May 7, 2010
Writer: Devan Barker
Finding time to "sharpen the saw" is easier said than done. As recent faculty association survey noted, faculty have difficulty finding time to stay current in their field. This is not due to lack of desire, but the difficulty in allocating time for these activities. With the day-to-day demands of a high teaching load, faculty must explicitly allocate and preserve time for their development, or it simply will not happen.
Faculty members generally rely on their own sense of professionalism to determine what is needed to hone their instructional skills and stay current in their field.
While one's professional development plan is self-initiated, it must be coordinated with one's department and college. Funding for conferences and course load allocations are determined by department chairs. Leaves are reviewed by college Faculty Development committees, deans and department chairs, and by the administration.
Conversations with department and college leaders are critical for apportioning time and funding for these activities. In a survey last semester, less than half of the faculty noted that they reviewed their professional development plans with their department chair on a yearly basis.
To encourage more discussion between faculty and department chairs, a Faculty Development Planning Tool and Planning Worksheet are now available on the Learning & Teaching website. Department chairs and deans will discuss ideas on using the worksheet in June training meetings.
While department chairs may modify the format of planning worksheet to meet their department's specific needs, the posted worksheet provides a framework to look five years into the future. Undoubtedly specific plans will change over time, but the longer time frame allows for planning more self-directed periods of focus. Various aspects of faculty development have been defined in the following categories:
- Content Knowledge and Academic Depth refers to the specific expertise of an instructor.
- Scholarship of Learning & Teaching refers to skills relevant to instruction and learning processes.
- Technical Skills refers to gaining competence with specific tolls and techniques that can aid an instructor either in discipline specific skills or instructional skills
- Campus Citizenship refers to those activities which seek to improve the overall campus capacity for quality learning and teaching.
The Faculty Development Planning Tool provides more detailed explanations, examples, tips, and pitfalls to avoid when completing the planning worksheet.