Effective Faculty Development

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EDUCAUSE Exchange | Season 3, Episode 3

On this episode, we discuss ways of effectively reaching faculty and how best to facilitate a sharing of ideas about teaching with technology.

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Gerry Bayne: Welcome to EDUCAUSE Exchange, where we focus on an important topic from the higher ed IT community and hear advice, anecdotes, best practices, and more. Empowering and enabling faculty to craft active learning engagements and deploy educational technology to achieve learning objectives is an enduring topic of interest among the teaching and learning community. On this episode of EDUCAUSE Exchange, we'll hear some advice on reaching faculty and effective ways on implementing faculty development. There's no way around it. The pandemic and its effects on teaching and learning continues to inform faculty development. The emphasis created for online and hybrid courses is still something instructors are getting used to.

Flower Darby: The future of higher ed is in fact hybrid, more online, more virtual, more hybrid, more high flex, more synchronous. And so helping faculty visualize and really implement and get into their wheelhouse what good facilitation looks like online, that's the need that we have right now.

Gerry Bayne: Flower Darby is Associate Director for the Teaching for Learning Center at the University of Missouri. She says that faculty needs to continue to embrace new norms and new teaching modalities by merging our conversations about teaching and technology.

Flower Darby: We need to marry pedagogy and technology. I often see a divide about people talking about effective teaching and good pedagogical techniques, and then other conversations, separate conversations happening about technology and how we can use it well. Now I'm generalizing here. Sometimes we have people talking about both, but I believe we could do more. The biggest need that I would see is looking at what we can do to teach effectively with technology. I don't often see a really strong, robust combination there.

Gerry Bayne: Why do you think that is?

Flower Darby: I believe that when we think about effective teaching, we have a default image that comes into our minds, and that is based on history and experience. I believe that the default mode when we talk about teaching is to picture an in-person classroom or lab or lecture hall of some kind. I don't believe that we have a good robust mental map of online teaching, so to speak. So the fact that, in my opinion, not enough attention is paid to online teaching. We talk about effective course design, we talk about structures and navigations in online courses, but based on the conversations that I've had with literally thousands of faculty members over the past two years and many, many students and other roles on campus, I still don't think we know what good online teaching looks like. And so that's why I say we need to marry pedagogy and technology. What does good pedagogy look like when we're in the classroom? Now, again, I'm making some general statements here, but this is my sense of the landscape right now.

Desi Stephens: Students expect a different product from institutions. They've seen it now. And I think moving forward, this idea of remote teaching that we've been doing and integration of that, I think institutions that do that well are going to prosper.

Gerry Bayne: Desi Stephens is Director for Faculty Development at Florida A&M University.

Desi Stephens: And so I think that faculty and faculty development really needs to spend a lot of time working with faculty on online education, remote teaching and best practices around those areas, which are things that are foreign to faculty members in general because we're used to teaching face-to-face, but I think we need to continue to work on those same areas that we were thinking about in March of 2020.

Gerry Bayne: But how do you get faculty on board? Madeline Gonin, who is Assistant Director for Inclusive Teaching at Indiana University says it isn't always easy with the variety of faculty needs and experience.

Madeline Gonin: We really have to rethink how we reach our faculty. Our instructors who are pressed for time certainly still burns out, and yet they really are interested and want to learn new things. They have information they would like to share. We have to be flexible and really rethink as well, what is it that we are trying to do in some of our event programming? And as a university the size of Indiana University, we have to also think about those needs of yes, being able to scale what we are providing, and yet we still need to meet individual needs.

And I think that's something that I keep thinking about and that I find very intriguing is we have to be thinking about different formats, different channels, different ways of providing this information to our instructors. And also our new instructors who are coming in they just have a different skillset than some of our more senior faculty who have been around for a long time. And I think being able to provide opportunities for networking and cross population of ideas, I think that is an important part as well. Long-term relationships so that we work with faculty over time to develop new skills and expertise.

Flower Darby: What I have seen that's most successful is to really work to create a culture shift. And to me, the culture shift involves elevating the importance of teaching and the value of teaching broadly speaking. We know that faculty have many competing demands on their time, and we also know that teaching is not necessarily always factored into promotion and tenure decisions and other rewards and incentives don't necessarily relate to their teaching effectiveness. So I think about creating a culture shift from both the top down and the bottom up. I believe that we can create community groups, learning communities where faculty can share their ideas. One of my favorite strategies is to invite faculty to observe each other in their classes, not to give feedback, but to learn from what that person they're observing is doing well.

And then I also believe that when institutional leadership is able to incentivize attendance at workshops, for example, or if they're able to develop effective teaching recognition and rewards and prizes, when we have a marriage of both of those kinds of directions, when we encourage department chairs to set aside 10 minutes in their department meeting to talk about effective teaching, we just need to embed our talking about and recognition of good teaching in all of our institutional cultural systems.

Madeline Gonin: My colleague who does research on faculty development programs and their motivation for participating has found that rewards and recognition, those are important things to faculty, and it's not that they necessarily want to get paid for participating, but they do want their effort and their contributions to be recognized. So I think we also have to think about how do we recognize their work and also show connections between their research, show connections to their teaching, their research, and then how does that help them with promotion and tenure as well.

Desi Stephens: The whole idea of the value of faculty development programs at institutions maybe needs to be revamped or rebranded. One of the things that we did at Florida A&M is that we provided faculty with something that they needed and that they wanted, and we did it in a way that was of interest. So we spent a lot of time in thinking about how we marketed our programs and how we packaged them so that faculty would be interested. So doing things like having a thematic approach to what you're doing in terms of development, we limit to all of our workshops to one hour so that faculty don't feel taxed. And we've moved all of those workshops to virtual opportunities for faculty so that it's very convenient for them because they look for the same flexibility that students are looking for.

Gerry Bayne: Once we've reached faculty and gotten a wide variety of interest in learning new tools and practices, what are some of the ways to best develop those ideas?

Desi Stephens: One of the things that we found was effective was to start with small groups. My first faculty development trainees that I did were learning communities with 10 or 15 faculty members. There wasn't much support for them, but just working on things that we knew were challenges for all of us. And so if I were getting started, I might think about doing it in that way, and then you can grow to be bigger as you move forward and add staff or develop your own ideas and abilities.

Madeline Gonin: We have a variety of event types, anything from as simple as a coffee hour to multi-day course development institute to multi semester faculty learning community. But then what our teaching center has been doing is regularly surveying our faculty. So not unlike what we tell instructors to do, which is to regularly get feedback from their students. We're trying to do the same thing so that we can have a better sense of where are our faculty clients right now? What is it that they are willing and able to do in the next two to three months? Just recently, we had listening sessions where we asked particular schools or departments in our set of questions about their experiences with learning technologies. What is it that they cannot do in the class that they would like to be able to do? What are some of those barriers that we can address?

We also have a program called Speed Dating with Learning Technologies, and that's a way in which in two to three hour session, an instructor can get exposure to eight or nine different technologies available to them. And sometimes there's a disconnect. In fact, people say, "Hey, I didn't know we were going to get this new tool." Or, "Hey, this tool that I have loved for 10 years is now going away. What happened?" It's finding ways to communicate and close those feedback loops so instructors have more input and more say, and they also hear from us more regularly. As with everything else, multiple channels of communication and in different formats, because no one reads all of our messages, we have to be creative.

Flower Darby: What we know the research is absolutely showing that better teaching leads to better learning, that leads to more equitable outcomes, and that leads to improved retention and graduation rates. And so I am making a call for institutional leadership to invest in effective teaching by developing their faculty members to be more effective in all modalities, and they're going to see a return on the bottom line with their retention and graduation rates.

Gerry Bayne: If you'd like to dig a little deeper into the topic, check out the 2023 Faculty and Technology Report: A First Look at Teaching Preferences since the Pandemic. The report covers research on four key areas, including modality preferences, experiences teaching online and hybrid courses, technology and digital availability, of course components and types of support needed and utilized for teaching. We'll put a link to that report in the show notes. And let us know what you think. You can reach us at [email protected]. I'm Gerry Bayne for EDUCAUSE. Thanks for listening.


This episode features:

Flower Darby
Associate Director, Teaching for Learning Center
University of Missouri

Madeleine Gonin
Principal Instructional Technology Consultant - STEM Specialist
Indiana University

Desi Stephens
Director for Faculty Development
Florida A&M University

Recommended Resource

2023 Faculty and Technology Report: A First Look at Teaching Preferences since the Pandemic