I strongly aspire Altany’s (2011) claim that continued professional development plays a central role in faculty motivation and vitality across their careers, and my experiences as an instructional and assessment consultant under apprenticeship at the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence, strengthened my commitment to become a faculty developer. My philosophy of practice is grounded in my doctoral studies in educational psychology and my teaching experience and my work as an instructional and assessment consultant at the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence. Below I explain my goals as a faculty developer, the belief system that under-girds these goals and how I enact them in my practices. I view myself as a mentor and facilitator who aims to inspire and empower instructors as reflective and innovative pedagogical experts and active members of pedagogical communities.
My primary goals as a faculty developer are to (a) promote pedagogical knowledge and skills and (b) cultivate a positive attitude and commitment to professional development among college instructors including graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty.
I believe that faculty developers create effective programs when they differentiate them to account for individual differences such as an instructor’s career stage. For example, when I design events for teaching assistants my goal is to develop communication and collaborative skills that enable TAs to clarify expectations with the course instructor, collaborate with other TAs to design effective grading tools, and manage and tutor undergraduates during office hours. On the other hand, when I develop events for graduate instructors or early career faculty, my goal is for the instructor to be able to select a framework for course design (e.g., tetrahedral model, integrated course design) and apply design principles such as alignment and sequencing in designing a syllabus, planning the learning activities and selecting the assessment methods.
I believe that influential faculty developers who have an impact on instructors are aware of the different ways that learning happens in distinct disciplines and teaching contexts (e.g., lab, large classrooms, and graduate seminars) but they can also communicate effectively across disciplinary boundaries. For example, in workshops on active learning I present teaching methods that promote engagement across disciplines including problem-based learning and student-centered discussion. I also refer to active learning strategies in the classroom such as using electronic response systems (clickers) and embedding case studies, pair-share activities, and Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) in lectures.
I believe that faculty developers can cultivate commitment to professional development as a complementary component to teaching, research and service by regularly assessing the effectiveness of the events in meeting the needs and expectations of the instructors and their impact on teaching. Upon the completion of a program I reflect on the electronic feedback submitted by the participants but also the formative feedback they provide during an event. When appropriate I also suggest a more personalized service-the consultation. I approach a consultation with empathy, I try to listen deeply and ask questions that encourage the instructor to clarify the situation and initiate action based on their pedagogical beliefs, goals, and values. For example, the graduate human bio-mechanics lab instructor who aimed to increase student participation, during a post-observation discussion decided to incorporate more structured group work and prompt students to build on each other’s reasoning and explanations during whole class discussions.
A secondary goal is to create opportunities for instructors to initiate and sustain collaborations driven by their own inquiries and interests with respect to student learning, pedagogical content and professional development.
I believe that faculty developers who create liaisons with organized pedagogical communities support and acknowledge instructors as reflective practitioners who strive to improve teaching. As a consultant I have participated in events organized by the STEM group such as presentations at the Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Education. In the future, I plan to collaborate more with pedagogical communities especially in the social sciences but also graduate student and postdoc societies by attending their events and designing customized workshops. Such opportunities allow faculty developers to network and become more accepted as collaborators within and across pedagogical communities that share a common motivation and commitment in supporting teaching excellence and promoting enduring learning.
Finally, in the future I aim to model and support research relevant to the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) to inform instructional decision making. I believe that faculty developers have a responsibility to encourage action research in which faculty members explore questions about their teaching, collect evidence, share and reflect on the results with colleagues, and make instructional decisions. An example where a SoTL approach can be applied, pertains to questions about student learning outcomes for which faculty members gather evidence to document student learning in their classroom or program. So far I have organized a database, presented, consulted about and developed materials and resources on undergraduate program assessment. In the future I plan to assist individuals involved in these efforts to take a more research-based approach in assessing student learning outcomes through consultations, grant proposal reviews, and blog posts.
I have entered the field of faculty development driven by the curiosity about how learning happens in different disciplines and teaching contexts and my desire to share my knowledge of the psychology of learning to promote excellence in teaching. I believe that my theoretical and research-based knowledge of how students learn and the training, consultation, and interpersonal skills that I have developed as an instructional consultant will enable me to grow into a mentor who contributes in the development of reflective, energetic, and innovative practitioners who are active within and across pedagogical communities.