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Time Pressures, Faculty Development, and Institutional Rewards and Recognition

Message Number: 
40

Folks: 

Richard M. Felder, professor of Chemical Engineering at North Carolina State University, and Rebecca Brent, adjunct professor of Education at East Carolina University, have collaborated frequently on a number of important studies having to do with teaching and learning reform. They codirect the American Society of Engineering Education's National Effective Teaching Institute and regularly present teaching effectiveness workshops on campuses around the world. Below are my notes from a standing-room only presentation and paper they gave on, Faculty Development: Getting the Sermon Beyond the Choir, at the ASEE meeting in Seattle on June 30, 1998. 

Send me an e-mail message if you would like a copy of the complete paper. 

Rick Reis 

---------------- 747 words ----------------- 

Faculty Development: Getting the Sermon Beyond the Choir 

TIME PRESSURES 

"There are a number of reasons for this faculty resistance [to do more to improve teaching and learning], most of which have at their base the inescapable fact that time is generally faculty members' scarcest and most precious resource: there is never enough of it to do the things we have to do and want to do. First-class research - writing proposals and doing the things necessary to get them funded, supervising graduate students, attending and presenting at conferences, writing papers, and actually planning and carrying out the research - is a full-time job. First-class teaching - planning and updating lessons, creating appropriate challenging but fair homework assignments and examinations, learning about,. importing, and implementing new instructional methods and materials, doing classroom research and curriculum development and presenting and publishing the results, and dealing with the myriad of problems that students routinely present (classroom management, cheating, emotional problems, etc.) - is also a full-time job. There is a limit to how many full-time jobs one individual can hold down. 

"Faculty members find different way of dealing with this dilemma. 

1. The superhuman professors. - Some faculty members manage to put in the time needed to do excellent jobs of both research and teaching, but there are not nearly enough of them to populate our faculties. 

2. The pre-retirement retirees - Some manage to get tenure and thereafter do little or no research and poor to adequate teaching. Fortunately, there are not too many of this type either. 

3. The researchers - These faculty members - few at some institutions, a large number at others - have no real interest in teaching. They joined a faculty to pursue their research in an environment that grants them almost complete autonomy, and the only reason they teach is because it is required. They are not about to devote any more time to teaching than they can help. 

4. The teachers - These have made the decision that teaching is their most important job, and they spend most of their careers defining their craft. Some just teach and teach very well; others are active in educational scholarship - writing texts and instructional software, importing and developing new instructional methods and materials, and attending education-related conferences and publishing in educational journals. 

5. The majority - Most faculty members value and enjoy both research and teaching, but time constraints force them to put their emphasis on one or the other. Although they would genuinely like to be excellent teachers, they conclude that research is a higher priority and they must devote as much of their limited time as can to it." 

FACULTY DEVELOPMENT 

* Category 5 is the key to educational reform. 
" Keys to making teaching workshops work: 
* Make the workshop content relevant to the participants' courses, students, and problems. 
* Include both technical and pedagogical expertise on the workshop facilitation team. 
* Emphasize the content relevance and technical credentials of facilitators in promotional materials. 
* Keep content practical and ideas easily implementable. 
* Be authoritative 
*Don't be dogmatic 
* Call on the participants' expertise. 
* Be ready for tough questions and difficult (skeptical, hostile) participants. 
* Practice what you preach." 
"Faculty development beyond workshops and consultations - what to do? 
* Form an interest group 
* Set up a listserver. 
* Publish a newsletter 
* Facilitate course and curriculum reform programs.". 

INSTITUTIONAL INCENTIVES AND REWARDS 

"There is a limit to how much lasting reform can be accomplished solely through faculty development efforts, no matter how well executed. Unless the faculty incentive and reward system is modified to put teaching and educational scholarship more on par with disciplinary scholarship, only a minority of faculty members will choose to make the sacrifices necessary to change their teaching in significant ways." ...... 

"A few institutions have implemented a contract system, wherein faculty members are allowed to specify the percentages of their effort that they wish to allocate to teaching, research (including educational research), and service, subject to rules about minimum allocations in each area. Their contributions in each of these areas are evaluated based on their annual reports (or, for those who allocate a large percentage of their time to teaching, formal teaching portfolios), and their overall performance rating is a weighted average of their ratings in the three areas, with the weighting factors being their allocated percentages. If faculty members say that they are focusing on teaching and educational scholarship, their advancement would depend primarily (but not entirely) on how well they carried out that function, and similarly those who claim to be primarily researchers would advance primarily on the basis of their research accomplishments."