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Developing Faculty for New Roles and Changing Expectations

Tomorrow's Academy

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For faculty members to be able to meet the learning needs of their students effectively, they must stay abreast not only of new developments in their fields, but also of the characteristics of their students, the various strategies for multiple learning styles and levels that can enhance learning for a diverse group of students, and the possibilities for facilitating learning offered by technology. Faculty members must couple dedication with flexibility and willingness to continue their own learning.


The posting below looks changes in today's student body. It contains the executive summary and an excerpt on The Changing Nature of the Student Body, from, Developing Faculty for New Roles and Changing Expectations, by by Mary Deane Sorcinelli & Ann E. Austin in the monthly series Effective Practices for Academic Leaders. The series is available in an electronic publication that can be networked on a campus system to enable everyone on a campus to access the briefings at their desks when needed, for use both as guidance for administrators and as a development materials for faculty and others. The electronic license allows individual copying without need for permission, thus the individual briefings lend themselves to use in workshops ands seminars. For online subscription information go to: . Volume 1/ISSN 1554-0464

Issue 11/ISBN 1-579-22160-2, November 2006 Copyright © 2006, Stylus Publishing, LLC. 22883, Quicksilver Drivem Sterling, CA 20166 Reprinted with permission.



Rick Reis

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Tomorrow's Academia

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Developing Faculty for New Roles and Changing Expectations

Executive Summary

This briefing is designed primarily for department chairs, but it will also be useful to other academic administrators responsible for faculty development. It is based on a series of findings reported from our major study of the field of faculty development in higher education (Socrinelli, Austin, Eddy, & Beach, 2006). It asks two important questions: What are the key challenges facing faculty members and their institutions? and What are the issues around which faculty members are likely to need support over the next few years? It is important to note that while the term faculty development broadly refers to assisting faculty to become more effective in performing all roles related to academic life, a large number of our findings focus on roles and responsibilities related to teaching and student learning.

We begin this briefing by identifying the key challenges and pressures facing faculty members and their institutions in this changing world of higher education. These are the changing nature of the professoriate; the changing nature of the student body; and the changing nature of teaching, learning, and scholarship. Next, we offer an overview of each of these challenges and discuss how department chairs can initiate activities that respond to them in ways that support the professional development of their faculty. We conclude by offering five specific action steps that chairs can take as they guide and support their departments in an era of dramatic change, not only in the expectations for our faculty and the profile of our students, but also in our paradigms for teaching, learning, and scholarship.


The myriad challenges of a changing professoriate are matched by the challenges of a changing student body. With each year, the student body becomes larger and more diverse across several variables: educational background; gender, race, and ethnicity; class, age, and preparation (Keller, 2001). Today, only 16 percent of the student population can be described as "traditional" in terms of entering college right out of high school, attending full-time, and living on campus. Further, more than 70 percent of students work, almost half are over the age of 25, and more than half are women. Many of these new students are the first generation in their family to attend college (Smith, MacGregor, Matthews, & Gabelnick, 2004). This growing diversity of students is a significant and applauded aspect of American higher education; individuals' lives are enriched and the country benefits from a more fully prepared citizenry and workforce. At the same time, the increasing diversity of the student body places considerable and new demands on faculty members. Here we highlight two key challenges that deserve the department chair's attention: increasing multiculturalism and diversity, and underprepared students.

Increasing Multiculturalism and Diversity

Faculty members and academic departments are faced on a day-to-day basis with the realities of changing student demographics. One concern for chairs is the need to increase the recruitment, retention, and graduation rates of underrepresented students. Another is the growing disparity in terms of diversity between who teaches and who is taught. But an emphasis on increasing diversity requires an expanded focus on how we can foster learning environments in which diversity becomes one of the resources that stimulates learning-and on how to support faculty with students who learn most effectively in different ways.

In our study, faculty developers identified multiculturalism as it relates to teaching and learning as one of the most important issues that needs to be addressed through faculty development services; however, there was great disparity between perceptions of the need to address this issue and the extent of faculty development services being devoted to it (Sorcinelli et al., 2006). As one survey respondent noted: "[We need] to focus more on the realities of changing student demographics-how this will impact the culture of the diverse classroom-and to support faculty in this endeavor" (Sorcinelli et al., 2006, p. 84).

Diversity and Increased Demands on Faculty

Chairs already have ample evidence of the impact of diversity inside and outside of the classroom. They have seen how-because a diverse student body also has diverse needs-faculty members are expected to give more individual attention to their students and be available far beyond the traditional workday. Furthermore, students who have grown up in the age of technology expect faculty members to communicate freely using technology and to integrate technology in meaningful ways into the learning experience. Students older than the traditional 18- to 22-year-old group, as well as many within that age range, are likely to want their education to be relevant to the work world, convenient in time and location, responsive to their interests and needs, and characterized by high quality (Levine, 2000). Faculty members must have the flexibility and interest to offer programs that respond to labor-market changes in their regions and in the country.

More multicultural and diverse students bring to faculty members other interesting but demanding expectations. For faculty members to be able to meet the learning needs of their students effectively, they must stay abreast not only of new developments in their fields, but also of the characteristics of their students, the various strategies for multiple learning styles and levels that can enhance learning for a diverse group of students, and the possibilities for facilitating learning offered by technology. Faculty members must couple dedication with flexibility and willingness to continue their own learning. They may need the encouragement and support of their department chairs to ensure that the courses and programs that they offer are at a cutting edge in content, quality, and responsiveness. Chairs also can promote teaching methods and strategies that increase students' capacities for problem solving, teamwork, and collaboration-skills required in a rapidly changing and increasingly global world. Further, faculty members may need guidance in engaging diverse students, particularly in the classroom, about the sensitive issues surrounding gender, religion, race, and ethnicity.

Traditionally, campuses have tended to focus diversity efforts on student affairs, which suggests that diversity concerns are a student development rather than a faculty development issue; faculty members themselves may be reticent about addressing issues of diversity inside and outside of the classroom because of a lack of training. However, such efforts are important if chairs wish to help their faculty members cope with demands; embrace change; and, ultimately, prepare students for life and work in a culturally diverse environment.

The Challenges of the Underprepared Student

Underprepared college students have been a hot-button issue in politics and the media over the last several decades, as have various efforts to improve public primary and secondary education. Yet, today too many high school graduates are still not prepared for college-level work.

The Essentiality of Support Systems

The American Association of Colleges and Universities reports that about 50 percent of students entering our colleges and universities are academically underprepared; that is, they lack basic skills in at least one of the three fundamental areas of reading, writing, and mathematics (Miller & Murray, 2005). It was surprising, then, that only individuals in community colleges listed teaching underprepared students as one of the top three challenges facing their faculty and institutions. However, it can certainly be argued that paying attention to student academic preparedness is the business of every institution and that the issue of underprepared students' needs should be addressed more broadly throughout higher education. According to Astin (2004), "The education of the remedial student is the most important educational problem in America today, more important than educational funding, affirmative action, vouchers, merit pay, teacher education, financial aid, curriculum reform and the rest" (p. 1). A comment from one of our survey respondents linked teaching the underprepared student to "teaching for retention," because the underprepared student will find it much more difficult to complete a degree program. If colleges and universities wish to retain students beyond the first year or two, they need to design and implement support systems for this cohort.

Improving Success Rates

Miller and Murray (2005) suggest that students fail to do well in college for a variety of reasons, and only one of them is academic performance. Other factors may include self-confidence, study behaviors, and skill in navigating an institution's bureaucracy. In addition, once the underprepared student engages in course work, there is often a substantial mismatch between student and faculty expectations for academic work, especially in terms of time devoted to study outside of class. Improving the success rates for underprepared students, then, requires a multipronged approach.

The responsibility for helping underprepared students may often fall to academic staff in a student learning center and may be seen as a burden to individual faculty members or a threat to the excellence of an academic department. However, this issue affects every department, and both faculty and chairs must be ready and willing to encourage academic effort and engagement. For example, chairs can lay the groundwork for success by paying attention to the structure for academic advising and rewarding faculty and professional staff who provide effective advising. Chairs can encourage faculty members, in both advising and teaching, to emphasize their and the department's expectations for students as well as the kind of one-on-one interaction that students can expect from their advisors and instructors. They can also familiarize themselves and their faculty with resources offered by the institution (e.g., basic skills courses, tutoring, topical workshops, supplemental instruction) and steer students to the appropriate center or program. Finally, chairs would be well advised to raise the question of how their own faculty members might act as resources within the department and how their department and other offices might work together to address the needs of such students more broadly and deeply across the curriculum.


Astin, A. (2004, June). Remedial education and civic responsibility. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Council on Education, Tallahassee, FL.

Keller, G. (2001). The new demographics of higher education. Review of Higher Education, 24(3), 219-235.

Levine, A. (2000). Higher education at a crossroads. Earl Pullias Lecture in Higher Education. Los Angeles: Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis, Rossier School of Education, University of Souther California.

Miller, M.A., & Murray, C. (2005). Advising academically underprepared students. Available:

Smith, B.L., MacGregor, J., Matthews, R.S., & Gabelnick, F. (2004). Learning communities: Reforming undergraduate education. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Sorcinelli, M.D., Austin, A.E., Eddy, P.L., & Beach, A.L. (2006). Creating the future of faculty development: Learning from the past, understanding the present. Bolton, MA