January 26, 2012
Writer: Hayden Coombs
In his presentation at the General Faculty Meeting, Kelly Burgener shared three developments centered on faculty issues at BYU-Idaho.
Level of Professional Development Funding
In a university-wide study last year, the Academic Office found there were departments with professional development budgets as low as $400 per faculty per year. After considerable work with a number of areas, all academic departments will now have approximately $1,300 per faculty per year.
Besides the substantial increase to faculty development funding, approximately 50 members traveled to various national learning and teaching conferences during 2011. Brother Burgener also noted that, "we are putting more of our existing Thomas E. Ricks dollars to work and as a result, have funded more projects." The projected outcomes of these investments include the university's desire to continue to support the world-class, well-trained, professional faculty here, along with excellence in content area development and learning and teaching development. Additionally, Brother Burgener said that he hoped this opportunity would promote both renewal and growth.
New Teaching Assistant Program
Brother Burgener also discussed a new university-wide expanded Teaching Assistant program. Currently, less than a third of the faculty have access to a TA. With this program, the University hopes to substantially increase the number of teaching assistants and create a process where faculty can easily find the best candidates available. An important focus of this program will be a series of specialized training sessions. Preliminary ideas for trainings would prepare assistants to collaborate and assist faculty in areas such as instruction, I-Learn, resources (content research), media, assessment, writing, as well as others (depending on the discipline).
"Our goal is to train these students well enough that they can, to a degree, hit the ground running on the first day they show up at your office door," Burgener commented. "We envision providing an important introductory training, and then as mentioned, faculty may pick and choose from other offerings according to their specific needs ... We will be learning from you over the next few semesters where and how this can be done."
Faculty Load Allocation
The third and final development Brother Burgener discussed was beginning the process of looking at allocation of faculty work load. A current full faculty contract entails 36-hour teaching load, with faculty encouraged to take three of those hours for professional development. He announced the goal to implement an additional three hour teaching load reduction. With a 30-hour teaching load, the remaining six hours would be available to focus on content area development and learning and teaching development.
"We offer and encourage all faculty to take advantage of professional development - we realize that some have not felt that they could take advantage of this, or have had frequent load changes that have not allowed these to happen, or they simply prefer to teach. We have no plans to mandate that a faculty member must do this, but we hope that once implemented, faculty will see it as an important opportunity that is designed to enhance the quality of a BYU-Idaho education."
This idea is still in early stages of development. Brother Burgener encouraged departments and colleges to begin discussions and to make suggestions and proposals for how the university can lower the annual teaching load for faculty. Parameters for this will be discussed with the deans who will supply their faculty with more information as it develops.
Brother Burgener concluded his comments by saying, "We want this to succeed because it holds the potential of making learning experiences much more powerful and deep for our students. Along with the other announcements, this has the potential for a tremendous effect on the future of this university. These three investments will better position us to do the important work the Lord needs BYU-Idaho to accomplish."
For more information and details, you may view Brother Burgener's presentation by following this link.