a subject matter expert is enough because as long as they’re talking, the students must be learning, right?
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.
Academic leaders can have a tremendous effect on faculty satisfaction and productivity. Part of the responsibility of being an academic leader is to provide appropriate guidelines and support to foster faculty productivity throughout their careers, says Susan Robison, a psychology professor at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland. In an interview with Academic Leader, she offered the following advice on how to support faculty:
I have observed, sometimes in myself and sometimes in colleagues, a certain tendency to be ironically unaware of (or inattentive to) a crucial disconnect between what we say and what we do. We’re good at talking the talk, but we are not so good at walking the walk, particularly in terms of our audience awareness.