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.
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
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?
“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.
Management professor David A. Whetten, who now directs a faculty development center, admits with honesty that for some years he didn’t think there was much he could learn from people who “studied” education. After all, he was in the classroom doing education and had learned much from that experience. In a wonderful piece [see reference below] he explains how a conversation with his golf instructor resulted in an important insight about the nature of experiential learning.
Instructional Design: Six Strategies to Make Courses More Learner Centered Without Sacrificing Content
Concerns about covering content are legitimate, but they often block a whole family of techniques that more effectively involve students and promote learning. “I know I should do more active learning, but I have all this content to cover . . .” We routinely favor involving students but we do so understanding that the content-coverage dilemma confronts faculty with difficult decisions.
Are your experienced faculty members as effective in the classroom as you would like them to be? If not, perhaps a faculty development program like the University of Minnesota’s Mid-Career Teaching Program could be the answer. Many faculty members currently in mid-career have probably had fewer teaching enrichment opportunities than their more recently hired colleagues, and just because they are experts in their disciplines does not necessarily make them good teachers. In addition, teaching is becoming more complex: student populations are more diverse than they used to be, and they often expect more from professors than students did in the past…
Two years ago, a midcareer colleague in the mathematics department sent around an e-mail to all faculty at our college, inviting us to read a book with her. And as simply as that, a teaching circle was formed.
A teaching circle, the term we use at my institution, is simply a group of faculty interested in discussing teaching at regular intervals, ideally over food. As my colleague said, laughing, at our first meeting, “I need a support group, and everyone needs lunch!”…